DEAR DR. FOX: In response to the request in your recent column for what our companion animals have given us, I am submitting the list that I have kept and added to for many years about the life lessons I have learned from my cats.
Gigi taught me patience, forbearance, nonaggression and self-control.
Luna taught me slowness and deliberation in decision-making with concentrated focus.
Fred showed how he could noiselessly radiate a huge personality and calming sweetness.
Sleeky taught me to be innocently charming yet street-savvy, too.
Scar taught me to learn to reconsider my “enemies” and live in harmony with them.
Orange and Habibi taught me to trust, but with caution.
Mitzi taught me to be brave through the most difficult circumstances and to trustingly place myself in the care of those who love me. -- J.D., Ashland, Oregon
DEAR J.D.: Thanks for sharing these blessings your cats bestowed on you -- and for disclosing what very different personalities cats have, which our loving bond with them helps blossom.
DEAR DR. FOX: I lost my 10-year-old French bulldog a few months ago.
I made her own food: ground turkey, rice, carrots and spinach. She drank bottled water and went everywhere with me. One day, I noticed her entire body shaking. All her blood work came back normal, but she stopped barking at the vacuum cleaner, chasing lizards and was just being lethargic.
After three trips to different vets, they could not tell me what was wrong with her. I then made the horrendous decision to put her to sleep. It was one of the toughest decisions of my life. I miss her so much. Have you any idea what could have caused this downward spiral? -- S.G., Naples, Florida
DEAR S.G.: My sympathy goes out to you over the death of your dog.
Without doing an autopsy, cause of death is uncertain. My educated guess is chronic heart failure. Bulldogs and other breeds who have severe brachycephaly (pushed-in faces) suffer from chronic upper-airway obstruction. This means chronic partial-asphyxiation or hypoxia, which puts tremendous strain on brachycephalic dogs’ hearts.
Additional cardiac strain can come from exertion-related pain, associated with limb and spinal deformities and the effort needed to enjoy physical activity -- all too common in such breeds, and a factor leading to heart-wearing obesity from reduced physical activity.
Spirited brachycephalic dogs put themselves at risk from heat stroke when being physically active, especially in hot weather. Living in Florida, your dog could also have been at risk from toads that can give dogs heart attacks.
FLEAS AND TYPHUS IN CALIFORNIA MAY SPREAD
California health officials reported that there has been an epidemic of flea-borne typhus within the Los Angeles area this year. This is an old disease, with recorded accounts dating back to the 14th century. There are several forms of typhus, but all are caused by a group of bacteria known as Rickettsia. Symptoms of typhus include fever, headache, nausea and rash, and sometimes neurological symptoms like seizures or confusion. Flea-borne typhus can be fatal, especially if more severe symptoms go untreated. Flea-borne typhus is also known as murine typhus because rats are the main host of the fleas that can spread the bacteria.
Fleas that feed on pets, and other animals like opossums, can also spread it via infective flea feces. Warmer temperatures, poverty, homelessness and free-roaming and indoor-outdoor cats are all contributing factors.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxVet.net.)