DEAR DR. FOX: Our cat, Squeak, was diagnosed with lung cancer over three months ago. Currently she seems to be resting well, but her breathing has accelerated to over 40 breaths per minute. She still spends most of her day on our bed and roams at night, albeit at a slower pace than she used to. She still gets up and down the stairs for the litter box. Recently, she has started making wheezing noises while breathing and she has coughing fits a few times a day. She does not vomit. We are giving her CBD drops three times a day and she also gets 10 mg Palladia two to three times a week. At this time, she has lived past the expectation of two veterinarians.
Our concern, as we watch her each day, is how will we know when life for her becomes uncomfortable and how can we tell if she is in pain? We want to have her in our lives as long as possible, but we do not want her to suffer just because we are selfish in our needs. -- J. & S.D., Mantoloking, New Jersey
DEAR J. & S.D.: I am saddened to hear about your poor cat's fatal cancer and applaud your recognition of how our selfishness in prolonging the life of a loved one can mean extended suffering.
You will know when the time to consider euthanasia has come if she does not die in her sleep or in your lap. She will barely have enough energy to get up and move around, groom herself and enjoy her favorite foods.
Give her lots of tender loving care, grooming/brushing if she enjoys it, gentle full-body massage and whatever she likes to eat. Some cats with little appetite rally when given meaty or fishy human baby foods. She may want to seek solitude, which many animals do before they die. That can be a problem with indoor-outdoor cats who go out and never return.
DEAR DR. FOX: My 2-year-old Australian Cattle Dog/Australian shepherd mix has an odd thing going on with hiccups. When she is upset, she tends to start hiccuping. I always thought hiccups were an automatic response, but I think she can control them. If she wants something, like going outside at 2 a.m., or for me to play with her, she starts hiccupping if I tell her "no."
If this goes on a few minutes, I will usually stop what I am doing and rub her belly until she stops.
I've never had another dog that did this and I think it is odd -- is it? Or is this something some dogs are known to do? Would it be better if I just ignored her? I've tried ignoring her up to 15 minutes, but she just keeps hiccuping. -- A.C.J., Arcata, California
DEAR A.C.J.: Stress can be the trigger for these kinds of autonomous reactions, hiccups and esophageal spasm being common responses in humans. Also, sneezing and blushing. I rarely hear of such conditioned emotional reactions in dogs and would like to hear from readers who have dogs who may have similar issues.
I surmise that your dog at some time got the hiccups and it became a conditioned emotional response associated with general excitement. You cannot entirely rule out the possibility of you having played a role in reinforcing this behavior in your dog in the past, since this habitual reaction persists even when you ignore her.
Rubbing her tummy and getting her calmed down is what I would advise. Teach her to focus her attention by learning to sit and stay for several minutes. This may help re-balance her autonomic nervous system, which we can do consciously for ourselves by breathing slowly and deeply.
A daily massage, per my book, "The Healing Touch for Dogs," would certainly help. You are already doing some of that by helping her relax under your touch.
Conservationists Fight Plan for Border Wall
The federal government is moving forward with construction of a 6-mile steel and concrete barrier along the Texas-Mexico border that will cut through the middle of the National Butterfly Center, owned by the North American Butterfly Association.
The Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife filed a lawsuit in October against the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Butterfly Center has requested a restraining order, according to a Feb. 13 article on NationalGeographic.com.
This wall project is also interfering with the movements of other wildlife species to reach food and water in their normal range. It should be halted until a full environmental impact assessment and risk determination to endangered species has been conducted.
(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 DrFoxOneHealth.com.)