Animal Doctor: Lessons learned from the loss of a cat

Dear Dr. Fox:

I recently lost my 10-year-old cat, Daddy’s Little Boy. I think there are lessons to be learned from his death at the vet’s office for a relatively routine procedure: radioactive iodine treatment for hyperthyroidism.

Daddy’s Little Boy had hyperthyroidism diagnosed about a year ago; methimazole was prescribed. It stopped working, so I decided on the radioactive iodine treatment, despite its cost of $1,200.

The day my cat died, I asked to see him, but they wouldn’t let me because he was “hot” — I think that means radioactive. That evening, he had a stroke and was dehydrated and disoriented, and the vet’s office told me I should get there. He was in an oxygen incubator. I made two visits that evening to comfort him while wearing protective gloves and vest.

They called me on my way home to say that five minutes after I left, my cat stopped breathing, and they had to put a tube in his lungs. By the time I turned around and got back, his heart had stopped.

The vet told me this had happened only once before in 10 years. I believe him, but that’s little consolation. Whenever an animal is left at a facility overnight, there must be a sense of abandonment and separation anxiety. If the pet cannot go home by the next day, arrangements should be made for visits. Even if the pet is radioactive, precautions, such as the vest and gloves I wore, should make that possible.

Although this facility holds pets only 48 hours, I’m told there are other places that hold them them for up to two weeks. It’s not a coincidence that my cat’s death happened at the facility. It wouldn’t have happened at home.

B.H., St. Louis

DF: My deepest condolences. What a sad ordeal you and your poor cat went through.

Hyperthyroid disease is almost an epidemic in cats today. Contributing factors include fire-retardant chemicals in carpets, furniture upholstery and stuffing, and possibly even in the food chain; fluoride in drinking water; toxic levels of iodine in some pet food ingredients; and endocrine-disrupting BPAs and phthalates in pet food containers.

For most cats and many dogs, being left in a veterinary hospital for even a few hours can be stressful enough to compromise treatment and recovery. Veterinarians aware of this problem encourage visiting and petting hours for animals that are in for long-term treatment, and others do house calls and provide in-home treatments.

With your cat’s diseased thyroid, after methimazole treatment failed, large doses of iodine might have proven effective. Surgical removal of the gland under general anesthetic was another option. Treatment with radioactive iodine 131 is not advisable if there are any signs of poor renal function. Beta blockers are often prescribed to reduce elevated heart rates and blood pressure in cats with this thyroid disease while undergoing treatment, which might lead to renal failure.

UNATTRACTIVE HABIT

Dear Dr. Fox:

I have a disgusting question about my 5-month-old female Labrador mix.

She was originally rescued from a barn as a tiny puppy. I had the privilege of adopting her at 3 months. I feed her and her 7-month-old male Lab-mix adoptive brother a broiled chicken breast for breakfast (split between the two of them), and a can each of puppy food for dinner. They get a rawhide each day and assorted puppy treats throughout the day, and I keep their bowl of dry food full.

She has a doggy door that gives her access to about a half-acre. Although her adoptive brother is completely house-trained, she still occasionally goes inside the house.

Here is the disgusting part: I believe she might be eating feces. I have not seen her eat it, but I’ve noticed the odor occasionally on her breath. I also notice that fecal matter is missing from the lawn; she has very solid feces, and when I return to pick them up, they are gone.

Is something missing from their diet? Is this typical puppy behavior?

N.C.T., Mount Airy, N.C.

DF: This is the most unsavory of all dogs’ behavior that is, to a degree, normal. Check the archives section on my Web site, www.drfoxvet.com, for letters addressing this issue.

“Cures” include muzzling your dog when she’s outdoors; feeding her digestive enzymes, probiotics and brewer’s yeast; and not letting your dogs see the feces being picked up. Cleaning up the den area and acquiring essential digestive bacteria and trace nutrients are some of the possible reasons for canine coprophagia. Unfortunately, there is no simple remedy.

As for the halitosis, PetzLife Oral Care for dogs will sweeten the breath and help keep teeth and gums clean and healthy.

Diet makes difference

Dear Dr. Fox:

I am responding to your request for success stories of dietary changes.

We have a beautiful black Labrador retriever, Buddy. We’ve had Buddy since he was 7 weeks old. When my husband and I retired, we moved from California to 20 acres in the Oregon countryside. Buddy was about 4 years old.

About two months after we moved, he had a seizure. It was frightening for us and for him. It lasted about 10 minutes, and then he was back to normal. We thought maybe something he ate on the property caused the seizure. We didn’t take him to the vet. He wasn’t allowed to run on the property without being on a leash, so that we could make sure he didn’t eat anything he shouldn’t.

About three months later, he had another seizure. That time, we took him to our vet, who said that a number of things can cause seizures in dogs and that we needed to keep an eye on him.

Over the next year, he had four seizures. He had them about every three months, and they lasted 10 to 15 minutes. The vet said that if the seizures became lengthy, we would put him on medication.

The vet suggested changing his dry food and periodically giving him raw meat. We started that immediately. We changed his dry food to Blue Buffalo, and we give him one cup of raw beef-stew meat three times a week. After six weeks on his new diet, he had a seizure. We were dismayed, because we had hoped the change in diet would do the trick. We decided to keep him on the new diet regardless.

I am delighted to say that after being on the new diet for more than a year, he has not had another seizure. I think he had the last seizure because his new diet had not had time to have an effect on his system.

My husband and I are totally convinced that his change in food stopped his seizures.

M.A., Jacksonville, Ore.

DF: I trust that all dog owners with epileptic and seizure-prone dogs will take note. Dietary change is no panacea, because there are several causes. But diet should never be dismissed as a nonissue.

Avoiding soy and corn

Dear Dr. Fox:

In one of your recent columns, you said not to give cats food that has soy or corn products in it. I feed my cats Purina, and it has both corn and soy in it.

Can you please explain why Purina puts those items in its food if they are not good for the animals? I have been a loyal Purina buyer for more than 40 years. Am I feeding my cats something that will hurt them? Can you suggest a better food?

L.W., St. Louis

DF: I would never advise people to feed their cats food high in corn and soy. Check my Web site for details and for brands of cat food that I prefer, such as Evo, Organix and Wellness.

Cats are carnivores. Many are allergic to corn, and they do not need cereals in their diets, which can contribute to obesity, diabetes, arthritis and other illnesses. Soy is a cheap vegetable protein that has little nutritional value for cats and can cause digestive and other health problems.

Michael W. Fox, author of a newsletter and books on animal care, welfare and rights, is a veterinarian with doctoral degrees in medicine and animal behavior. Write to him at United Feature Syndicate, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, Mo. 64106.

2012 United Feature Syndicate

 
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