Animal Doctor: Moving a cat into a dog house

May 15, 2013

Dear Dr. Fox:

I need help in welcoming a cat to my home. I have two dogs: a 2-year-old female Lhasa apso and a 5-year-old male corgi, sheltie and beagle mix. They bark constantly at every cat they see.

My father is coming to live with us in an apartment in our basement. He will be bringing his cat, Harry, 12 years old and in good health. Harry has always gone outdoors several times a day and has never used a litter box. I expect this routine to continue at our house.

My dogs have been around the cat at my father’s current home. They bark and bark. Harry attempts to go outside and disappear until the dogs are gone, or he hides inside the house. He previously lived peacefully with my father’s late Labrador mix.

Harry will have his own entrance to the house, apart from the dogs. I should be able to keep the dogs out of the cat’s living area, but I’m afraid they will bark nonstop to alert us that there is a cat in the house. I also fear the dogs will cause Harry to run away from his new home.

How can I get the animals to co-exist harmoniously?

K.L., Woodbridge

DF: I do not condone letting cats wander outdoors, unless they are in an escape-proof enclosure with protection from the weather if they are left out. Your father should get his cat used to wearing a harness, perhaps initially also with a collar and double leash.

My fear is that in a new place, hearing the dogs bark, the cat will try to get out and probably set out for his old home. It is imperative to keep him indoors for at least four to six weeks, installing extra screen doors for security and never letting him out except on leashes or into a secure cat house.

New menu might help

Dear Dr. Fox:

I recently took my cat to the vet. Mr. Puss is having a problem with urinating. He’s not blocked, but he will empty his bladder and then go to the litter box, squat and do a little bit more. I thought it might be a urinary tract infection.

Three years ago, Mr. Puss had some crystals, but no stones. The vet kept him overnight and did a urinalysis on him. The vet found struvite crystals and a possible infection. Mr. Puss was put on Simplicef, on which he did not do well. He was running around the house like crazy. He was then put on Baytril, but that did not go well, either. He kept shaking his head and rubbing his eyes. He was restless, would not eat and had diarrhea. I stopped that medication, also.

The vet wanted to put him on the Royal Canin Urinary SO diet food. Mr. Puss was on it for about two years, but because it has corn and other undesirable ingredients, I took him off it about a year ago. I think he was allergic to it, because he would bite and scratch.

He eats Innova Evo canned food and Natural Balance dry food. He also eats some canned Wellness. I think he drinks enough water. He is an indoor cat and has been with us for five years. He could be 7 to 10 years old. He weighs about 20 pounds, a big boy but not overweight.

Is there anything I should be doing differently to keep Mr. Puss healthy?

J.V., Gainesville

DF: I cannot understand why the veterinarian had to hospitalize your cat overnight to do a urine test. This is a stressful experience for cats.

It would have been far better to take the cat to the veterinarian first thing in the morning with a full bladder, after keeping his litter box out of reach after 8 the previous evening.

Visit www.feline-nutrition.org for information about switching your cat to a grain-free, raw food or lightly cooked diet. Also, try flavoring his drinking water with some salt-free chicken stock. The more fluids he drinks, the better, because it is the best preventive of blockage by urine crystals or stones.

Try feeding him plain organic yogurt or kefir or a probiotic supplement that might help him fight infection and heal from the antibiotic’s side effects.

Unpopular at dog park

Dear Dr. Fox:

I have adopted a rescue dog, about 15 months old. One vet said it’s possible he has irritable bowel syndrome.

I am not committed to supporting a sickly dog, so I hope to get this problem corrected, if possible. Two vets have suggested canned pumpkin. This works if the dog eats his entire bowl of food; however, if he doesn’t, the problem is assured to manifest immediately.

The first bowel movement of the day is normal. The second, if the pumpkin has not been eaten, and often even if it has, is characterized by straining (which include yelping that I assume indicates discomfort or pain) and a mucus texture, and concludes with further straining, resulting in wet droplets. This is frowned upon at the dog park, where I think it is interpreted as evidence of an owner who is lax in providing veterinary care.

Regardless of the number of walking or dog park opportunities he is presented per day (usually four), the dog’s bowels move on average only twice a day. Is there some kind of fix for this condition?

A.R., the District

DF: If your veterinarian ran no fecal tests to rule out parasites and did not try a short course of treatment with metronidazole or Tylosin and only suggested you give your dog canned pumpkin, I would take your dog to another animal doctor, especially if what kind of food you are giving him was not discussed.

Check my Web site, www.drfoxvet.com, for details on the various factors that can trigger this common canine and feline condition, as well as treatments. These can include a diet free of grain and genetically modified organisms, as well as psyllium husks in the food, along with digestive enzymes and probiotics. Peppermint tea, mixed with his food if he won’t drink it or accept it syringed into his mouth, can be beneficial for dogs and people alike.

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.

2013 United Feature Syndicate

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