Animal Doctor: Not in my back yard

April 17, 2013

Dear Dr. Fox:

I’ve owned five Pomeranians over the course of my life. My latest is named Yancy. When Yancy was a puppy, he would run and scamper in the back yard freely, wanting me to chase after him. Yancy is now about a year old. He refuses to step off the back porch without me accompanying him and staying with him.

In the rare instances when Yancy does venture off the porch, he refuses to do his business in the back yard. He requires me to walk with him on a leash for five to 10 minutes before he will finally defecate.

I routinely walk him three times a day. Yancy gets excited when he sees me getting his leash. It’s obvious that he enjoys our walks, but it’s taxing to me, not to mention my neighbors.

My other Pomeranians enjoyed occasional walks on a leash but they acknowledged the back yard as their sanctuaries and depositories.

Do you have any suggestions to get Yancy to bond with my back yard on a more personal level?

C.G., Hyattsville

DF: A friend of mine has a Labrador retriever that will urinate and defecate only when he is walked on his leash and is away from his yard. My friend is glad to have a dog like this.

Some dogs choose not to evacuate on their property. When they have no choice, some clean up after themselves, engaging in coprophagia (eating feces). This behavior might be triggered when they see their owners picking up stools in the yard. Such behavior stopped in a few instances when the dogs were kept indoors and were not able to see the yard being cleaned up.

With your dog, I would stick a short post or tree stump in the yard and put some of his urine on it, which you can sponge up and put into a plastic bag (ditto with his feces) when out on your walks. Put the urine on what, hopefully, might become his marking post, and he’ll deposit his stools in one corner that could become his regular latrine.

ONE WORD: PLASTICS

Dear Dr. Fox:

I inherited a lovely cat that was given up by its owners because she eats plastic.

She particularly likes the thin plastic bags that newspapers come in. We keep all plastic bags away from her, but sometimes she’ll eat the trash bags when she’s hungry. We try to make sure there are no edges for her to grab.

We’ve found tiny plastic bag pieces in her feces once or twice, but we usually do everything we can so she can’t find them.

Do you know how we can stop this awful habit?

B.L.

DF: Many cats like to chew and even swallow pieces of plastic. Larger pieces can cause intestinal blockage, and some chemicals in plastic could cause cancer and disrupt the endocrine system.

Cats and other animals might be attracted to plastic because manufacturers often incorporate animal byproducts called stearates. Similar animal fat derivatives are used in the sizing of money, which might explain why some cats steal dollar bills.

Never let your cat near any plastic bags or other plastic materials. Stores should phase out non-biodegradable plastic bags, which pollute the oceans and kill marine creatures that eat them, thinking it is food. Plastic kills cattle, goats, horses and various wildlife species abroad that consume discarded bags, food wrappers and containers in streets and fields.

Warts and all

Dear Dr. Fox:

I have a mature 13-year-old poodle with warts all over his back, and I don’t know how to treat them.

My vet said that he could freeze some — three at a time for $500 each visit — but that they might grow back.

If there is anything I can do to help dry them out, I will. I was going to get some medication from the drugstore, but I’m afraid it might hurt my dog.

J.G., St. Charles, Mo.

DF: I wonder what is happening to the veterinary profession. To give you a price of $500 to remove these harmless growths, so common in older dogs and small breeds such as yours, is outrageous.

One of my readers painted her dog’s warts with organic cider vinegar, twice daily for several days, until they disappeared. Other readers have used over-the-counter human wart-removing ointments with good effect. Other herbal remedies include garlic juice, fresh nettle juice and thuja tincture.

You should, of course, keep any wart-removing application away from your dog’s eyes. A veterinarian should be consulted concerning any growths that are especially irritating and have a reddened base , which might indicate a bacterial or fungal infection. If this could be an issue with your dog, get a second opinion from another animal doctor.

HELP FOR AN aging cat

Dear Dr. Fox:

We have a 15-year-old Maine coon cat. We give him an atenolol tablet for cardiomyopathy, which was diagnosed at an early age.

He had a polyp removed from his ear in 2010 during a dental cleaning. In 2011, an MRI showed he had fluid in his ears (bilateral otitis media). He was given Simplicef and metronidazole for three months. He is now deaf.

He started limping on his back leg and is now on Dasuquin for his joints. In 2011, his physical showed that his liver enzymes were elevated, and he was prescribed a liver protectant, Denamarin. After a month, I discontinued it.

His 2012 physical results showed his liver enzymes are lower. The pH in his urine is high: 7.5. His urine concentration is good.

Our veterinarian recommends Royal Canin diet food. He has been raised on PetGuard, with a healthy addition of water because he does not drink from the bowl. I also mix in psyllium husks and fish oil.

Lately, I’ve added Wellness and ProPlan food to his diet. He weighs 151 / 2 pounds, down from his top weight of 18 pounds two years ago.

Should I have continued him on Denamarin? What diet would you recommend to lower his urine pH level? I have saved your cat food recipe from an earlier article, but when I tried a homemade diet at a young age, he refused to eat it.

J.M.S., Falls Church

DF: I think your cat is receiving appropriate veterinary care, and I would put him back on Denamarin. This might help offset any harmful side effects from the Dasuquin.

You might want to try substituting the Dasuquin with up to a half-teaspoon daily of fish oil. Begin with a few drops. Fish oil is anti-inflammatory, and it might help improve his kidney and heart functions.

Although acupuncture treatments can be of benefit, I would advise only in-home therapy. Many cats love a regular massage. Read tips in my book “The Healing Touch for Cats.”

Fatal error

Dear Dr. Fox:

I unwittingly killed my 13-pound, 31 / 2-year-old female Pomeranian, Lexi, with a few dollops of liverwurst. I didn’t know that liverwurst was pure fat with a little flavoring, which my Lexi’s pancreas couldn’t handle.

It took 40 hours for her to die, and I sat there watching her without a clue, because I didn’t understand the significance of what I was seeing — occasional vomiting and then seizures — until it was too late. My ignorance killed her.

My vet performed a necropsy. Lexi’s pancreas was black. The bowel around the pancreas was purple-going-on-black. It looked so bad that the ER vets thought I had poisoned her. It doesn’t need to happen to another dog. Education is key. Watch out for pancreatitis.

M.W.H., Hagerstown

DF: My sympathy goes out to you and to your poor dog. Acute pancreatitis is a painful condition, and without immediate emergency veterinary care, it’s usually fatal.

Small dogs seem especially susceptible because what we might think is a small treat is too much for them to handle.

Your letter is important for all readers who have dogs — small or large, young or old — to take note. Fatty treats and scraps can destroy the pancreas, often compounded by high protein content that can lead to uremia (protein poisoning) when there is concurrent kidney disease.

Pancreatic disease is often associated with fatty liver disease, other liver problems and genetic- and diet-related diabetes.

Animal health checkups and discussion of diet with the veterinarian are the best preventives of these all-too-common maladies.

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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