Animal Doctor: Schnauzer’s dry corneas can lead to blindness

November 7, 2012

Dear Dr. Fox:

Our 4-year-old schnauzer has had dry eye KCS diagnosed. It came on suddenly, and after three weeks of erythromycin, with no results, she was switched to cyclosporine.

I have been applying it twice a day. After three weeks, I can see no difference. I have heard surgery is sometimes necessary for this.

G.B., Arlington County

DF: There are many causes, such as being spayed, that can contribute to dogs developing this distressing and potentially blinding condition of keratoconjunctivitis sicca, a chronic deficiency of aqueous tear secretion. Certain breeds have a predisposition to the condition.

Drying of the corneas can lead to opacity and ulceration and can be extremely painful. Your dog will need to be on cyclosporine two or three times daily for the rest of her life.

Gradually changing her diet to a whole-food, organic regimen with omega-3 fatty acid supplements might help. Check out my home-prepared diet on my Web site, www.drfoxvet.com, or a commercial raw-food diet.

Artificial tears and eye drops containing eyebright might help and can be used once daily as a substitute for one cyclosporine treatment.

Your dog’s eyes must, of course, be constantly monitored. Any rapid blinking (blepharospasm) or rubbing of the eyes calls for a veterinary eye examination for possible corneal ulceration.

runaway cat

Dear Dr. Fox:

Henry, our 8-year-old black cat, might be part Siamese. He’s friendly sporadically but also skittish. He’s not a fighter, so he doesn’t clash with other cats. We’ve never had problems letting him outside for two or three hours at a time. Our older cat died in November, so Henry has been alone since then.

We moved 300 yards across a busy road in May, from a townhouse to a single-family house. We have a nice, open back yard for Henry to explore.

We kept him inside the first couple of weeks, as advised. On three successive outings, he looked around for 15 to 20 minutes (there were two stray cats we haven’t seen for a while now), sniffed a lot and promptly crossed the road to his old house.

I looked into an invisible fence. I tried a harness, and he slipped it off within 15 minutes and went under our deck.

My wife is all for keeping him indoors permanently. We’ve added a scratching post, and he has a few toys.

The problem, to me, is that he sleeps while we’re gone all day and comes to life at night. I’m not the heaviest sleeper, and one to two times a week he decides he’s hungry or needs to go to the loo, causing him to yowl loudly at 3:30 or 4 in the morning.

I’d love to be able to trust him to go out when we’re home late afternoons and evenings. I think he’d be happier, though he’s been pretty good about it.

All I can think of is getting him a better harness and slowly acclimating him. We have a large deck, so that would be a good place to let him explore a bit.

R.B., Columbia

DF: Clearly you are devoted to Henry, and you have some issues not easily resolved. He misses his companion cat and the old home, so he will be “yowly” and unsettled for a while.

I advise never letting a cat roam free. Invisible fences, which I do not endorse, are designed for dogs, not cats.

Build a “cat house” or screen in the deck so he can spend time outdoors. Some people build a covered catwalk connecting, via a cat door, the house and an outdoor enclosure so that their animals can go in and out as they choose.

If that is not feasible, follow your wife’s initiative to help Henry adapt to indoor life. Buy a better-fitting harness, and consider adopting an easygoing companion cat for him to enrich his time when you are both gone from the house.

There are cat TV programs to also consider. Setting up a padded window ledge and a bird feeder or two outside for the cat to watch is helpful.

new diet for dog

Dear Dr. Fox:

I have a 13-pound, 6-year-old neutered Brussels griffon. He has had three surgeries (every two years) to remove oxalate crystals in his bladder and urethra.

I have changed his diet several times, to no avail. He is on Hills Prescription Diet g/d Canine Early Cardiac-Healthy Aging dry food.

I have had two other male griffons that had several surgeries for the same problem. They were not neutered, and both died of kidney failure relatively young.

All three dogs came from Australia, from different breeders. I brought them to Hawaii to raise.

Do have you any recommendations for a diet that might help my little dog avoid future stones?

F.A.V., Honolulu

DF: Several factors are at play in the genesis of oxalate urinary calculi in dogs. They include genetics/breed susceptibility, high cereal content diets and artificial acidification by manufacturers to reduce struvite crystal formation.

Also, many dogs do not drink enough water, especially when they are on a dry-food diet.

I find it borderline malpractice when dogs with bladder stones/calculi are put on special prescription dry foods with no instructions to keep their urinary tract well flushed with copious fluid intake.

Give your dog water flavored with chicken or beef bullion (make your own, salt free). And move him gradually to a raw food or lightly cooked home-prepared diet, such as the recipe on my Web site. Use about one-quarter of the amount of rice in the recipe, or use quinoa as an alternative.

Herbs such as gravel root, stone root, shepherd’s purse, plantain and marshmallow are said to help dissolve stones, making future surgeries unnecessary. Explore that with a veterinarian with interest and expertise in holistic and integrative medicine. To find one in your area, go to the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association Web site at www.ahvma.org .

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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