Animal Doctor: When a dog won’t eat

July 10, 2013

Dear Dr. Fox:

We have a 71 / 2-year-old pit bull and terrier mix. She is a rescue dog that we adopted when she was 12 weeks old. For the past two years, it seems as though her stomach gets upset easily. Often, she just lies around and doesn’t eat. I occasionally give her Pepto-Bismol, and sometimes she will eat a little of a certain grass that makes her vomit, and then she is ready to eat.

Every day, I give her boiled chicken, green beans, dry food, her multivitamin (half of an adult tablet) and garlic juice, which she gets only in the morning. I can’t figure out what is upsetting her stomach so often. I have caught her eating bunny and squirrel feces in the yard, but she doesn’t get an upset stomach every time.

She loves raw pasta. I give her maybe 12 pieces of the no-yolk kind a day. The only other thing she will get is Pup-Peroni,which we give her when we leave the house as positive reinforcement. Is there anything else I could add to her diet to cause her to not want to eat the feces?

My other question concerns her anal glands: I have to take care of them once a month, like clockwork, and they are usually full. You mentioned something about an allergy or intolerance. The dry food I buy is Purina One with lamb, rice and soft morsels in it. Is that why she can’t release her anal glands on her own?

G.S., Cedar Hill, Mo.

DF: If you are giving your dog the garlic juice on an empty stomach, that could be the problem. I would cut out this supplement, as well as the snacks, and gradually switch her to my home-prepared diet, which is on my Web site, www.drfoxvet.
com
. You might also try my buckwheat dog treat recipe.

Many manufactured pet foods contain various food industry byproducts and other ingredients not always listed on the label. Food hypersensitivity can manifest itself as chronic ear and/or anal gland disease.

I would certainly avoid any manufactured food that contains genetically modified ingredients such as corn and soy. Consider gradually putting her on a raw food diet, such as Bravo or some of the whole-food and organic dog foods listed on my Web site.

The eating of animal waste might indicate a nutritional deficiency, so she might benefit from a daily teaspoon of brewer’s yeast and a probiotic supplement in her food. You can use live bacteria-rich organic plain yogurt or kefir as a backup.

Natural remedies

Dear Dr. Fox:

You often get letters from people whose cats have symptoms of feline urinary syndrome. I had a cat that displayed those symptoms and, although no stones ever had to be removed, I drove to the emergency hospital late at night more than once because I thought he would not live until morning.

I came across a book about cats and vitamin C, and the vet who wrote it suggested giving sodium ascorbate to cats for feline urinary syndrome. Sodium ascorbate, as you know, is vitamin C buffered with salt for easier digestion.

The book even gave recommended quantities, based on the cat’s weight. I gave my 12-pound cat one-eighth teaspoon mixed into his moist food every day for the rest of his life, and he never had any more problems with feline urinary syndrome. I found a vet who, when I told her I was giving my cat sodium ascorbate, said, “Good idea; keeps the urine nice and acidic.”

In reading about human natural medicine, I have learned that for diarrhea or constipation, bran flakes are effective. When my cat was straining to defecate, and I took her to the vet to get checked out, the doctor said that one can treat a cat the same way as a human for constipation. I bought some bran flakes and I now mix a teaspoon in with my cat’s moist food every day. Her stools are softer and leave her body more easily.

I don’t hear many veterinarians these days prescribing these simple “cures,” which can be found at any natural food store.

D.S., St. Louis

DF: I hope that veterinarians and cat and dog owners will take note of your personal testimony of the benefits of such natural products for some serious health conditions in their animals.

Vitamin C is a natural acidifier that can help dissolve and prevent struvite crystals but might not be of benefit when animals have oxalate or other kinds of urinary tract-blocking calculi. Veterinarian Wendell Belfield was, I think, one of the first to recognize these and other benefits of vitamin C for pets.

Bran can be effective, but I prefer psyllium husks that have been soaked in water. When animals are on a dry food diet and don’t drink enough water, bulk laxatives can aggravate constipation.

Persian’s aversion

Dear Dr. Fox:

I have two Persian cats, brothers purchased as kittens. They will be 3 in November. One of them has a problem: For almost a year, he has not used the litter box when defecating. He goes on the carpet, and it has become an everyday thing.

He never urinates outside the box, and he seems to know when he defecates on the floor that he has done something wrong, because he runs and hides for a while.

I have tried everything: picking it up and putting it in the box; scolding him when I catch him and then gently bringing him over to the box; changing to a different brand of litter; and cleaning the boxes every time one is used.

I have three boxes. Neither cat covers what it does in the litter box. They scratch around the box or even on the wall, but not the litter. Must be a Persian thing.

D.R., Newtown, Conn.

DF: According to other people who have Persian cats, not covering what is in the litter box seems to be a common problem with the breed.

Persians have long fur and “feathers” around their hindquarters, which can get matted with cat litter, not to mention the litter getting trapped between their paws. This can be a deterrent for the normal covering-up behavior.

Try a litter such as Purina’s Yesterday’s News (recycled newspaper pellets), which I have found to be less cat-adhesive than many others.

Many cats choose to defecate outside the box because they are constipated and associate the pain of evacuating with being in the box, so they develop a litter box aversion.

Feeding your cat moist food and a teaspoon of pumpkin or mashed butter beans might help soften the stools. You can also try the mild pet laxative Laxatone.

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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