A.G., Luray, Va.
DF: Poor cocker spaniels suffer from a human-created (anthropogenic) disease susceptibility caused by genetic selection for heavy, long, pendulous ears.There should be a change in their breed standards, selecting for dogs with ears that are shorter and not so heavy. In the interim, many cocker spaniels enjoy a better quality of life having their earflaps (pinnas) tied with a ribbon on the top of their heads for part of the day. The ear canals can then be ventilated and dried out after routine cleaning. If you have never bow-tied her ears as part of the treatment protocol, I would start today.
So many cockers suffer from itchy, smelly, chronically infected and inflamed ear canals. Good nutrition rich in omega-3 fatty acids helps, as does a zymogen enzyme-based cleaner or diluted apple cider vinegar and olive oil applied after drying the ears out, which can work wonders in helping prevent more serious problems such as the one your poor dog is suffering from. Try various topical treatments to reduce the inflammatory growths and make her life more comfortable. She might even become a better candidate for corrective surgery to open up her external ear canals.
CATS AND BABIES
Dear Dr. Fox:
My daughter is having her first child. She has had three cats for several years. My concern is for the baby’s safety after he is born.
Are there any precautions my daughter can or should take regarding the cats not injuring the baby?
DF: Most cats are gentle, curious and often affectionate with human infants. Some might show fear and run away or approach with evident concern in response to an infant’s crying.
Generally, cats habituate quickly to these distress calls, which are not unlike their own.
Cats have been blamed for smothering babies in their cribs. The myth is that they are trying to suck the milk out of the babies’ mouths. Cats might lick regurgitated milk, but crib deaths are more likely attributable to sudden infant death syndrome or to the baby being placed in the wrong sleeping position. Still, a large cat could lie across the baby’s head or face and restrict breathing.
A baby placed face-up will flail hands and feet, which might get scratched by a playful cat. Your daughter should place a net over the crib to keep the cats out. She should have the cats checked for toxoplasmosis and ringworm. Get rid of any pediatrician who advises her to get rid of the cats.
PROBLEM DOWN BELOW
Dear Dr. Fox:
About seven years ago, we adopted a young cat from the shelter that had what seemed to be a bowel disorder.
Whenever he would use the litter box, we would find blood in his stool, in addition to blood around the house. The vet suggested shots of cortisone, but this never worked. After reading what you had to say, we changed his food, and he has been healthy ever since.
We have another cat that is about 9 years old. For the past few months, he has urinated on our basement floor. We are good about keeping litter boxes cleaned and changed. We bought a black light to see whether there was old urine in the basement that might be confusing him, but there was not.
Because this has become such a problem, we no longer let the cats into the basement, and now have boxes on the first floor. He does not do this on other floors of the house, only the basement. We prefer to have the boxes in the basement.
Do you have any thoughts on this? He seems happy, and we are very confused and frustrated. We’ve let him downstairs a few times since checking with the black light, and he will go on the floor while we are watching.
C.P., St. Louis
DF: It would be helpful to readers if you could write back and let me know what food your first cat was being fed that was associated with his bowel problem, and what dietary change brought him back to health.
As for your other cat’s fixation on urinating on the basement floor: If the floor is covered with some form of matting, the surface might be a trigger. Certain textures attract some cats, especially beanbag chairs, shag rugs and rubbery bed covers.
Plain cement might contain earthy odors that can act as a trigger, because cats normally evacuate in the wild on the soil, usually digging a small pit, then covering over their excrement.
A penetrating enzyme cleaner might help, or you could try applying epoxy resin or a waterproof sealant.
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