Asthma in cats calls for some sleuthing

January 13, 2012

Dear Dr. Fox:

We adopted a 1-year-old male Siamese-mix cat from the SPCA six months ago. My vet diagnosed asthma, put him on prednisone and prescribed Flovent to be administered with a mask to his face. Between his being a traumatized cat who runs from everything and the expense, this is not an option.

He usually coughs only once or twice per day. Is there anything else we can try? We are retired and on a fixed income. I was told that prednisone could lead to diabetes, hence the prescribing of Flovent.

E.H., Virginia Beach

DF: Asthmatic conditions in cats call for some detective work, provided that a viral or bacterial infection of the respiratory system has been ruled out. First, every effort should be made to identify environmental sources of allergy-inducing materials. You must also rule out fur balls, which often cause cats to cough and gag when fur is swallowed after grooming and for which most cats need no treatment.

Prescribing prednisone might alleviate symptoms but, as you said, can have harmful consequences from long-term use. Putting a mask on cats is for emergencies only and takes expert handling.

Feline veterinary specialists now associate many cases of asthma with a food allergy. Corn, soy, beef and fish can be asthma triggers.

Try your cat on my home-prepared diet on my Web site (www.twobitdog.com/drfox) or put him on one of the better brands of cat food, such as Wellness, Evo or Castor & Pollux Organix. Get rid of all artificially scented products in your cat’s environment, including cat litter, laundry detergents and room fresheners. Many cats are allergic to the volatile chemical fragrances.

MORE ON VACCINATIONS

Dear Dr. Fox:

We recently lost our beloved dog, Ginger, to immune mediated hemolytic anemia. We are heartbroken. She was only 8 years old.

We have had dogs all our lives and had never heard of this devastating disease. We researched it online, and it seems that it’s fairly common and is possibly brought on by excessive vaccination.

Ginger had no symptoms, except maybe panting, but it was more than 100 degrees here in Texas all summer, so that seemed normal. We lost her within 24 hours. After a large dose of steroids, she never made it as far as a transfusion. We now wonder whether we should bother with vaccinations if we decide to rescue another dog.

G. & T.C., Granbury, Tex.

DF: My condolences to you. I know how distressing it is to lose a beloved dog so suddenly and how helpless you feel, because IMHA is usually fatal. For details on the connection between vaccinations and autoimmune diseases in animals and humans, visit my Web site.

An 8-year-old dog should not need booster vaccinations every year (or even every three years, in most instances), except for the mandatory anti-rabies vaccination. A blood titer test can be done to determine whether any core vaccinations (canine distemper, parvovirus and hepatitis) need to be repeated.

Vaccinations have their place in disease prevention. I would not hesitate to vaccinate any new dog or pup following the protocol set by veterinarians with expertise in vaccinology, immunology and the risks and benefits of vaccinations. These protocols are available on my Web site and in my books “Dog Body, Dog Mind” and “Cat Body, Cat Mind.”

A DIFFICULT DECISION

Dear Dr. Fox:

We have a 62-pound mixed-breed older dog. He might be a chow, German shepherd or Lab. We’ve had him for 12 years, but he was a stray, so we’re guessing he’s about 13 years old.

He has been leaking feces for months now. Our vet felt inside, did blood work, took X-rays and put him on antibiotics. He guessed it could be cancer and recommended an ultrasound and/or an MRI, but those are too expensive.

The vet also suggested we feed our dog chicken and rice, which we did for several months. We then started mixing the chicken and rice with his dry food, but he never stopped leaking feces. He strains to defecate in the yard but just dribbles. On the patio, he is constantly licking himself, leaving behind fecal matter. We bathe him monthly and try to clean off his behind from time to time.

I’ve started giving him half an Imodium tablet daily, but my husband says I should not give him something that will “stop him up” when he already struggles to go. Despite the Texas climate, he can’t come into the house anymore.

N.F., North Richland Hills, Tex.

DF: Your poor dog is suffering terribly, being sick and banished from the house. If he is not used to being outside for extended periods, he will be suffering emotionally from separation. You must ask yourself: Why are you keeping him alive?

I appreciate your patience and concern, but it sounds as though he should be bathed daily and brought indoors. A holistic approach to possible chronic colitis or inflammatory bowel disease is in order if the veterinarian did not consider these possibilities. For a list of holistic veterinarian practitioners, go to www.ahvma.
org
.

I would suggest trial medications such as Tylosin or metronidazole, along with probiotics and psyllium seed husks (one to two tablespoons in a gruel of boiled brown rice or oatmeal and ground lamb or turkey). You can also add two tablespoons of aloe vera juice (available in health stores) to his food, and encourage him to drink soothing and healing peppermint tea.

If he does not improve on this kind of treatment in 10 to 14 days or with what a holistic veterinarian might recommend, he could have cancer, which is the most common cause of death in dogs. In that case, I would euthanize him rather than allow him to continue to suffer outside.

KEEPING CATS HYDRATED

Dear Dr. Fox:

My two 4-year-old male cats had urinary blockages a couple of years ago. I now feed them Hill’s c/d wet and dry food and change to Hill’s s/d twice a year, per my vet’s instructions.

I understand the old way to prevent urinary blockage was to add vitamin C to cats’ regular food, but I don’t trust myself to give the correct amounts. I give my cats small feedings a few times a day so they won’t overeat and vomit.

I also brush their teeth with a rubber finger brush, using sodium bicarbonate in water. Do you have better recommendations?

H.O., West Palm Beach, Fla.

DF: Clearly, you care very much for your cats, and I am glad that you have gotten them used to having their teeth cleaned. You can add a little table salt to the sodium bicarbonate or check out your pet store for any easy-to-apply paste or gel, such as PetzLife Oral Care products.

Acidifying cat food, as with vitamin C, was once thought to be beneficial, but it actually helped trigger a different kind of urinary tract-blocking stone (oxalate) when manufacturers started adding it to cat food to prevent common struvite stones from forming. These were associated with the high cereal content in famous-brand cat foods.

It is especially important for your cats to drink plenty of water, even seasoned with milk or boiled chicken juice. Encourage your cats to play and get some physical exercise and to eat primarily moist (canned) cat food.

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.

2011 United Feature Syndicate

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