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Tuesday, April 12, 2005; Page C10

Dear Dr. Fox:

We are fortunate to have had a wonderful golden retriever from an excellent breeder for 11 1/2 years. She never had any health problems until recently, when she began collapsing to the floor as if her legs suddenly turned to jelly. She goes straight down onto her belly, does not pass out or have any sort of fit, does not yelp in pain, and gets up after a few seconds and walks normally. This happens a few times a day.

Our vet has checked her reflexes, etc., and found no muscle problem, but has observed slight dragging of the right rear leg when she walks. There has also been increased panting. The vet put our girl on Cosequin DS (three daily) and 100 milligrams of Rimadyl daily for two weeks. He'll then reevaluate.

Her appetite, playfulness and, of course, golden retriever affection are normal. Any ideas to help this beloved member of our family?

G.V., Washington

The fact that your dog collapses completely, with her forelegs and hind legs all buckling under, could indicate a neurological problem rather than an arthritic condition. The medicines prescribed (along with other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Aleve and the COX 2 inhibitors) are not without risk, and should only be prescribed when needed. The dog's condition should be carefully monitored.

Your dog needs a complete neurological evaluation because she may have a brain tumor or compression in the spinal cord in her neck region, or progressive deterioration of the spinal cord. Other disorders can cause sudden collapse. Without further tests and a definitive diagnosis, the most important thing to do is to keep her off of slippery surfaces so she doesn't cause injury to limbs and joints when she collapses.

Dear Dr. Fox:

Our 6 1/2-year-old domestic shorthaired male cat, Boomer, was born to a stray under the porch of our house. He has begun to exhibit an interesting behavior -- when we are watching television in the evenings he will lie down on the floor between us and the television, roll over onto his back and loll there as if to say, "Admire me!" He obviously trusts us because he is freely showing us his belly.

Can you tell us why he might be doing this?

C. & P.W., Wappingers Falls, N.Y.

Boomer is probably doing his relaxed belly-up display to get your attention, and may be soliciting play and wondering why you and your husband are just sitting there staring at nothing all night. Some cats do watch television or use the top of the set to warm themselves. But most cats, I'm sure, find our behavior quite bizarre when we are sitting still and staring at a television or a book. Cats often act up when a person is sitting quietly and meditating, especially when we're involved in a book or newspaper. Many cats want to sit on the print (clearly seeking attention); on occasion, cats are mightier than the pen, and get the distracted reader to pet them rather than push them away.

Dear Dr. Fox:

I have two Siamese-mix littermates I adopted from the animal shelter. Harriett has had a terrible time with gum inflammation, and after a good teeth-cleaning her vet has been giving her cortisone shots about every six weeks to keep it under control. After months of watching her gain weight from those shots I read somewhere (possibly in your column) that some animals are sensitive to cornmeal and/or meal gluten, so I went to a pet store and read every label and found one that listed meat first and had no corn of any kind.

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