Dear Dr. Fox:
I have a 21-month-old female golden retriever. She is very thin, despite being fed twice a day — same as my 11-year-old.
She does not seem to be maturing internally, and she refuses to be house-trained. She defecates in quantity and still urinates indoors too often. She has been cleared of parasites. She has lots of energy and is wired tighter than my previous goldens. I can’t afford more testing. What can we do?
J.M., Fargo, N.D.
DF: What kind of dog food are you feeding your pup? Because no internal parasites have been detected, and she passes large amounts of fecal material, you might be feeding a poor-quality, high-grain, soy and fiber dog food that does not give her sufficient nourishment.
Get a high-protein, high-fat dog food — dry, canned, frozen and/or freeze-dried — and give your dog three meals a day, weighing her every two weeks to make sure she is gaining weight.
Your dog might also have a digestive issue that can be helped with a couple of teaspoons of chopped canned unsweetened pineapple in each meal as a source of digestive enzymes. Don’t hesitate to add a tablespoon of cottage cheese or plain yogurt to her regular food as an occasional treat, along with meaty table scraps.
Once you have her food issue corrected, you can address her incontinence, which might be from her staying indoors too long. Take her out on a set routine — first thing in the morning, last thing at night, after she awakens from a nap during the day, and for some quality time outdoors before meals.
Dear Dr. Fox:
I recently became aware of a situation that bothers me quite a bit. This time of year, the Maryland Department of Agriculture starts spraying for mosquitoes — at least around where I live.
This program is a few years old. The official reason is to protect us from horrible diseases. The suburbanites around here enjoy their mosquito-free back yards, although for as long as I’ve lived here, I have never heard of a case of malaria or Zika. Applying some DEET before spending the day in the back yard would probably inconvenience them.
The state uses a poison gas that is supposed to be safe; however, it tells people to lock their windows and keep their pets inside on nights the gas is sprayed. This raises the question of what this stuff does to the wildlife that lives, or used to live, around here. There are, or used to be, foxes, deer, turtles, snakes, birds (although their numbers have diminished in recent years) and insects of all sorts.
The state allows homeowners an exemption for their property so it will not be sprayed, but the lots are not that big, and I’m sure the gas drifts. I sent in an exemption with a required copy to my homeowners association.
If you have not brought up the subject of mosquito spraying and wildlife in your column, I suggest you might consider doing so.
DF: Sound ecological management in the specific instance of controlling mosquitoes and other insects that might harbor and transmit diseases to humans (zoonoses) and domestic animals does not rely simply on insecticides.
These chemicals will also kill other beneficial creatures, including bats, various fish, frogs, reptiles and birds that rely on insects as their only source of food and help prevent zoonoses by consuming mosquitoes. So the animals either starve to death or are poisoned by the insecticides, while the targeted insects quickly evolve insecticide resistance and come back with a vengeance after their natural controls have been exterminated by public health authorities.
As for use around the home, pyrethroids are notably toxic for cats. In many areas, preventive medicine against heartworm disease is advisable for cats, as well as dogs.
A variety of insect-repellent sprays, candles, secure window and door screens, fans and netting can also protect us quite effectively, as do appropriate clothing and staying indoors when mosquitoes are most active. Essential oils — such as vanilla, peppermint, lemon and eucalyptus — are my first choice to keep pesky bugs at bay.
Dear Dr. Fox:
My vet did an extensive blood test on my 13-year-old Lhasa apso mix at our annual checkup.
She said that his liver count was 1,500 and that he needed to take the supplement SAM-e.
I don’t like giving him over-the-counter supplements, which are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. What else could be done for him instead of giving him this supplement? My vet could offer no other solution.
L.H., Richmond Heights, Mo.
DF: I urge you to follow your veterinarian’s advice and give your dog this supplement. Do not worry about the lack of FDA regulations with this and other non-prescription supplements sold over the counter.
Some drugs approved for animal use and regulated by the FDA are banned in other countries. Several approved and regulated human drugs are prescribed by veterinarians for companion animals without actual FDA approval, such use being termed “off-label.”
To add to this confusion, we have periodic lobbying efforts by drug companies to get all vitamins and other OTC supplements off the shelves and available only with a prescription.
This is clearly not to protect consumers. Look at the extreme price increases for many prescribed medications today, and the reported payments to other drug companies to keep generic drugs off the market to protect branded drug sales.
For your dog, I would also discuss two other supplements with your veterinarian: milk thistle and vitamin B complex. A low-fat diet, along with digestive enzymes and probiotics, would also be helpful.
Dear Dr. Fox:
I wish to add my experience dealing with a pet loss and a fur buddy’s loss. I worked with someone whose brother took both his dogs to the veterinarian when it was time to say goodbye to one of them. Because of his experience, I took both my cats, Max and Jackson, together when the time had come to say goodbye to Max. They had been together from 3 months old to 11 years old.
Jackson was very quiet and started to groom Max after he was brought in after getting a sedative, so he, too, was quiet. Then the final injection. Once there wasn’t a heartbeat, Jackson lay down beside Max, as they always did. After a while, I took a very quiet Jackson home.
He searched the house often for about two weeks and cried quietly for Max. Jackson was never a “talker.” He settled in with less searching, but would sometimes just sit and sort of cry for four years. I think he dealt with the loss just as any of us would. Luckily, he did not slip into dementia as one cat I had did after he lost his dog.
I recommend taking your remaining pet or pets when it’s time to say goodbye to a furry friend. They deserve to be able to say their goodbye, too.
For 30-plus years, I have had to deal with this situation, and this was the first time having a best buddy with us, and it certainly seemed to be a little easier for the remainder.
B.C., Jupiter, Fla.
DF: I appreciate your detailed observations and empathy. My book “Cat Body, Cat Mind” documents how some cats will grieve, even to the point of dementia and self-mutilation.
It is disturbing that so many people do not have their eyes open (or is it their hearts?) when observing how animals behave and considering their emotions and capacity to grieve.
I would urge all who can make the appropriate arrangements with a home-visiting veterinarian to have their beloved animal companions euthanized in the home. This can be the least stressful and least disturbing method for all involved.
© 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. Send letters to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, Mo. 64106.