Diets that are high in cereal content might worsen the discomfort of dogs suffering from acid reflux. (Getty Images/iStock photo)

Dear Dr. Fox:

My young dog was diagnosed with gastritis. He is currently taking the following medications: Medrol, Spasmex, Efloran, Acipan, Ranital and omega-3 acid pill supplements.

I feed him wet Hill’s Prescription Diet i/D, but he rejects it. Instead of the prescribed 2½ cans per day, he eats only one can per day. The vet found no nematodes in his body.

Currently, he has no diarrhea, but his stomach is still upset, and he munches a lot, especially at night. He also has swollen tonsils from the stomach acid.

His status is not improving, and he’s losing weight by the day. Do you have any suggestions?

M.S., Slovenia

DF: First, your dog might have acid reflux aggravated by a high-cereal-content diet. Some dogs improve when given a human antacid tablet, such as Tums, before each meal. Others do better when their food bowl is elevated so they do not have to reach down low to eat and swallow.

Although there might be other health issues with your dog that have not yet been diagnosed, I would wean him off the prescription diet and all the various medications (other than giving an antacid for a few days), and feed him my home-prepared diet, as posted on my website (drfoxvet.net). Give him no treats or snacks other than a tablespoon of live plain organic yogurt or kefir, half a canned-in-water sardine with a half-teaspoon of chia seeds, and a half-teaspoon of unsweetened canned pineapple. Also try Dr. Fox’s Good Dog Cookie Recipe, posted on my website.

Dear Dr. Fox:

We have a 13-year-old male Maine coon cat. He is, of course, quite special.

Last week, he apparently had a blood clot. After some delay and an adamantly pessimistic ER vet, he finally got some heparin, fluids, etc. He is now home and much improved, although he has some significantly compromised function in his back legs, one worse than the other.

I was wondering whether there is some therapy that might help.

J.B., Springfield, Mo.

DF: The pessimism of the emergency veterinarian is well founded. This is a common malady in cats, and the blood clots can result in a fatal stroke or partial paralysis wherever the clot or clots block major blood vessels.

One reason why this condition might be so prevalent may well be diet-related: Blood cells are more likely to clot when there is a deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids, as in fish oil and vitamin E.

Many of these essential nutrients are destroyed by the heat processing of manufactured cat foods. Before surgery, people are advised not to take such supplements because they might bleed more, because they are natural anti-coagulants, like aspirin.

For your cat, I would advise a few drops of fish oil in his food daily and half a sardine (canned, in water). As I say for cats, a sardine a day keeps the vet away — although some cats are allergic to fish, so try a quarter-teaspoon of spirulina as an alternative if that is the case.

A daily full-body massage, as per my book “The Healing Touch for Cats,” will also help the impaired circulation.

Dear Dr. Fox:

We rescued our Labrador mix, Mandy, about a year ago, when she was about 5 years old. She had clearly been beaten and abused for most of her life, and after a year, we are still unable to loosen her up.

We have never heard her bark, nor will she come or play ball — ever. She doesn’t hear well because she apparently had ear problems that went untreated for years. She will not drink water out of a bowl, but only out of large plastic cups. She stays in our bedroom all day and will come out for a walk only with a treat.

We would never return her and would welcome any thoughts on what we can do to bring her around. She is extremely sweet but backs away from any people and all dogs, no matter how friendly or nice they can be.

She will not look anyone in the eye, either. She always looks away and backs off.

R.K. and B.K., Wellington, Fla.

DF: Poor Mandy does seem to be a victim of post-traumatic stress disorder, and I applaud your devotion and patience with her. Professional help from a veterinarian specializing in behavioral problems or a referral to a certified animal behavior therapist would probably be your best option to help improve her quality of life.

If there is a safe place, such as a quiet back yard or enclosed area where she can be off-leash and not run away if frightened, I would start from there. Lie on the ground and have her come over to you for a treat, with your partner releasing her off the leash some distance away. Repeat and repeat, so she gains self-confidence being out in the open and has two people close by whom she trusts.

If possible, find another dog owner with a friendly, easygoing dog with whom Mandy can meet when out walking on the leash. Let them get to know each other, and eventually have the “therapy dog” brought in to the enclosed area to meet and, hopefully, begin to play with Mandy.

Try an elevated water bowl on a stand, which many dogs prefer.

Essential oil of lavender can have a calming effect, so try two to three drops on a bandanna around her neck two to three times a day. Give her 3 mg of melatonin in the evening.

Visit petzlife.com to learn about another supplement, @Eaze, which has natural ingredients that can increase brain serotonin and have a calming effect.

A short treatment trial with medication such as alprazolam prescribed by a veterinarian would be the next step to take if these treatments do not help. Good luck, and keep me posted.

Dear Dr. Fox:

I will be going on vacation for 18 days, and I want to know how I can make my cat most comfortable during my absence.

I have someone to care for him at least twice a day while I’m away. I worry that he will be lonely because there are no longer any other cats in the house. His littermate passed in June.

I went on vacation for a week in February, and all went well. He has plenty of toys. He snuggles with me on the sofa and lies next to me in bed. What more can I do for him while I’m away? Should I worry?

L.N., Fargo, N.D.

DF: Be sure the person coming in to care for your cat has your vacation contact information and will stay as long as possible to play, pet and groom your cat. Have the sitter make sure your cat is eating and drinking well and that the litter box is kept clean.

If there is a time in the evening when you normally have the TV or radio on, set a timer so that it goes off at your normal bedtime. Maintaining familiar sounds can help animals feel secure. If you pull the drapes in the evening — or any other such routines — be sure they are continued in your absence. Leave two or three T-shirts or other items of clothing that you have been wearing where your cat likes to nap, so your scent will be there when you are away. Have a good vacation!

©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.

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