A pug puppy at rest. A reader’s pug suffered what appeared to have been neurological problems that may have resulted from her having been vaccinated too soon after she was spayed. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Dear Dr. Fox:

Recently, my pug started acting strangely. She was circling and drooling, had watery eyes, and showed signs of torticollis. I think she wasn’t seeing correctly, if at all, at times. I took her to the vet.

At first, the vet suspected toxicity of some kind, but all her blood work came back 100 percent normal. They now suspect encephalitis. They started her on prednisone, phenobarbital and doxycycline, and released her the same afternoon. I gave her another phenobarbital at about 10 that night, and by 1 a.m., she seemed almost completely normal. She has continued to act normally, aside from throwing her head back a few times a day.

She was spayed and vaccinated a few days before this all started. I read an article about vaccines possibly triggering this. I was wondering whether there was a way, other than an MRI, to diagnose this disease. She’s still acting fairly normally, except for being rather lethargic, which is not like her or any other 2-year-old pug.

I would like to know exactly what was wrong and do whatever I can to help her, prolong her life or make sure she doesn’t suffer if she does have this disease. She hasn’t had any seizures, as far as I know. She is so cute and fun and usually full of life.

M.T., Hobbs, N.M.

DF: Considering the time between her being vaccinated and the onset of neurological problems, I would suspect she has a vaccinosis, an adverse reaction to whatever vaccines she was given.

It is not advisable to vaccinate an animal that is ill or subjected to the stress of general anesthesia for any major surgery, such as spay/neuter. The vaccinations should have been done three to four weeks before or after the surgery, but for the sake of convenience, this protocol is not always followed.

The treatment prescribed is satisfactory, but she must be slowly weaned off the prednisone and not suddenly taken off of it. Give her probiotics to help correct any adverse consequences to her gut bacterial flora from the antibiotic.

For good measure, I would add a few drops of fish oil to her food and up to a tablespoon daily of coconut oil, which might help stabilize brain function and can help prevent seizures.

Dear Dr. Fox:

Large dogs have larger brains than small dogs. Are large dogs potentially smarter than small dogs?

R.P., the District

DF: It would be logical to assume that the bigger the brain, the greater the intelligence, but biologically, it has more to do with the ratio between body size and brain size.

Small dogs have more compact bodies and brains than large dogs and are relatively equal in terms of overall intelligence.

Intelligence tests are compounded by animals’ motivation and cognitive abilities, attention span, and how easily they are distracted.

Domesticated animals generally have smaller brains than their wild counterparts of similar body size. Poor nutrition during gestation and in early life can impair brain development and later cognitive abilities in humans and other animals.

Being raised in physically, emotionally and intellectually stimulating environments might, as biologist Charles Darwin theorized, account for the larger brains seen in some species, compared with their domesticated counterparts.

Dear readers:

A survey of the owners of more than 6,700 cats in Sweden found a higher risk of feline diabetes in cats fed primarily dry food than in cats fed mostly wet food, researchers reported in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.

Obesity was a key risk factor, but the dry food link to diabetes held among normal-weight cats, and the animals were also more likely to have feline diabetes if they ate a lot of food, primarily stayed indoors and got minimal exercise.

©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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