Dear Dr. Fox:
I read about the woman from the District whose dog had health problems costing her $10,000. This is about the lack of a response from the American Kennel Club.
Some years ago, we reported our dog’s breeders, concerned that they were not taking proper care of the dogs they were breeding. We had bought a 3-year-old Belgian shepherd. When we picked her up, she was in a crate sitting on top of other crates in a garage.
She was skinny, with a poor coat and bad teeth, and her vocal cords had been cut. We had her treated, and she was with us for nine years. She was a lovable addition to our family.
Shortly after we got her, I reported her condition and the breeder to the AKC. The group wasn’t interested. It occurred to me that the AKC was less concerned about the dogs and more about its breeders and its dog show. Our experiences with the breeder and the AKC were disappointing. I was wondering if you have heard from others with similar experiences.
DF: The American Kennel Club is simply a registry that issues pedigree papers, essentially without any policing of the sources the dogs come from — notably puppy mills. It insists that it has no policing or advocacy intentions or authority, which I see as an abdication of responsibility and a great loss of opportunity.
By not having a dual registry with a special category of pure-breed dogs who have been progeny-tested and screened for genetic abnormalities and heritable diseases, the “papers’’ are of little value, although many believe them to be like some Good Housekeeping seal of approval.
The popularization of dog shows for pure breeds, many with evident structural defects, has contributed to the genetic decline and suffering of many breeds of dogs, especially those of abnormal size and structure. The burdens that human selection has created and others find profit in continue to propagate, to the detriment of the animals.
Dear Dr. Fox:
In a recent column, a reader mentioned having a dog that seemed to have allergies from November through April. We had the same problem with our Labrador retriever-pit bull mix.
We tried the same remedies: putting her on a grain-, poultry-, peanut- and soy-free diet and giving her Benadryl. A couple of years ago, in desperation, we tried putting a humidifier in the living room, where the dogs sleep and spend most of their time. Within a couple of days, the itching diminished greatly.
Apparently, the dog’s skin is quite sensitive to the drier air caused by the furnace running in winter (from November through April). We also put a humidity gauge in the room, and the dog seems most comfortable at about 45 percent air humidity. We monitor the level carefully to avoid getting mold in the house.
Because our dog chooses to spend most of her time in the house, we have to bathe her about once every four or five weeks, and we use a lanolin-based shampoo and conditioner for this. We keep her on the same diet year-round.
The extra humidity gave our dog relief and might work for others.
C.D., Worden, Ill.
DF: It is enlightening to hear from readers who have found cures for their animals’ maladies. It is encouraging that common sense can often supplant conventional veterinary medical science and treatment protocols.
Your discovery underscores the importance of considering the animal’s environment. I wonder how many dogs such as yours have been put on prednisone and special, costly and generally unpalatable special prescription diets and suffered the consequences.
The question has at long last been provisionally and promisingly answered concerning the illogical protocol of injecting the same amount of vaccine for a Great Dane as for a toy poodle.
Veterinarian W. Jean Dodds has published her pilot study evaluation of giving a half-dose of canine distemper and parvovirus to small dogs to see whether they develop protective antibody levels in their serum. She found that they do, indeed, develop such protection.
This elegant study, published in Integrative Veterinary Care Journal and American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association Journal, should be an incentive for vaccine companies to address this issue, because vaccines are not without risk; veterinarians should push for a broader study to confirm these findings in a larger population.
Dear Dr. Fox:
I hope you can shed some light on my beloved pet’s problem. I have domestic shorthair cat littermates who are 12 years old. They have been in good health until recently. One had hyperthyroid disease, underwent radioiodine treatment and is doing well. My other cat seems to have a strange condition.
We began to notice that Feliz was circling to the right as he got tangled under our feet. He started distancing himself from our cuddling activities. His personality seemed to change from outgoing, friendly and curious to having a faraway look in his eyes at times.
His physical exam didn’t reveal anything except for the circling and lack of activity and somewhat decreased appetite.
The vet suspected the worst: a brain tumor. I was counseled that an abdominal sonogram, chest X-ray and neurological studies may or may not shed light on his condition. We started with blood studies, which were all normal.
We gave him prednisolone and an antibiotic injection. Two days later, he seemed to get remarkably better, eating, coming around and interacting more. Two weeks later, he received another antibiotic injection and a reduced amount of prednisolone.
He seemed to be doing well, and after about six weeks, we slowly tapered off his medication. He did not do well off prednisolone. He became very withdrawn and has hidden from us, although he did continue to eat.
He was restarted on his medicine, and there was almost an immediate improvement in his behavior. We did see a change in his agility; he no longer climbed onto his favorite windowsills regularly. The circling decreased on good days.
His abdominal sonogram, chest X-ray and most recent labs are all normal. Unfortunately, the neurological studies are just too expensive.
Is this scenario typical of anything? What can I do to help my beloved pet? Is there anything I can add to his medical regimen?
L.T., Kensington, Md.
DF: There are various reasons why your cat developed the neurological and behavioral changes that might indicate either a brain tumor or quite possibly an inflammatory condition, which the prednisolone helped subdue.
Finding the possible cause might involve more tests, costs and stress to your cat. Because the steroid medication does seem to help, I would advise you to continue to work closely with your veterinarian on maximizing its effectiveness while seeking to minimize the daily amount prescribed, to help reduce side effects.
I would urge you to consider including probiotics in the cat’s daily diet, along with anti-inflammatory fish oil such as Nordic Naturals for Cats, and make sure that no glutens — from corn, in particular — are in your cat’s regular diet. Let me know if there is a high cereal content in your cat’s diet, because this can be a cause of neurological disease in dogs, notably border terriers. Also, if your cat consumes a lot of tuna, this could cause neurological problems because of high levels of mercury contamination.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or write to him at United Feature Syndicate, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, Mo. 64106.