Dear Dr. Fox:

I have a neutered 10-year-old orange tabby. He’s an indoor cat and is overweight. I have tried many things over the years to help him.

He has an aggressive personality and can be very defensive. He does not do well at the vet’s office, and he has to be sedated before his checkup. It is difficult and traumatic to take him to the vet for anything.

I am concerned about his weight. He was put on Hill’s Prescription Diet r/d years ago. I don’t think this is the best thing for him. He seems to be hungry all the time; he constantly cries to be fed. Sometimes I give in, because it’s the only way I can get sleep.

I don’t give him more than the amount he’s supposed to have, but I don’t see any results. Although the bag of food says not to use the product long-term, his vet still has him on it. I want to switch, but I don’t feel like I’m educated in the best possible food for him.

I feel as though I have failed him. I’ve checked into Wellness CORE Grain-Free Indoor Formula and thought of trying it. What do you think is best?

D.W., Wilmington, Del.

DF: The main ingredients in the diet food you are feeding your cat are brewers’ rice, chicken byproduct meal, corn gluten meal, powdered cellulose, chicken liver flavor and soybean oil. Carnitine is added to “help burn body fat.”

Your poor cat might develop the feline equivalent of a metabolic syndrome on this kind of diet: diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney, urinary tract and liver problems.

Your cat needs good-quality animal protein and fats of animal origin to stay full. Go to www.feline-nutrition.org for more insights, and check out my Web site, www.drfoxvet.com, for a home-prepared diet you might want to try.

The Wellness brand is good. Feed your cat six to eight small meals daily, weigh him weekly and adjust his diet accordingly. Any exercise you can get him to enjoy, such as chasing a lure on the end of a string, will help.

Cushing’s disease

Dear Dr. Fox:

I have a 10-year-old sheltie that recently had Cushing’s disease diagnosed. My vet put him on a 60-milligram Vetoryl capsule daily for the adrenal glands.

He growls at me when I try to put on his halter or touch his front legs, so I know his feet hurt. He doesn’t want to walk, and he is constantly sitting or lying down. His fur is coming out in clumps. He used to love being brushed, but no longer. I originally thought he had a bladder infection, because he urinates in the house.

His appetite is good. He gets a small handful of Purina’s Beneful and two heaping teaspoons of canned Alpo in the morning. In the evening, he gets treats such as Pup-Peroni, Beggin’ Strips, Meaty Bone and DentaStix.

How can I improve his quality of life?

J.S., Albrightsville, Pa.

DF: I am sorry to hear about your poor dog’s condition, which is all too prevalent among dogs today.

With Cushing’s disease, adrenal glands produce too much of the hormone cortisol. It can be complicated by diabetes and low thyroid activity. You should have him tested for these conditions.

Improving your dog’s nutrition might help improve his physical and mental condition. Over 10 to 14 days, gradually switch him to a grain-free food, such as Wellness, Orijen or Organix.

Discuss with your veterinarian the possibility of giving your dog digestive enzymes, probiotics and a source of omega-3 fatty acids in his food.

He might enjoy my recipe for buckwheat treats, which is on my Web site. You can also buy freeze-dried meaty treats such as Stella & Chewy’s, but don’t buy any imported from China!

Cat’s constitutional

Dear Dr. Fox:

We have a 13-year-old male cat that has started vomiting up his food daily. He’s an indoor cat. He eats California Natural chicken and brown rice formula and has an occasional treat from the vet to clean his teeth.

We take him for walks on a leash daily. If he happens to eat grass while outdoors or if he drinks water after eating his first meal of the day, it will cause the vomiting.

We have asked our vet for a remedy, with no solution. The vomiting is almost constant, and we are concerned about his health.

G.R., Norman, Okla.

DF: I wish more people would take your initiative and try habituating their cats to a daily walk in a harness. Many cats enjoy such outdoor stimulation.

Ruling out lymphatic cancer (considering your cat’s age) and fur ball accumulation in the stomach, I would consider a possible food hypersensitivity or allergy as the cause of his vomiting. Try gradually changing your cat’s diet to one of known, whole-food ingredients, with no generic “meat meal” or byproducts. Avoid corn and soy, because they may be genetically modified.

Do not allow your cat to eat grass, which can irritate an inflamed stomach. Give your cat small meals four to six times daily, because eating a large meal quickly can make hungry cats vomit.

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. Write to him at United Feature Syndicate, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, Mo. 64106.

2012 United Feature Syndicate