Dear Dr. Fox:

We have questions about the diet for a cat with high triglycerides.

Bess is about 6 years old and weighs about 15 pounds. She is an indoor cat and our only pet. We rescued her from an animal shelter.

She is on a special diet that is supposed to control her high triglyceride level (originally 2,400 but now maintained at about 618 for two years). Our vet tells us that if we change her diet, her triglycerides will skyrocket, with possible seizures and other dire results.

We worry that the restricted diet does not give Bess the variety of nutrients she needs to stay well.

She eats one to 11 / 2 cups Hills Prescription Diet r/d dry food over a 24-hour period (the vet recommended only one-half cup because of Bess’s weight) and one teaspoon of Hills Prescription Diet r/d wet food twice a day. As a treat, we give her a small serving of dried bonito fish flakes from Cat-Man-Doo.

The problem is that Bess is doing a lot of scratching and is trying to tongue-wash spots on her fur, usually near her flanks or on her tummy, particularly in the evening. She will suddenly jump up and seem irritated, as though she had been bitten. We had her checked; she doesn’t have fleas.

Thinking it might be dry skin, we tried putting a few drops of fish oil into her wet food, but she won’t touch it. She is very nervous and jumpy and sometimes stares crazily, as though she is hallucinating. She crouches down and puts her ears back, flips over and starts racing around.

We are trying to determine whether Bess’s symptoms are diet-related and how we can adjust her diet to give her balanced nutrition without her triglycerides soaring.

R.M., Fairfax

DF: It is good that your veterinarian has diagnosed your cat’s condition.

Bess must certainly be kept on a zero-fat diet. But many cats and dogs have problems with manufactured prescription diets because of various additives and contaminants. Have your veterinarian contact Balance IT, veterinary formulated diets and therapeutic recipes at The company can offer a suitable recipe you could prepare at home for Bess.

I would take her off the dried fish — many cats are allergic to fish protein — and see whether her excessive licking abates.

Some cats develop elevated triglycerides after prolonged treatment with steroids. They can develop fatty growths on the abdomen and fat deposits in the eyes, show abdominal pain, be hypersensitive to touch and even have seizures. A grain-free diet might be the best preventive diet for many cats.

Dangers of dry eyes

Dear Dr. Fox:

I have an 8-year-old Yorkie that has had dry eyes for more than a year now. He weighs nine pounds and has been taking the following medicines for his right eye for at least eight months:

→Neomycin and polymyxin B sulfates and Dexamethasone Opthalmic ointment, twice daily.

→Tacrolimus eye ointment, three times daily.

→Optixcare Eye Lube, as often as possible.

→Pilocarpine hydrochloride ophthalmic solution, mixed in his food twice daily.

When he was tested in April, his right eye tear level was three; his left eye tear level was 12. He eats Wellness food. I understand I will have to continue with this treatment for the rest of his life.

Are there any other treatments that you would recommend for him? It is difficult to keep up with the treatment each day.

E.W., Silver Spring

DF: I’m glad that your little dog’s dry eye condition was recognized and treated before serious damage to the cornea and loss of eyesight occurred.

Although I have no additional treatment to suggest other than drops of ophthalmic Eye Bright, a potentially beneficial herb, your letter will serve as a warning to owners of Yorkies and other breeds, as well as all old dogs, about this condition. Undiagnosed and untreated, it causes increasing discomfort and eventual pain and suffering.

Usually this condition develops gradually and might be identified during the course of an annual physical or wellness appointment, which I recommend for all dogs. More rarely, it is triggered suddenly by certain medications, such as antihistamines.

Reactions to vaccines

Dear Dr. Fox:

Blue is an incredibly adorable flame-point Siamese mix. He’s 8 or 9 years old, an indoor cat, extremely healthy (although a little overweight) and has only one issue, really: a growth on his right hind leg.

I discovered this growth in March 2011 and took him to the vet for a biopsy, which showed no malignancy. Because Blue is getting up in years, and the growth doesn’t seem to bother him, I decided not to have it removed. But I also combed the Internet for information regarding the connection between feline vaccines and fibrosarcoma, something that, quite honestly, scares the wits out of me.

Even though the biopsy showed no malignancy, I’m concerned that the growth might still be there because of the rabies booster Blue had in August 2009. Consequently, when he was due for his next booster in July 2012, I took him to a vet to see whether she could run a rabies titer before giving the vaccine. Unfortunately, the vet didn’t draw enough blood, so the test was never run. I decided against giving him the vaccine at that time.

Because it’s now been four years since Blue’s last rabies booster, I’m wondering how to best proceed from here. Should I have him vaccinated or should I try to have another titer run first? I’ve already decided against any additional feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia vaccines, but am concerned about rabies.

L.W., Pine Plains, N.Y.

DF: Because of the growth at the vaccination injection site, even though it did not test positive for cancer, it is evidence enough of vaccinosis, a vaccine-induced disease or adverse reaction.

Your cat might well develop a similar reaction when a repeat vaccination is given, and there is no guarantee that the growth will not turn out to be malignant.

Because he is an indoor cat and because of his evident vaccinosis, I see no reason why the veterinarian should not provide you with a note indicating that, for health reasons, giving further vaccinations is not advised. Reasonable health authorities should accept this if the vaccination status of your cat is questioned.

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.

2013 United Feature Syndicate