Dear Dr. Fox:
I recently buried my beloved Jenny, a 17-year-old Maine coon cat with long hair. I think she had arthritis pain, although X-rays did not show abnormalities of the spine or hips. She lost three pounds over six months.
We moved to a condo six months ago, and the owner had the carpets cleaned before renting it to us. Jenny would never sleep in her regular bed after we moved, but preferred to sleep in the hallway on the carpet, where it was warm. She constantly groomed herself after we moved here. I think she didn’t like the smell of the carpet. I wonder whether the carpet shampoo used was toxic to her.
She vomited almost every day, not just hairballs, but whatever she had eaten. She also craved water and would jump into the bathroom sink to drink whenever the faucet was turned on, even though she had a water fountain with fresh water.
I am heartbroken over losing her. Please warn your readers about the carpet shampoo they use if they have cats. I have no way of knowing what was used on my carpets, because it was done before we moved here, but I think it contributed to my cat’s illness and death.
S.C., Rolla, Mo.
DF: My deepest condolences. Losing a beloved companion is very distressing, especially when you do not know why she died.
Some carpet cleaners can contain toxic residues that cats can pick up on their paws and fur and then ingest during self-grooming. Steam cleaning and enzyme cleaners on stains are the safest methods. New carpets can be toxic from formaldehyde fumes and flame-retardant bromide compounds that can harm the thyroid gland.
The stress of moving to a new place could also have tipped the scales for your cat and caused chronic kidney disease and stress-associated diabetes to flare up. You should feel no blame for this sad end to your cat’s life. She had to move with you, and she most certainly had a good life under your care.
Dear Dr. Fox:
Will you please write something about the cruelty involved in the slaughter of horses? Thousands of horses are being exported to killing centers, and some people want slaughtering to start up again in the United States.
S.J., Parker, Colorado
DF: This is the Year of the Horse in China, where the price of horse meat is listed on the nation’s consumer price index. Last year, consumers in Europe were outraged at the discovery of horse meat in beef hamburgers, some of which probably originated in the United States. The last two U.S. government-inspected horse slaughtering and processing facilities were closed in 2007. But racing, working and pleasure horses in the United States are being denied a peaceful end to their lives.
In 2006, a reported 104,899 horses were killed in the United States before the slaughter ban. Since the ban, horses have been transported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter in places where humane practices are not monitored.
In 2010, almost 138,000 horses were transported out of the United States to be slaughtered, enduring untold suffering while being collected, corralled and transported vast distances to be killed and processed, and even being held in beef cattle-like feed lot fattening facilities before their slaughter.
In a recent public address in the United Kingdom, Princess Anne, a former Olympic equestrian, caused a stir when she said that attitudes toward Britain’s horse meat trade might have to change in light of the current numbers of horses being abandoned and mistreated. “Should we be considering a real market for horse meat, and would that reduce the number of welfare cases, if there was a real value in the horse meat sector?” she asked.
My response, having used a stun gun approved for cattle slaughter on horses in an emergency, is that this standard slaughter method used for livestock is not humane, reliable or safe. Mass killing of horses for human consumption can never be humane.
American horse lovers must answer this question and not abdicate their responsibilities to ensure a humane death. The presence of veterinary medications and euthanasia drugs — in particular from injection-killed horses — in pet foods is a significant concern.
Thousands of spent horses are being rescued by animal shelters that are going broke in the process of caring for these animals. This tragedy should not be capitalized upon as a financial opportunity for those who seek to open horse slaughter plants in the United States that would add to the country’s rural blight.
I urge all concerned people to contact their legislators immediately to support bills HR 1094 and S 541, known as the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, to prohibit the sale, transport, import or export of equines to be slaughtered for human consumption. For details, go to www.drfoxvet.com and www.vetsforeqinewelfare.org.
Dear Dr. Fox:
My 15-year-old male cat has had the feline herpes virus his whole life. I give him lysine paste daily, but he is always suffering from nasal congestion. Antibiotics don’t seem to do much good. Do you have any other suggestions to relieve his suffering?
W.L., St. Louis
DF: Chronic herpes virus conditions are one of the sad afflictions of cats, along with other virus infections, some of which are just being discovered.
Kittens often become hosts for various viral infections because of early stress, malnutrition or an infected mother. The herpes virus commonly causes conjunctivitis, which can lead to damage of the corneas.
Some cats develop immunity as they mature and when given good care. Others, for various reasons, have episodes in which their immune systems fail, and there is a flare-up of viral proliferation and inflammation. Secondary bacterial and fungal or yeast infections are common after a viral flare-up or primary infection.
Appropriate antibacterial and antifungal medications might help. Anti-inflammatory steroids are often used in combination but never alone, because steroids can make secondary infections worse.
Your old cat should have a veterinary consultation, ideally at home. Fish oil for cats might help significantly, as could a diet free of corn and soy.
It is also very important that your cat’s teeth are examined, because sinus and bronchial infections are often associated with periodontal disease and stomatitis (inflammation of the mucus lining in the mouth).
Dear Dr. Fox:
Is it okay to feed a 2-year-old chocolate Labrador three times a day? He is currently eating Royal Canin dog food formulated for Labrador retrievers.
M.H., Raleigh, N.C
DF: The short answer is yes and no: Yes, if the servings are small; no, if they add up to more than the daily recommended amount indicated on the food label.
Labradors are notorious for becoming overweight. With not-always-good hips, they can suffer a great deal. It is imperative to monitor your dog’s weight after a veterinary examination and appraisal of the dog’s condition and a discussion of any necessary dietary restrictions.
It is advisable to weigh your dog every month and keep a record of weight gain or loss. The easiest way to do this at home is to hold your dog and step onto the bathroom scale and note the weight, then deduct your weight without the dog in your arms.
Avoid dog foods with high cereal and carbohydrate content, and check my Web site, www.drfoxvet.com, for some dog foods that I endorse.
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.