Dear Dr. Fox:

My 12-year-old cat, Bonzai, became very ill in 2007. He stopped eating, was very lethargic, threw up and had other intestinal issues.

After an ultrasound and colonoscopy, Bonzai was diagnosed with irritable bowel disease. He was given prednisone to control the inflammation and put on one of Science Diet’s limited ingredient foods. He did well for a time, but then had two recurrences of irritable bowel disease within a year.

We were concerned about the long-term effects of taking prednisone, so we explored other alternatives. We started making our own raw food by grinding together raw chicken, eggs, fish oil and salt. Bonzai has not had a recurrence of irritable bowel disease since we started him on this diet in 2010. He is more active and playful than he has been since he was a kitten.

As you say: Cats are carnivores, and even limited-ingredient diets still have grain products and other fillers in them.

M.A.G., Bristow

DF: Your letter is very much appreciated, and I hope other veterinarians will read it.

I hope that people with cats will take note of your insights and read the ingredient labels on the food they are feeding their animals. So many cats, even those with no evident illness, have a new zest for life when they are taken off highly processed, high-grain and soy diets.

I find it absurd that so many expensive special-prescription diets contain various fillers and even ingredients that might cause allergies and digestive problems.

spreading tooth decay

Dear Dr. Fox:

I am curious about spreading tooth decay. There have been reports that a mother kissing her baby can transfer saliva that can give the child dental caries, especially if the mother has untreated cavities. The reports say sharing a spoon can also spread this.

Many people kiss their pets. Some people might use a used dinner spoon to scoop out wet cat food. And I have some great pictures of a relative’s German shepherds with their heads in the dishwasher licking the plates.

Do you think that pet cavities might be caused from interacting with humans this way?

S.G., Sandy Hook, Conn.

DF: Basically, saliva heals, and the exchange of oral, fecal and body-surface bacteria is an essential part of any infant animal/human developing a healthy bacterial flora. The infant comes in contact with this bacteria when interacting with the mother and through contact with others and the soil.

These good bacteria play vital roles in immunity, disease and allergy resistance, digestion and other physiological processes. The bacteria is being investigated with some surprising findings, even indicating dysbiosis — a dysfunctional “microbiome” bacterial population in the guts — plays some role in obesity and depression.

Certainly if the microbiome is not yet well developed in an infant, the introduction of harmful bacteria, as from a shared spoon with a parent, could be problematic.

We should be concerned especially with the continued, wholesale use of antibiotics by the livestock industry and harmful pesticides by industrial agriculture.

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