Dear Dr. Fox:

Recently, our 8-year-old miniature schnauzer was diagnosed with pancreatitis.

She is now on a diet of Hill’s Prescription low-fat and high-fiber dry food. She has about a teaspoon cooked sweet potato and a teaspoon pumpkin daily. I was giving her two to three drops of fish and flaxseed oil, but I have been told to stop all oils. She can have pain medication twice daily as needed.

Can you suggest a better diet? I understand that schnauzers are prone to get this condition.

My daughter has a healthy 3-year-old schnauzer, and she wonders whether she should change the dog’s diet, although she seems healthy and active.

V.B., McLean

DF: Pancreatitis is an acute inflammatory condition that might be triggered when dogs are fed fatty table scraps or are on a diet high in fats. Concurrent liver dysfunction might also be evident, because bile from the liver backs up into the pancreas.

Milk thistle and dandelion root herbal products can help improve liver function. Probiotics (always given on an empty stomach) along with a low-fat diet can help improve pancreatic function. Digestive enzymes, such as those from papaya and pineapple extracts, can help compensate for any pancreatic insufficiencies in production of digestive enzymes.

There are home-prepared diets for your dog’s condition available on . Your daughter should steer clear of fatty foods and treats for her dog and consider a raw food diet and probiotic supplements.

low-salt diet

Dear Dr. Fox:

My soon-to-be 11-year-old cocker spaniel, Chance, was diagnosed with congenital heart disease in June. He is on several heart medications and seems to be tolerating them well.

We have blood work taken every three months for kidney valuations. So far, so good. Although his heart specialist told me his life expectancy would be less than two years.

Chance is due for his annual well puppy visit. He is then due for several injections and lab tests, specifically DHLPP, fecal, HW/lyme/ehrlichia/ana and lyme.

He is on rabies medication until July 2015. He has been on heartworm medication all his life. We live on a small piece of property with many deer, but we’ve never had an issue with ticks. We do Frontline monthly.

Does he really need all this protection? What would be most important? I have never had a dog on so much medication, and I worry about it being too much, especially considering his health conditions.

S.E., Woodbine, Md.

DF: Dogs with various heart diseases can do remarkably well when given the appropriate medications, especially those that are tried and true for human cardiac patients.

Because you do not specify what kind of congenital heart disease your dog has, I cannot offer any specific advice. Chance should be on a low-salt diet. Supplements such as CoQ10, fish oil (for omega-3 fatty acids), potassium and magnesium should be discussed with your veterinarian.

Your dog’s blood pressure needs careful monitoring. It is significantly affected by the health of his kidneys; signs of fluid retention, called edema, causing swelling in the abdomen or limbs; and a non-productive cough. Keep him on the lean side. He should not need any DHLPP booster combo-vaccination.

water aids Chihuahua

Dear Dr. Fox:

My Chihuahua had a urinary tract infection three years ago, and we did not realize it until she was bleeding.

The emergency room veterinarian said there was no way to keep her from getting another one. Her regular vet told me the only water she gives her dogs and cats is purified water, and she does not have this problem.

I bought bottled water and a special pitcher that purifies water. She has never had another urinary tract infection.

L.W., Naples, Fla.

DF: Some dogs, and especially cats, have chronic or recurrent bouts of lower urinary tract inflammation, often coupled with bacterial infection, which might lead to the development of calculi, cystitis, painful inflammation of the bladder and the formation of mucus plugs in the lower urinary tract.

Feeding your dog high-cereal content pet foods that have been artificially acidified by the manufacturers can also contribute to urinary tract problems.

I would like to know what brand of water purifier you discovered that helped your dog. The ZeroWater purification system seems to do a good job.

For details about water quality and treated municipal tap water, check my review on

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