Dear Dr. Fox: I have three beautiful dogs: a 3-year-old lavender female Pomeranian, a 2-year-old male black Pom and a 9-month-old chocolate Labrador. It’s a crazy house.

My situation is that the female Pomeranian weighs 12 pounds, and the vet says she should lose two to three pounds, so we feed her one-fourth cup of Fromm dog food in the morning, and 11 / 2 nuggets of Primal freeze-dried food in the evening.

She hasn’t lost any weight. She has a very sensitive stomach, and her breath is rancid — it smells like dead fish. The vet says that her teeth look good and that the smell is probably because of acid reflux. The vet put her on Clavamox, which has helped with her breath, but I’m worried the problem will return when we stop giving her the medication.

My male Pom can be finicky. Sometimes he turns his nose up at his food. He weighs eight or nine pounds, and the vet says his weight is good.

I just don’t know what to do. I was told by a trainer to feed the dogs Primal raw dog food. They liked it (at times). The vet didn’t like the frozen version. He suggested the freeze-dried.

There aren’t any problems with the Lab, except that he’s hyper and stinky. He eats Orijen Puppy Large Breed.

D.S., Winston Salem, N.C.

DF: Orijen is a good brand, but I would switch your Labrador to an adult dog food, feeding him three small meals daily. What you are feeding him now is for pups, and he might soon become overweight and develop joint problems.

I am disturbed that the veterinarian would prescribe an antibiotic for your dog’s halitosis. Instead, try safe chew toys, my buckwheat dog treats (the recipe is on my Web site, www.drfoxvet.com) and, above all, PetzLife Oral Care gel or spray, which has helped thousands of dogs with a variety of oral health issues, including halitosis.

Diet and kidney and liver function can also contribute to halitosis and other health problems, especially in older dogs. I would urge you to give your little Poms digestive enzymes (one-half teaspoon of crushed pineapple) and probiotics (one teaspoon plain organic kefir) with each meal, and gradually put them on my home-prepared recipe, which they should thrive on. This, too, is posted on my Web site.

If there is no significant improvement, and the halitosis persists, there is a possibility of periodontal and endodontic disease, which calls for radiographic dental assessment.

KIDNEY DISEASE in CATS

Dear Dr. Fox: Please educate us cat lovers on polycystic kidney disease in cats. I just lost my 3-year-old kitty to this horrible disease.

We had her groomed and shaved for summer, and after losing her long coat, we noticed that she was thin. She vomited the next week, quit eating and drinking, and hid from us. This was not like her personality.

She was the runt of a rescue litter and always small. I took her to the vet, and he thought she had a virus. Antibiotics did not help. Blood work was done on the third week, and she was already in the “red zone” for kidney failure and dehydration. She would not drink, and she ate only a small amount of wet food. She was put on IV fluids, but she continued to lose weight weekly. Finally, polycystic kidney disease was diagnosed, when her levels had elevated to almost the end of the red zone, renal failure. She became very weak, and I had her euthanized.

She was a rescue black cat, breed unknown, and she had moderately long hair.

P.K., St. Louis

DF: My sincere condolences on your loss. It was indeed a sad ordeal for you and your cat.

This condition is a degenerative disease of the kidneys that is a genetic defect prevalent in some breeds, such as Persians, but not uncommon in the more genetically diverse cat population.

Some genetic diseases are self-limiting, afflicting animals before they reach breeding age, which prevents transmission to offspring. Regrettably, this is not the case with polycystic kidney disease.

Some veterinarians have done kidney transplants from healthy donor cats from shelters, and with the addition of immunosuppressant drugs to help stop rejection, some cats have had some life extension.

In my opinion, aside from the cost, there are ethical considerations for both donor and recipient animals that lead me to not endorse such transplants. For humans, they are a lifesaver, but cats are not good candidates.

SENIORS AND PETS

Dear Dr. Fox: Your comments about cat litter and trying newspaper brought me back to Japan, where I lived in 1961 and 1962.

While I was there, a pack of homeless dogs and a Siamese cat “adopted” me. I shredded newspaper for the cat, and although he would come and go, he preferred this “litter box.”

I’m nearly 78 now and have severe arthritis, but I do miss having pets. If I provide walkways in my condo, do you think a cat would be happy? Should I get two cats or a dog and a cat? Any suggestions would be appreciated.

J.D., the District

DF: I, too, have good memories of Japan, where I gave several lectures on animal behavior, protection and rights. I was also an honored guest of one of their veterinary associations for animal behavior and ethology.

Clearly, you are an animal person and would both enjoy and benefit from having an animal companion. You must first check to see whether there are any restrictions relating to your condo, and then consider your age — a young animal might outlive you. You must also consider your physical limitations.

Two indoor, older cats might be your best choice. The adoption adviser at your local animal shelter might be the ideal professional to help you evaluate the possibility of fulfilling your heart’s desire.

ROTATING PROTEINS

Dear Dr. Fox: I have had my Chihuahua and rat terrier mix on the quinoa and lamb recipe I got from you several months ago.

The lamb I’ve been buying lately is from another company. My dog will not always eat it when I give it to him, and when he does, he throws up some later in the day. I am concerned — he has lost some weight and looks thin. Is there another recipe you could suggest?

J.F., Winston-Salem, N.C.

DF: Is this lamb graded for human consumption? If it is lamb byproduct, it could contain sulfate preservatives, which are not good for dogs or cats.

I advise rotating the kind of primary protein in your dog’s diet every five to seven days, and then see how the dog is doing in terms of appetite and weight, as well as his preference or whether he is having digestive problems. These alternatives include organic, free-range turkey, chicken, duck, lamb, pork and beef; eggs, cottage cheese, peas and lentils; and white fish and wild salmon.

Be sure to feed your dog three small meals a day after some exercise and outdoor activity. If his appetite remains poor and he continues to throw up, waste no time and consult with a veterinarian, because he could have a health issue, such as kidney or pancreatic disease.

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.

2014 United Feature Syndicate