Dear Dr. Fox:
I am writing regarding our 7-year-old neutered tuxedo shorthair cat. We wonder why he will occasionally walk up and down the hallway between our bedroom and living room, meowing loudly early in the morning. That’s after he has been sleeping in bed with us. After the meowing, he will come back to bed with us until it’s time to get up.
We think he is calling for his mother, which was killed and eaten by a coyote before he was weaned. He had to be bottle-fed.
M.L.S., Arlington County
DF: I appreciate your interpretation of the genesis of your cat’s early morning vocalizations.
Although cats, dogs and other animals can suffer separation anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, your cat was too young to have been harmed by the early separation from its mother. Being bottle-fed, he imprinted onto you. If he has no contact with other cats, he might well wonder what or who he is.
His vocalizations are typical cat yowlings, to make contact with other cats. It’s an instinctual behavior studied in detail by German ethologist Paul Leyhausen. He interpreted this behavior as a “calling to” and a “calling out,” inviting other cats to come and socialize.
Older cats suffering from dementia or arthritic pain often yowl, especially in the evening and early morning. I advise a full physical for your cat. If he is otherwise healthy, consider adopting an easygoing adult cat. For steps to follow regarding introducing a new cat, check my Web site, www.drfoxvet.com.
Dear Dr. Fox:
A few years ago, we got two Pomeranians. In May, seeing a proliferation of fleas and ticks, I let my guard down and went with my vet’s recommendation of Vectra.
We applied it to our small Pom in the recommended dose and forgot about it. Within three weeks, my healthy 3-year-old dog was dying. Her immune system shut down, and she was no longer producing red blood cells or platelets. Our vet asked whether she had access to rat poison.
More than $10,000 later, after transfusions, bone marrow and other tests, two weeks in the veterinary hospital and many drugs, she survived and came home. She has sort of recovered but is now sentenced to a lifetime of cyclosporine. Her immune system is shot, and she’ll never be the same.
B.G., Toms River, N.J.
DF: I trust that you and the attending veterinarian have sent in a report to the company and also to the Food and Drug Administration.
I am fundamentally opposed to the use of these kinds of anti-flea and tick drugs. I receive many letters concerning adverse reactions in dogs and cats. Although Vectra is supposedly one of the safer of these insecticidal drugs, I advise against its use except as a last resort when all non-drug flea control and eradication steps fail.
Check any of the topical flea-killing products on the Internet for adverse reactions in dogs and cats. They can include scratching, panting , vomiting, seizures and death. If your dog was also vaccinated around the time she was treated with Vectra, an adverse reaction to the vaccination (called vaccinosis) cannot be ruled out.
Dear Dr. Fox:
My 11-year-old pit bull, Liz-ee, had parvo as a puppy. The vet gave her no chance to live, but I nursed her back to health with antibiotics, colloidal silver, Pepto Bismol and Pedialyte.
For a few years, she was very healthy. But about five years ago, she developed a rash on her neck, face, tail and toes. It was a red, swollen, weepy rash.
My vet gave me various creams to treat it topically, to no avail. He then gave her antibiotics, prednisone and shots of cortisone. She cleared up for a few weeks, only to have the rash return.
She was treated for fleas and worms (no previous evidence of either), and I was referred to a veterinary hospital with a dermatologist. After three surgical biopsies over 12 months and many blood tests, I was told that nothing was medically wrong with my dog.
The dermatologist treated her with the same meds as my vet, only to have her clear up for a few short weeks. I am now told she should not continue to take all of these meds because it could hurt her kidney and liver function.
I took her off all commercially prepared dog food about two months ago. I cook her a stew of chicken, beef, squash, pumpkin, sweet potato, parsley, green beans, olive oil and eggs. But her skin is still breaking out in these rashes.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I want my Liz-ee to live out her last years in comfort.
C.W., Long Branch, N.J.
DF: I know how distressing atopic dermatitis can be for both your dog and you. It can be frustrating for veterinarians, who need to explore every possible avenue of cause and possible cure, rather than relying on steroids.
I don’t know where you read that canned foods can be bad for dogs. I prefer most canned foods rather than most dry dog foods.
Give her fish oil or a teaspoon of organic butter plus probiotics (for omega-3 fatty acids). Use only one kind of animal protein in her diet for three to four weeks, then switch to another. Many dogs are allergic to chicken. Some are allergic to other animal proteins, which a single-protein diet can help pinpoint.
I presume the veterinarians have ruled out mange. Your dog should be checked for hypothyroidism. A weekly rubdown with liquid aloe vera followed by a chamomile and oatmeal shampoo or similar soothing herbal blend might help.
Use cotton sheets for your dog to reduce any contact allergy with synthetic fibers in carpets and upholstery.
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.