Dear Dr. Fox:

When he was 2, my 7-year-old Persian cat, Bootsie, had urethral bypass surgery after a month of overnight visits to the vet, catheter insertions and lots of pain.

He came out of the surgery very well and was put on Royal Canin SO Urinary Diet, dry and canned, which he devours. He is a large cat and weighs just less than 15 pounds, with at least a pound of fur coat.

For about the past two years, I have noticed that he scoots his bottom across the floor after leaving the litter box. I routinely check his anal glands and depress them when necessary, and he goes to the groomer and/or vet for sanitary clips. But the hair around his surgery-created opening for urination attracts fecal matter and gets stuck inside that opening.

I try to keep that area clean, and clip and remove the hairs using a cotton swab and Vaseline, but it is an ongoing problem. The vet did tell me that when doing the surgery, the skin in that area was folded inward, and this probably is causing the problem.

Bootsie has survived five years since that surgery, and he is frisky, happy and affectionate. I can’t help wondering whether I should be doing something else for him.

B.T., Reston

DF: You and your Persian cat have indeed been through the proverbial medical mill, with veterinary care needed in large part because of his genetic background. This can increase susceptibility to such health issues as urinary tract blockage, which can be aggravated by dry cat foods, in particular, and the failure of many cats to drink enough water.

I am impressed that you and your cat can deal with the recurring anal gland problem. I would encourage you to buy some good clippers and have the veterinarian show you how to do the sanitary clips. This would eliminate the stress and expense of taking your cat out for such maintenance care.

Daily cleaning with moist baby wipes with soothing aloe vera might help. Squeezing the anal glands too frequently can cause inflammation and increased secretion, so I would give that treatment a break for a while.

food ‘risk dilution’

Dear Dr. Fox:

My male border collie/spaniel mix is 5, and he often throws up or has diarrhea. When I take him on walks, he has diarrhea more often than not. He sometimes wheezes, too.

I don’t understand why he would be getting sick all the time. He eats a good brand of kibble, which we’ve been using for a while. I don’t think the kibble is causing him to get sick. What do you advise?

K.B., Silver Spring

DF: Your diagnosis might be erroneous. Even with “good brands,” ingredient sources and quality of dog foods can change from one manufactured batch to another.

My Web site,, alerts dog and cat owners to the all-too-frequent recalls of pet foods that can make animals ill from bacteria, mold and other contaminants.

There are reasons for your dog’s vomiting and diarrhea. Any animal showing such symptoms for more than 24 hours should be seen by a veterinarian.

Because a contaminant or nutritional additive problem could be affecting one batch of a particular brand of dog or cat food, I advise caregivers to get their animals used to eating two or three different, good-quality brands of dry, canned, frozen and/or freeze-dried pet foods. I call such dietary diversity “risk dilution.” Coupled with changing the main protein every week or so (from chicken to turkey to herring, for example), it can help some animals suffering from food hypersensitivities.

oncology check

Dear Dr. Fox:

A few months ago, I felt a lump in my Labrador retriever’s throat about the size of a ping-pong ball.

Jackson is almost 14 and weighs about 80 pounds. His vet aspirated some cells and determined the lump to be lymphoma. A second opinion from a lab determined it to be melanoma.

His vet has been wonderful in her care of Jackson. She has given him five to six months to live. Jackson has lost about 10 pounds. His appetite is still good, and we take long walks every day. He is on prednisone.

I feed him Blue Buffalo Senior dry dog food with a quarter can of Merrick wet food mixed in. He also gets garlic and yeast tablets, along with glucosamine every day. He is also being treated for an ear infection.

What else can I do to make the time we have together more comfortable for him?

S.C., Charlottesville

DF: My sympathies go out to you and your old dog. You should check with the oncology department at the excellent veterinary college in Blacksburg, Va., or your vet can do so.

The vets there might have some potentially promising and not too costly treatments for his common canine cancer. They might recruit you and your dog to evaluate new treatments.

Spend time with your veterinarian exploring some of the promising anti-cancer herbal supplements, including local applications of frankincense, oral turmeric, various mushrooms and antioxidant nutraceuticals.

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