Dear Dr. Fox:
I feed my dogs about 5 p.m. Many times, they don’t consume the food until much later in the evening. On these occasions, the dogs sometimes defecate in their room.
The room has a doggy door that is closed at night to prevent them from going outside and barking at all hours. The dogs are otherwise very well trained. We have two 8-year-olds and a 13-year-old. Do you have any suggestions?
M.S., St. Louis
DF: I have found that the best feeding and toilet pattern for dogs is going out for a morning walk or yard run and eating a light breakfast, and then taking a walk about noon to 2 p.m. Before an evening meal (between 5 and 6 p.m.), go on a long walk or run. Before you go to bed, give your dogs another walk or more time in the yard.
This routine fits in with dogs’ behavioral cycle of eating and being active, and their need to go out to empty their bladders and bowels.
Dear Dr. Fox:
I have an emergency with my cat: She has diarrhea. What do you advise I do?
E.M., Winston-Salem, N.C.
DF: This is indeed a possible emergency. If the animal is straining and in acute pain, possibly even passing blood, that calls for immediate veterinary care.
But if she is simply voiding runny or liquid stools, wait 24 hours, and if the animal is eating, drinking or passing firmer stools, veterinary care is still called for. Your cat could simply be clearing out her digestive system of something she ate that is causing the system to react by producing a large amount of fluid and stimulating peristalsis. But if it persists, the animal will lose vital electrolytes and become dehydrated.
Don’t try home remedies such as over-the-counter human anti-diarrhea medications, which can be fatal for cats. A short fast followed by a fresh batch of the usual food might help (buy a new batch of the same brand) if the batch you were using was bad. Or your cat could have an infection or parasite, or has developed food intolerance or an associated endocrine disorder.
If your cat is old and possibly has fatty liver disease, not eating for more than a day could cause serious complications, so do not hesitate: If she does not quickly recover and her appetite and strength do not return after the diarrhea, get her to the vet without further delay.
Dear Dr. Fox:
Shortly after I adopted a stray female Pomeranian who had been running loose in the country, I read your recommendation for a bad breath problem. It worked very well.
In recent weeks, my Pomeranian took a bite from a philodendron plant. It had been five years since I last had a pet in the house, and I had forgotten about the plant.
I rushed her to my vet, and she was given an IV. I was sent home with an antibiotic that tore through her with amazing speed. This drug was considered the best. An examination of her stool found that bad bacteria had taken over in her intestines. She was changed to another antibiotic that the vet hoped she would tolerate better — Endosorb tabs and an over-the-counter stomach medicine.
In all, there were three to four trips to the vet, and my dog was declining very quickly, with vomiting and diarrhea. Then we made a weekend visit to an emergency clinic for fluids and a stomach-settling injection.
I had used my vet for years, but this time there was a new crew, and I never saw the same one twice. In desperation, I called the spay/neuter clinic that had treated my dog previously and asked for a recommendation. We went to the new vet, and he took her off all medications except Endosorb and added FortiFlora, a probiotic.
She has been on this regimen for about three weeks. I have about two weeks of the probiotics to go, but see no improvement in her stool. I had to add a teaspoon of baby food chicken to each serving to get her to eat it. Her general health has improved, and she’s still perky, although she needs her walks to be shorter.
My mother died from the Clostridium difficile (C-diff) bacteria. I have been reading about a new successful treatment of this with fecal implants. Do you think that would work for a dog who has lost all her good bacteria?
J.M.M., Glen Allen, Va.
DF: The philodendron plant can cause acute gut pain, swelling of the tongue and throat, kidney failure and, in cats, convulsions.
I sympathize with the difficulties that you and your poor dog went through as a consequence of the antibiotic medication that depopulated the beneficial and essential bacteria in her intestinal tract. I don’t understand why such treatment was prescribed for what was presented as an emergency case of philodendron poisoning.
A bacterium called Clostridium perfringens can proliferate in dogs’ intestines and cause havoc. Amoxocillin, metronidazole or tylosin are effective remedies, followed by probiotics to repopulate the intestinal flora.
Yes, fecal transplants, delivered by a rectal enema of a suspension of fecal material from a healthy donor containing these beneficial bacteria, have been given to dogs in crises such as yours with spectacular results.
Recently, capsules containing stored frozen bacteria-rich fecal material from healthy donors have benefited human patients suffering from C-diff and related intestinal dysbiosis. This malady regrettably costs $3.2 billion annually and is associated with 14,000 deaths each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Veterinarian Nadine Gourkow, Australia’s Queensland University School of Veterinary Medicine and associates have published an elegant study demonstrating the benefits of stroking and talking softly to cats that go into shelters.
Doing this for 10 minutes a day over a 10-day period helped reduce cats’ anxiety or frustration, and it elevated their production of infection-fighting immunoglobulin A. Cats not given this gentle treatment showed an increase of potentially harmful bacteria and viruses associated with upper respiratory infection, a common problem in cat shelters.
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. Send letters to email@example.com or write to him at United Feature Syndicate, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, Mo. 64106.