Dear Dr. Fox:

My two cats are about 11 / 2. For the past several months, I have been trying to toilet train them.

The female gets the picture and happily hops up on the toilet to do her business. I cannot move her to the next step, however, because the male refuses to do so, even though he jumps up on a closed toilet seat and can climb six-foot fences.

Although I relented and put down his old litter box with a scant layer of litter, he took to using the bathroom floor. The other night, he urinated on my bed, while I was asleep! Then the next night, he sneaked in and did the same thing.

How to solve this twofold problem?

A.B.S., the District

DF: Although most cats are highly intelligent and amenable to training, I would not endorse teaching them to jump up onto the toilet seat, even if purportedly modified for feline evacuation.

Cats need to dig before they evacuate and then cover with suitable litter material. This natural process and sequence involves being on the ground, rather than jumping up and balancing on a toilet seat.

The physical and psychological stress on your male cat could well have led to his house soiling and marking your bed. It could also have brought on an attack of cystitis, a common reaction to stress in cats. I advise a veterinary checkup and a return to the more natural litter-box cat toilet.

dietary change

Dear Dr. Fox:

I have a 12-year-old cat, Lizzie. Her vomiting occurs intermittently, and she can go weeks without an episode. Then they occur several times within a couple of days.

Mostly an indoor cat, she does occasionally go outside, and I have seen her eat grass. At those times, I can be sure she will throw up. She has also had some urinary-tract infections during the past 18 months.

I am more concerned with the urinary-tract infections than with the occasional vomiting. What is the best diet I can offer?

B.B., West Palm Beach, Fla.

DF: A corn- and grain-free (no wheat, rice, etc.) diet might solve your cat’s problems. Evo and Wellness dry cat foods are corn- and grain-free.

Many cats are allergic to corn, and this can cause vomiting and cystitis. Most of the corn and soy (especially in dog foods) have been genetically modified, as are many human foods and beverages. Food ingredients from genetically modified corn and soybean are being increasingly recognized as potentially harmful to people and animals alike.

bladder stones

Dear Dr. Fox:

My two Cavalier King Charles spaniels are 10. The female has been prone to bladder infections at times and treated. Recently, the male was diagnosed and treated for a bladder infection. The vet found that my dog also has bladder stones and suggested surgery to remove them.

I was unaware of the bladder infection, as I attributed his frequent urination to the medication he takes for his heart condition. Because of his age and heart condition, I am hesitant to let him undergo anesthesia and surgery.

Both dogs eat Beneful Healthy Weight, so I doubt that is the cause. I am guilty of feeding them table food but would like to seek an alternative to surgery, short of changing their whole diet.

I prefer holistic methods, if possible. I would like to find an alternative solution to my dogs’ problems.

D.L.M., Lake Worth, Fla.

DF: You were not wrong in believing that your dog’s heart medication was responsible for his frequent urination, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about feeding table food because, when properly balanced, it is superior to most of the big-brand dry dog foods on the market.

A high-cereal diet, coupled with genetic (breed) susceptibility, can lead to urinary calculi (bladder stones), often compounded by bacterial infection and animals not drinking sufficient fluids.

Surgery might be avoided if the stones are not too large and the small ones (crystals) can be found in your dog’s urine. These can be analyzed and, depending on the clinical composition, might be efficiently dissolved by a change in diet.

Have your veterinarian contact the veterinary consultants at Balance IT, 888-346-6362, for recipes that you can prepare for your dog if a dietary solution is possible.

thyroid problems?

Dear Dr. Fox:

Honey, my 14-year-old cocker spaniel, has a skin condition that makes her develop something similar to scaly warts year-round.

I have taken her to many vets and received many different diagnoses. She also tested negative for Lyme disease and heartworm.

I felt so bad for Honey that I took her off all the medicine and began giving her vitamin A, vitamin E and brewer’s yeast. I feed her only natural food made from sweet potato and fish.

She seems to be doing much better. Her energy levels are better, and there seem to be fewer lumps. But she is completely deaf and has developed red circles around her neck and chest area (and she does not wear a collar).

D.P., Hyde Park, N.Y.

DF: I would have her thyroid function reevaluated. Putting her on thyroid-replacement hormones (if needed) could be the solution.

Cocker spaniels are prone to develop chronic seborrhea: greasy, scabby, itchy dermatitis. I advise giving about one-quarter the recommended human daily dose twice daily of vitamin A, plus a half a teaspoon of oil of primrose or borage oil and one teaspoon of brewer’s yeast to dogs with such skin problems.

For some, the addition of a zinc supplement is helpful. Probiotics, prebiotics and digestive-enzyme supplements can also be beneficial, especially for older dogs.

Periodic bathing with human-medicated selenium blue shampoo might make her more comfortable. Give her a clean cotton bath towel to lie on (use scent-free, low-phosphate laundry soap).

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, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.

2011 United Feature Syndicate