Dear Dr. Fox:

Cappy, my 9-year-old cocker spaniel mix, has been in good health until recently, except for many ear infections over the years.

A while back, I noticed she was having trouble urinating, so I took her to the vet.

He did a urine sample and put her on an antibiotic. This did not seem to help, so I took her back, and an X-ray indicated that she needed surgery for a bladder stone.

That was done in May. The stone was very large, nearly the size of a half-dollar. She tolerated the surgery well but got an infection the next week.

I took her back to the vet, and she was given an antibiotic that seemed to help with the outside redness. She was also put on Hill’s Prescription Diet u/d, one cup twice a day. She weighs about 43 pounds and never seems satisfied.

She has been passing clots and red blood since the surgery, and there have been numerous return visits to the vet.

I had more X-rays taken of her bladder and was told the results looked good. A urine sample sent for further testing also showed nothing alarming.

The vet has been treating her with Baytril and Uroeze (400 mg, twice a day). He said that the bladder wall might be damaged because of the large stone.

Today, he suggested a sonogram of the bladder, at a cost of $400, which is something I can no longer afford. All previous tests have come back negative, and I think this would be the same. It seemed to me as though we were dismissed today, and I am left with a dog who urinates infrequently but with red blood and small clots.

She eats well and shows no sign of pain or discomfort. I am a retiree and cannot afford this added expense, but I feel sorry for my dog and want her to be well. Further surgery is not an option.

T.S., Waldorf

DF: Cocker spaniels are prone to ear infections, and products such as Zymox and Otomax can be very beneficial.

Now that the offending bladder stone has been removed, and she is on a prescription diet to help prevent recurrences, your veterinarian could provide you with a less costly home-prepared recipe, if you are up to making dog food.

Free recipes are available at www.dogcathomeprepareddiet.
com
.

Because of your financial constraints, economic “triage” is called for : You must seek the least costly alternatives to improve Cappy’s health. This means opting out of further expensive diagnostic procedures and discussing the benefits of various supplements that might help heal your dog’s damaged bladder.

Supplements to facilitate healing include fish oil, glucosamine, glutathione, probiotics and various herbs such as couch grass, nettle, corn silk, marshmallow and even apple cider vinegar.

You are not alone in feeling guilty for lacking the financial resources to pay for costly veterinary diagnostics and treatments. Veterinary journals are voicing concerns over this issue and the fact that people are not taking their animals in for treatment because of the anticipated expense.

Regular annual checkups are the best preventive measures, along with a wellness program, beginning with good nutrition.

Many veterinarians are adopting a cost-saving approach to animal treatment and health care maintenance by relying less on expensive tests and diagnostic equipment.

THE SILENCE OF THE CAT

Dear Dr. Fox:

We have an indoor cat. She is 15 years old and has always lived inside. She’s a large cat (not fat, just tall and long) and has been in good health.

One morning a month or so ago, she opened her mouth but no sound came out. What causes this problem? She tries, but no sound. She eats her dry and canned food and drinks plenty of water (no milk, though).

K.H., Chesapeake, Va.

DF: If your cat used to meow audibly (and some cats never do) and she now seems to be trying to communicate but is incapable of making a sound, a veterinary examination is called for.

There are various medical conditions that can result in paralysis of the cat’s vocal cords, including viral infections, cancer and stroke. For your peace of mind, I would advise a veterinary appointment.

She may have lost her voice for reasons that will never be known, but her attempt to vocalize could mean she is in pain, perhaps from arthritis, a common, distressing affliction of older cats. The veterinarian will consider this and other possible geriatric issues requiring professional attention.

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.

2011 United Feature Syndicate