Dear Dr. Fox:

Our 2-year-old Siamese cat has been losing weight. We got him and his sister a year ago. Neither cat goes outside.

In the first few months at our home, he went from 9.2 to 10.6 pounds. He was a big, happy and beautiful boy.

But within a few months, he started losing weight. A year later, he is now 8.2 pounds. I have taken him to three veterinarians. He has had every test suggested, and his blood work is always normal.

His appetite is good; he is loving and affectionate.

He was on a limited-ingredient diet for months, with no progress. He has been on a mild steroid for a week or so, and he dropped 4 ounces. He is now on a stronger steroid that doesn’t seem to be working. He does not seem to be in any pain, but he looks like an older cat. The last blood test showed all organ functions normal.

I was told the next step is for him to have invasive surgery to get multiple biopsies, and that it will be painful and might not identify the real problem.

Is there anything we are not thinking about?

E.B., Alexandria

DF: A cat as young as yours with an as-yet- unidentified wasting disease is a veterinary challenge. I would put off invasive surgery and go back to square one.

This means a thorough fecal examination for internal parasites and a careful examination of the mouth and teeth to rule out debilitating stomatitis.

Then consider the possibility of an enzyme deficiency disease associated with chronic pancreatitis. Discuss with your veterinarian a course of treatment with digestive enzymes, probiotics and such supplements as taurine, fish oil and Platinum Performance Feline Wellness supplement.

Wean your cat off the steroid medication and don’t give him vaccinations or anti-flea medications.

suffering Persians

Dear Dr. Fox:

We have two white Persian cats. Ki Ki, 12, stopped eating and drinking. He also had a urinary tract infection.

I gave him antibiotics for 15 days, after which the vet found that his white blood cell count was low. Another 15 days of antibiotics produced still-low white blood cells.

Tumbalina, 14, also had a low white blood cell count. She also suffered from a loss of appetite, lack of fluids and weight loss.

I feed them Fancy Feast moist food and Evo dry food. I am now going to a doctor of internal medicine who took an ultrasound and found Ki Ki has cystitis. But we still have no plan.

M.L., Lanham

DF: You have certainly been through the mill with your poor cat.

Ki Ki is not a young cat and, coupling his age with his breed, he could have other underlying health problems that brought on the cystitis.

A holistic approach is called for. You might have to force him to drink plenty of water, using a 10- or 20-cc syringe four to five times a day. Get him used to a few drops of fish oil in his food, working up to a teaspoon daily. Fish oil, a natural anti-inflammatory, and probiotics will help boost his immune system and help fight infection.

Discuss with your veterinarian giving him glucosamine, and be sure he is on a corn- and grain-free diet. Corn is often associated with cystitis in cats. Diabetes mellitus, for example, is often associated with bladder infections in cats and humans.

The low white blood cell counts in both cats call for yet more deductive work, and I don’t have a simple solution. Don’t use any anti-flea chemicals on or around your cats and avoid all vaccinations.

sick shepherd

Dear Dr. Fox:

My German shepherd is about 6. I have fed him Purina Dog Chow dry food for most of his life. I have spent thousands trying to figure out why he continues to scratch and bite his rear end and tail.

His fur is coming off his skin. The skin underneath the fur is dark, and he has bad body odor. I have recently started feeding him pasta, sweet potatoes, carrots, ground beef and ground-up apples.

E.J, Kettering

DF: German shepherds are prone to a variety of health issues, including allergies associated with skin problems and colitis or irritable bowel syndrome.

Emotional stress in this sensitive breed’s environment can also play a role. But first you should have your dog checked for mange and fleabite hypersensitivity.

Give him veterinarian-rated dog foods; what you have been feeding him is probably the root cause of his condition. He is most likely suffering from a nutritional deficiency and might improve on a quality diet that includes omega-3 fatty acids from fish and flaxseed oils. Chronic fatty acid deficiency, common in dry dog foods, could impair the immune system and bring on infections and susceptibility to allergies.

Consider an elimination diet under veterinary supervision to rule out or identify one or more ingredients that he might have become allergic to. A lamb, rice and sweet potato-based commercial diet might do wonders, coupled with a daily dose of probiotics or plain, organic yogurt or kefir.

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