Pet owners’ questions answered by veterinarian Dr. Nancy Kay:
Question: I have a 12-year-old Jack Russell and her front right leg is severely affected with arthritis. She’s still spry, but nothing like she was two years ago. Any suggestions for medicine for her?— Bernadette
Answer: We have so many options for treating arthritis these days including omega 3 fatty acids (fish oil), glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate, a variety of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (the equivalent of ibuprofen), massage therapy, acupuncture, underwater treadmill therapy and even stem cell therapy. Talk with your veterinarian about what makes the most sense for your Jack Russell.
Question: Our 11-year-old terrier mix started having coughing spells six months ago. Her lungs sound clear, and there doesn’t seem to be any particularly significant events that precipitate these coughing spells. What could be causing this? Could it be allergies?— Dave
Answer: Some dogs develop allergic bronchitis, but there are plenty of other causes for chronic coughing, particularly in a middle-aged or older dog I think most veterinarians, including myself, would admit that listening to the lungs with a stethoscope isn’t the best way to evaluate the lungs. I would encourage you proceed with chest X-rays for your little terrier.
Question: My Chihuahua, Pookie, constantly shakes her head and then scratches her ear. Our vet seems to think that there is nothing wrong. Have you ever had this question regarding a dog before?— Thelma
Answer: Head scratching and ear shaking can be a symptom of problems within the external ear canal (can be evaluated by your veterinarian using an otoscope) or within the middle or internal ear canal. Sometimes, a source of discomfort even deeper to the ear can be the cause of the symptoms Pookie is showing. If your veterinarian has not already peered into her external ear canal with an otoscope, this would be the first step.
Question: I have a 2-year-old male Chihuahua rescue dog. He weighs about 9 pounds and loves broccoli. I steam him a few florets and he just loves it. How much should a dog his size eat, and is it good for him? He also eats dry dog food.— Barry
Answer: I could line up five dogs all the same age and size as your Chihuahua and all five would require a different amount of food. The goal is to carefully observe his body weight. If nine pounds looks good on him, feed him enough to maintain this body weight. Kudos to you for taking on a rescue dog and for getting a Chihuahua to eat dry dog food (many small dogs are quite adept at training their humans to feed them only human food). It is fine to feed broccoli and other veggies to dogs.
A Nasty Habit
Question: We have two male golden retriever puppies ages 14 months and 10 months. How do we stop them from eating their poop? Is there something commercially prepared just for this problem that we can purchase? We have already tried sprinkling meat tenderizer on their food but it doesn’t seem to stop them.— Gail
Answer: You are describing a behavior called coprophagy and it can be a truly discouraging problem. I would venture to guess that one of your pups started this unsavory habit and the other one was a copycat (er, dog?). I encourage you to schedule a visit with your veterinarian to be sure that your doggies are getting a nutritionally complete diet and are at an appropriate weight. If so, your vet may have a product called Forbid to mix with your dogs’ food. It may not work any better than the meat tenderizer, though. In that case, your best bet is to follow your dogs when they go outside and pick up their stools immediately.
Question: We will be getting a lab/shepherd mix puppy and I would like to know what dog food you would recommend. Do you think grain-free food is the way to go?— Liz
Answer: Certainly grain-free is the latest food-fad for dogs. While I don’t recommend one particular brand of commercial dog food, I do recommend looking closely at the label. Meat (not meat by-products) should be the first ingredient on the label. Pet nutrition has certainly become a controversial topic as of late with people who recommend commercially prepared dog foods squaring off against those who recommend feeding raw diets. The February edition of The Whole Dog Journal provided lots of information on dog foods — you might wish to take a look. I do recommend a puppy formula for most pups under nine months of age, but recommend that you consult with your vet to gather his or her opinion on what would be best for your new pup.
Question: I have a 14-year-old dash hound mix with diabetes. We are trying to get her blood sugar under control with insulin. What should she eat to help regulate her sugar levels?— Sheila
Answer: Talk with your veterinarian about prescription diets made specifically to help regulate diabetes (Hill’s and Royal Canin both make them). Best of luck to you and your doxie.
Question: I have a Yorkie who will not chew on rawhide products. I understand that they help maintain healthy teeth, but he will not do it. His teeth are so bad I’m afraid that he’ll lose them. The vet has said to have them cleaned and then use some type of topical stuff to help, but when he had his teeth cleaned last year, he was so out of it for days after and I don’t want to have to put him through that again. I’ve tried so many products and he won’t chew them. Do you have any suggestions?— Cindy
Answer: I am a big proponent of a diet called t/d (stands for tartar diet) that is made by Hills Pet Nutrition. I don’t use it as the sole diet for my little dogs (although it can be used this way). Rather, I give them 1-2 pieces of t/d daily and it seems to prevent tartar from accumulating. Unfortunately, this is really only going to be beneficial if starting with a “clean slate.” If your little Yorkie has a great deal of tartar now, I would recommend having his teeth cleaned again, perhaps using a different anesthetic protocol. You might consider consulting with a board certified veterinary dentist (visit the American College of Veterinary Dentists online to find a specialist near you), for the purposes of cleaning your doggie’s teeth and, most importantly, discussing aftercare that will help prevent this common Yorkie problem from recurring.
Hair Loss Help
Question: I have a 9-year-old toy poodle who is losing hair on his back. He was tested for thyroid problems and is taking medicine for that but he continues to lose hair. What I can do? Are there any supplements that might help?— Renee
Answer: Unfortunately, there is no Rogaine for dogs to stimulate hair regrowth. The focus needs to be on stopping your poodle from losing more hair. The key is in figuring out what the cause of the hair loss is — there are many different potential causes. Consider paying a visit to a board-certified veterinary dermatologist to help figure out the source of the hair loss and the best treatment.
Glucosamine for Arthritis
Question: Our dog, who is going on 12 years of age, had recently been experiencing stiffness in her hind legs, sometimes to the point that it is hard for her to get up from a laying position. I was told that glucosamine tablets would help her with this and was wondering what you think about this treatment, and what the proper dosage would be. She is approximately 45 pounds.— Patti
Answer: Just as is the case with people, glucosamine makes a difference for some, but not all dogs with osteoarthritis. If you wish to try glucosamine, I encourage you to consult with your veterinarian regarding dosage. Give it for a couple of weeks — if there’s no improvement, give something else a try. There are so many products available these days that can help ease the discomfort associated with arthritis, that I’m sure you can find something that helps.
Could My Dog Have Arthritis?
Question: My male Boston terrier (he’s old, but I’m not sure exactly how old) whimpers and has a hard time getting up and staying up after lying on the floor for a while. After I walk him around a bit, he seems fine. He eats and drinks well, and still wants to chase the tennis ball, which I do with him in moderation. The past five months or so he has been whimpering quite a bit. I love my pet and know he won’t be with me forever but I want him to be as comfortable as possible in the time he has left. Any suggestions?— JoAn
Answer: Your little Boston’s symptoms are certainly suggestive of arthritis. Please know that we have many good options for alleviating arthritis pain for dogs that vary from medications to supplements to acupuncture to herbs. I strongly encourage you to talk with your veterinarian about trying some of these things. And for your Boston’s sake, the sooner the better.
Preventing Bladder Infections
Question: I have a male black Lab and he had a bladder infection. How can I avoid this in the future? People tell me to give him cranberry pills. How many and what dosage?— Jerri
Answer: The best way to feel confident that a bladder infection won’t recur is to do some testing to find out why it might have occurred in the first place. This involves abdominal ultrasound to rule out prostate disease, bladder stones, growths as well as ruling out any hormonal imbalances that might predispose to infection. Typically such testing is performed once a dog has proven himself to be a “repeat offender” (recurrent infections). If this is your Lab’s first infection, you might simply wish to do some followup urine testing to be sure that infection is not recurring.
Still Ticking — and Licking
Question: Our best friend Lucky is 11 years old with two bad legs and a heart condition. My wife gives him heart medicine and medicine for his legs and joints. He walks a little, but we carry him outside and up and down the stairs. Our problem is, he licks his paws or the carpet continuously. Why does he do this? How can we stop it?— Maggie and Paul
Answer: I may be superstitious, but I’m always a bit worried about naming a dog Lucky! Many dogs with skin allergies lick their paws. Licking the carpet continually is odd — it may represent a quirky behavior, however I have seen some dogs with Cushing’s disease (a hormonal imbalance caused by an overproduction of cortisone) do this. I think the only way to stop this licking behavior is to determine the underlying cause. Consider talking with your vet about ruling out allergies and/or Cushing’s disease.
Question: Our Old English Bulldog, Jessie, is 18 months and weighs about 68 pounds. I have cut out most treats so that she will drop to around 60, which would be a perfect weight. Ever since she was a few months, old she has had stomach problems. I tried different brands of food and finally went back to her standard adult formula. I have to give her an antacid at least twice a day to keep her from throwing up. When she throws up it appears she has a lot of acid and the food is not totally digested even within a few hours. Is there something else I can try?— Jean
Answer: Oh my goodness, I worry whenever I hear about a smoosh-faced breed, such as an English Bulldog, doing a lot of vomiting. Because of their anatomical idiosyncrasies, they are predisposed to aspirating the material into their lungs. Most definitely, there are many other things that can be done to figure out why your Jessie is vomiting. Knowing why she is vomiting offers the best way of knowing how to effectively treat this problem. I encourage you to talk with your veterinarian about what can be done to determine the cause of Jessie’s vomiting. You might consider getting a second opinion from a board certified veterinary internist.
Natural Cold Remedies for Cats?
Question: I have a 12-year-old female kitty who has a kitty cold thanks to a recent trip to the vet. I don’t think it’s the flu because there’s no fever or vomiting but she’s got a runny and stuffy nose and she’s been sneezing constantly to the point where the inside of her nose is sore. My vet prescribed liquid amoxicillin and chlorphenerimine to help but so far I haven’t seen a change in over three days. Can you recommend any natural anti-inflammatory remedies like nose drops to flush out her nose? Any other natural remedies you know of to help her runny or stuffy nose (with clear, watery discharge) would help.— Cynthia F.
Answer: Steam therapy (enclose your kitty in a warm steamy bathroom for 10 to 15 minutes) and applying a drop or two of saline into each nostril a couple of times a day may be of benefit. Most of the time, such symptoms are associated with a virus and must simply run its course (can take up to a week or more). If your kitty is not eating or drinking or appears lethargic, another discussion with your vet is in order.
Probiotics for Sensitive Stomach?
Question: I have a 13-year-old dog who has a chronic sensitive stomach. I give her antacids at least every other day or her stomach gurgles and she won’t eat. I can tell by looking at her that she is experiencing discomfort. The prophylactic use of one of the above seems more effective than waiting for symptoms. Would a probiotic (a beneficial bacteria found in dairy products also available in supplements) be more appropriate or effective? If so, which one, specifically?— Kathy
Answer: It is certainly reasonable to try probiotics for your dog (ask your veterinarian for his or her recommendation), but I am dubious that they will resolve the symptoms you are describing. It sounds like you and your vet may need to delve a bit deeper (for example, abdominal ultrasound, blood testing specific for the gastrointestinal tract, gastrointestinal biopsies) to figure out why your dog is having such chronic and significant symptoms.