LAS VEGAS, NV -- These reader questions were answered by world-renowned experts at the 85th Annual Western Veterinary Conference held here Feb. 17-21. The conference was attended by more than 6,500 veterinarians and 2,000 veterinary technicians and practice managers.
Q: My 4-year-old Miniature Schnauzer has started urinating in the house. He never did this before. We scold him when we catch him in the act, but he continues to do this. This behavior doesn't seem related to a medical problem, as the dog has access to the outdoors at all times. He's neutered, as is our 7-year-old Miniature Schnauzer, and the dogs get along great. Can you help? -- L.D., via Cyberspace
Assuming your veterinarian rules out a physical explanation, if you feel your dog is stressed, perhaps from some sort of change going on in the home, consider an Adaptil pheromone collar.
Don't focus on reprimanding your pup, says Cavanaugh, of Denver, CO. Instead, begin a program of re-house training as if your dog was a puppy. Take him out on a leash, and instantly reward him with a treat and praise for doing his business. Within reason, control his water intake. Also, maintain a potty schedule, so you know when your dog has eaten and when he relieves himself.
If you do catch your pet having an accident, certainly you can say "no." But far more important is interrupting him in the act (clapping your hands might do it), and then quickly taking him outside. Clean up any accidents with an enzymatic cleaner.
Q: I contacted you five years ago when we were moving from Florida to Tennessee, regarding transporting my cats. Your assistance helped. One cat, named Adam, is now 16, and as cuddly as ever, but he has the start of kidney disease. What kind of food should he be eating? He recently had five teeth pulled, so I'm not sure about crunchy food. However, I am concerned about protein levels in canned food with regard to this cat's kidney problems. Any advice? -- L.C., Antioch, TN
A: Feline veterinarian Dr. Margie Scherk, of Vancouver, BC, Canada, says, "If the cat is (doing well) and maintaining his coat and condition on your current diet, at least for now, (that diet) is likely fine. In general, dry food is acceptable for some nibbling (for cats with renal insufficiency), but canned is preferable for a higher quality protein, as well as the increased water (found in moist foods). Also, absolutely encourage this cat to drink water."
Offer water at several locations (at ground level due to your cat's age) and consider a drinking fountain for cats.
"If the (cat's) stools look like pellets more than they do logs (you can take a picture for your veterinarian), and if the disease is a bit more advanced, you might talk to your veterinarian about supplementing with subcutaneous fluids at home," Scherk adds.
Q: Our older, 65-pound mixed-breed dog has developed arthritis in her back legs and has to be helped up the stairs. My daughter's veterinarian suggested a vegetarian diet. Within a week, Winnie was leaping up the stairs! Don't you think we found a solution to arthritis in older dogs? -- B.S., Mount Dora, FL
A: In word, "no." A vegetarian diet is no miracle cure for arthritis in dogs.
"I'm certainly pleased if the dog is doing better," says Dr. Daryl Millis, professor of surgery at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, Knoxville. "This dog may have been overweight, which is commonly linked to osteoarthritis," he notes. "And it's likely a dog may lose weight on a vegetarian diet. Certainly, there are going to be beneficial antioxidants in a vegetarian diet. However, vegetarian diets are not suggested for dogs."
If there was weight loss, your dog could well have benefited by that. Also, arthritis often comes and goes, sometimes associated with a dog's activity level (some activity is typically a good thing) and even the weather. Interestingly, studies have shown that when owners are given a placebo (sugar pill) for their dog, they often report fewer symptoms in their pet. Also, arthritis in dogs waxes and wanes; some days aren't so bad, while others are awful.
Bottom line, it's unlikely that a vegetarian diet was solely responsible for your dog's miraculous recovery. Millis says to first make sure the problem you're dealing with is osteoarthritis and not another issue, such as a bulging disc, cruciate tear, or elbow or hip dysplasia, since all require different treatments.
Treatments for arthritis vary, depending on the dog. They include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, glucosamine/chondroitin, laser treatment, acupuncture and plain old-fashioned low-impact exercise, in particular, swimming.
Q: My 11-week-old kittens tested positive for Giardia (a protozoa). I treated all my cats and older kittens with Panacur, then had a fecal test done which showed negative for Giardia. However, I didn't treat my 6-week-old kittens. They now have diarrhea. Are they old enough to treat with Panacur, as well? -- M.L., via cyberspace
A: "As you likely know (being a cat breeder), vomiting can be a sign of anything," says Dr. Ernie Ward, of Calabash, NC. "While Panacur can be given to kittens this young, the danger lies in offering a drug without knowing why. It's important to get a definitive diagnosis first, and then the appropriate treatment can be suggested."
(Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is http://www.stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.)