Vitamin C is not a proven 'cure' for urinary tract infections

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LAS VEGAS, NV -- You, my readers, ask great questions, so I asked experts attending the Western Veterinary Conference here (Feb. 16-20) to answer a handful:

Q: My Tibetan Spaniel suffers from chronic urinary infections. After spending $500 to rule out tumors in the bladder, I started giving her a Vitamin C tablet every morning -- and she's never had the problem since. This was a much cheaper solution than special diets and now my dog is as healthy as can be. Any comment? -- J. M., Cyberspace

A: Dr. Mark Russak, immediate past president of the American Animal Hospital Association, who's been practicing medicine for a long time, says the rumor that Vitamin C can help prevent or even "cure" urinary tract infections (UTI) has been around for decades. However, "over all that time, there's never been definitive proof," Russak notes. "In fact, the suggestion is that it does not work."

Russak, of Berlin, CT, also says he doesn't know if your dog was on an antibiotic, which certainly could have wiped out the infection to begin with, but might have taken some time to do so. Perhaps your dog has been on a special veterinary diet, as well, which would also help to explain the improvement. The good news is, your dog is in good health.

Q: A friend feeds her cat a homemade diet of mostly chicken, though she adds other things. I worry that this diet isn't well-rounded with all the vitamins and other thingees cats require. Can you ask one of your great experts about this? -- S. J., San Diego, CA

A: "Not knowing exactly what your friend is feeding her cat, it's difficult to know exactly how to answer," says Jill Cline, a Ph.D. boarded nutritionist and Royal Canin Insights Manager from St. Charles, MO. "It's possible to feed a cat or dog an appropriate homemade diet, but it's necessary to make a diet approved by a veterinary nutritionist or boarded nutritionist, so all those 'thingees' are included. Everything must be balanced for the age, lifestyle, potentially even the bred of the pet."

Cline says many pet owners begin making homemade pet food with all the right intentions, but over time develop what she calls 'recipe drift.'

"Say, white chicken meat is on sale, or people don't understand that dark meat is actually preferred. Repeatedly, if white meat is used; well, that matters," she explains. Dark meat has more iron and overall is a better choice. Details (in recipes) must be adhered to, and in the real word it's challenging."

Q: My dog is getting more sleep than we are. At night, Rusty scratches and scratches, keeping us awake. I think that despite his scratching, he goes right on sleeping. During the day, we never see him scratch. Is he just dreaming that he itches? -- H.S., Schaumburg, IL

A: "Your dog is scratching because he really itches; it's not just a dream," says Dr. Laird Goodman, of Beaverton, OR. "The good news is, there's a drug called Apoquel to treat itchy dogs that definitely is a game changer. It may solve the problem. However, it's still important to understand why the dog is scratching in the first place."

Though it's still winter in the Chicago area (where you live), it's important to rule out fleas, particularly since Rusty either sleeps on your bed or near it. Fleas may eventually want to go after you, too. Also, it there's an underlying infection (which may have occurred as a result of all that scratching), the infection requires treatment.

Goodman, a board member for the non-profit Pet Partners (promoting the healing benefits of human-animal interactions), based in Bellevue, WA, says it's also possible your dog is allergic to the fabric of whatever he sleeps on, such as the feathers in a comforter.

Q: Our 4-year-old Bichon started to pee on the rug in a small room. We removed the rug, but she continued to have accidents, mostly when we were away, but sometimes when we were at home. We began to kennel her whenever we'd leave, and she'd have accidents in the kennel. Now she starts tremble whenever she realizes we're about to leave the house. The veterinarian is at a loss. We tried an anti-anxiety medication without any result, and now the problem is getting worse. Our dog smells like pee all the time. Can you help? -- B.G., Cyberspace

A: What's confusing is that apparently your dog has at least some separation anxiety going on, but is there appears to be another explanation for the incontinence, since accidents occur when you are home. Keep a diary to determine exactly when the accidents are occurring, then consider a referral to an internal medicine specialist, suggests Dr. David Twedt, a professor of Internal Medicine at Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Fort Collins.

Of course, ruling out a urinary tract infection seems basic, but these infections can come and go and are sometimes surprisingly hard to diagnose. Other conditions, ranging from kidney disease to diabetes, also need to be ruled out, Twedt notes. Another possibility is sphincter incontinence, which can be treated with medication.

Even if it doesn't explain the accidents, some separation anxiety appears evident. There's an entire chapter on separation anxiety in "Decoding Your Dog," authored by members of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, NY, 2014; $27) that might be helpful.

(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.)

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