Share this article

print logo

Pets: ‘When in doubt, ask your vet’

Q: I read your column on the decline in veterinary visits. We have five cats, ranging in age from 3 to 14. I’m disabled, and my husband will retire soon. We don’t have the money to take them in annually, as you suggest.

One of our boys, Tux, eats only dry food. We do have a water bowl, but, with so many cats, I don’t know which ones are drinking what. I read that male cats that eat only dry food are more likely to have urinary tract infections, so should I feed moist food because he’s a male?

Our oldest girl, Sitter, seems to sleep a lot. I know older cats do, but that’s all she does. I know she’s quite overweight, but I never see her eat. The fur on her back is very dry and has skin flakes. I do brush her daily, but it doesn’t help. She doesn’t act sick, but should we be worried?

– D.C., Cyberspace

A: “Eating solely dry food is not the cause of urinary tract infections in cats,” says American Animal Hospital Association board member Dr. Heather Loenser, of Glen Gardner, N.J. “This is why pet owners should be careful about what they read, and when in doubt, ask your vet.”

Loenser adds: “To be clear, adding some moist food to your cats’ diet isn’t a bad idea. Moist food contains lots of water, and our cats generally don’t get enough water. One water bowl for five cats isn’t adequate. It won’t cost much to add a few more water bowls, and place them at varying height levels to increase resources and lessen competition. Also, many cats enjoy water fountains manufactured for cats.

“Both of your questions point out why regular veterinary visits are important. Certainly, if your old girl is overweight, she must be eating something, but if the appetite depression is recent, it’s absolutely a sign that something may be wrong. Another sign of a problem is when cats – who are by nature fastidious – no longer groom themselves as often, which may be what’s going on with her coat. A physical exam, including bloodwork, is likely necessary.

“Regular veterinary visits can prevent illness from happening, or catch disease early, which often leads to an improved prognosis. Also, by catching something early you may prevent an expensive visit to the pet ER.”


Q: My 2-year-old Australian shepherd/Labrador mix chews on her back feet and, as a result, leaves wet footprints all over. The problem has been getting worse. What could be causing this?

– M.E., Las Vegas

A: “At this moment, she may have yeast and/or bacterial infections, so the first step is to treat these thoroughly,” says American Animal Hospital Association President Dr. Tracy Jensen, of Wellington, Colo. “Also, ask your veterinarian about a product called APOQUEL, which has been so successful at controlling itchiness that there has been a supply problem (soon to be rectified). Having said that, you do want to know the cause, which is likely allergies, inhalant allergies, food allergies or both.”

Jensen says that one possible place to begin is with a food trial under veterinary supervision using a prescription diet as directed by your veterinarian. For three months, your dog would eat only this diet with a novel protein source. If the new diet helps, you’ll know that the problem is likely a food allergy.


Q: Three feral cats have adopted us. We’ve spayed/neutered all of them and had them ear-tipped (to identify which cats have for sure been spayed/neutered) and vaccinated for rabies. The cats mostly live in the woods near us and are infested with ticks. Catching them is a two- to three-day matter because they’re so skittish, but it would be possible to do this and take them to a veterinarian if you think this is a good idea.

– L.P., Woodbine, Md.

A: Dr. Nancy Soares, a board member of the American Animal Hospital Association, cheers, “You’re terrific to care so much about these feral cats. Ideally, veterinary care is best, to check the cats’ general health and also for diseases like feline leukemia and the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), which outdoor cats may give to one another. And also consider vaccinating these cats, if your budget allows.”