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Your Pet Health Questions & Answers

This article originally appeared on This article originally appeared on my ongoing series of articles for Flexcin International, Inc as Your Pet Health Questions & Answers  I recently had the opportunity to interact with pet owners all over the world through a live streaming Q&A.  Here’s the wrap up: Recently, Flexcin and Dr. Patrick Mahaney teamed for a live streaming chat on the Flexcin Facebook page to promote the best health of our canine and feline companions for National Holistic Pet Day (8/30/12).  We received excellent pet questions to which Dr. Mahaney answered during the live video chat. Look below to find the answer to your question! Question 1: My cat shakes her head violently if you so much as touch her head around the ears. Her ear mite check was negative. Should I have her checked for allergies? Ear mites are fairly uncommon in your typical well-cared-for domestic feline.  Bacteria and yeast are more common as they readily grow when the ear canal is inflamed.  Ear canal inflammation can potentially be associated with skin allergies.  Feline skin allergies may be connected to irritants in the environments or an allergic response to a particular protein, carbohydrates, or other food source. Have your veterinarian check your cat’s ears for bacteria and/or yeast infection and get baseline blood and urine testing before going the route of a work up with a veterinary dermatologist. Question 2: I have a 6 year old spayed female and she has a nasty habit of peeing on my bed.  When I take her out she doesn't always pee.  What can I do? If a cat or dog exhibits abnormal urinary behaviors, then it’s vital that a veterinary examination is performed and appropriate laboratory testing is done.  I suggest your pet has a urinalysis and a urine culture as a starting off point to look for underlying reasons for the inappropriate urination. It’s important to rule out underlying medical problems before we can consider that your pet has exclusively a behavioral problem causing failure of house training. Question 3: When do cats stop shedding and start getting their winter coat? Typically, the change from winter to spring causes a cat to lose its undercoat in anticipation of summer weather.  Additionally, the transition from summer to fall will cause a cat to develop an undercoat in preparation for winter. Regardless of season or temperature, it’s important that you are actively involved in maintaining your cat’s hair coat.  Regular grooming, nutrition, and prevention of chronic diseases are keys to the overall health and the maintenance of your cat’s skin. Question 4: I rescued a male Shih Tzu who was abused when a pup and left tied outside with large dogs that were not leashed. He is a wonderful little guy, but he’s very stubborn and lifts his leg all over the house and barks at golf carts in our community. Dogs exhibiting behavioral problems often have underlying medical issues contributing to their actions.  Failure to completely housebreak a pet should be worked up by a veterinarian. Although voluntary control over urination does not necessarily point in the direction of a medical problem, I suggest your dog has a veterinary examination and baseline diagnostics (urinalysis and urine culture as a start).  If the exam and tests turn up normal, then explore behavior modification with the help of a veterinary behaviorist or trainer. Question 5: It has recently come to my attention that dry food is not an ideal diet for my cats.  I would like to know if moist foods would be a good addition to their dry diet or if you actually recommend that I completely eliminate dry and switch to moist food.  I'm not crazy about the idea of raw food. I, too, hold your perspective that dry feeding format is not the ideal for our feline companions.  Regardless of quality or cost, all dry foods that are in the form of kibble have been heavily processed from nature’s creation. I recommend my feline (and canine) patients eat whole food based diets that are cooked.  Although raw foods are comparable to the prey cats would kill and consume in the wild, they are more likely to cause illness if they potentially contain a bacterial or parasitic pathogen.  Don’t forget that commercially available raw food can always be cooked). Question 6: Please recommend the best way to train my pup to urinate and defecate outdoors. House training is a challenging process requiring diligence and consistency on behalf of all people involved in taking care of the puppy to promote proper bathroom habits. Always use positive reinforcement when house training your puppy.  When feces or urine is deposited in a desirable location, then praise and food treats should be given.  Once some consistency is established, then the food treats can be discontinued but praise should remain. Question 7: My daughter’s dog had an enlarged heart and water around the heart.  What can I get for my dogs to prevent this or maybe help them lose weight? When you refer to “water around the heart”, I think of a condition called pericardial effusion.  Alternatively, congestive heart failure can cause fluid to accumulate in the lungs.  Additionally, certain underlying diseases (cancer, right sided heart failure, etc.) can cause fluid to build up in the space between the lungs and the chest wall, which is termed pleural effusion. It’s best that you work directly with your veterinarian or a veterinary cardiologist to determine the appropriate medications that should be used to manage your dog’s particular heart disease. Regardless of food choice, calorie restriction is needed to promote weight loss.  For my patients, I suggest whole food based diets made with human grade ingredients. Question 8: How can I safely remove the stain from my dog’s eyes on her face? Tears (and saliva) contain substances called porphyrins, which will stain light fur pink, red, or brown.  Tear staining may be normal, or there may be an underlying disease process that is causing excessive tear production.   Common reasons include infection (typically, bacterial or viral), inflammation (from environmental allergies/irritants or hairs that touch the eyeball), tear duct obstruction, or other. It’s best that your dog has an evaluation by your veterinarian or veterinary ophthalmologist to look for potential underlying health problems causing tear staining.  Depending on the attending veterinarian’s diagnosis, the most appropriate treatment can be made. Question 9: My 12 year old poodle has a bad heart and cannot jump on the sofa.  I give him heart medication every day.  Despite his dog arthritis, he is still able to go outside to potty.  Is there anything I can get him to help his pain? It’s best that your dog’s arthritis pain is managed under the guidance of your veterinarian.  Especially with your report of your dog having a bad heart, radiographs (X-rays) are important to visualize the joints, bones, spline, and other body parts (heart, lungs, etc).  Additionally, blood, urine, and other diagnostic testing can reveal underlying health conditions that may affect your pet’s quality of life and ability to respond to medications and supplements. Consider using a joint-health promoting supplement like FlexPet, which contains natural anti-inflammatory (bromelain, MSM) and joint lubricating (CM8) ingredients.  Additionally, FlexPet’s natural digestive enzyme blend facilitates the breakdown of proteins, fats, and the substances within FlexPet that promote joint health (glucosamine, chicken collagen, etc). Question 10: What would cause my 10 year old cat to constantly throw up everything she eats? There are a variety of potential underlying health problems that can cause senior cats to chronically vomit.  Such conditions include hyperthyroidism, kidney and liver disease, inflammatory bowel disease, hairballs, gastrointestinal infections (bacteria, virus, parasites, etc.), and cancer (among others).  Some of these ailments are readily resolved, while others require extensive treatments for the best management, or some may be terminal illnesses. I suggest you pursue an examination with your veterinarian and a minimum database of blood/urine/fecal testing along with radiographs (X-rays). Question 11: My four year old Golden has been limping on back leg and often won't put weight on it. I took her to vet and took X-rays, which didn't show anything.  Our vet thinks it might be torn ligament in knee area, but wouldn’t know unless surgery is performed. She’s currently receiving anti-inflammatory and pain medications.  I stopped giving her the pain medication, as it made her sick. She still favors the affected leg.  I can't afford surgery, so what are my options now? The top consideration for a dog that suddenly is abnormally using the hind limb is a partially or completely torn cranial (anterior) cruciate ligament.  I discuss this condition in the following FlexPet YouTube video: Cranial Cruciate Ligament Rupture - Joint Pain in Pets. If surgery is not the best option for your pet or if the finances are beyond your capabilities, then the use of strict confinement/rest, pain relieving medications, nutraceuticals, and complementary treatments such as physical rehabilitation and acupuncture are my recommendations. Additionally, promote her joint health from the inside out with a product like FlexPet.  It is a naturally derived complement to medications that reduce inflammation and pain, and can actually help to reduce your dog’s reliance on such drugs. Question 12: Do you know about Wobenzym N for treating dysplasia & arthritis?  I want to try it for my cat that has spinal damage, but no veterinarians seem to know about it. Wobenzym N appears to be a combination of natural anti-inflammatories that can benefit a variety of inflammatory related conditions in people, but the product is not made specifically for dogs. A common and well accepted means of promoting joint health in dogs and cats is the use of an oral chondroprotective (joint supplement) like FlexPet. FlexPet is a naturally derived product containing anti-inflammatories that help to reduce the body's need to take veterinary prescribed drugs (like non-steroidal anti-inflammatories [NSAIDs]).  FlexPet also contains a unique joint lubricating factor (CM8) and a digestive enzyme blend which facilitate the breakdown and absorption of the ingredients in FlexPet. Question 13: I have two Pugs and we are having a real problem with fleas this year. We have tried diatomaceous earth, essential oils, garlic and cinnamon.  I finally broke down and gave flea and tick medication from the veterinarian. Why are we having so much trouble controlling the fleas? Don’t feel as though you are betraying your dog by using a veterinary prescribed medication to control a flea infestation.  It’s better to seek advice from your veterinarian instead of purchasing an over-the-counter flea and tick product. Do your best to keep wild animals out of your immediate backyard space and from allowing your dogs to have contact with other animals that potentially have fleas. Thoroughly clean your home environment by vacuuming carpets, upholstery, and other surfaces and wash all human and pet bedding on a weekly basis. Question 14: My 14 year old cat has had serious urinary tract problems for years and cannot eat anything but a special urinary diet (Hills C/D or Royal Canin S/O). Due to recent constipation problems, he is now on an all wet diet.  Is there a holistic treatment that could help him? Managing both feline urinary and constipation problems is challenging as they are often connected; the nerves that innervate the urinary bladder and the colon (where feces is formed and stored) come off the spinal cord in similar locations. To benefit his urinary tract health, I’m pleased to hear that he is eating moist foods, which promote urine production and reduce the time urine to sits in the bladder in which crystals can form. Constipated cats are often put on a diet high in fiber, which increases stool bulk and causes colon muscles to contract and push feces out of the body.  Dietary fiber can be increased by using natural ingredients like pumpkin, sweet potato, ground flax seed meal, toasted oat bran, or other cooked and puréed vegetables (cauliflower, spinach, etc.). Question 15: My miniature Dachshund won't eat anything but cat food...dry and canned.  Will cat food harm him? I don’t recommend for dogs to eat cat food for an extended time period, as cat food tends to be significantly higher in fat and protein than most dog foods.  Excessive protein and fat can potentially cause a very uncomfortable gastrointestinal and endocrine problem called pancreatitis.  Additionally, the excessive fat calories will lead to weight gain. If your dog skips a meal because he is unwilling to eat the food you want him to eat, he will not starve.  If you’re going to transition him onto a dog food, I suggest choosing one that is comparable in appearance, flavor, and ingredient/protein source to the current cat foods he likes. Question 16: My Shetland Sheepdog (‘Sheltie’) bites himself. What should I do? As the skin is the body’s largest organ, there are a variety of reasons (both external and internal) that can create an allergic state.  External conditions include allergic skin disease from food or the environment (seasonal or non-seasonal allergies), the presence of an infectious organism in the skin (bacteria, yeast, etc.), the bite of and ectoparasite (flea, fly, mosquito, mange mite, etc.), or other.  Internal conditions are often metabolically related and can include hypothyroidism, Cushing’s disease, cancer, or others. It’s best that you take your dog to your veterinarian for an evaluation.  Besides your vet’s exam, a skin impression smear and skin scraping (skin cytology) can help to yield some preliminary information about a potential underlying cause of the current problem and direct appropriate treatment. Question 17: I have a seven year old Pit Bull Terrier adopted from an abusive environment. Occasionally she coughs and sounds like she’s ‘honking’.  Is it something in her throat she’s trying to clear or something similar to when humans bring up phlegm? Also, every once in a while my dog will get the hiccups.  Do dogs hiccup for the same reasons as humans? Dogs will cough and potentially have hiccups for a variety of reasons.  This could be nothing to be concerned about or potentially something more serious. Dogs explore their environment with their nose and mouth; therefore, environmental debris will be inhaled through the nose or mouth and into the opening of the respiratory tract (trachea, which is also known as the windpipe).  The body’s natural reaction is to sneeze or cough to try to expel the irritants from the respiratory tract.  If sneezing or coughing continues or becomes more severe, then schedule an examination with your veterinarian to determine if there is a more severe underlying cause. Hiccups are due to spasming of the diaphragm (thin layer of muscular tissue that separates the chest and abdominal cavities), which can happen for the same reasons causing a cough or sneeze. Question 18: Despite the fact that I give my dog flea medication, he bites his rear and near his tail to the extent that he’s caused skin irritation and holds the tail to the side. Should I bring him to my veterinarian? It’s very common for a dog to bite around his tail base when fleas are present.  After all, fleas hide in places on a dog or cat’s body where they are not likely to be scratched or chewed off. The behavior you describe when he walks with his tail to the side could be his response to the discomfort that’s been created around his tail base from the fleas or from another underlying problem in his hind end (low back, pelvis, knees, etc). Yes, your vet’s eyes and hands need to explore your dog’s body to determine any underlying problems that may be present. If you have a pet health question. Contact me, Dr. Patrick Mahaney at   Thank you for reading this article.  Your questions and comments are completely welcome (I’ll respond). Please feel free to communicate with me through Twitter (@PatrickMahaney) and follow my adventures in veterinary medicine by liking Patrick Mahaney: Veterinarian Acupuncture Pain Management for Your Pets on Facebook. Copyright of this article (2012) is owned by Dr Patrick Mahaney, Veterinarian and Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist. Republishing any portion of this article must first be authorized by Dr Patrick Mahaney. Requests for republishing must be approved by Dr Patrick Mahaney and received in written format.    
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