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Published September 24, 2010, 12:00 AM

Pet Care: Dog able to sense illness

Dear Dr. Fox: I want to tell you about Candy Morse, our elderly, blind American cocker spaniel.

By: Dr. Michael Fox, INFORUM

Dear Dr. Fox: I want to tell you about Candy Morse, our elderly, blind American cocker spaniel.

She usually slept on her bed alongside my side of our bed so I could haul her up in case of thunderstorms (she felt the change in the air). After a while, she started sleeping on my husband’s side and stayed by his side wherever he went, even foregoing a walk around the block and slipping in and out so she could be next to my husband again.

Then my husband developed breathing difficulties and went to his doctor, who ordered oxygen and referred him to a lung specialist. The specialist treated him. I knew he was on the mend when he no longer needed oxygen and Candy resumed our evening walks.

How did Candy know my husband was ill when he didn’t know himself? – C.A.M., Naples, Fla.

Dear C.A.M.: Your letter is one that I saved, and thanks to many readers like you, I have collected several similar accounts of dogs’ and cats’ awareness of illness and pending death in one of their human companions.

Candy Morse being blind, how could she sense something was wrong with your husband?

Bodies are sensitive to sound vibrations and possibly to electromagnetic (biofield) emanations. Dogs’ noses can detect infrared and also changes in people’s body chemistry/pheromone scents, aberrations of which might cause empathetic souls like Candy to show concern.

For many accounts of amazing “empathosphere” sensitivities in our companion animals, visit my website

Dear Dr. Fox: I recently read your column concerning the case of a cat that died after he had crystals in his bladder. The letter was from L.S. in Monroe, Conn. I want to share a possible prevention for this sort of thing.

One of my male cats developed the same thing (probably aggravated by being neutered at too young an age) and, on three occasions, I had to rush him to the emergency animal hospital in my area during the middle of the night because of his discomfort.

There are always different vets on call, and the last time I brought my cat in, the doctor told me her cat also had this same tendency to produce crystals. She said that she gives her cat ¼ cup of liquid every day, something he really likes so he laps it up immediately (it could be chicken broth, diluted juice from a can of tuna fish, etc.). This seemed to cure him.

I tried the same thing but my cat would not drink anything I put down for him, so I used a syringe (without the needle, of course) and force-fed him the equivalent of ¼ cup of water every night. It was a nuisance because it was a total of 10 syringes full and, although he hated it, he became used to it and fairly cooperative.

Believe it or not, it did the trick. That was eight years ago, and I religiously gave the water to him every day and he never had another episode. He’s 15 now, and I stopped this routine a little over a year ago, and he is still absolutely fine.

Maybe some of your readers can benefit from this information. – K.A., Fairfield, Conn.

Dear K.A.: I appreciate your effective measures of getting more fluid into a cat suffering from urinary-tract blockage from calculi or crystals or “sand,” also compounded by plugs of mucus in many cases.

Many cats, especially those addicted to dry food, have insufficient fluid intake that can lead to bladder inflammation and special (and expensive), salt-loaded prescription diets sold to treat this condition, with the idea that cats will then drink more water. But high salt diets are not good for man nor beast. Your solution is cheaper, safer and clearly very effective.

Air flight risks for dogs

As I have warned for decades, think twice about shipping any dog with a pushed-in-pug-peke-face by air, because they may not survive. The U.S. Transportation Department reports that at least 122 dogs have died since May 2005, when U.S. airlines were finally required to disclose such information. Almost half of the purebred dog deaths during cargo-hold shipment occurred in short-snout English bulldogs and Pugs. Dogs with these so called brachycephalic faces have greater difficulty than normal in body temperature regulation through panting, which can be stressed during transit and compounded by fear/anxiety and a constricting/collapsing wind pipe caused by the sucking, negative pressure of panting with an abnormally long soft palate. Older dogs with heart and anxiety problems are also at risk.

Send your questions to Dr. Fox in care of The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns. Visit Dr. Fox’s website at