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Published August 26, 2011, 12:00 AM

Pet Care: Dog can live with ailment

Dear Dr. Fox: My wife and I adopted an 11-year-old “doxiepoo” (dachshund/poodle) named Andy. We understand that this breed lives between 11 and 15 years. Unfortunately, Andy probably won’t make it to 15.

By: By Dr. Michael Fox, INFORUM

Dear Dr. Fox: My wife and I adopted an 11-year-old “doxiepoo” (dachshund/poodle) named Andy. We understand that this breed lives between 11 and 15 years. Unfortunately, Andy probably won’t make it to 15.

A trip to the vet revealed that Andy has Cushing’s disease, which explains his constant thirst and need to urinate, and the loss of hair on his hips. The vet explained that the treatment of choice is weekly chemotherapy that is not without risk; will not extend his life but will control symptoms, such as frequent urination; and is very expensive, especially in the beginning when dosage is being determined. Even if cost were not an issue, we are reluctant to put him through the rigors and risk of chemo for essentially our convenience – we can handle the urination. We are thinking that the best way to handle this condition is to let it run its course, and as long as Andy seems to be enjoying himself, he’ll have a loving home with us. Perhaps this is an unwise choice.

We would appreciate your thoughts. Andy is affectionate and filled with energy, and he doesn’t appear to be in any discomfort. He lets us know when he needs to go. The very occasional accident is usually on a towel we’ve placed near the back door. – A.P., Martinsburg, W.Va.

Dear A.P.: There are many endocrine diseases, other chronic degenerative diseases and various cancers that affect older animals whose quality of life is reasonably good. They are not in pain or apparent suffering and, like your dog, still enjoy life. But as the condition progresses, your caretaker role (as with our two old dogs) will increase significantly.

The costs and, most especially, the side effects of treatment must be weighed against how much longer the animal will probably live without treatment and might live following treatment, and whether there would be any significant improvement in quality of life. In many instances, there is no real way of knowing, and embracing the uncertainty principle is the best option. Longevity is too often overrated as a measure of treatment success, especially when repeated treatments and constant monitoring affect animals’ well-being and that of loving caregivers.

In some communities, veterinarians are promoting and practicing hospice care for companion animals. They come into the home to monitor pets with chronic, terminal conditions, eliminating the stress of hospital visits and determining and discussing treatment options and euthanasia with the animals’ caregivers.

I am fully aware of the advanced diagnostic and therapeutic procedures being marketed in both human and veterinary medicine. The above considerations can help put things in perspective, as well as the fact that his hyperactive adrenal disease may well develop into secondary diabetes, kidney disease, arthritis and poor wound healing.

Discuss with your veterinarian supplementing his diet with antioxidants, anti-inflammatory nutrients, vitamins C and B6, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and melatonin.

A useful reference text for veterinarians, “Integrating Complementary Medicine Into Veterinary Practice” (Wiley-Blackwell, 2008; edited by Dr. Robert S. Goldstein) offers many potentially beneficial treatments for this and many other conditions in dogs and cats beyond the conventional and often costly and risky treatments.

Dear Dr. Fox: Does your dog food recipe use cooked or raw hamburger mixed in with brown rice? – K.S., Ellicott City, Md.

Dear K.S.: I appreciate this question about giving raw foods to pets, as will many readers. Bacterial contamination, especially of ground meat, is an increasing public health concern. It is responsible for thousands of cases of food poisoning annually, as well as massive recalls of contaminated food.

First, always handle raw meat and poultry products with care. Place them on surfaces that can be thoroughly cleaned, along with utensils and, of course, your hands. Soap and hot running water should suffice, or hand- sanitizer solutions.

The dog food recipe on my website ( calls for combining raw rice, raw ground meat and other ingredients and then cooking the mixture to eliminate the risk of bacterial contamination. However, if you thoroughly mix raw hamburger (ideally from grass-fed, organically certified animals) into rice immediately after the rice is cooked, the high temperature of the rice is sufficient to kill potentially harmful bacteria. Preparing the dog food in this way also helps preserve the nutritional value of the animal protein.

Organically certified meat and poultry products have been shown to have less bacterial contamination and are preferred by those informed pet owners who feed (and handle with care) raw or partly cooked pet foods.

Dear Dr. Fox: We adopted a blue male parakeet who is still jittery around my husband and has nipped his fingers more than once. He’s fine with me and likes to nibble and rub my ear. Sometimes I think he’s courting me.

So what to do about his nipping? Is he jealous of my husband? – B.K.G., Arlington, Va.

Dear B.K.G.: Your bird is probably used to being around and being handled by women, since birds naturally imprint or develop strong attachments early in life. Ideally, therefore, they should be socialized with both male and female handlers and, where possible, with children.

Parakeets are highly social birds that live in large flocks in the wild, and I consider it borderline cruelty to raise and keep them alone in separate cages their entire lives. While they compensate to a degree by bonding with humans (even engaging in courtship behavior, as well as social preening as they would with a mate), they generally fare better in pairs or small groups in large flight cages. With time and patience, your “rival” husband may win him over. In the interim, wear a protective glove.

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 Web site at