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Published December 09, 2011, 12:00 AM

Pet Care: Benefits of changing pet food

Dear Dr. Fox: I want to tell you how much I appreciate your advice about changing diet. It can make a lot of health problems go away. My 6-year-old schnauzer mix, Sam, had recurrent skin problems and frequent episodes of diarrhea. Veterinary treatments with various medications gave her only temporary relief at best.

By: By Dr. Michael Fox, INFORUM

Dear Dr. Fox: I want to tell you how much I appreciate your advice about changing diet. It can make a lot of health problems go away. My 6-year-old schnauzer mix, Sam, had recurrent skin problems and frequent episodes of diarrhea. Veterinary treatments with various medications gave her only temporary relief at best.

After I read one of your columns and visited your website, I decided to put her on your home-prepared diet, plus Organix and Pet Guard certified-organic dog foods. I alternate feeding these brands every few days and giving canned and dry food, all of which she loves. Honestly, she is like a new dog, with more vitality and no recurrence of her skin and digestive issues. Thanks a million! – E.W., Scranton, Pa.

Dear E.W.: I appreciate hearing from readers who have applied my advice and hearing about the outcomes for their animals. Home treatments don’t always work, and I always advise seeing a veterinarian first. But when that fails, and when a second opinion or veterinary specialist also fails to alleviate the animal’s condition, it is quite stunning to me how often it turns out that all that was needed was a change in diet. So often, eliminating corn or soy (both of which are likely to be genetically engineered and cause health problems, as per my review at www.twobitdog.com/drfox and feeding a more natural diet based on organically certified, whole-food ingredients does the trick. Dogs stop scratching, and cats’ stool and urinary tract problems clear up.

Often these improvements are reported to me by readers who took the initiative themselves or were advised by other pet owners and were unaware of my advocacy on this issue. I would very much appreciate hearing from other readers with experiences like yours to let me know what their animals’ health problems were before making a diet change and what improvements they witnessed in their pets’ health and overall well-being.


Dear Dr. Fox: Can you tell me about dogs licking?

My 7-year-old female shih tzu loves to lick everything, including the air. Is she lacking something in her diet? She is a rescued dog and has always licked, but much more so now. She recently had a stone removed from her stomach but otherwise is in great health. Your help would be greatly appreciated. – K.M., Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

Dear K.M.: Dogs lick for many reasons: to express or solicit caregiving behavior and intentions; because they are anxious or suffering physical discomfort; because licking provides comfort.

The veterinarian must first rule out any disturbing condition in the dog’s oral cavity, such as gingivitis, which might account for this behavior. Obsessive chewing in dogs is sometimes associated with tonsillitis, and it was at the root of one of my first cases of obsessive- compulsive disorder (OCD) in an English cocker spaniel who had a stomach full of stones! OCD is especially common in small, active breeds, for which psychotropic drugs such as Prozac may provide some relief, especially when coupled with a behavior modification program. Genetics, environment (boredom and lack of stimulation) and possibly chemical additives in some manufactured pet foods play a role in animal behavior.

Providing more activities and a natural diet (such as the home-prepared food on my website) may help. In addition, making turkey a frequent ingredient will provide more tryptophan (also available as a supplement), which may have a calming effect. Herbs such as valerian, passionflower and chamomile tea may prove beneficial; also PetzLife’s’ -Eaze (formulated with relaxing L-Theanine) and Vetri-Science Lab’s thiamine-based Composure.


Dear Dr. Fox: My 18-year-old male tabby cat, Nick, has led a healthy and happy life as an indoor cat, with yearly examinations by a terrific vet who makes house calls.

Recently, he has shown signs of aging – his hearing is poor and he isn’t able to jump up on high places. He also has begun loud yowling at about dawn every day, sounding like he’s in terrible pain. Once I get up with him, he’s fine. The vet did blood work and could find no signs of thyroid trouble, kidney issues or anything else unusual for a cat his age.

What could be wrong, and how can we make this distressing noise stop? His appetite is good, and I always make sure food and water are available. – N.N., Bethesda, Md.

Dear N.N.: You are fortunate to find a veterinarian who makes house calls, which are so much less stressful for most cats than being taken to the hospital or clinic.

I receive many letters from people with old cats such as yours who yowl and are restless at night. This is often correctly diagnosed as senile dementia (or dysphoria). Seligiline, prescribed by a veterinarian, may help. It is notable that cats can develop brain lesions similar to those seen in Alzheimer’s disease in humans.

Giving a cat like yours a warm box or heat lamp or pad to sleep on may also provide comfort and security. If fish oil supplement (a few drops in his food every day) does not help, anti-inflammatory drugs may be of benefit. Arthritis is a medical condition in older cats that can result in yowling and restlessness at night.

If your cat likes catnip, a pinch at night might do wonders.


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 www.twobitdog.com/DrFox.

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