Archive for Sunday, July 14, 2002

Animals need time to adjust to diet

July 14, 2002


I have two questions about cats: First, if I decide to change my cat's food, is it really necessary to do it gradually, by mixing it together over a few weeks time, then ending up 100 percent with the new food?

Second, can nausea in cats be treated with ginger? Is ginger at all harmful to a cat? (It works in people.)

Regarding your first question, most pets adapt to a new diet better when introduced slowly. This is especially true for pets that are picky eaters, and most cats fall into this category.

Adding about 10 percent to 20 percent of the new diet each day while reducing the regular diet by the same amount works well. This slow introduction of the new food also reduces the chance of gastrointestinal upset that can occur if the new diet is introduced too quickly.

Nausea can be treated with the herb ginger, although dosing can be a bit troublesome in some cats. A single injection of the drug metoclopramide or chlorpromazine can be given safely to most cats and often cures the nausea.

What kind of X-rays do you recommend for my 4-year-old dog who has been limping on and off? Her problem seems to be her hips, but she also had a really bad episode with her front elbow being stiff and being unable to move for a couple of days.

My vet didn't see the need for X-rays, since he would recommend Rimadyl no matter what.

First, I would not recommend Rimadyl, because there are safer alternatives for pets with arthritis, including glucosamine and related supplements, herbs, homeopathics and pulsed signal magnetic therapy.

While arthritis is the top cause of lameness, there are other causes. Bone cancer acts similar to arthritis in causing lameness, and early diagnosis is critical in getting early therapy. Ligament injuries, which usually require surgery, also cause lameness.

I recommend X-rays if mild lameness persists for more than one or two weeks, or immediately if the lameness and pain are severe. If arthritis is the cause, I only use medications such as Rimadyl on an as-needed basis, relying instead upon natural therapies.

We are using Frontline to treat our dogs (labs) for ticks and fleas. I recently became pregnant and I am now reluctant to use it due to the potential toxic effects to myself, my baby and my pets. Also, my dog develops sores on her face and body when treated.

The dogs run in a field on the weekends, so tick treatment is a concern. Is there something I can use that is less toxic and safer for them?

Frontline is causing a reaction in your dogs so I would stop using it.

Because natural therapies work well and cause fewer reactions, I would recommend you try these. Some of the therapies that I have found helpful include natural pyrethrum powders and citrus-oil shampoos, dips and collars.

Finally, inspect your dogs before bringing them back in the house. Carefully remove and dispose of any ticks you find. Simply use tweezers and grasp the tick near the dog's skin, gently but firmly pulling them away from the body.

Place the tick in a jar of alcohol to kill it, and then dispose of the dead ticks (flushing them down the toilet).

Give your dogs a good bath and dip with the citrus-oil product before bringing them back inside.

I need to spray the area under a large oak where I put my plants in the summer. It is full of tiny mites of some sort. Last year, I used malathion with good results.

This year, we are hosting a family of feral formerly feral cats that play in this area during the day. They come inside at dusk.

I have been told that malathion is no longer poisonous after it dries. Is this true? Should I spray after they come in and not let them out until the area is dry the next morning?

Would it be better if I set the sprinkler for an hour before letting them out, in hopes that it will wash the residue away? Can you suggest a safer insecticide?

Malathion is still a poisonous insecticide and a potent one. Unless absolutely necessary, I would avoid this insecticide.

In general, insecticides are most toxic immediately after application. The toxicity diminishes after drying. I would suggest something safer.

Here are some options that can help with plant mites: Spraying them directly with insecticidal oil (available at nurseries) will coat the mites and kill them. You can also apply natural diatomaceous earth (DE) or citrus oil as well. Any of these choices will not hurt the cats.

Our greyhound Charles was recently diagnosed and treated for a mild case of bloat. His doctor said we were lucky since most dogs with bloat need surgery. Is there anything we can do to prevent this?

Bloat occurs when the stomach fills with air and the dog is not able to belch the air to relieve the discomfort. In some cases, the stomach enlarges so much that it turns on its axis, causing volvulus.

Bloating can be treated by inserting a needle through the skin and into the stomach; the air in the stomach exits through the needle. If this is not successful, the dog is anesthetized and a tube is placed through the mouth and into the stomach to remove the air and stomach contents. Volvulus requires surgery to reposition the twisted stomach. The cause of bloating seems to be air that is gulped when the dog eats, although it can occur in dogs that are not gulpy eaters. To minimize the chance for bloating, I feed dogs two or more smaller snack meals rather than one or two large meals.

Gulpy eaters often can be made to slow down by placing large objects such as bricks in their food bowls, forcing them to eat around the objects.

Dogs should not be allowed to exercise for at least an hour after a meal to decrease the chance of inhaling air into a full stomach.

Shawn P. Messonnier, author of the "Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats" (Prima, $24.95), is a veterinarian and pet care advocate.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.