Pet Questions Answered at AVMA Convention


DENVER, CO. — These reader questions on dog behavior were answered by veterinarians  at the Convention of the American Veterinary Medical Association, held July 25-29 at the Colorado Convention Center.

Q: I feed my cat about half a manufactured raw diet (and half) other healthy brands. Still, Charlie keeps getting ear infections, which my veterinarian believes may due to do food allergies. We now have the cat on a prescription duck and pea diet with the raw food. What do you think? — N.F., via cyberspace

A: Dr. Kate Knutson, of Bloomington, MN, says food allergies usually manifest with itchiness around the face, and perhaps on a cat’s flanks — not with ear infections — although this can occur.

Knutson suggests your veterinarian look into your cat’s middle ear and get a sample of the fluid there, which requires anesthesia. The problem may be a deep ear infection, unrelated to food. While your cat is under anesthesia, consider full mouth x-rays. Knutson says she’s seen dental abscesses which may cause secondary ear infections.

Knutson says your veterinarian has likely ruled out ear mites, which don’t generally occur in healthy adult cats unless they have some sort of other illness compromising their immune system.

If the above possibilities don’t apply, it’s time to consider a food allergy, says Knutson, a participant in the Pet Nutrition Alliance and immediate past president of the American Animal Hospital Association. Talk to your veterinarian about putting the cat on a novel protein diet, featuring something your cat has never eaten. The pet must remain exclusively on this diet, with no other food or treat(s) supplementing, for 12 weeks.

If, at that point, the cat does better, there’s a strong implication that allergies were causing the ear infections, after all.


Q: We adopted a sweet 2-year-old Chihuahua from our local humane society. Buddy was saved from a puppy mill. His name truly fits; in the short three months we’ve had him, he’s become a valued family member.

Alas, he does have a problem. For the first three months, he never fussed when people came to the house. Now, he’s begun to howl when visitors arrive, and won’t stop until they leave. We’ve tried to get him to stop by picking him up, isolating him and offering toys, but nothing helps. Any advice? — S.W., via cyberspace

A: Congratulations on rescuing a puppy mill dog. Buddy’s history may or may not have something to do with this unusual behavior, according veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kathryn Houpt, of Gaylord, MI.

“It would be helpful to videotape this dog, perhaps using a smart phone,” Houpt says. Your veterinarian can determine better what the dog is thinking by watching the video. It seems the dog may be distressed; that’s usually what howling is communicating. He may also may be fearful, or aroused.”

Houpt, who is a contributing author of “Decoding Your Dog: The Ultimate Experts Explain Common Dog Behavior and Reveal How to Prevent or Change Unwanted Ones, ”  authored by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt, New York, NY, $27), says picking up Buddy might only reinforce the behavior. You’ve got the right idea with distraction, but up the ante. Take a toy and stuff liver treats or low fat peanut butter inside, or offer a chew toy that takes some time to gnaw.

If the problem persists, you could take a video (with a smart phone or camera) and show the veterinarian. Or a certified dog behavior consultant or veterinary behaviorist can visit in person and check the howling out.


Q: I took your advice and asked my veterinarian about the leptospirosis vaccine. I’m curious though about this vaccine being transmitted to pets in the fall or winter. Isn’t leptospirosis a tropical climate illness? C. T., St. Paul,MN

A: Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection (not a virus). The bacteria that cause Leptospirosis are spread through the urine of infected animals (mostly rodents like rats and mice, but also skunks, raccoons and other critters), which can get into water or soil and survive there for weeks to months. Here’s a reason to beware of that yellow snow.

To your point, in the U.S., lepto is most common in Hawaii, a tropical place.

Chicago veterinarian Dr. Natalie Marks says, “In some places, lepto is increasingly common, and potentially can be transmitted to people, which is one reason I’m so passionate about protection. Also, lepto can be a very serious disease. Yes, spring and summer are more common for transmission in northern climates, but lepto does exist year-round. Besides, the protection, a vaccine, provides year-round defense.”


Q: Our 2-1/2-year-old Schipperke was just diagnosed with Perthes disease. She’s on Glyco-Flex (a nutritional supplement with antioxidants and glucosamine) and Rimadyl (an anti-inflammatory pain medication). There are times when she doesn’t use her left rear leg. Our vet says to keep her calm, but that’s impossible. What does the future hold for our dog? — G.L., St. Petersburg Beach, FL

A: Legg-Calve-Perthes disease involves spontaneous degeneration of the head on the femur bone, typically occurring in one of a dog’s hind legs. This leads to disintegration of the hip joint, and bone and joint inflammation causing arthritis.

The exact cause of the condition is unknown, though blood supply issues to the femoral head are usually seen in dogs suffering from Legg-Calve-Perthes disease. It’s most commonly seen in miniature, toy and small-breed dogs, likes yours. Mostly this disease affects young dogs, often younger than yours.

“There’s only definitive treatment, and that is surgery,” says Dr. Kate Crumley, Franklin County, N.C-based president of the American Animal Hospital Association. “The good news is that this surgery is frequently very successful, and following recovery your dog can live a normal, healthy life.”

Crumley cautions that the medications you mention can help your dog feel better for a time, but won’t address the underlying problem.

“Be sure to confirm that the problem is Legg-Calve-Perthes disease with an x-ray,” she adds.

©Steve Dale PetWorld, LLC; Tribune Content Agency