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Dear Dr Alex Melrose.
I am writing to you for advice with my cat “Iggy”. He has had (3 times now) bleeding from his bottom. He roams the neighbourhood a lot but gets a big variety of cat biscuits to eat, and has lots of water available here at home. He is de-sexed but is always fighting with the very evil grey and white cat that attacks him from next door, but I don’t think Iggy is the aggressive one. Could this neighbour’s cat be part of the problem? Francine, Masterton.
Hi Francine thanks for your letter. Although innocent Iggy is being attacked by the evil one, from the number of times I’ve heard similar stories I’m guessing it still does “take two to tango” and that Iggy may have to take some responsibility for his encounters as he roams the neighbourhood, crossing other cats territories. However, it seems pretty unlikely that he has had 3 consecutive haemorrhaging bite wounds in exactly the same spot on his derriere, so ol’ Grey and White is probably not the cause.
I am concerned that the bleeding is more likely to be coming from his bowel. Minor causes of this can include untreated intestinal worms, benign polyp type growths, and passing small pieces of bone or poorly digestible scraps, plants or carrion (that Iggy may have found on his travels). At the other end of the scale serious viral and bacterial enteritis pathogens such as salmonella, campylobacter or giardia could be involved or even more sinister GIT growths or organ diseases.Your vet will be able to determine what part of the bowel the blood is coming from and narrow down the potential causes for Iggy’s ongoing bleeding potentially by using an array of blood and faecal tests. Please take Iggy in for assessment and I think you’ll find the so called evil cat next door will be exonerated.
I just wanted to drop you a quick email to ask about my beautiful Siamese boy, Carlos. He constantly demands food with a typically deafening Siamese howl. I can handle this as I’ve had 12 years of practice with him and I work a few extra jobs to put food in his mouth. However, as I was laying out his smorgasbord the other day I started wondering whether he needs some special diet now he is getting longer in the tooth, and whether supermarket food can do the job?
Dear Sarah and Carlos,
I am full of respect for Carlos despite having never met him. He has trained you well. It’s a great point you’ve raised about needing to tailor the diet you provide for Carlos to meet his changing nutritional requirements as he ages. Animals need to be fed differently at each “Life Stage”.
As a kitten he needed more protein and calcium for muscle and bone growth. Next, as an adult cat Carlos still required a relatively high protein level, all cats do compared to humans or dogs. As cats enter the senior stages of their lives it is of great benefit to reduce dietary protein intake while maintaining protein quality. As you are probably aware it is common for older cats to suffer kidney disease.
One of the contributing factors to this is the high workload of the kidneys having to clear protein waste products. By altering Carlos’ diet we can reduce the protein load on the kidneys and hopefully minimize the chances of him developing kidney failure. While some supermarket brands are o.k., most suffer from variable quality and the ingredients used can change from batch to batch.
All premium pet food brands available from Vet Clinics and good Pet Stores offer life stage diets for both cats and dogs. Eukanuba, Pro Plan, Royal Canin and Hills all produce very high quality “Senior” cat food that will be ideal for Carlos and should stifle his howling demands, at least for a few minuits.
I hope you enjoy all the food Carlos,
Dr Alex Melrose.
Hi Doc, I need some help with my beautiful German shepherd, Samson. He’s very affectionate with us, but lately I haven’t been too keen on him slobbering all over my face. He’s developed an unsavoury taste for droppings! Initially any cat or dog doo would do, now he’s extended the buffet to include duck poo down at western springs.
The thought and smell of all this getting dribbled onto my face revolts me. Should I be worried about catching any bugs off him? What can I do to stop this behavior and return to fun filled frolics with Samson? A friend of mine suggested his diet may be lacking something. What would you suggest? Sarah, Grey Lynn.
Dear Sarah (and Samson), Samson is not lacking anything in his diet, he just likes the flavour and aroma, obviously an acquired taste that he has taken to new levels…shocking but true! You should be afraid for your own health, afraid but not terrified. Zoonotic transmission of disease from animals to people isn’t that common but you are at risk.
Bacteria like Salmonella and Campylobacter are possible (especially from ducks), as are other gastrointestinal nasties such as Giardia. Intestinal worms can also migrate through various organs of the human body causing serious disease. Toxoplasmosis is spread in kitten faeces and is very dangerous to pregnant women.
Apart from physical health threats Samson will develop a rejection complex from nobody wanting his drool on them anymore. He may go into his shell. You can treat this in several ways. Firstly if you prevent access to any droppings for several weeks an animal will often kick the habit. Obviously this requires instant removal around home and keeping Samson on a lead when out and about. Option two is booby trapping the poo! Leave the droppings laid out tantalizingly for the big fellow but top them with cayenne pepper, citronella spray, or “stop chew” spray.
Usually 2 or 3 of these assaults to his palate and he will alter his dining preferences. The final option is aversion therapy, where a water pistol spray in the face, or a fright from a remote collar can be used to good effect to make the poo less appealing. Good luck with Samson and his breath. P.s. You may wish to worm yourself every now and again Regards, Dr Alex Melrose.
I need your help please. I’m blessed with three fun loving Burmese cats ranging in age from 2 to 5 years. They are all really active and wander across my neighbours properties searching for affection when ever I’m not home (apparently common for this breed).
Fortunately they are quite popular visitors, and obviously look out for one another, so they all usually get home safely. The problem is a few days ago one of my neighbours sprayed parts of his back yard with something like Roundup and simultaneously my youngest cat, Samson has become quiet and is just lazing around home all day. What should I do for him, and should I be worried about the other two, Delilah and Mack, who currently seem fine?
Regards, worried cat lover. Dianna.
I think you are right to be slightly worried. These oriental breeds like your adventurous Burmese tend to have large territories. It’s pretty common for them to be chewing on bits of grass and plants along their travels and I’ve seen many cases of toxicities relating from these situations here at my clinic in Grey Lynn.
Firstly I would confine all three cats indoors for a few days until there has been sufficient rain to wash the herbicide off at your neighbours place. Samson definitely needs to be checked by your vet right away and I’d take the other two along at the same time.
Common signs of toxicity can include salivation, in-coordination, lethargy, vomiting and diarrhea, panting and increased thirst. Localised ulceration to the tongue and mouth can also occur and needs to be treated quickly to prevent infection. If your vet confirms a case of poisoning Samson would require an i.v. drip to combat dehydration and help eliminate toxins from his body.
Blood samples are valuable to assess any possible organ damage, and depending on the offending poison Samson my also receive a specific antidote. Once he is recovering repeat blood tests several days to weeks later can be used to identify any residual liver or kidney problems.
A course of Milk Thistle supplements can assist liver function and cell regeneration. Best wishes for Samson’s speedy recovery, Dr Alex Melrose.
Hi Alex, a friend has told me that Flax Seed Oil cannot be digested by her dog and is a waste of money. My dogs are on it for its coat and joint benefits. My friend believed that while it does no harm, it takes more energy for a dog to digest the oil than any energy or goodness they get out of it and that it’s better to give them animal based oil.
This comment about dogs not being able to digest Flax Seed Oil relay stumped me! I got hold of Plant and Food Research in Nelson who advised me that the benefits of the Oils are the same for all animals. I’ve also looked myself at sources of information on the internet, which is a bit dangerous when you are not an expert in the field of animal health!
The most reliable references are listed on professional websites for vets, and of course you must be a member to access the information. If you could get back to me with your thoughts, that would be great. Best wishes Debbie.
Flax seed oil is given as a supplement for its important inflammatory modulation effect rather than an energy source, typically for skin and joint assistance, as you have correctly identified.
In oil form it is digestible by dogs, not so as an intact seed. Dogs are true omnivores and as such can break down plenty of plant origin food sources so your friend’s comment about it needing to be animal oil is misguided. Cats, being obligate carnivores, are recognised at being poorer in their digestion of these oils, due to evolutionary differences in their digestive capabilities.
Flax contains alpha linolenic acid (ALA), which is an 18 carbon omega-3 fatty acid. The majority of the studies demonstrating beneficial effects of omega-3s have used EPA (20 carbon), DHA (22 carbon) or both (from fish oils) leading to some people believing Flax to not have similar beneficial properties.
However, dogs (and other mammals) can convert ALA to EPA and DHA! The conversion rate is not great therefore to achieve the same results as with fish oil, a significantly higher quantity of 18 carbon EFA's are required.
The volumes provided in flax seed oil bottles are indeed much larger than those typically provided in capsules of fish oil for this very reason i.e. to compensate for a lower bioavailability. My advice is to keep up the great supplementation of your dogs. Kind regards, Dr Alex Melrose.
The obesity epidemic is beginning to seriously affect our country’s cat and dog population and our pets are living up to two years less as a result, says Veterinarian Dr Alex Melrose.
Dr Melrose, from VetCare Grey Lynn, is on a mission to help reduce the weight of our cats and dogs – as many as one in three of which are thought to be overweight – and a growing number of them are obese.
Australian studies show 41 percent of dogs and one in three cats are overweight* and Dr Melrose believes the levels within New Zealand pets are no different.
“This is a serious health issue for New Zealand’s animals. It can significantly curtail their lives, and their enjoyment of life,” says Dr Melrose.
“Many Kiwis simply can’t see they’re harming their pets with too much food and too little exercise. If they knew the extent of the harm they would be horrified. It’s time we gave this issue as much attention as human obesity gets. After all, we are in control of what goes into our pets’ mouth.”
Dr Melrose said pets could lose on average up to two years of life when obese, based on a 15 to 18 year maximum life expectancy. That’s more than 10 percent less life than if they maintained a healthy weight.
“But it’s not just about how long they live, it’s about whether they can enjoy their lives too. Being overweight creates serious health disorders and it significantly impedes any recovery from illness or injury.”
Clinical studies show overweight dogs are 74 percent more likely to develop circulatory diseases; 64 percent more likely to develop reproductive diseases and 57 percent more likely to develop mobility disorders than dogs at optimum weight.**
Like humans, Dr Melrose says the key to healthier and longer lives is both exercise and proper nutrition – particularly the premium pet foods whose range includes effective weight control diets.
“Pet owners need to control their pets’ diets, just as they’d control their own. If you cut off your bacon rind because you know it’s bad for you, don’t then give it to your cat or dog.”
Proper and controlled feeding is critical and Dr Melrose says pet owners should be wary of pet foods that promote palatability over health.
“Palatability often equals high fat and salt content. Pets enjoy the taste of high fat, salty foods which they obviously don’t know are bad for them. Too often pet owners lack this knowledge too.”
He encouraged pet owners to carefully read the labels, just as they would on their own food.
Animals who are overweight or obese should be put on a reduced calorie diet. Pet food makers have recognised there’s a need to provide foods to help pets reach their healthy size, and premium pet food brands have very effective weight control ranges for cats and dogs.
Once the kilos are off, they should be fed a premium food diet with the correct levels for their size, age and individual metabolism– as recommended by a vet or a pet nutrition expert.
“We live in a society that’s becoming increasingly time-poor and too often our pets, particularly dogs, are the ones that suffer. Then, we give them a treat to compensate for not taking them for a proper walk.”
Dr Melrose said dogs who had not had much exercise, or who were overweight or obese, should begin with low level exercise, increasing in duration and intensity as the weight comes off.
Ideally, all healthy dogs should be getting 60 minutes of proper exercise each day for mental and physical well-being.
Hi pet lovers from the team at VetCare Grey Lynn. There has been some interesting data coming out of the U.S. and Australia which applies to our pets here in N.Z. which I would like to share with you.
41 % of all pets across the ditch are overweight! Surely there wouldn’t be much difference between their furry population and our own. Couple this with new data from America that illustrates an average shortening of lifespan in obese animals by two years and this gets pretty concerning.
Apart from the shorter life these guys have to be enjoying much less quality of life with more joint disease, heart and pancreatic disorders, less energy and limited mobility. This trend is of course a function of our own rapidly changing society. Dogs in particular have no say over what goes into their often gaping mouth; we have to put our hands up as we control their diet and their exercise.
First up do a little test on your pet. Run your hands over the sides of their chest. You should be able to easily feel their ribs, not a whole lot of thick skin. Secondly at the back of the ribs they should taper in to a waist. Another couple of areas they will store excess fat is the love handles over their hips, and on their tummy.
If you still aren’t sure if your beloved pet is overweight, then come and ask one of our staff what their ideal weight should be. If they are a little out of shape its good to get a starting weight so you can graph any changes as you go.
Then you’ve got two choices with diet. Either reduce the volume by at least 1/4, or change to a premium quality low calorie pet food, especially formulated to drop the kilos (or do both). The second part of the equation is exercise. With cats you can excite them with feather danglers or get them to chase streamers, paper or toy prey. Hours of fun for the whole family.
Everyone with dogs should be walking them off the section for at least 45 to 60 Minuits per day. Regardless of the size of your back yard they need this for mental stimulation as well as physical.
If time is limited due to other commitments consider using a dog walking service, such as Wags to Whiskers (0800 028 888). Through sound animal health awareness we can nip this weight problem, and the increased potential for associated disease, in the bud before it affects our furry companions.
Hi Alex. I need some advice about our very relaxed, clever little Kelpie “Harper”. He’s been growing up well here on the North Shore, wrestling our two large teenage boys to a standstill, any puppies dream life. He has lately been toileting all the time and struggling to put on weight. In the last few days he has also started vomiting, and gone off his food, very unusual for his normally massive appetite. He’s looking increasingly skinny and has an especially nasty, rather greasy diarrhea and a dandruffy coat. Ben of Takapuna.
Hi Ben & Harper. It sounds like Harper could have a real problem with digesting his food. We can check him for Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI) with a simple blood test called TLI that shows up low levels of digestive enzymes.
The pancreas normally produces enzymes to digest Harpers, and our food. They are stored in inactive forms inside special granules in the pancreatic tissue and are secreted into the duodenum when ground up food begins its passage out of the stomach. Without adequate production of these enzymes Harper could not break down, digest and absorb his food.
If Harper’s digestion is not working we will need to add pancreatic enzymes to his food, in the form of a capsule with each of his meals. He would also be prone to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, low Vitamin B12 levels and excessive acid production in the stomach. He would also go on a highly digestible diet which is low in fibre and fat. The management of EPI is for life and without enzyme supplementation all the unpleasant symptoms would recur. Most dogs will respond quickly and lead a normal life span. See you soon for those blood tests. Kind regards Dr Alex Melrose.
Hi Alex. I was flicking through some on-line news stories and was quite disturbed about an article regarding pet food safety and it’s similarity to the Chinese Baby Formula tragedy.
Thousands of North American pet owners whose dogs and cats died last year after eating contaminated pet food traced to China could be close to a $45 million settlement. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration found that the food contained melamine, a chemical used to make plastics.
The chemical was traced to contaminated wheat gluten imported from China, which had then been incorporated into over 90 different pet food brands. With this sort of stuff going on how can I go about picking safe food for my cats?
Regards, Erica, Eden Terrace.
Hi Erica. This was surely a shocking situation for all those poor owners and their ill pets. It is estimated that over 10,000 animals were affected in Canada and the U.S.
At the time we had many concerned queries here at the clinic and were able to quickly re-assure our clients of the lack of threat to pets here in NZ. None of the pet food poisoned with the melamine was produced by manufacturers that supply our country.
As you have suggested the melamine damage to pets closely mirrors the recent damage to babies in China. Renal shutdown leads rapidly to death and leaves a gaping hole in those pet’s owner’s lives. The best advice I can give is to investigate each brand’s ingredients really thoroughly and look at the depth of testing processes that each company applies to its product.
Many products specify “AAFCO Approved”, but this really just means the initial formulation the product was designed to meets recommended standards. Try to differentiate this from a much more beneficial “AAFCO Tested”, where the pet food is regularly sampled to confirm superior quality.
Ingredient-wise many pet-food labels may state “Chicken” (for example), but examination of the label will show chicken, beef, lamb, pork and unspecified animal fats are mixed into the product.
The problem with this quality of pet food is that depending on which protein sources are available most cheaply at the time, so the ingredients will alter from batch to batch. In summary read the fine print, and personally I think we should push our law makers to include compulsory information on country of origin.
My five-month-old puppy eats cow poo. It is very gross, as he likes to then licks us. How do I stop him doing this?
Not a very endearing quality for sure. You are not alone my dog did the same, cat poo being his preference with us being in the city here. You will need to”booby trap” the poo. Just using commands or punishments won’t work in these cases with the dog usually just sneaking off to do it when you aren’t present. By booby trapping I mean making him have a terrible tasting poo experience a handful of times until he is convinced to remove poo from his menu. Cayenne pepper, Tabasco or Wasabi, added to the surface of the cow pat which is left in place on the grass, is usually a pretty effective deterrent. As an alternative, an air horn fired off every time he approaches a poo for dinner, can have a pretty similar effect.
Gabbana, my beautiful little Birman kitten has just started scooting along the floor on her backside. She seems a little distressed and startled at the time and suddenly drops to the floor and rubs along our carpet. This is not particularly attractive to dinner guests and it also worries me she may be in some sort of pain.
She’s just been spayed so I don’t think she would do it to attract roaming Birman males, and I have got her on Revolution for fleas and worms. What’s going on, is this some sort of strange behaviour?
There are two possible explanations for this delightful practice in your kitten. Firstly, this could be caused by tape worm segments. These are sticky rice-like structures which attach themselves to the skin as they are passed out in the animal’s faeces. This can cause redness and irritation in this perineal area.
Alternatively all cats and dogs have 2 small glands at their rear end just beneath the tail. These glands have potent skunk-like secretions which animals use to identify each other and their territories. If these glands become blocked they can swell to a point where the animal is uncomfortable and irritated by this feeling. In the worst case scenario the gland will abscess and actually burst out through the surrounding skin (not nice for your beloved pet, or anyone in firing range).
The first thing I’d do is worm Gabbana with a good product like Drontal or Felex. Revolution does treat all other types of worms (as well as fleas), but is not effective against Tape worms, so give her a tablet anyway. If this has no effect, a trip to your vet is advisable.
We get the fun job of examining her rear and expressing any blocked matter from her glands. Stand back and bring some barrier cream for the smell!
The more fibre and roughage she has in her diet the better for preventing this condition. Occasionally we’ll put her on antibiotics if there is some infection present.
Good luck and I hope the dinner guests regain their appetite, regards Alex.
Hi Dr. Melrose.
I have a cat named Ziggy that is 15 years old. For many weeks now he has been having explosive diarrhoea, some vomiting, weight loss, eating like he is starving, crust in the corners of his eyes and his voice sounds a little hoarse. I have another cat that has herpes, which has lived with Ziggy for 11 years.
I also have another cat who is 2 years old (Olly) with none of these symptoms. Thanks in advance for any advice you can offer temporarily, whether it be giving him cheese (for diarrhoea), extra water, different type of food....any kind of home remedy I can try just to see if I can get him better before going to the vet. I know cancer is a possibility, which I hope it is not so bad. Thanks, Miriam.
Hi Miriam, Ziggy, Olly …….. and everyone else there at the house. While I share your concern about the possibility of something sinister it’s not going to be related to the Herpes.
Let’s do the basics first, as we were taught way back at vet school “common things happen commonly”. First I would worm him with an effective product from your vet e.g. Drontal, making sure it goes down and stays down and that the right sized tablet is used for his weight (easy to under-dose big cats with a 4kg tab).
Next I would narrow his diet right in to address any type of Irritable Bowel Syndromes that aging humans and animals are more prone to developing (these can develop to foods that he has tolerated for a long time!).
Try getting a small bag of true hypoallergenic diet like the range from Royal Canin or Hills Z/D (also from the vet) and feeding him separately (easier said than done I know). We should see some improvement within 2 weeks if on the right track, up-to 2 months for full resolution. I definitely agree he needs a total work up as soon as possible.
I would be checking hard for Hyper-thyroidism, which if he did have is mainly treatable. Please don’t feed him any cheese; it will go right through him.
It sounds to me like Dougal is a really lucky dog and is superbly well cared for. The normal frequency of his “number twos” or of any other animals relates heavily to the quality of his diet.
Eukanuba is an excellent diet and of as high a quality as you can get. It has high bioavailability, meaning the individual components of the food can be readily absorbed by Dougals’ digestive tract, supplying his active little body with what it needs but also leaving little waste for him to be excreted.
As well as this Eukanuba, and some other top quality dry foods have significant amount of dietary fibre, largely beet pulp which aids normal contractions of the intestine and keeps him “regular”. The 40 Minuit walk daily is great, every dog should get at least this much exercise off their own section daily. I
t’s so important for both physical and mental stimulus regardless of how big their back yard may be. The problem signs to watch for with any dog’s droppings are the presence of mucus or blood, any straining or pain, and dramatic changes in firmness or colour.
Make sure you are worming Dougal with a quality product such as Drontal or Canex that kills all 4 families of intestinal parasites and that this is being done every 3 months.
In the absence of any of these problems I think it sounds like Dougal is perfectly healthy and is probably just “going 2 to 6 times” every morning because he is a bouncy terrier and is too busy charging around all over the place to stop and pass everything at once.