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Abnormal behavior calls for a visit to the veterinarian

Steve Dale

My Pet World

9:30 AM EDT, September 30, 2013

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Q: My 6-month-old cat has not defecated for a week. I took her to the veterinarian for a second time, and she noticed the cat was backed up "up high." Anastasia now has stopped eating. When I take her to the vet, she gets traumatized. Any suggestions? A. -- B.B., Cyberspace

Q: My cat has not eaten much lately; mostly, he likes Whiskas CatMilk. He wants food, but runs away from the dish when it's put down. He's also become really affectionate and wants to be petted, which he never did before. I can't easily get him into the cat carrier, and I'm on blood thinners so I worry about him scratching me again if I try. Maybe there's a sedative I can give him. Do you think he needs to see the veterinarian? -- T.M., Cyberspace

A: Both of these questions prompt the same answer from Dr. Elizabeth Colleran, past president of the American Association of Feline Practitioners.

"I'm very concerned that there's something medically potentially serious going on with both these cats," Colleran says. "Perhaps these cat owners can enlist help (from a friend or neighbor) to get their cats into the carriers to visit the veterinarian, or find a veterinarian who makes house calls. Long-term carrier training is possible, but I don't believe either owner has the luxury of time."

Colleran, of Chico, CA, says that the 6-month-old kitty is apparently constipated, "but this may be more than a matter of the poop not going into the shoot; it's a cat who apparently feels so poorly she's lost her appetite." Colleran is concerned that there may be an obstruction as a result of your kitty eating something she shouldn't have. However, there's no way to diagnose what's going on without a veterinary visit.

As for the cat who likes Whiskas CatMilk, but seems uninterested in anything else, Colleran advises, at least for the time being, feeding him whatever he will eat. Maybe you can use the Whiskas product to lure him into a cat carrier. Any cat who refuses food may be prone to a potentially fatal fatty liver disease. Of course, one obvious sign of concern is the cat's lack of appetite. Another is his newly affectionate nature. Pets don't just change their behavior or personality for no reason; often the explanation is actually physical health.

Colleran, spokesperson for Cat Friendly Practices, addresses both owners: If for whatever reason you've lost faith in your veterinarian, consider an internal medicine specialist (http://www.acvim.org) or feline veterinarian (http://www.catvets.com), though what's most important is to see a veterinarian ASAP.

Q: I have 19 cats, and have noticed many have scabs and flea bites, and some of the cats are miserable. The original Advantage worked fine, but Advantage II does not. On the web, I learned better choices are cedar oil and diatomaceous earth, but these methods require handling all the cats, which I can't because some are semi-feral. What can I do to protect my cats from fleas? -- J.H., Eustis, FL

A: Even veterinary colleagues often call veterinary parisitologist Dr. Michael Dryden, "Dr. Flea." Dryden is a professor of Veterinary Parasitology in the Department of Diagnostic Medicine and Pathobiology at Kansas State University-Manhattan. Dryden says, "The problem is not Advantage II (which is indeed a step-up compared to Advantage I); it's that you weren't treating each and every cat. No matter what product you choose, you won't be successful treating only some of the cats. I do understand that it's likely the semi-feral cats may not be very accepting of treatment, and I understand the cost can be prohibitive to treat so many cats."

Dryden suggests your most practical option is to treat as many cats as you can. If you don't wish to use Advantage II, ask your veterinarian about an alternative. In reality, however, you'll need twice-a-year supplemental pest management (an exterminator). For the most impact, says Dryden, choose an exterminating company with previous successes at eradicating fleas, and ask for a product with an insect growth regulator.

Sometimes, "answers" found on the web aren't really answers. For example, Dryden notes that there's no verifiable data to demonstrate that diatomaceous earth (sprinkled on a cat's fur) can be effective enough to make a difference. Dryden has concerns that cedar oil (also applied externally) could even be potentially hazardous to cats.

Q: It hasn't stopped raining this spring, and somewhere along the way our dog decided she wouldn't pee in the grass if it was raining outside. How do we deal with this? -- P.J., Kansas City, MO

A: Dog owners are no more anxious than their pets to stand out in the rain on the other end of the leash, and sometimes we make matters worse by expressing our impatience. To solve this problem, act as if your dog is a puppy all over again, and offer praise and a treat the moment she goes, no matter what the weather.

Simultaneously, learn the lyrics to "Singing in the Rain." When it pours, take your dog outside and have a party! Convince your pet that jumping in puddles and dancing in the rain is tremendous fun.

Once your dog feels comfortable in the rain and walking on wet grass becomes enjoyable, your problem will disappear. However, as you sing and dance in the rain, your neighbors may begin to wonder about you.

(Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is http://www.stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.)