Author Archives: Chryssa Rich

Pastern Problems and Submissive Urination in Dogs

Hi, I’m Dr. Fiona Caldwell and I’m a practicing veterinarian at Idaho Veterinary Hospital. I’m at home today answering questions from Pets Best Facebook page.

The first question comes from Kimberly. She writes “What recommendations would you have to correct a puppy who is down in his pastures? What supplements are beneficial?”

I think you actually mean ‘pasterns’. ‘Down in the pasterns’ is a term for a flat-footed, hyperextension of the joint. It’s common in larger breed puppies and it typically results from the bones, the tendons and the ligaments growing at different rates.

It used to be thought back in the old days that we would supplement calcium and limit exercise in these guys. We actually found that that’s wrong. Calcium supplementation in large breed growing dogs can be dangerous. We definitely don’t recommend that you do that. It’s actually thought that letting these guys get extra exercise on sure footing – grass, carpeting and that kind of thing – can really be beneficial for them.

If you do have a large breed puppy, it may benefit from a large breed puppy food, something that’s a little bit more energy-restricted. Most puppies will outgrow it usually within about two to four weeks. If it’s quite serious, I would recommend that you see your veterinarian.

The last question comes from May who says “My dog has an issue with submissive urination. When we arrive home we have to completely ignore her or she’ll get so excited she’ll accidentally pee. The same thing happens when strangers come over. She’s four years old. Is she ever going to outgrow this?”

This is really common in puppies, like little kids that get really excited, and puppies commonly outgrow it. If you have an adult dog that’s doing this, there is a possibility that it’s because of her nature and because of her being slightly anxious about this, it may not be something she outgrows.

I think your idea about completely ignoring her until the excitement of you coming home subsides is a great idea. If you can get strangers or people coming over to your house on-board with that, too, and let them to know to just ignore her for five or ten minutes until everything settles down, in that way you can avoid it.

Try not to discipline dogs that are submissively urinating. They typically don’t really know that they’re doing it and it can make the problem worse because it usually stems from anxiety.
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No Meowing Part 2, When to Give Heartworm Meds

Hi, I’m Dr. Fiona Caldwell and I’m at home answering some questions from Pets Best Facebook page.

This question comes from Sharon. “My cat, Trevor, does not meow. He is a year old. Is that normal?”

It’s probably normal for him. Some cats aren’t as vocal as others. He’s probably able to meow but for whatever reason he chooses not to so I wouldn’t worry about it.

The next one comes from Donna. “Because we spend so much time outdoors in the spring and summer, I started administering flea and tick preventatives to my dogs last month. I discontinued the flea and tick preventatives after the first frost. However, I give them heartworm medication all year long. Is this necessary in the cool of fall and winter months?”

This is a great question. It really depends on where you live. Most veterinarians and manufacturers of heartworm medications believe that heartworm medication should probably be given all year-round. Because heartworm disease is so difficult to treat, we really aim our medicine on preventing it. If you travel or if you live in certain areas where there might be the possibility of mosquitoes, it’s better to just stay on the preventative all year-round.

In terms of fleas and ticks, ticks especially are really a summertime thing, but again, depending on where you live, this could be an all year-round thing. If you’ve got specific questions about your region and your area, I would contact your veterinarian.
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No Meowing, No Litter Box Use – Help!

Hello. I’m Dr Jane Matheys from The Cat Doctor Veterinary Hospital and Hotel in Boise, Idaho. I’m going to be answering a couple of questions today from the Facebook page of Pets Best Insurance.

The first question is from Sharon. She writes, “Why does a cat not meow and it is normal? Do many cats have that problem? I have a one-year-old cat that I adopted that does not meow.”

That definitely is very unusual for kitty-cats. I’m a little bit unclear as to whether he is meowing but nothing is coming out or if he’s just not even bothering to try to meow. If he’s meowing and nothing’s coming out, on rare occasions a cat could be born with an abnormality of his vocal cords or elsewhere in the throat area, so he may not be physically able to meow even though he’s opening his mouth and trying to.

Certainly, on rare occasions there are cats that just don’t meow. Sometimes some of the breeds, like the Persians, tend to be on the quieter side, but even they will make noises now and again. You just might have a very unique cat who doesn’t feel the need to voice his opinion, and it’s nothing that I would worry about

The second question is from Hope. She has a very common question. She writes, “What makes a healthy neutered cat refuse to use a clean litter box? He will go all over the house but not in the box, no matter how clean it is. The vet says he has no health problems.”

This can be a very common problem that we see in kitty-cats and unfortunately also a very common reason why many of the kitties end up in the Humane Societies. The first thing to check out is whether he is truly healthy. It seems like your doctor has ruled out any medical conditions, so then we tend to think it’s a behavioral issue. We want to take a close look at the setup of your litter boxes in the home situation.

The litter boxes that we provide in the homes are not at all like what the kitties would choose if they were outside in the natural environment. The goal is to make sure that his litter box is as attractive as possible so that he doesn’t choose other areas to go. Attractiveness to the cat includes cleanliness, convenience, and safety. There are some general rules that we can apply to try to make sure that the cat is using the box and finding it an attractive place to go.

You definitely want to have a minimum of one litter box per kitty-cat and you also want to have at least one box on each level of the house. You want to places these boxes in different areas around the house so that he has options. You definitely want to pay close attention to the type of litter that you’re using. Most cats like the scoop-able litter because it feels softer to their paws. I would choose one that’s unscented and preferably low in dust.

You want to make sure that you’re not placing the litter boxes near any loud appliances or air ducts because that might frighten the kitties away. Cleanliness is extremely important. It sounds like you are doing a good job already, but there’s usually room for some improvement. You want to scoop the box at least once a day but perhaps even more than that. Occasionally I’ll see a cat that will not use a box even if there’s just one soiled area already in it, so you may need to scoop out the box two or three times a day. You also want to dump out the entire contents of the box at least once a month, sometimes maybe more, and then wash out the box with good old soap and water. Don’t use any disinfectants as they may leave a smell that the kitty doesn’t like.

Covers or hoods on the boxes and plastic liners cause a lot of problems. The kitties don’t necessarily like the feeling of the liners, and hoods can trap in ammonia odors and also make the kitties feel like they’re being trapped. I do not recommend any of those. Make sure you remove them. You also want to offer the largest litter box possible. Oftentimes they don’t even use litter boxes, per se, but I especially like the see-through plastic storage containers. They can work very well for kitty-cats.

What we’re trying to do is set up a situation so the cat can actually try to tell us what his preferences are and what he likes. I will often recommend that we set up kind of a cafeteria style type of littler box situation in the home. Make sure there are a lot of different litter box types, different litters, and different locations, and let him choose which he likes. Once you’ve figured out what his preferences are you’re more likely to be able to provide that for the kitty and then he’ll use those boxes.

Something else you definitely want to do is make sure you are properly cleaning the areas where the kitty soiled. An enzymatic cleaner is going to do the best job of actually breaking down the odor rather than just covering it up with a fragrant scent. If you’re having trouble finding exactly where the kitty eliminated, especially with urine, a black light can make the spot stand out so that you know where to do the proper cleaning.

If you’re still having trouble after trying these tips and advice, definitely talk to your veterinarian. The longer these types of problems go on, the more likely they will actually become more of a habit and more difficult to correct.
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Healthy Weights and Recurring Eye Infections in Cats


Hello. I’m Dr. Jane Matheys from The Cat Doctor Veterinary Hospital and Hotel in Boise, Idaho. I’m going to be answering a couple questions today from the Facebook page of Pets Best Insurance.

Our first question is from Kitty, wouldn’t you know, and she says, “How do I get my overweight cat to lose weight? I’ve already stopped feeding her wet food and feed her about a cup of dry food a day but she hasn’t lost any weight. She is a moderately active spayed indoor kitty. I can’t afford pricey diet cat food. Is there something else I can do to help her slim down?”

Actually, I recommend totally the opposite of what you’ve just done for your kitty cat. It’s best to use canned food to help cats lose weight. It’s usually not making them gain weight. Dry foods are actually higher in calories because of the higher carbohydrate content, and a lot of owners let the kitties eat as much dry food as they want to. That is where I tend to see the most problem with kitties becoming overweight and obese.

Canned food is more like what cats would eat in nature. It’s higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates, and it’s also a good source of moisture. Because of the high protein/low carbohydrate content it does help promote weight loss in cats, just like it does in people.

The second thing you want to do is work with your veterinarian. He or she can help determine about how many kcals of energy a day your kitty needs to help promote weight loss. You then divide that amount of food between two or three meals throughout the day to help keep the kitty satisfied.

I recommend that you weigh the cat monthly and then adjust the amount of food fed, depending upon whether the kitty is gaining or losing weight. That part is not rocket science. It’s pretty easy. It’s based on the whole ‘calories in, calories out’ type of technique. The hard part comes in when you have to sit at home and listen to your cat beg for food and plead with you with those big eyes. That’s the most difficult part, so you’ll want to be very committed to getting the weight off your kitty cat. Stick with the program and you can be very successful in getting the weight off and helping to keep your cat healthier.

The second question is from Chrissa. She writes, “Every few weeks my cat’s right upper eyelid will swell and her eye will water like crazy. It goes away after a few days. It’s done this on and off her entire life and she’s almost eight years old. Any idea what’s causing it or if there’s anything I can do for it?”

The first thing I think about is whether this could possibly be a flare-up of a chronic herpes virus infection in the eye. This is one of the upper respiratory infections that can stay quiet in the body and then resurface, especially after any periods of stress. It will often give an eye infection where the eye swells and sometimes they’ll squint. Oftentimes, they’ll get the watery type of discharge.

It’s best to have this checked out by your veterinarian who can tell whether this is what’s going on. If so, there is a supplement that can be given to help prevent the recurrence of the infection.
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Hairballs in Older Cats, Vitamin C for Joint Health


Hi, I’m Dr. Fiona Caldwell and I’m at home answering some questions from Pets Best Facebook page.

This question is from Sarah. She writes, “My cat, Sid, is almost 14 and he keeps vomiting hairballs. I know he’s getting old. He’s on KD and boiled chicken only, but is there anything else I can do to help him? He’s purring all the time and loves life.”

KD is a special diet that’s formulated for kidney disease in cats so I’d imagine Sid’s probably suffering some kidney disease. I would make sure that his vomiting isn’t actually related to progression of his kidney disease and really is related to hairballs. If he hasn’t been looked over by your veterinarian recently, you might want to look into that.

If it truly is hairballs, you can try grooming him. Brush him daily. That will help get some of the hair off so that he’s ingesting less and therefore throwing up less hairballs. Depending on how long his coat is and what his temperament is, you could consider shaving him as well. Some cats hate it and shouldn’t be shaved; other cats don’t mind it. It could be a way to keep his hairballs down.

The next one comes from Joyce. “I know that glucosamine is a good choice for a mild luxating patella in my Yorkie. Should I give vitamin C as well?”

Luxating patella is a condition that Yorkies and other small dogs can be prone to, where the knee cap will pop out. It can predispose them to arthritis, so glucosamine is a great idea to help keep the joints as comfortable as possible.

Vitamin C probably wouldn’t necessarily help with arthritis. There has been some evidence that things like omega fatty acids and other antioxidants can be good in general. It’s not going to hurt to give vitamin C, but it’s not necessarily going to help with a luxating patella.
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