I haven’t done that for quite a while: Contributing to this blog nutrition related comments I find in the pet column of my local newspaper, The Palm Beach Post. Some while ago now they changed from a weekly frequency to publishing the column twice a week and by now a quite sizeable pile of news paper sections with a note to my wife “Pl. save” has accumulated on my already cluttered desk. This pile along with many other reference materials I am using here at this blog and on our website is just getting out of control, so I decided to just dive into it starting right now. And I like the idea because they should make for short comments, something my blog visitors here are not used to too much. I know, my and my contributors’ comments often are quite lengthy and also do not always make for the “lite” reading material you’d pick to relax.
One issue really makes me wonder: Why are pet owners using the pet column to find out about health issues they are having with their pets and how to address them? I understand, there may be a number of them who don’t want to or cannot for whatever reason afford to see their vet. ‘k they need help. But quite often I get the feeling that the pet owners inquiring are most definitely frequenting their vets. Do they not trust them? Could well be, and sort of does not come as a surprise to me when I read some of those cases. However, I want to make one thing very clear here: As you will see, many of these cases most definitely require veterinarian assistance, some of them I would even consider emergencies. I plead to those pet owners: Don’t experiment on your own by trying to figure out what’s going on with your pet by studying and discussing in pet columns, blogs, Internet forums and similar places. A precise diagnosis cannot be made via a pet column by you describing the problem. That would be like you e-mailing me stating you have some pain in your chest and I diagnose you having a lung infection while in the meantime you are on the verge of experiencing a heart attack. A correct diagnosis only can be found through a physical examination performed by a vet. I also do not understand why some vets in these columns even offer advice rather than referring the inquiring owner to one of their colleagues. Get your pet to the vet now before it is too late. If you cannot afford a “regular” vet, seek help at your local animal shelter. While they are not always providing free services, they often are less costly and chances are they will not turn you away and the financials can be worked out later in a mutually acceptable manner. As you go on there still will be plenty of time left for you to discuss things via the media listed above. And at that point I encourage you to do so, because there is sure a lot to be learned out there and all these sources can provide an incredible wealth of information for you.
If you already see a vet and have the feeling he is of no help, go see another one. Especially in more complicated cases, just as you handle it with your own body, it is good and advisable to seek a second opinion. I recommend that quite frequently to my customers when they come telling me that they are trying to get a problem resolved through their vet and just don’t make any progress. Don’t waste any more time than necessary, move on and most important, get your pet the help it needs and at a bare minimum deserves. But that is all general stuff I would ask anybody to keep in mind. Let’s get to today’s case:
This lady has an elderly male cat at home, approximately 15 years old. The cat was a rescue and when they found him obviously nobody was able to tell how old he was, so they estimated him being 5 back then. That’s all secondary. The owner is concerned. The cat’s entire spine and hip bones are starting to show. The owner says: “you can’t really see them, but when you pet him, you can feel every bone in his back. He still has great appetite. He has dry food available all day and he gets one can of Fancy Feast at night. He still has normal bathroom habits and he hasn’t been vomiting. Should I be concerned or is this the “normal” aging process?”
Let me quick throw in before I forget: Good: Cat has appetite and eats, normal bathroom habits, no vomiting. Not so good: Fancy Feast and I would assume the dry food provided falls in the same quality range.
The pet column vet recommends that the cat needs a good comprehensive physical exam. Really, why hasn’t the owner’s vet figured that out yet? I assume she has one, she definitely sounds to me as if she does. Then the paper’s vet continues: “Older cats are often in a delicate balance that needs to be monitored to keep them in good health. Their bodies are not as forgiving as when they were young, but with a little extra care they can live longer and more comfortably than ever before. First ask your veterinarian to select a senior diet for your cat to optimize his nutrition. Some older cats have sensitive digestive systems and need food that is easy to digest, others have decreased kidney function and need specialized food to help the kidneys. Some have tooth pain and need soft food. A blood profile may help your veterinarian determine your cat’s needs.”
Here are my questions to the column vet: Rather than confusing the pet owner I would have definitely sent her to see her vet. Granted, this does not seem to be an emergency since it sounds like the cat appears to be feeling fine despite the weight loss. But what was done here was just making the owner’s life difficult. She now is going to look for the right food. Good luck with that, that’s going to take for ever and she will end up with a million opinions and still not know what to do about that. Why do vets always right away push for a change in diet? Granted, it is the food what causes the diseases we are fighting and our animals are plagued with. However, switching the animal over to a “scientific” wonder food, which after all typically is not so much of a wonder healing miracle, is not the answer. And let’s face it, there is only a very few vets who will recommend any other food than their favorite prescription diets.
Then you bring up a possible kidney problem? Granted, yes there is a possibility of that, but again, it just confuses the owner. Let a vet determine that by doing a physical exam and don’t put that in the poor owner’s head needlessly increasing her worries.
My next question to the vet is: You wrote a great article on the paper’s website titled “Do you know when to see your vet? Here are guidelines about taking your pet to see a doctor.” In it you say: “Question: When should I take my pet to see my vet? Answer: These question/answer columns are extremely helpful, but there are certain situations with pets where no time should be wasted in getting your pet to a veterinarian. Everyone needs to understand that, just as in humans, problems can not be diagnosed without examining the pet and/or lab work. A good rule of thumb is: Emergencies (need a vet immediately) are: seizures, Bufo toad, collapsed, problem breathing, hit by car, bleeding, in labor, ate poison, eye injury/problem, and vomiting blood. If your vet is not open at the time these happen, be sure you know where the nearest emergency clinic is located. Get to a vet today: not eating, diarrhea, vomiting, weak/lethargic, in pain, cat that can't urinate /defecate, and ANY sick bird. These are the standards we give our new receptionists and staff to use as guidelines when making appointments.”
See what I am saying, I think that would have been the appropriate and only way that cat owner’s inquiry should have been answered.
And if anybody is interested in hearing what I would have recommended: Go see your vet and have a physical done. Then based on the results come back and if the vet recommends a change in diet let’s figure out what we’re going to do. It all depends on the results of the vet’s exam.
Assuming the outcome of the exam is that except for some weight loss there is nothing wrong with your cat, let’s look at two possibilities: Is the cat “underweight”? If so let’s try an increase of the amounts to be fed daily (probably by 50%) and also lets possibly consider a diet with higher fat and protein content. If we are dealing with a “lean” cat, I would suggest an increase of the food ration by 25%. Let’s start weighing the animal at least once a week, this way we can monitor our progress.
In the past I have been very successful by using Dr. Wysongs Recommendations for Specific Health Conditions. He recommends for “Underweight cats”: A dry or canned growth formula, a raw variety combined with all meat canned or raw meat, a supplemental nutrition enhancement for animals that are undernourished. A supplement designed to reflect this understanding and can be mixed with water to form a paste for force feeding if necessary. It is made of a base of gently processed, concentrated meats and organs from various sources to provide the major natural proteins, fats, and calories. Vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and probiotic cultures are naturally derived, and provide nutrients to the animal in the form that its system was designed to recognize and utilize, and the Wysong Supplement Mother’s Milk.