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Dr. Michael Fox, Published May 31 2013

Pet care: Cat’s third eyelid problem

Dear Dr. Fox: I adopted two cats from a shelter in July. The vet there gave them a clean bill of health. Later, I took them to my own vet and was told the same.

Over time, I noticed that Jay’s “third eyelid” showed more frequently than on any of my previous cats. I went to the Internet and saw that it was a sign of all kinds of problems. I emailed the vet’s office and was told to bring her in. I have not done so yet because I don’t see it as frequently and she shows no other symptoms. My concern is that she has only one good eye, so I would hate for her to lose the other.

Can I safely wait to take her in? – S.M.Z., Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Dear S.M.Z.: If I read your letter correctly, you adopted a one-eyed cat from the shelter. I applaud your choice, since most people are repulsed at the sight of “defective” animals. Those who have suffered and had to have a leg amputated or eye removed surely deserve to experience the affection and security of a loving home.

It may be less traumatic for your cat to have a veterinarian come and examine her in your home. Many animal doctors do house calls.

The good eye should be examined, and your cat should be given a full physical. The eye could be affected by a condition called sympathetic opthalmia, triggered by the optic nerve stump in the empty eye socket. This may not be harmful, but an eye examination is advisable since, as you found on the Internet, extrusion of the third eyelid (or nictitating membrane) could be a signal of possible ocular disease.

Dear Dr. Fox: My son and his family have a great and mild-mannered border terrier who is about 6 years old. My son works out of the home, so, for the most part, he is with the dog most of the time.

During the day, the dog is fine. But in the evening, he becomes anxious and hyper. They try playing with him as a distraction, but it takes a while for him to settle down.

Is this something common in his breed? Any suggestions would be appreciated. This behavior began just recently. – J.H., Silver Spring, Md.

Dear J.H.: I appreciate your concern for your son’s family dog. I know the breed – border terriers are great! The dog’s evening anxiety could have a physical or psychological cause.

He may have retinal degeneration or some similar eye problem – the first symptom is night blindness, which could be causing his behavioral change. A veterinary examination is called for if this is suspected.

Psychological causes include the fear of being abandoned when the family goes out for the evening, some element of post-traumatic stress disorder after an upsetting event one evening during a walk or a family argument, or high-frequency sound from the TV or other entertainment unit upsetting the dog.

Some detective work and a change in the evening routine may help.

Dear Dr. Fox: I got two beautiful 4-month-old kittens in August 2011 from a Humane Society foster home (they were from different litters). About two months later, one of the cats, Brody, developed sores on the back of his legs and a swollen lower lip.

I took him to our vet, who diagnosed him as having eosinophilic granuloma. Brody was given a steroid shot to suppress the outbreak. The vet then prescribed 5 milligrams of prednisolone twice a day for two weeks with instructions to wean Brody off of it slowly. Since this is an autoimmune disorder, I was instructed to take him off store-bought food, and I switched him to Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d canned and dry food, which is quite costly.

The research I’ve done indicates that a majority of kittens outgrow this condition, but the prognosis is poor for cats who don’t outgrow it. Unfortunately, every time I try to wean Brody down to a lower dosage, the condition reappears. I know that being on a steady dose of steroids, even a low dosage, can cause other problems down the line.

Do you have any suggestions? Thanks very much. – L.S., Kansas City, Mo.

Dear L.S.: My first concern is that there may be some other underlying health problem such as round worms or herpes virus that is impairing your cat’s immune system.

The prednisolone treatment suppresses the symptoms, but won’t cure the condition. Explore with your veterinarian putting your cat on a course of doxycycline oral antibiotics, which can be of benefit in treating cats’ suffering from eosinophilic granulomatosis. Your cat should be weaned off the prednisolone and given no further vaccinations. Local applications of hydrosols of frankincense, myrrh and lavender may prove beneficial thanks to the soothing, anti-inflammatory properties of these plant extracts. Adding a few drops of fish oil to his food may help promote healing and reduce inflammation.


Send your questions to Dr. Fox in care of The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns. Visit Dr. Fox’s Web site at www.twobitdog.com/DrFox.