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Dr. Michael Fox, Published November 14 2013

Dr. Fox: Reader’s dry-eye advice

Dear Dr. Fox: In your recent column, E.W. of Silver Spring, Md., wrote about her Yorkie’s dry eyes. The dog had to get multiple eyedrops several times a day.

I had a dry eye that felt like my eye was being shaved by a razor blade. My doctor gave me a prescription to use once an hour as needed. He also wisely told me to start taking flaxseed oil.

I started with the flaxseed oil, then switched to omega-3. I also started eating a little butter and mayonnaise (I had been on a low-fat diet). Today, I hardly ever have to use any kind of drops; I blink a number of times when I wake up, and I’m fine.

I don’t know if flaxseed oil supplements or increased fat in the diet would help a dog, but I thought I would pass this on.

– S.O., West Trenton, N.J.

Dear S.O.: I appreciate your communication regarding omega-3 fatty acid supplements helping your dry eye condition.

One of my family members has been diagnosed with dry-eye syndrome after waking up with excruciating pain in one eye. The eyelids damage the dry corneas during REM sleep.

As vegans and vegetarians, we look for non-animal sources of omega-3 essential fatty acid supplements and use Nordic Natural’s Algae Omega. I am not alone in declaring that omega-3 deficiency disease is widespread and one of the harmful consequences of industrial agriculture and the fast food and processed food industries.

I advise dog and cat owners to give their animal companions good-quality fish oil and organic butter from grass-fed cows. Based on your relief from dry eyes, those animals suffering from this condition may likewise benefit. Flaxseed oil is not the best source of omega-3 for some people and some dogs who lack certain converting enzymes. These are totally lacking in cats, for whom flaxseed oil is of no significant nutrient value.

Dear Dr. Fox: I read in your column about the large fees some veterinarians charge for minor treatments. Is there no central body to regulate these business practices? My veterinarian is very sympathetic, and I know he helps some of the poorer clients. – H. C., Florissant, Mo.

Dear H.C.: Veterinarians in the companion animal sector treating people’s dogs, cats and other animals do an incredibly fine job overall in providing the best possible treatments under a host of constraints and financial burdens.

Recent graduates have the burden of six-figure student loans, and private practices have the burdens of bank loans for their facilities and costly diagnostic and surgical equipment. Diagnostic tests, in particular, are often needed because the animals cannot speak.

I’ve advised many people to take their animal companions in for an annual checkup; I’ve received more than one letter accusing me of pandering for the veterinary profession. Certainly there are a few, as in every profession, who will seek to maximize profits at every opportunity. But I believe that the majority of my colleagues in the business of companion animal care are patient and client-cost sensitive. Most are more than willing to discuss treatment and payment options for those clients who are afraid to take their animals in for treatment or wellness assessment because of financial concerns.

China-made jerky treats

Some 3,600 dog illnesses and 10 cat illnesses have been linked to jerky treats made in China. But retailers are not pulling the products from shelves or posting warnings for consumers. Representatives of some retailers say they are following the Food and Drug Administration’s lead, noting that recalls are issued only when a contaminant has been identified.

Despite extensive testing, the FDA has yet to link a compound to the illnesses and to the approximately 580 deaths connected to the treats. Consumer and pet advocacy groups argue that the companies should do more to let people know that the treats are under intense scrutiny so they can make informed choices. My advice: Read the label and think twice if it indicates the treats were made in China or does not say where they were made.

Sixty percent of the pet illnesses tied to jerky treats involve gastrointestinal symptoms; 30 percent include kidney illness; and the remainder involve convulsions, tremors and skin issues, according to the FDA. The kidney disease Fanconi syndrome is frequently seen, and dogs of all sizes and breeds appear to be susceptible.

“We’re still seeing patients now, and a lot of vets don’t know about it,” said veterinarian Richard E. Goldstein of the Animal Medical Center in New York City, who has been seeing cases since late 2006.

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.