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Dr. Michael Fox, Published February 21 2014

Pet care: Comfort cat with baby foods

Dear Dr. Fox: My 16-year-old cat is refusing to eat her Hill’s Prescription a/d or y/d food for hyperthyroidism. She is eating very little of anything.

What are the symptoms to watch for as her health deteriorates? My vet hasn’t given me much information. – D.K., Winston-Salem, N.C.

Dear D.K.: I am sorry to hear about your elderly cat. Hyperthyroidism is all too common today, and there are various treatments that you can find on my website, DrFoxVet.com.

So many of the special prescription diets are very unpalatable for cats and dogs, which is extremely counterproductive when animals who are ill need appropriate nutrition. Your poor cat may also have high blood pressure, heart disease and, worse, chronic kidney disease, which is often seen in conjunction with hyperthyroidism and calls for a different dietary regimen.

Above all, you must avoid stressing your cat. I trust the attending veterinarian warned you of this concern. A trip to the veterinary hospital could trigger a “thyroid storm” because of your cat’s hypersensitive endocrine state and lead to a heart attack.

If your veterinarian did not suggest a treatment other than this special diet, you should ask why. Also ask if the health of her kidneys was evaluated. You may want to seek a second opinion if you feel unsatisfied with the answers you are given, ideally making an appointment with a veterinarian who specializes in cats and does stress-minimizing in-home visits.

Your disease-weakened and declining cat may do best with TLC, a quiet environment and whatever she likes to eat – meat and fish or high-protein human baby foods, which many cats on their last legs will rally and enjoy. Her comfort and your mutual peace of mind are probably the best course of medicine for you to take, since her condition is a terminal disease.

Dear Dr. Fox: My 4-year-old Pekinese-Shih Tzu had surgery for removal of bladder stones two years ago. Since then, the vet has had her on Hill’s Prescription c/d to prevent recurrence of the stones.

Is there a recipe for homemade dog food that would work as well as the Hill’s? My dog doesn’t care for the prescription food, and the cost is outrageous for something she doesn’t like. – J.P., Desoto, Mo.

Dear J.P.: While some of the prescription diets certainly help prevent bladder stones or calculi in dogs, they are notoriously unpalatable.

Depending on the kind of calculi your dog developed, a course of treatment with antibiotics is called for if bacterial cystitis is at the root of the problem. Supplements such as glucosamine, glutathione and probiotics may also be of benefit, along with low- or no-salt chicken bouillon in the dog’s drinking water to encourage plenty of fluid intake.

There are more palatable recipes for home preparation that you or your veterinarian can obtain at a nominal cost, once the kind of calculi has been determined, at secure.balanceit.com.

Pet health insurance questioned

I have often questioned whether pet health insurance policies are of any real value except in rare cases and for small and toy breeds with genetic disorders, which some policies may not cover. I respect most evaluations of products and services from Consumer Reports, which noted “pet insurance generally cost more than it paid out in our comparison of policies.”

So please beware, read the small print and perhaps put away a few dollars every month as emergency savings for your animal companions.

Send all mail to animaldocfox@gmail.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. 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 website at DrFoxVet.com.