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Dr. Michael Fox, Published March 14 2014

Pet care: Herpes a sad cat affliction

Dear Dr. Fox: My 15-year-old male cat has had the feline herpes virus his whole life. I give him lysine paste daily, but he is always suffering from nasal congestion. Antibiotics don’t seem to do much good. Do you have any other suggestions to relieve his suffering? – W.L., St. Louis

Dear W.L.: Chronic herpes virus conditions are one of the sad afflictions of cats, along with other virus infections, some of which are only just being discovered.

Kittens often become hosts for various viral infections because of early stress, malnutrition or an infected mother. The herpes virus commonly causes conjunctivitis, which can lead to corneal damage. Some cats develop immunity as they mature and when given good care; others, for various reasons, have episodes where their immune systems fail and there is a flare-up of viral proliferation and inflammation.

Secondary bacterial and fungal or yeast infections are common after a viral flare-up or primary infection. Appropriate antibacterial and anti-fungal medications may help. Anti-inflammatory steroids are often used in combination but never alone, since steroids can make secondary infections worse.

Your old cat should have a veterinary consultation, ideally an in-home visit. Fish oil for cats could significantly help, as could a diet free of corn and soy.

It is also very important that your cat’s teeth are examined, since sinus and bronchial infections are often associated with periodontal disease and stomatitis (inflammation of the mucus lining in the mouth), which is all too common in cats.

PetzLife and VetzLife oral care products may help your old cat enjoy oral health and provide possible relief from secondary infection in his upper respiratory system.

Dear Dr. Fox: Is it OK to feed a 2-year-old chocolate Lab three times a day? He is currently eating Royal Canin dog food formulated for Labrador retrievers. Thank you. – M.H., Raleigh, N.C.

Dear M.H.: The short answer is yes and no: Yes, if the servings are small; no, if they add up to more than the daily recommended amount indicated on the food label.

Labradors are notorious for becoming overweight. With not-always-good hips, they can suffer a great deal. It is imperative, therefore, to monitor your dog’s weight after a veterinary examination and appraisal of the dog’s condition and discussion of any dietary restrictions that are called for.

It is advisable to weigh your dog every month and keep a record of weight gain or loss. The easiest way to do this at home is to hold your dog and step onto the bathroom scale and note the weight, then deduct your weight without the dog in your arms.

Avoid dog foods with high cereal and carbohydrate content, and check my website, DrFoxVet.com, for some good dog foods that I endorse.

Tea tree oil warning

I have been an enthusiastic advocate for essential oils because of their many veterinary and human medical benefits. When properly used, they have few, if any, harmful side effects except in rare instances of allergic reaction. They have no known harmful environmental consequences, unlike many prescription drugs.

Many of these essential oils must be diluted in a “carrier” oil, such as almond or olive oil, because they can irritate the skin. A report from the Animal Control Poison Control Center in Urbana, Ill., is a red flag for pet owners who have applied undiluted 100 percent tea tree (melaleuca) oil to their animal companions.

Undiluted, this oil can cause depression, paralysis, loss of coordination, and tremors within hours of exposure, and it can last for up to three days. Younger cats and those with lighter body weight were reported to be at greater risk of developing major illness.

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.