ORLANDO, FLA. -- These reader questions were answered at the North American Veterinary Conference Jan. 19-23 in Orlando, FL. Nearly 6,000 veterinarians, and a grand total of nearly 15,000 professionals -- from veterinary technicians to representatives from pharmaceutical companies and animal welfare organizations -- were on hand for one of the most well-attended veterinary conferences on the planet.
Q: We're having a strange problem with our 11-year-old Doberman. For the last year or so, she's been whining to go out in the middle of the night. We do let her out for the briefest of pees, and she comes right back in. Occasionally, this happens twice a night, disturbing our sleep. In the morning, now, she takes her time to pee. Other than taking thyroid medication, our dog is in great shape and not overweight. I'm considering crating her at night. Also, this dog can go all day without urinating. There's no sign of a physical problem. What's going on? -- B.W., Las Vegas, NV
A: I'm not certain how you know there's no physical problem, unless your veterinarian said so. Dr. Karen Overall, a Philadelphia, PA-based veterinary behaviorist, says one problem you should rule out is a urinary tract infection. She also wonders about thyroid medication causing a sleep disturbance. Arthritis may cause discomfort overnight, as well, and if your dog awakens (just like an older person), she may need to go. Also, Overall wonders how much your dog is drinking, which not only may cause her to urinate, but may also be a sign of illness.
"If your veterinarian rules out all of the medical possibilities, I'd begin to think about possible cognitive changes relating to aging," Overall says.
There seems little downside to beginning your dog on some form of neuro-protection treatment. Overall mentions Senilife, a nutritional supplement (a unique blend that includes Phosphatidylserine, Pyridoxine, Ginkgo Biloba, Resveratrol and Vitamin E to improve behavior changes associated with the brain's aging process in dogs and cats); Novift Tablets (which contain the nutritional supplement S-adenosylmethionine, or SAMe, and are recommended for management of behavioral disorders linked to brain aging); and various pet products from Nordic Naturals. Overall also suggests asking your veterinarian about diets specifically geared to older pets.
As for crating your dog at night, Overall is worried that the pet will still need to go, even if she's in the crate. Bottom line, you need to pinpoint the cause of the problem before taking this step.
Q: Our dog, Gigi, has had loose stool on and off since we adopted her from a local shelter. Her stool was checked for parasites, but showed nothing. The veterinarian said she has irritable bowel. We tried FortiFlora (probiotic for dogs) without success. So, I checked online and found a decreased protein vegetarian canned food diet. Gigi's stools first became more formed, but soon the problem returned. I tried other foods without success. Any advice? -- J.E., Cyberspace
A: Dr. Gary Norsworthy, feline veterinarian and co-author of "The Feline Patient-4th Edition" (Wiley-Blackwell, Ames, IA, 2011; $122), understands that your veterinarian has previously searched for parasites, but notes that some of these buggers can be elusive and not show up on a single test. Also, make sure your veterinarian has taken a stool sample to specifically search for less common parasites. Of course, if parasites are present, the problem should be treated.
"Dr. Google offered some pretty poor advice" about food, says Norsworthy, of San Antonio, TX. "In fact, what you likely want for this bowel issue is a high-protein and low-carbohydrate, highly digestible diet. There are several choices, and your veterinarian can offer a recommendation for a prescription diet. Also, stick with the FortiFlora (a pet probiotic)."
Q: I have a friend with Lyme disease, which I know can debilitating. I understand that dogs can get Lyme, as well. How can I protect my pet? -- D.L. Bangor, ME
A: Lyme disease can, indeed, incapacitate pets. The good news is, Lyme disease, overall, seems to affect people more than dogs. Given a blood test, some dogs will show positive for the tick-borne disease, but the owners won't notice any problems. Still, it's important to know if a dog tests positive.
Veterinary parasitologist Dr. Michael Dryden, of Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine-Manhattan, explains that dogs can't tell us how they feel, and just because owners may not observe symptoms of Lyme disease in a pet doesn't mean they don't exist. Few people take their dog's temperature every day, or notice that a pup is feeling "crummy."
"Dogs with Lyme may show lameness, and when they're older pets, their owners, and sometimes veterinarians, assume (the problem) is arthritis due to age," Dryden notes.
A classic sign of Lyme disease is called shifting leg lameness. On Monday, it may be that a dog's front right leg hurts, but on Tuesday that leg seems fine, while the back left leg now seems to be the problem. Other dogs may develop anorexia or a rare but serious kidney condition. And, as mentioned, a significant number of dogs have no apparent symptoms.
"If ticks which carry Lyme are endemic where you are -- and in Maine they certainly are numerous -- I suggest the Lyme vaccine," says Dryden. "Lyme is only one of many threats (from ticks). Sometimes Lyme is one of two or three pathogens delivered from a single tick, which may infect a dog and make a dog sick. Also, tick diseases are more widespread than ever. This is why speaking to your veterinarian about tick prevention is so important."
(Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is http://www.stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.)Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun