Pets respond differently to TV

Q: My cat likes to watches ice hockey on TV; he especially enjoyed the Stanley Cup playoffs. Sometimes, he'll glance at an Animal Planet show. The only other program he responds to is Piers Morgan's show on CNN. Really, when Morgan comes on, Lilly runs out of the room. Why is that? -- S.C., Chicago, IL.

A: I bet you have a nice flat screen TV with excellent resolution. Cats like following moving objects. Isn't that what the puck must look like? I know of cats who "paw" at the TV screen, apparently wanting to get in on the action. However, I don't know any ice-skating kitties who actually enjoy playing the game. I'm not sure how they'd take to being body checked.

This is my first notification that Piers Morgan causes distress to cats. In truth, I have no explanation for your cat's response. However, I'm certain my readers will have their own thoughts on this one.

Q: My 8-year-old English Springer Spaniel has constant issues with her anal glands, and is always at the vet office so her glands can be expressed. We once rushed her to the emergency room with pancreatitis, and she nearly died. My dog seems to be getting better, but how can I prevent this from happening again? She doesn't drink enough water, and has had crystals in her urine. How can I encourage her to drink more? - S.S., Cyberspace

A: Dr. Jeffrey Werber, a Los Angeles veterinarian, says there's no direct relationship between pancreatitis and the inability of some dogs to regularly release the contents of their anal sacs as they defecate. Pancreatitis may be caused by eating fatty table treats, but also occurs chronically (for no particular reason) in some dogs.

"The problem is these concurrent issues happening all at once in this dog," says Werber. "And while there is effective dietary management for pancreatitis, and also for crystals in urine, they are two very different diets."

One idea is to provide a veterinary diet for pancreatitis (if the problem is thought to be chronic), says Werber. Meanwhile, ask your veterinarian about supplementing the diet with vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and/or ammonium chloride to acidify urine.

Also, when you catch your dog drinking, offer lots of praise and a treat.

Werber adds that if the pancreatitis is explained by the fact that your dog ate fatty table food after raiding the pantry, or Aunt Sally offered ham from the table, "Since the pancreatitis is a fluke, consider a prescription urinary tract diet."

Adding some pumpkin or bran flakes to the special diet may help your dog express her anal glands as she defecates. However, she might just be one of those dogs who simply needs a veterinary technician appointment monthly or every few months to express the anal sacs. This service is not expensive, and may prevent an infection. When anal sacs require emptying, it likely feels like walking around with marbles in your rear end. That can't feel good.

Q: Mec, our 14-year-old Silky Terrier, has deteriorating eyesight. This once active dog is now more ginger when walking down the street, and may bump into things. One veterinarian has advised against surgery to remove the dog's cataracts, given Mec's age. A second veterinarian has also advised against surgery because he says there's additional retinal damage, so surgery wouldn't do any good. What's your advice? -- A.S., Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

A: Veterinary ophthalmologist Dr. Ralph Hamor, at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, Urbana, says dogs can have cataract surgery.

An electroretinogram (ERG) is a test to determine if there is retinal disease (a veterinarian might also want to do ultrasound). If there is retinal disease, there is, indeed, no point to cataract surgery.

Hamor notes that the natural aging process in dogs' eyes, called nuclear sclerosis, is often dubbed cataracts, though they're not true cataracts. This condition cannot be altered with surgery.

The key question is, does your dog truly have cataracts? If so, it's important to rule out retinal disease. Next, is the individual aging pet a surgical candidate? A general health assessment is required. The final question for the pet owner to answer regards cost, as cataract surgery can run about $4,000 (sometimes less, sometimes more).

"There's no question, in appropriate candidates, cataract surgery improves quality of life," says Hamor. "But then, it's also true that dogs generally adjust amazingly well to diminished eyesight."

Q: My cat licks my fingers, one by one, every night before I go to bed, and chews on them a little. Is this normal? -- D.D., Port Richey, FL

A: Your hand lotion or soap may be attracting the cat. If, instead, your pet is suckling on your fingers, that's a kind of infantile behavior, a harmless expression of insecurity and/or affection. If the behavior is too much to deal with, whenever your cat goes to lick you, redirect her attention with a CET chew (a dental product available through veterinarians).

(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.)

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