I'm Sam Litzinger with Dr. Gary Weitzman of the San Diego Humane Society. We're interested in your animal-related questions and your stories. 1-877-610-3647. Animalhouse@wamu.org. Again, the telephone number is 877-610-3647. You could email us, email@example.com. You can play our Animal of the Day quiz if you'd like to do that on the "Animal House" Facebook page. You just visit facebook.com and search for "The Animal House," and good luck to you. I do badly, but you'll probably do a lot better than I will. Ready to go back to work, Dr. Gary?
All right. Here we are. This is a call from Charlie. Charlie, glad to have you with us in "The Animal House." Question for Dr. Gary?
Yeah. Hi. Thanks for taking my call.
We have something totally different from predatory behavior I think.
Oh, okay. Good, okay.
A 17-year-old female Doxie, a long-haired mini Doxie. She doesn't see very well, she doesn't hear very well, but she wants to eat a lot. She's not gaining weight, and what we -- my wife, who's with her most of the time, has been doing is she used to plea for food in the morning, and then of course in the evening, and then it became a kind of a later night before bed snack, and then it became in the middle of the night snack, and now it's becoming almost every three hours snack.
To make it a little more interesting, she's incontinent, so that doesn't help with the food, but she doesn't seem to be gaining any weight. I don't know whether -- normally, if she were younger I think both my wife and would just not feed her until it's time, but she's so old, and she lost within the last year, her 17-year-old friend who she was with her whole life.
Hmm, okay. Okay.
Yeah. And since then, she's had separation anxiety.
Actually, Charlie, what is your Dachshund's name?
Boy, you got a litany of problems. Now, Gary, you've got a friend who may be able to help. Do you want to introduce your buddy here who may be able to offer a word or two of advice/
Yeah, I'd love to. We've got Dr. Nicholas Dodman on the line from Tufts Veterinary School. Hello, Dr. Nick.
Okay. Dr. Dodman, what is the choice for Sophie here?
You know, when you talk about a 17-year-old dog, I'm sort of programmed to sort of think about canine Alzheimer's. That wouldn't be a typical presentation, but just let me ask you a couple of questions, you know, for the people listening out there. The acronym to help you remember the signs of canine cognitive dysfunction, or doggie Alzheimer's is DISH, where D is Disorientation, I is altered interactions with family and friends, S is sleep disturbances, and H is house soiling. You've already told me you've got the H, but do you recognize any of the other things?
I would say the S is sleep disturbances. She seems to be up regularly. It was four o'clock in the morning, then it was two o'clock and four o'clock, and then it's, you know, it seems to be sort of this shortening cycle of waking up and waiting for food.
Well, maybe that's the reason, but, I mean, the way you look at the S of the DISH acronym, it's sleeping more in a 24-hour period, but sleeping less and more fitfully at night.
Well, that is probably somewhat consistent is what we're seeing.
Yeah. And loss of house training is kind of one of the cardinal signs in a formerly housetrained dog, you know, one who knew to go outside and everything was fine, and then all of a sudden, just like people with Alzheimer's, they lose the place and just go wherever. And so loss of housetraining for no medical reason, you know, you've had all the urine tests done, you know it's not kidneys or any of the other medical things that can cause that. If it's just purely somehow an old age breakdown of housetraining, no medical reason, and at that points you again to the canine cognitive dysfunction.
And Dr. Dodman, can that be tested for?
Actually, like human Alzheimer's, there is no test. I mean, the diagnosis is one of exclusion, you know. So rule out all the medical stuff, and if you've got no medical things going on at all, and you're still scratching your head after a battery of tests, then the diagnosis of exclusion could come down to Alzheimer's. Of course, the way -- one way to sort of half test is to treat for it and see if there's a response, and if you did treat with the drug that is used to treat Alzheimer's, which is trade name Enalapril.
It's really -- real name is Depranil. It's one of these old-fashioned monoamine oxidase inhibitor antidepressants, but the way it works is by increasing dopamine in the brain, and what that does -- actually, it's metabolized to amphetamine. So the combination of being more active, which the Depranil would do, and having less appetite because of the amphetamine metabolite, you know, this would maybe symptomatically, you know, bring your dog back from a brink and get you some sleep.
There's lots more things you can do for Alzheimer's, but you know, it isn't a, you know, shoe in diagnosis at the moment. You just need to do so many rule outs before you reach that point. I would probably just take a fulfilling diet, you know, a high fiber diet, that has kind of like the opposite effect of Chinese food, you know, you eat it and you -- and I would just monitor her weight. But I can't see any problem in, you know, having -- allowing her to eat what she wants to eat, but I can't think what's causing it.
It isn't, you know, there aren't the usual accompanying signs of any of the conditions I'm familiar with, and yet increased appetite is not so logged as a sign of Alzheimer's, but I guess it could be an unusual one.
And Gary, can you bottom line this for us? So when Charlie gets off the phone with us, based on what you were hearing, what should he do?
Charlie, you gotta go get blood work. That's the first and foremost thing, and rule out all of those baseline diseases that actually can afflict all of us getting older. And then finally, if everything else looks okay, blood work wise and physical exam, try to get your little on some Enalapril and let's see if that helps. You may try those higher fiber foods as was just suggested, and also try not necessarily responding at the first whimper that you hear. I would get some peanut butter stuffed Kongs and see what else you can do to maybe keep him company overnight, but definitely get that blood work done first and make sure everything physically is okay. And let us know.
Thanks very much Charlie, and Dr. Dodman, thank you as always.
Yeah, my pleasure.
It was wonderful hearing from you again.
Let's take a telephone call from Katherine. Katherine, glad to have you with us in "The Animal House." Question for Dr. Gary?
Hi. Yes. I'm calling about an alley cat that my partner and I have that has been coming to our back door for the last eight years.
Oh, okay. Is it a girl or a boy?
It's a girl.
Her name is Pork Chop.
So is there a specific concern you have, Katherine?
Yes. My concern is this. We're getting ready to move to New Orleans, Louisiana.
And we're very fond of her. She's not comfortable coming in. She likes to have something of a semi barrier between us and her most of the time, such as a gated door, even when we're scratching her or petting her, and because we're so fond of her, we'd like to take her with us, but we realize that in doing so that may be very selfish because we'd be separating her from an environment that she's used to...
...and we'd be transporting her to some place unfamiliar and with a different climate, much more hot, more humid. And so I guess, you know, we want your opinion on whether she's better off being left here even though she appreciates our affection, and we're very fond of her.
Oh, boy. Okay. Yeah. If you are moving to an area that has any resemblance to where you currently are, then I don't think it really matters to Pork Chop that you live in Louisiana or Maryland, you know. I don't -- that doesn't make any difference. She's familiar with where you are, but she's also familiar with you and your partner. So, you know, honestly, my heart bleeds for feral cats and colonies out there, and yeah, she probably would survive, but you've been feeding her regularly and having contact with her for eight solid years. I would actually toss my hat in on the taking her with you.
And keeping the same routine going. And you're attached to her.
Well, wait a minute. How you gonna do that? That's gonna be an adventure, isn't it, Gary?
Well, that's the second part.
Yeah. That's my next question.
That's the second part. I would say there's gonna be one little thing that I would ask you to hold your breath and do, and that would be to get a humane trap. And if you don't want to use a trap, and you can coax her into a carrier, oh, it's gonna be -- it's gonna be tough to actually deal with the agitation that she's gonna have in that carrier, but I assume you're -- are you driving to your new home?
I think that's probably how we would have to try and get her there.
And to answer your first question about where we're moving her from, we are actually in D.C.
Yeah. She won't have as much snow to deal with, and that actually might be better. So I would say, just to summarize for you, if she's -- if she truly is an outdoor cat, you don't know of any owner that you're taking her away from, she's bonded with you and it's not just for meals, she's actually looking to you as her home even though she doesn't go inside, I would say look into the ways that you might be able to transport her with you, because that would be great.
And that may require a sedative from your vet, some way to get her into a carrier. I mean, it's gonna be a -- it's a two-day drive down there, but...
...it's gonna be tough to do that, but if you can, bring her down and repeat her, you know, her life down there. You've got another cat, she just happens to be an outdoor cat.
Our telephone number is 877-610-3647. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Let's take a telephone call from Megan. Megan, glad to have you with us in "The Animal House." Question for Dr. Gary?
Hi, thank you for having me on here.
Dr. Gary, I have an 11-year-old German Shepherd dog.
She's turning 12 -- she's really a sweetheart. She's turning 12 next month. And about eight months ago, I noticed a subtle dragging in one of her front paws. Nothing in her rear legs, it's purely in the front of her body.
But over eight months it's slowly progressed to both front paws. She can walk, she can climb steps. She's definitely slowed down.
Really, okay. Oh, I'm sorry to hear that.
Oh, it sounds serious. What's her name by the way, Megan?
Her name is Alpha.
There could be a number of things from cervical disc issues to something in her brain to severe arthritis, and I assume you've got an 11, almost 12-year-old German Shepherd, you've probably taken -- obviously you've taken great care of her, you've been to your vet.
You can get a list of differentials from your vet just like I can tell you now, but it would sound to me as though you should see a neurologist, and find out exactly what this is, and if it's at all alterable, and that's the key. We never want to put animals through anything if the outcome's gonna be no different had we not done that, you know, x-rays, sedatives, you know, CT scans or MRIs. How much work have you done with her with your vet already?
Oh, my gosh, quite a bit. She's on Tramadol, she's on Metacam and it keeps her ears up, you know. She's definitely got a little perkiness because of it.
I did go to a neurologist.
And those are pain medications for everybody out there. I would say that if the -- if it's equivalent how we treat our pets as well as our human members of the family and, you know, in my heart and brain, that's what I'd want to do, then you would get a full diagnosis, and you're talking about 11, 12-year-old Shepherd, equivalent to maybe an 85-year-old human being. That's actually a wonderful age to get a Shepherd to, but you don't know what's really causing the problem. We do know from what you've just said that it's on both sides.
So if it's in her spine, it's affecting both sides of her nerve pathways that are going to both of her front legs. If you would ever consider doing surgery, then -- and I'm not sure I would rush you into that. That would be a discussion for you and your neurologist, then I would say you should get an MRI. She'll be anesthetized, find out what's going on and if it's at all fixable. And frankly, at this point you've got her on Tramadol and Metacam. One's an NSAID like Motrin, Metacam, and the other -- don't give Motrin out there, by the way, just stick with the veterinary drugs.
And the other one's Tramadol, which is a pain medication. But if you would talk to your vet or your team about maybe getting her on Prednisone, a steroid, something that you could get her away from the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory and get to an actual steroid, maybe that would give her more relief than say just the Metacam. But that's something that I would definitely talk to your primary care vet about, and that's only if you're not thinking you would go farther with the diagnostics. So I'd say start with the x-rays, start with a consult with your vet, and then go from there.
Keep at it Megan. Thanks very much for calling. Keep us posted too.
Yeah. Bravo. An 11- to 12-year-old Shepherd.
Yeah. She's done very well, hasn't she?
Thank you Dr. Gary.
You're welcome. This is Dr. Gary Weitzman with an "Animal House" pet care tip. It's getting to be summer, and in many places such as the Midwest or the West Coast, the fields and canyons are full of brown, dry grasses, and in those grasses are little villains called foxtails. These are annoying bristly weeds that can go right up the nose or in between the pads of curious or just sniffing dogs. From there, they can either irritate the skin or burrow into noses, wreaking havoc like you've never seen.
If we're lucky, we can extract them from dog's foot with a tweezers, but if we're not, it's a major surgery to go up the nose and find these little landmines. Horrible. So the take-home lesson is, avoid those fields in the summer that you can see foxtails or dry weeds, and definitely do a once over on your dog if you can't. And if your dog likes to put his snout down to the ground where there are grasses, get in your car and go somewhere else. For "The Animal House," I'm Dr. Gary Weitzman.
This edition of "The Animal House" is near completion. First though, here's the answer to our Animal of the Day quiz. Earlier we asked if you could identify the place that's the summer home to the largest urban bat colony in North America. The answer? The Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, Texas. Thanks to our guests Ann Froschauer and Betty White for their contributions today. Special thanks to Lisner Auditorium and Smithsonian Associates for making our conversation with Betty White possible. We also thank Bob James and Johann Strauss II for their music today. Special thanks to Dr. Gary Weitzman for his work, and thanks to you for joining us in "The Animal House." I'm Sam Litzinger.
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