Q: My 16-year-old cat has been vomiting off and on for a week. The veterinarian said it's because her kidneys are failing. Should I consider putting her down? -- J.S., Cyberspace
A: "There's a difference between kidney insufficiency and kidney failure," notes Dr. Elizabeth Colleran, of Chico, CA. "Kidney insufficiency is very common and occurs in most cats over 12; and it is treatable with diet, nausea medication, fluid intake and supplements."
The prognosis for kidney failure isn't nearly as optimistic. Still, depending on the severity, quality of life might be maintained for some time by treating the symptoms.
Colleran, past president of the American Association of Feline Practitioners and spokesperson for Cat Friendly Practices, adds, "Your veterinarian will know how to figure out what's going on with your cat. It's pretty straightforward, based on blood work, kidney values, thyroid function and your cat's general condition."
You might consider seeking a second opinion from a feline veterinarian. It sounds like you want to do what's in the best interest of your cat, which is most important. My thoughts are with you.
Q: Our 4-year-old Papillon is scared of the steps I bought for her so she could climb into our bed. We just bought a new mattress and box spring, so the bed is higher than before. The dog can jump up on the bed, but I'm afraid she might get hurt jumping down to the floor. How do I convince her to use the steps? -- S.B., Pahrump, NV
A: I recall a similar question around the time I began this column nearly 20 years ago, I was disparaged by at least one other pet writer for taking the question seriously. How times have changed! Today, nearly half of all dogs sleep in bed with their people.
As it happens, my wife and I also just purchased a new mattress and box spring, and we practically need a step stool ourselves to get in bed. The salesperson explained that beds are now higher than ever, so your trepidation about your dog jumping off is reasonable, and could be an even greater concern as the pet ages.
Try smearing some peanut butter on the top step. Once your dog makes it that far, place a treat just beyond her reach on the bed. Of course, going up is the easy part. To get your dog in the habit of going down the steps, lead her down them using a leash. Hold a special treat as a lure to direct her down, while you also offer a cue, such as, "Out of bed." Take a weekend to train her.
Q: Van Gogh, my 3-year-old calico cat, has cracked, rough paw pads instead of soft pink ones. Why did this happen to our indoor cat? I'm currently putting olive oil on the cat's paw pads, but that's sloppy because she jumps on the couch and gets olive oil there. Any advice? -- T.P., Chicago, IL
A: Save the olive oil for your pasta. If your cat is limping or demonstrating discomfort in any way, see your veterinarian promptly.
You could try Omega 3 fatty acid (as a nutritional supplement), which might improve Van Gogh's skin.
Dr. Colleen Currigan, a Chicago, IL-based feline veterinarian and board member of the American Association of Feline Practitioners, notes that some cats with rough paw pads, as you describe, may be dehydrated.
"Your veterinarian can tell for sure," she says. "But you can do no harm by offering many choices of places to drink (particularly if you have other cats). Add some water to canned food (if that's what you're feeding). If you're feeding only dry food, consider adding some canned food. Many cats enjoy running water, and fountains for cats are available (online and wherever pet products are sold). And be sure to add fresh water to water bowls daily."
If adding Omega 3 to your cat's diet and insuring that Van Gogh is drinking lots of water doesn't help, Currigan says the problem may be an allergy or any number of possible metabolic causes. It's even possible - if Van Gogh is declawed - that she might be walking with unusual gait, causing the problem with her paw pads. Or the dry pads may mean nothing and can be totally insignificant. Your veterinarian can tell you."
Q: What is it with ferrets in our state? -- P.L., San Diego, CA
A: It's absurd that ferrets are illegal in California. After all, European ferrets have been domesticated for hundreds of years. It seems clear that the California ban on the wiggly mammals wasn't imposed so much because they're not appropriate as pets, but due to fears the animals would establish feral colonies and impact the environment, according to the California Waterfowl Association and the California Department of Fish and Game. Both organizations have long supported the ban.
Never mind the fact that ferrets have never formed feral colonies in California or anywhere in America where they are legal. The truth is that legal or not, the hypocrisy is that California may have more owned pet ferrets than any state in the nation. There are no public health problems related to the animals.
However, there are occasional arrests of responsible California ferret owners - just because. Beloved pets who've done nothing wrong have been confiscated. It's all so ridiculous. Here's what I mean. Veterinarians are (luckily) allowed to treat ferrets. Yet, it's illegal to take a ferret to a veterinarian's office. Ridiculous.
My suggestion has always been to compromise. Yes, ferrets should be legalized in California. However, this should include a mandate to spay/neuter (so if any get out they can't reproduce). Also, all ferrets should be vaccinated for rabies (currently not law because Californians aren't supposed to have ferrets). Learn more HERE.
©Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services
Tags: AAFP, American Assocation of Feline Practitoners, California Ferrets, Cat Friendly Practices, dogs in bed, Dr Colleen Currigan, Dr. Elizabeth Colleran, feline renal failure, kidney disease in cats, legalize ferrets, Steve Dale archives, Steve Dale's Pet World