Q: Our cat was diagnosed with hyperthyroid disease. We're trying to learn which treats are safe to offer her. She is being fed the y/d (prescription diet). Also, can she have cat grass or catnip? Our veterinarian isn't sure. -- A.P., Cyberspace
A: Dr. Mark Peterson, a veterinary endocrinologist based in New York City, is one of the world's foremost authorities on this topic. He says the Hill's prescription y/d diet is one of two possible treatments for feline hyperthyroid disease. The other is medication. These treatments control symptoms. However, radioactive iodine treatment or surgery can cure the disease. Surgery is rarely used these days because radioactive iodine treatment isn't invasive.
Peterson says that one concern about treating hyperthyroid disease with the y/d diet is that the cats who are on it aren’t supposed to eat other food or enjoy treats. He says he's unaware whether there are acceptable treats and suggests you contact the y/d manufacturer (Hill's Pet Nutrition).
"We get iodine in beef, for example, from cows who eat grass with iodine in the soil," Peterson says. "I'm not sure if there's potentially enough iodine in the soil of these products to affect the cats or not."
You didn't mention your cat's age. Generally, cats who are over 10 or 12 or so are most likely to be diagnosed with hyperthyroid disease. Peterson says that for elderly cats nearer to 20 years old, or cats with other health problems, he can better understand the choice to use the y/d diet or medication. But for a more long-term solution with relatively younger cats (closer to 10 years old), seeking a cure seems to make sense (and might also be most cost-effective for owners).
Q: Razzie, our 2 1/2-year-old Weimaraner, will take a mouthful of food, then walk away from his dish. He goes somewhere else in the house, drops it and then proceeds to eat it piece by piece. He will return to his dish and do the same thing, only taking the mouthful somewhere else to drop and eat. We have noticed that if we are in the living room, he will bring the food there and drop it and eat. We were wondering if you have any ideas for us to try to get Razzie to stop "eating on the go." -- C.P.V., Lancaster, N.Y.
A: First, absolutely see your veterinarian to rule out any dental-related explanation. Dog trainer Tamar Geller, who spoke at the 2012 ACES International Conference for Animal Welfare in San Diego, says: "It might be the dog doesn't feel safe eating at the bowl. Or perhaps it's that this most often occurs because your dog doesn't feel safe without you being there, and wants to eat wherever you (or other family members) are."
Geller's suggestion: "Hand-feed your dog at the bowl a piece or two of kibble at a time, but add in a special treat every 10 pieces or so. Once that goes well for a few days, now drop the pieces two or three at a time into the food bowl with a special treat going in once in a while. The idea is to make it a pleasure to eat from the food bowl."
If it's a matter of her wanting to eat only in the presence of you or other family members, then take the food bowl into the living room or wherever you are. A few inches at a time, back the bowl up day by day toward the kitchen or the room where you ultimately want the bowl. It may take weeks, but if you go slowly, Razzie won't likely notice that soon she'll be chowing down his food in another room.
Q: I enjoy reading your columns. That said, there's always a nagging question about what defines a companion animal. I was owned by domestic European ferrets for years. The hysteria and downright lies about pet ferrets are still circulating. What is your position regarding ferrets as a companion animal/pet? -- L.F., Cyberspace
A: Domestic ferrets are hardly new on the pet scene; they've been around for thousands of years. Hysteria? Not so much. Politics? Yes.
Domestic ferrets are legalized without fanfare in every state except Hawaii and California. Due to the fragile (and damaged) ecosystem in the Hawaiian Islands, I can at least understand the concern. California is the only other state that bans ferrets as pets. It's ironic, because when the ferret craze began (more than 25 years ago), Californians were among the most eager ferret owners. Even today, it's likely the state with the most pet ferrets -- despite the ban. But sometimes ferrets are confiscated in the name of the law.
The official explanation for the California ferret ban has nothing to do with their appropriateness as a pet. Officials of the California Fish and Game Commission suggest that ferrets will somehow get loose and run amuck, reproduce, create feral colonies, destroy wildlife and raid barns.
That explanation is absolutely bogus. For ferrets purchased spay/neutered, reproducing would be quite the trick. Experts suggest that domestic ferrets are less able to cope with being outdoors than cats are. Ill-equipped to hunt, most ferrets left outdoors would starve to death or get hit by cars. In parts of California, weather conditions would do them in.
From rabbits to dogs, not all households are appropriate for all kinds of pets. Ferrets are perfectly suitable for owners who have a sense of humor (ferrets are in constant party mode) and are willing to create ferret-safe places for when they are out of the cage (under adult supervision), as these inquisitive little guys can get into small spaces. There isn't a state in America with a feral ferret problem, or a problem with ferrets attacking chickens.
Clearly, the only real obstacle to legalizing ferrets in California is the California Fish and Game Commission, which has made its determination about ferrets without considering facts. Learn more about efforts to legalize ferrets in California.
©Steve Dale, Tribune Media Service