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)."
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