Pet Advice: Should You Give Your Pet Prozac?

Every Dog Has Its Way of Greeting a Stranger

WASHINGTON - "Is your dog friendly?" you ask as we draw closer to each other on the path, our respective dogs' leashes in hand.

How am I supposed to answer that? Yes, Charlie is friendly -- really, he's a very sweet dog -- but how can I know your interpretation of the word "friendly"? Some people might construe energetic humping as extremely friendly. Others might be horrified. Charlie is a dog who likes pushing his butt into your knees in the hopes that you'll scratch it. Is that unfriendly?

What you really want to know is this: Is my dog going to rip your dog's throat out?

No, of course not. At least, I don't think so. I mean, can we ever really predict what an animal -- even a domesticated one -- will do?

And, you know, when we get right down to it, what if your dog does something that ticks my dog off? I don't speak canine, but Charlie is fluent, and your dog might be one of those dogs that just rubs other dogs the wrong way.

Leave them alone

Why don't we just take a chance? How about we let the two dogs work it out between themselves, like toddlers in a sandbox?

Ah, I can tell that you're not in favor of that. To paraphrase Animal Farm: Four legs good, eight legs bad. You're one of those people who fear that two or more dogs together spells disaster.

Charlie and I encounter these people every day. There's the owner who pulls her shepherd tightly toward her whenever we walk by. There's the woman who recently, upon seeing us standing with two other leashed pooches and their owners, made a big detour with her pet, shrieking, "Too many dogs! Too many dogs!" as if the dogs were just waiting for a quorum, at which point they would launch their nefarious plan to unseat the humans and take over. ("To the battlements! Sausages for everyone!")

Missing a lot

I feel sorry for these owners' dogs. All they want is to sniff and be sniffed, but they're owned by scaredy-cats. They shuffle by with a longing in their eyes.

A few years of that and they lose their ability to get along with other dogs and end up like this Scottish terrier Charlie and I see regularly. When we're about 20 feet away, the terrier starts emitting a low growl, like an outboard engine at idle. As we get closer, the growl rises in pitch and intensity. The little dog rises up on his hind legs, straining against his leash with every corpuscle of his compact little body, rigid with an unspeakable rage, Toto on crystal meth.

Even Charlie wants to avoid that dog.

I could have ended up that way (like the owner, not the dog). I had a lot of "bad" dogs when I was growing up. Not biters but bolters, dogs who, like Steve McQueen in The Great Escape, studied the perimeter fencing, noting when the laundry truck made its pickups and deliveries.

Our dogs were always on the lookout for a poorly latched gate. I spent many afternoons walking through the neighborhood shouting "Handsome! Handsome!" Yes, that was one dog's name: Handsome. No wonder he tried to escape.

So when we first got Charlie -- a handsome black Lab with a shiny, fashion model's coat -- I was skittish. How exactly would he embarrass me? When would he bolt, leaving me to impotently shout "Come!" while other dog owners shook their heads in disgust? I would speed up or slow down to avoid other dogs, yank Charlie's leash in mid-pee.

But you can teach an old man new tricks, as My Lovely Wife did. The dogs of her youth were allowed to be dogs, to establish their pecking order in the household, to shed, to sniff, to hump, perchance to dream.

So now I allow Charlie to stop and smell the roses -- and the buttocks. It's really his only hobby, you see. His nose is his instrument, the world is a symphony and your dog is a violin solo -- or, ideally, a duet.

Rookie Drug-Sniffing Dog Helps Find Big Pot Stash
Associated Press

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Not bad for a rookie. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency says a drug-sniffing patrol dog on its first night on duty Tuesday helped its handler find a 477-pound load of marijuana.

The agency said Thursday that the drugs were found in nine duffel bags off a remote stretch of highway in Jacumba, about 75 miles east of San Diego. The route is popular with traffickers bringing drugs into the U.S.

The precocious pooch was described as a 2-year-old male German shepherd.

Agents arrested two suspected illegal immigrants who allegedly brought the drugs across the border.

The marijuana is estimated to have a street value of about $380,000.

People More Likely to Quit Smoking for Their Dogs Than Their Children
by Doctor Lissa, Health Care Examiner

A recent study by researchers in Michigan turned up some interesting statistics. It seems that one in three would quit smoking if they thought their pet would be adversely affected. This is interesting because in other studies, fewer than 2% would quit smoking if they knew their children would suffer harmful effects and 3.2% would consider quitting under family pressure. Clearly the pets win hands down..

Of course, it's hard to compare the studies but brings up an interesting question: why would someone be more likely to quit smoking for their pet than for their family member? Well, loyalty comes to mind. Many pet owners will do anything in their power to maintain quality of life for their beloved dog or cat. They're returning the favor. I know a tremendously devoted pet owner who had an elevator put in his house so his dog could safely go from floor to floor. He'd had hip replacement surgery and this was undoubtedly a huge help. (His pet, Bob, had surgery, not the owner).

Then of course, there's love. People love their pets in the U.S. to a tune of 10.5 billion dollars a year on over the counter medications and pet supplies. That's a lot of love. But then you get a lot back. Not that you don't love your children, but I guess pets are less demanding.

But is second hand smoke really that dangerous for pets anyway? I mean, is the risk worth all the fuss? Well, apparently it is. Studies have linked second hand smoke to oral cancer and lymphoma in cats and nasal and lung cancer in dogs. Even birds have health problems. A 2007 study found a link between second hand smoke and lung cancer as well as skin, eye, and heart problems in birds.

And with 50,000 human deaths each year in the U.S. from second hand smoke, it's a bet that there are a large number of premature deaths in pets for the same reason. So, it's good news that 30% of smokers will consider quitting if their pet is at risk and 20% will ban smoking in their home by other smokers.

Clearly your dog, cat or bird can't tell you to quit if you smoke, but perhaps this information will encourage some to kick the habit. If you have any thoughts on why more people would consider quitting for their cat or dog than someone in their family, I'd love to hear from you!

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Brushing Your Pet's Teeth
by Teri Webster, Pet Examiner (Video)

Say Ahhh-wooo.

February is Pet Dental Month and that means it's time for your pet to have his or her teeth professionally cleaned (if you haven't done so already).

Experts say regular dental care is just as important for dogs as it is for people.

Have you ever neglected your regular dental check-ups and then discovered you needed $3,000 worth of work? Humans know that a little prevention can save them a lot of money when it comes to their teeth.

The same is true for your pet' teeth.

Regularly cleaning your dogs teeth can promote good health and ward off periodontal disease. Periodontal disease can make like pretty uncomfortable. In some cases, it can cause serious health problems for your pet, such as heart or liver damage.

Some pet health insurance programs will reimburse you for the cost of dental cleanings. In an economic era where some pets have better insurance than their owners, why not?

Be sure to consult your veterinarian for advice on whether your dog needs his or her teeth cleaned. Generally, vets recommend starting at age 2.

You can also use pet toothbrush kits found at most pet stores. The toothpaste is flavored so that it appeals to dogs.

Ways to promote healthy teeth at home:

--Brush your pet's teeth every day.

--Have your pet's teeth professionally cleaned by your veterinarian.

--Feed your pet crunchy food. It helps remove plaque.

Possible signs of periodontal disease

--Persistent bad breath

--Tartar (yellow-brown deposits

--Red or bleeding gums

--Discolored teeth

--Loose or missing teeth

--Difficulty eating or chewing

--Excessive drooling

--Pawing at the mouth or favoring one side

--Facial swelling, irritability or depression


Should Monkeys Be Pets?
Kansas City Pets

I read the stories recently about the woman who kept a chimpanzee as a pet. It was killed after it attacked the woman's friend.

Do you think people should keep exotic animals as pets?

I'm not sure myself, but I think if you're going to keep an exotic animal as a pet -- say a tiger or monkey or something -- then you should have to pass some kind of exam that verifies you're qualified to provide care for that animal. I think that includes providing the proper habitat and understanding their behavior and diet.

What about mice and rats and snakes and lizards? When a mouse is in my house, it's not my pet. It's a rodent. And I'll be happy when my cats kill it. But some people enjoy them as pets. Some scientists use them for experiments. Where do you draw the line?

What about people who don't know how to treat cats and dogs? Should there be an exam for them to pass, too?

What about other pets, like horses? Or pigs?

Should money be the only barrier to entry? If I have enough money to buy a horse and keep it and feed it, does that mean I should be able to? Even if I know nothing about them, other than they're cool to look at?

What about zoos? Should they exist? I understand they help endangered species, but is that the best way to do it?

Where do we draw the line? I don't know.

Dining With Your Pet at a Restaurant? There's Still a Problem

These homeless pets are available for adoption from St. Johns County Animal Care & Control at 130 Stratton Road, St. Augustine. 209-6190. - This 3-year-old gray and white neutered male kitty has been at the pet center since last month. He is current on all of his shots and is very loving and playful. Visit him in kennel C8. - A 6-year-old tri-colored male beagle who has been at the pet center since last month can be found in kennel D21. He is heartworm positive, but loves to go for walks and play in the shelter's dog runs.

One mild winter day, before the arctic air paid us a visit, Gizmeau and I headed to Beaches Town Center to enjoy an al fresco lunch together. I had read that Atlantic Beach and Neptune Beach has passed Doggie Dining ordinances and I was looking forward to enjoying a delicious lunch and chatting with Giz's admirers who coo over him everywhere we go.

I was sorely disappointed.

I was told by a Sun Dog diner patron whose dog was standing on the sidewalk as she ate lunch at an outside table that she was told her dog would have to stay on the sidewalk while she ate. A female employee at Caribbee Key turned us away and tried to blame the city. After I told her I had read that the city had passed the ordinance, she admitted the restaurant had not done what it must to allow pets. And when I asked an employee at Joseph's pizza, I was told we could sit at one of the outside tables, but not to tell anyone.

Among the things that one must deal with in these difficult times, not being able to enjoy an outside meal with your dog doesn't seem like much. But it disturbs me. Town Center was once so welcoming to pets and their owners. Being so pet-friendly set a tone, a laid-back friendly beach feeling for the area. But that seems to have evaporated and that's a shame. Having dogs lounging around our restaurants' exterior dining areas felt, well, cool. I don't want that vibe to be added to the long list of losses with which we must cope.

So I am asking all dog owners to help bring back the vibe. Keep bringing your dogs to the area and continue to ask to be seated outside with your dog. Maybe, when the restaurant powers-that-be watch you, your dog and your money walk away, they will jump through whatever hoops they must to allow us to dine with our doggies. If you do your part, I'm sure they'll do theirs; and I'll keep you posted.

- In training: Gizmeau and I have enrolled in a six-week pet therapy class to become a team that visits people in assisted living centers, hospitals, hospices, rehab centers and the like. My goal is to join the team at Baptist Medical Center-Beaches because I know firsthand how much the Comfort Care program there can affect a patient's state of mind, which is so important to the healing process.

Nine people and their dogs attended our first class. Two Italian greyhounds, one former racing greyhound, a golden retriever named Hannah who fell in love with me (and I her), a Chihuahua mix and two other mixed breeds. Gizmeau is the smallest dog in the class, which was held at the K-9 Club of Jacksonville on the Southside. We were taught some of the history of pet therapy, which began, believe it or not, in the late 1800s but wasn't really popularized until after World War II. All nine dogs were temperament tested and Giz passed with flying colors. That means if we fail, it'll be my fault.

In the second class we play-acted engaging with a facility's resident, played by our instructor. The dogs were also exposed to equipment we will probably encounter in our visits. Giz seemed more wary of the walker than the wheelchair or crutches, but on the whole did fine, our instructor said. Our next class will be held in a nursing home so we'll get experience almost immediately. Giz and I are very excited about our new adventure and I am sure there will be touching and funny stories to share with Pet Tales readers.

- Non-profit info: First Coast No More Homeless Pets has increased its feral cat spay/neuter surgery fee to $30 per feral cat. Call 425-0005 and leave your name and phone number and tell them you are inquiring about the feral cat program.

The Jacksonville Humane Society is challenging businesses to raise money for the animal welfare and education center's Trail of Tails: Pet Walk & Festival. The company that raises the most money for the event will name the adoption center's cat cabana. The winners could choose to name the room for their company or organization.

The Trail of Tails: Pet Walk & Festival will take place on Saturday, Feb. 28. Walkers can register at prior to the walk. Through, walkers can create sponsorship pages and invite friends to donate money for their walk.

The team that raises the second-highest amount of money for the Humane Society can name the puppy room. The team that raises the third-highest amount of money for JHS will name the cattery. Naming rights for this competition are good for the organization's current adoption center only.

The walk kicks off at 10 a.m. and will start and end at Friendship Fountain Park. Entrance is $25 per person for team members. Individual entry is $30 per person. Animals walk with their owners free.

- Funny face: Franki doesn't have a quirky habit or a particularly dramatic story. She and her litter mates were put in a box and dumped at a veterinarian's office in Arlington. Abandoning unwanted pets at a vet's office - and in general - is all too common.

Franki was adopted by my neighbors Lonnie Smith and Robin Alligood-Smith. They responded to an advertisement in the newspaper placed by a vet tech who took in the box of pups, got them shots and put them up for adoption.

Lonnie and Robin were looking to adopt a dog after Juna, their American Eskimo, died at the ripe old age of 21. Franki is a happy, energetic, loving little girl who loves to play ball and frisbee and likes to take an occasional swim.

None of this is extraordinary, but Franki's appearance is. At 14 months, she weighs 23 pounds, is a long dog with a possible beagle/dachshund bloodline. One third of one eye is blue, her ears are dappled, her hair is wiry and she has webbed toes. She is most definitely one of a kind.

If you have an unusual looking pet, please e-mail a photo to

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The Great Pit Bull Debate 2: A Writer Fires Back
by Amber Biddle, Houston Dogs Examiner

Yesterday, I posted an opinion based article on the subject of pit bull terriers. In the article I discussed many things that were debated, including whether media inspired dog viciousness should really be blamed on the dog or the owner. I discussed the many things I have read about pit bulls and whether or not they actually are vicious or docile as well as whether or not they should all be euthanized.

In said article, which you will note has been pulled, I as well as many of my knowledgeable readers, were attacked and even threatened for certain opinions. I pulled this article because I cannot and will not be privy to such childishness. People all over the world whom have experiences with this breed, like my 20 years, all have different opinions and are entitled to them especially here in our great country. The undertone of my article was intended to open an OPINION and EXPERIENCE based line of discussion, not to attack one another.

I read several comments that confused me and some that concerned me. Here is an example. “This writer clearly didn’t do her research. I would like to see her sources because she is promoting misinformation.” Since it was an OPINION my source was my own life, however, I will include my sources for why I feel the way I do to clarify for you. I think it is very important to inform possible future pit owners of ALL information, not just information that makes pits look good. This includes both negative statistics and personal stories as well as the many more positive statistics and expert opinions, both will be included here. True of any breed, a knowledgeable owner will be better prepared to take proper care of their pet and they both will live safely and peacefully together.

As I said in my previous article, I personally do not believe this breed is particularly more aggressive than any other breed, in fact both my extensive experience and what I have read suggest nothing but a very docile animal. In fact the pit bull terrier is one of my favorite breeds.

But I also find it important to report statistic. One in particular, which probably is relative to the fear people tend to feel, is that 67 % of dog bite related fatalities were committed by Rottweilers and pit bulls. The Clifton study of attacks from 1982 to 2006 produced a similar number. 65 % of all canine homicides during a period of 24 years in the US were committed by Rotts, pits, and Presa Canarios and their mixes.

Something else I discussed, for which some agree and some don’t is the theory of the lock jaw in relation to the pit bull bite. I happen to base my belief in this theory on the three pit bull bites I have experienced. They do lock on and they don’t let go. In fact the owner suggested I lay down and play dead and at that point the pit let go. I understand many people find this ridiculous, and no, pits aren’t the only ones, some say German Shephard’s do this too, but my experience is pits do. I will report to be fair, that I called ten local vet offices today. My own included though I already knew his opinion. Of the ten 6 agree and 4 don’t with this theory. So maybe it is fair to report this as a theory, however, I will NOT put it to rest because it would be irresponsible of me since I have experienced this myself. For those that disagree, tell it to my scars, respectfully.

Anyway, the common thread seemed to be that many hadn’t really read my article, they most likely skimmed it. Or my bio for that matter. They missed the whole idea of the article and misinterpreted my opinion completely. My whole point was to suggest, since we now know that this animal is quite docile, maybe what keeps them in the headlines is how powerful they actually are based on the damage they can do in particular, when mistreated. I included a story of a lady who allegedly loved her animals and treated them like her children and was killed by them suddenly. What I meant to convey is who knows why or how this happened really, but there are a few exceptions to the docile animal idea.

I again would like to point out that all dogs are subject to aggressive behavior especially when mishandled.

So why is it that I have been attacked three times by pit bulls and a few times by other breeds and still defend these animals? Well, I have been exposed to dogs and been involved in training more than most people so there has been more of an opportunity for me to be bitten more than most people, but also, when these events occurred, I didn’t yet know the dog, it’s owner or environment, or how to respect him. Now with twice the experience and 8 years of education, I do. I accept full responsibility for the incidents. But that’s just it. It is important before you adopt a new pet, no matter the species even, to do your research. Know the animal, ask questions, and know the facts.

As for the person who asked if I send a check to PETA every month, no I don’t but here is a charity I do support and you can too!

But my biggest concern and reason for firing back is the comments about hating this animal and the belief that they should all be euthanized. THIS, my friends, is in fact proof of a lack of knowledge and a misunderstanding of the pit bull terrier. They are all God’s creatures, go ahead and call me a Bible thumper again (frankly I am flattered), and I cannot support this idea any more than I can the desecration of entire races of people. It’s just sick.

And if people really hate dogs that much might I suggest a column on sports or politics or anything else but a dog column please? I will NOT retract my opinion, I think these animals are beautiful family pets that can live peacefully among men. I merely meant with my last column to make the point that problems arise when people don’t know their animal and assume nothing is possible.

Should You Give Your Pet Prozac?
by Teri Webster, Pet Examiner

Giving pets a pill may not be the best way to correct their behaviors.

Anti-anxiety medications such as Xanax and Prozac are in higher demand now that pet owners believe the pills offer benefits, National Geographic News reported.

But using the potent drugs on pets can lead to other behavior problems. Most of the anti-anxiety drugs given to animals are the same ones taken by humans.

A pet chimpanzee that may have been given Xanax attacked and seriously injured a Connecticut woman on Monday.

Charla Nash, 55, is in critical but stable condition with severe trauma to her face, scalp and hands, the Associated Press reported. Nash was attacked at her friend's home in Stamford, Conn. She was flown to the Cleveland Clinic on Thursday.

Although it is not known how many animals are taking anti-anxiety drugs, dogs and cats are often drugged to correct aggression, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, separation anxiety, noise phobias and other problems.

But Xanax can reduce inhibitions and worsen aggression problems, for example.

Pets may also become drowsy, irritable, or excited from taking anti-anxiety medications.

Experts warn that owners must work with their pets, instead of relying on pills to change unwanted behaviors.

Source: National Geographic News

Rescue a Dog, Save a Life, Gain a Friend
by Maurice Aguirre, Dallas Pet Shelters Examiner

Shelters have all shapes and sizes of lovable mutts, purebreds, all-American cats, shaggy dogs, puppies and kittens, teenagers and oldsters. Your chances of finding a wonderful companion who matches your lifestyle, family, and home are excellent!

About 25 percent of these animals are purebreds. But if you're looking for a truly one-of-a-kind pet unlike anyone else's, animal shelters offer the best selection anywhere of smart, healthy, lovable mixed-breed cats and dogs. According to the Humane Society of the United States, mutts are America's dog of choice, accounting for nearly 60 percent of all pet dogs. And their numbers are increasing. It is for good reason. As dog lover I believe that mixed breed dogs are often healthier, longer-lived, more intelligent, and of more stable temperament than purebreds. This is due to what geneticists call hybrid vigor.

Shelter animals make great pets

A "second-hand" pet in no way means second-rate. On the contrary, shelter workers have often observed that many shelter animals seem to sense what they were up against and become among the most devoted and grateful companions.

Most shelter residents are healthy, affectionate animals. Many have already lived with a human family and have the basic training, socialization, and cooperative skills they need to become part of your household.

Dogs, cats, and small mammals like guinea pigs, rabbits, and rats end up in shelters because of circumstances beyond their control. They're victims of a death, illness, divorce, or a move that didn't include them. Or they were displaced by a new baby. Or their owners just didn't learn how to train them.

Some animals are relinquished at shelters because of a behavioral problem the owners gave up on. But the fact is all pets, young and old; need some obedience training or retraining, as well as patience and commitment, to become cooperative, enjoyable members of your household. And regular, positive training - as little as 10 minutes a day - will reward you amply, because it builds a strong bond between you and your pet as you learn to communicate with him, and he learns to live in your world.

Shelters have the animals' best interests at heart

Animal shelters are either government or private non-profit agencies. Their primary mission is to find the best possible permanent homes that suit the individual animals they shelter.

Most shelters, but particularly those well staffed with volunteers, become familiar with the disposition of each animal. If an animal has lived with a family before, then its history and behavior are also known. This knowledge helps the staff make optimal matches between homes and pets and helps you make you adoption decision.

Shelter pets are a bargain

For an adoption fee around $100, you can adopt an animal that would cost several hundred dollars through other means. The fee usually includes spay or neuter surgery, worming and vaccinations, and a certificate for a free health exam. Some shelters are now micro-chipping their animals which is a fabulous means of identification.

In addition, shelters offer free educational literature on all aspects of pet ownership, and they often provide ongoing advice and guidance at the shelter, over the phone, and through classes.

You save a life and help combat overpopulation

The simple fact is that there are many more animals needing adoption than there are homes for. So when you adopt from a shelter, you become part of the solution to the overpopulation crisis. You give a deserving animal a new home. You free up cage space for another animal needing to be adopted. And your money goes toward the shelter's education and spay/neuter programs, which help prevent more unwanted animals from being born.

Crate-Training Could Help Calm Anxious Pooch
By Steve Dale - Tribune Media Services

QUESTION: My 3-year-old Havanese is basically house-trained, except occasionally he’ll poop in the house. Twice a year, while we’re away, he spends a week with friends. He also poops in their homes and occasionally urinates there, too. I’m running out of friends to watch him. Any suggestions? — L.W., Tarrytown, N.Y.

ANSWER: “I wonder how happy your dog is to be dropped off at these homes,” asks Dr. Brenda Griffin, assistant professor at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, Ithaca, N.Y. “For some dogs, there’s tremendous anxiety being left in an unfamiliar place, even if the people are familiar. And it’s unclear if the people are familiar. If there are other animals in these homes, that makes matters more complex. Also, the dog has learned to pee and poo in other people’s homes. Now, we have to prevent that cycle from continuing.”

Griffin suggests crate-training your little guy. Restricting him inside a crate when you can’t supervise will prevent accidents because dogs don’t like to foul their sleeping area. (Only one caveat: If your dog is having accidents only when people aren’t home, the problem is likely separation anxiety and professional assistance is recommended). Ask your pet-sitting friends to take the dog out on a leash and reward him for going potty with praise and a special treat, as if he were a puppy. If he doesn’t do his business, back into the crate he goes.

Meanwhile, it can’t hurt to plug in a diffuser called Dog Appeasing Pheromone (a kind of relaxing aromatherapy for dogs). Play (Havanese generally love to play) is also a great antidote for stress.

Perhaps for your dog, another alternative to consider is to have a friend or professional pet sitter live at your house when you’re away. Your pup will likely feel more comfortable in his own surroundings.

QUESTION: My dog doesn’t lift his leg to urinate. This is a problem because he piddles on his own front legs. His beautiful cream-colored coat is turning yellow. Getting this 50-pound dog into a bathtub every day is getting old. The vet says everything is OK and my dog may catch on eventually. Any advice? — J.A.G., Peoria, Ill.

ANSWER: Invest in a doggy shampoo company’s stock, then buy lots of shampoo. At least the stock price will go up. Philadelphia-based veterinary behaviorist Dr. Karen Overall says your dog’s inability to cock his leg isn’t sexual so much as it has to do with social maturity, or lack thereof. Your vet might be right, though; some guys just mature slowly.

If your dog is generally submissive and shy (Overall’s guess), encourage him to be more confident and outgoing. Invite friendly dogs to your house for play sessions. Teach your dog tricks, and reward him with praise. An upbeat and fun training class could also boost his confidence.

However, some dogs just aren’t cocky enough to cock their legs.

QUESTION: I’m a 91-year-old lady with a cat I love. My cat has spasms, jerks and then licks at the area for no particular reason. My vet can’t find anything wrong. The spasms seem to be getting worse. What’s the problem? — F.B., Appleton, Wis.

ANSWER: If your veterinarian hasn’t already done do, Chicago feline veterinarian Dr. Colleen Currigan suggests checking for external parasites and determining if your cat’s anal sacks are full, which could cause discomfort. X-rays may indicate there’s a problem with the cat’s vertebrae. And if your cat is older, a simple test for hyperthyroidusm is advised.

From here, diagnosis is a bit more challenging. Your cat could be suffering from epilepsy, hyperesthesia syndrome or both. This syndrome is more a description of associated symptoms rather than a specific disease. The cat’s eyes may dilate, its skin may ripple, sometimes the cat may act manic and its limbs may twitch (as you describe). Hyperesthesia is little understood but may typically be an oversensitivity to touch, specific sounds, or even certain textures.

If your cat acts aggressive during these episodes, stay away from him. You don’t want to be scratched or bitten.

If the spasms are at all predictable, ask a friend with a camera to videotape your cat, then e-mail or take the video to your veterinarian.

Currigan says if your veterinarian rules out metabolic diseases, parasites and other likely causes, a prescription for Prozac or anti-seizure medication might offer relief.

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. Write to Steve at Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207. Send e-mail to Petworld@SteveDale.TV. Include your name, city and state.

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