By STEVE DALE
Tribune Media Services
Q: My dog has bad arthritis in his knee. I've read a lot of stuff about Rimadyl that scares me, so I'm thinking of using Zubrin -- or do you have any suggestions about what might be safer? -- V.W., via Cyberspace
A: Well, you're not going to use Zubrin. The drug is no longer available. This has nothing to do with safety, but instead with mergers and acquisitions and related business decisions.
Dr. Robin Downing, past president and founder of the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management and a certified pain practitioner, says, "Don't believe all the untrue hoo-ha on Rimadyl and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for dogs. Each of these (NSAID) drugs are very effective, but like most drugs not without potential side effects. The risk is similar (for each of the NSAID drugs for dogs), though one individual dog might have an adverse event with one drug but not another."
Though they are all similar, some NSAID drugs might be more effective for some individual dogs than others. "If one drug doesn't seem to be as efficacious as expected, we often advise another," adds Downing, of Windsor, CO. She adds that NSAID drugs should never be "given in a vacuum." Blood work should always be done before prescribing a drug, and over the course of a drug's use. Regular veterinary visits are important to keep tabs on how the dog is doing.
By diminishing pain, a NSAID drug may make it possible for a dog to exercise (talk to your veterinarian about an appropriate workout). Physical therapy (including underwater treadmill), acupuncture, chiropractic and therapeutic laser may also help. The most important factor may be weight loss.
"The best answer is multimodal therapies designed specifically for each individual," adds Downing. "In the end, most dogs can live virtually pain free."
Q: Our veterinarian says my cat, Tabitha. has arthritis. I never knew cats could get arthritis. I suppose it makes sense, since Tabitha is 16. She doesn't act lame, though. My vet suggested a drug called Metcam, but I've read bad things on the Internet about this drug, and it scares me. What do you think? -- V.D., St. Paul, MN
A: Cats are indeed prone to osteoarthritis, as are people and dogs. However, cats are typically so good at masking pain that they don't act lame. Look for more subtle signs, like not jumping up on the counters or not scampering up and down stairs as enthusiastically as before.
It's true that the FDA and the drug manufacturer issued a "black box" (or warning) about the use of Metacam, but Dr. Robin Downing, past president and founder of the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management and a certified pain practitioner, notes that used appropriately, this non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug is safe for cats.
"We have many years of data, which can't be thrown out the window," she says. "Metacam is used around the world without fanfare. We have a set of excellent guidelines to help veterinarians make the best decisions about using Metacam."
Downing, of Windsor, CO, says, "Pain relief is the first step to break the pain cycle. About half of all cats are overweight, which most certainly may contribute to the problem. Weight loss is very important, not only to lessen the impact of arthritis, but also for overall health."
With your veterinarian's guidance, even cats can slowly begin to exercise. Additional options include physical therapy (including underwater treadmill), acupuncture, chiropractic and therapeutic laser may also help.
Q: Our 10-year-old Shih Tzu has developed warts all over his body. Our vet says nothing can be done. I've been putting antibiotic ointment on the warts, but they're not going away. My dog scratches them and they bleed. Is there any treatment? -- E.R. Union, S.C.
A: "I'm not so sure these are warts," says Chicago-based veterinarian Dr. Sheldon Rubin. "Generally, we see warts near the mouth, and not all over the body, and generally they occur in younger dogs. Based on the breed and age of the dog, my best guess is that these growths are sebaceous adenomas. The sebaceous glands (small oil-producing glands present in the skin of mammals) overproduce. They produce growths, which may be removed surgically with a laser or scalpel. A special shampoo (from a veterinarian) might cut down on oil secretions. Left alone, there's no danger (and many people do leave these growths alone)." However, they may bleed (especially if scratched) and they're not too attractive.
Rubin stresses a diagnosis cannot be made for certain without a biopsy.
Q: Recently, I had my 18-year-old cat put to sleep. In searching for another kitten, I find most breeders have their kittens neutered at four months before they're sold. Isn't this too early? Are there any side effects of early neutering? -- B.M., Hudson FL
A: I'm sorry for your loss, and admire you for opening your heart to a new best purring pal.
It's very safe to spay/neuter cats at four months, and I endorse the idea for the health of your cat, Spaying females greatly reduces the risk of breast cancer and eliminates the threat of uterine and ovarian cancer. Spayed/neutered cats are simply better pets; there's no urge to roam and no mess, and life is quieter. Spay/neuter also eliminates the cat overpopulation problem.
However, new research indicates that with early spay/neuter, significant changes do occur. Almost immediately, there are changes in hormones which cause "fixed" cats to be hungrier (explaining sometimes inordinate begging). Spay/neuter surgery can trigger up to a 30 percent drop in caloric needs but up to a 20 percent boost in appetite.
Royal Canin just launched a new line of spayed/neutered food formulas. The diet features controlled fat levels and a unique blend of fibers to support the decreased energy and increased appetite of spayed/neutered cats. Cats on this diet won't be as predisposed to be overweight, and may not beg so much.
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 Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is www.stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.
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