Advice from the Experts

Animal abuse should never be ignored

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Q: I wonder if Adam Lanza, the killer of those babies at Sandy Hook Elementary School (Newtown, CT), ever abused animals or shot at them with all those guns his mother collected. Do you know? -- S.H., Denver, CO

A: I don't know the answer, but your question is a good one. To be clear, I assume you're not referring to legal hunting, but rather shooting or abuse of domestic animals. Eventually, authorities will reveal more details about Adam Lanza's past.

In fact, law enforcement is well aware of a link between violent acts toward animals and violent crimes toward people. Most mass murderers and serial killers do "practice" harming animals before doing harm to people.

In July, 2012, James Holmes allegedly massacred 12 people and injured 58 at a movie theater in Aurora, CO. There are scattered Internet reports that Holmes has some history of grisly acts committed against animals, but authorities aren't confirming or denying this. In any case, whatever Holmes may have done to animals, he wasn't previously prosecuted for such actions. No doubt, Holmes' history will also be reviewed and further revealed in court.

It's important that crimes against animals be taken seriously, prosecuted and the perpetrators further analyzed. Instead of catching deranged people when they're accused of doing harm to animals, they often fall through the cracks. This isn't only a matter of animal welfare and defending defenseless animals; identifying people who've abused animals early on may prevent horrible acts of violence against people.

Q: My 7-year-old Dachshund-mix licks at everything -- her furniture, her bed, and she even licks leaves during walks. I believe poor Goldie was kept in a crate for many hours as a puppy. Do you have any insights on her behavior? -- J.A.C., Orlando, FL

A: Dr. Ilana Reisner, a veterinary behaviorist in Philadelphia, PA, explains that persistent licking can be coined a "displacement behavior," sort of letting off steam, as an outlet for anxiety, much as nail biting can be for people. However, since your dog seems so intent, more might be going on." One determination of seriousness is to assess if your dog can easily be distracted from licking and redircted to another behavior, such as coming when you call her.

Lots of folks might jump to the idea that Goldie has a compulsive disorder, and certainly that possibility exists. However, Reisner says to first rule out a medical explanation (which most likely explains the licking), particularly a possible gastro-intestinal issue, or even chronic tonsillitis. Scoping with biopsies will rule out the stomach issue and visually looking at throat will rule out the other. Crazy as it sounds, a food allergy is also possible.

Reisner suggests you keep a log to determine what Goldie licks and when to determine if there's any pattern. This information might help a veterinarian.

Meanwhile, you can do no harm to enhance your dog's enrichment. Feed Goldie from various Kong or food dispensing toys. You might even stuff food inside toys and then hide them around the house, so she can sniff them out. Also, take Goldie for daily walks on-leash, not only for exercise but also to sniff what's new in the 'hood.

A compulsive behavior is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning that after everything else is ruled out, it is considered. If this ends up being the diagnosis, a psycho-pharmaceutical might help, as can a referral to a veterinary behaviorist.

Q: Avi, our 7-month-old kitten, has battled disease his entire life. We adopted him from an overcrowded shelter when he was 2 months old, and at that time we treated a urinary tract infection. For an entire month (in August), he had a fever, and his temperature often hit 104.9. I thought he might die.

We offered an experimental diet with seaweed, kiwi, liver, beef, turkey, milk, vitamins and dry cat food, and he improved. Now, he has uveitis (inflammation of the middle layer of the eye) and he's tested positive for the Corona virus. Can you tell me where to order Polyprenyl Immunostimulant? Do you believe our cat has FIP (feline infectious peritonitis)? His appetite remains good. -- L.B., Cyberspace

A: FIP is caused by a mutation of the corona virus, which occurs in some cats, but decidedly not all cats with the corona virus. Actually, the corona virus is benign in most cats.

Dr. Saundra Wright, a veterinary internal medicine specialist in Seattle, WA, notes that dry FIP is especially challenging to diagnose. While there's no blood test available to determine if a cat has FIP, a complete blood panel may indicate another explanation for what's going on. Possible symptoms of dry FIP include uveitis and a persistent fever. However, fevers caused by FIP don't typically respond to antibiotics unless there's a secondary infection, which makes this all the more complex. FIP also doesn't respond to any known "experimental diets."

Wright notes that while toxoplasmosis is rare in cats, this possibility should be ruled out, as should a possible upper respiratory viral infection.

Sadly, FIP has always been considered fatal. However, Dr. Al Legendre has seen limited success at treating cats with dry FIP with a drug called Polyprenyl Immunostimulant (PI). The drug was recently approved for cats with rhinotracheitis (a common respiratory or pulmonary infection caused by the herpes virus), but PI may be used alternatively to treat dry FIP. Your veterinarian can contact Legendre, at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary medicine for details.

Q: I'm considering a new pet, however my business travel takes me away from home two to four nights a week. Do you think I should get a cat? Or would two cats be a better choice? Any other ideas? -- S.J., St. Paul, MN

A: Get a fish. I'm only half kidding. Some kinds of lizards, snakes, or fish might be better options than a cat, but I understand that it's not easy to cuddle a reptile or a fish. If you're determined to get a cat, you should. Even better, two cats will keep one another company.

Most shelters have cats that, in fact, have lived in pairs and the agency prefers to adopt them out this way. If you want only one pet, a slightly older cat makes the most sense, since you don't want to leave a rambunctious kitty home alone too long.

Actually, I don't like the idea of leaving any cat alone for two to four days without some human companionship. Of course, that's what pet sitters, dog walkers and litter box scoopers are for!

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; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.