Dear Dr. Thompson: My 4-year-old cat developed hepatitis in the fall. She also was diagnosed with a kidney stone and put on a special diet. She won't eat the new food, so I have been mixing some canned or pouched food with the kibble. Now I am trying to wean her off the canned and get her to eat the kibble only, but she is on a hunger strike and I have been giving in to her for fear she'll start losing weight again. My vet says she could go a day without eating and have no harm, but she is willing to stop eating longer than that to get me to give her the canned food. Any suggestions? Before all this happened, she was eating kibble only and was satisfied with that. But now that she has had a taste of "the good food," I am having a problem.
ANSWER: Your problem is one that haunts a great many people and veterinarians who are trying to cope with a sick cat that will not eat well. Hepatitis, or inflammation of the liver, will often result in nausea and a loss of appetite. During this time your cat may have developed what is called a learned aversion to the therapeutic diet you are trying to feed. This means that your cat associates the food you are giving with the illness that precipitated its use. So the canned food is not necessarily the cream of the crop for her, but it has no link to her illness.
Your concern of her losing weight she has regained is a legitimate one, since adequate calorie intake is essential for a full recovery. However, your quandary is that many commercial diets can exacerbate both of the underlying conditions she has. Ask your veterinarian to help you maybe find one of the prescription diets from another manufacturer to see if she may find it more palatable.
If that does not work, your veterinarian may determine that short-term the importance of adequate calorie intake trumps other concerns. Once she has made a reasonable recovery you may be able to gradually introduce the special diet she needs. However, you are not alone in your battle to get her to eat.
Dear Dr. Thompson: I recently adopted a dog from a rescue group and he has bouts of diarrhea that seem to come and go for no reason. Initially I thought it was the transition to a new food, but he has been on this food for a couple of months. Should I switch foods?
ANSWER: You need to have your veterinarian evaluate your new pooch. He should be tested for any intestinal parasites he may harbor. A common misconception is that you will see "worms" in the stool if he is infected. Only with a very heavy infestation of one species of parasite would you ever see a worm pass. Your veterinarian will use a microscope to look for parasite eggs or single-celled organisms called protozoa. Some of these parasites can be contagious to people, so you need to protect more than just your pet's health.
One parasite called a whipworm is very prevalent in our area and can be difficult to diagnose. Only 20 percent of infected dogs ever shed eggs that can be found microscopically. If that fails, then more testing may be needed to determine the cause of the problem.
Questions for Dr. Thompson can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to The Blade, Attn. Ask the Vet, 541 North Superior St., Toledo, OH 43660. Dr. Thompson regrets that he cannot answer individual letters.