Dear Dr. Thompson: The cat litter I am using is very dusty when I pour it in the box. I was wondering if there is any cat litter out there that is not as dusty. Can the dust cause problems for my cat?
Some scoopable and many clay litters can be very dusty. This becomes a concern if your cat finds it too dusty as well, which may result in some inappropriate elimination outside the box. Asthma is a very common condition in cats, and dusty litter can trigger serious underlying respiratory problems. Try a litter that is not as dusty, but remember to give your cat a choice during the transition. There is a paper pellet litter that has no dust, but it is more expensive than regular litter. He may not be too keen on your choice, so have one box with the old litter and one with the new to see what his preference may be.
Dear Dr. Thompson: I have a 3-year-old golden retriever who was in pain this weekend and would use [only] one of his back legs. My veterinarian saw him and he was still limping, but the only problem she could find was a kneecap that was popping out. She said he may need surgery if this problem continues. What are the chances he will not need surgery?
Without having seen your boy I can only make some generalizations about his condition, which is called patellar luxation, or a dislocating kneecap. Patellar luxation occurs as a result of a few abnormalities in the knee. The groove in the lower part of the bone that the kneecap slides in is too shallow, the ligaments on the side of the kneecap stretch out over time, and the bones of the leg have a slight twist to them that alters the alignment of the kneecap tendon and kneecap. For some dogs it is a result of a traumatic event that knocks the kneecap out of place.
This condition is very common in small-breed dogs, but when I see it in larger dogs it sometimes has some special circumstances that make correcting the problem more involved. Labs, Golden Retrievers, and Boxers can have twisting of the thigh bone which we call femoral torsion that changes the alignment of the kneecap and its tendon. In small-breed dogs the bone of the shin is twisted, which is solved by cutting and moving the spot on the bone where the kneecap tendon attaches to offset the twist in the lower leg. For the big dogs with femoral torsion, the lower part of the femur needs to be cut and turned so the alignment is back to normal. This procedure is more extensive and bone plates and screws are needed in addition to deepening the groove for the kneecap.
The good news is that many dogs with a mild form of patellar luxation are only periodically affected and surgery is not necessary. Rest and some pain medicine may be all your dog needs. Do not give any over-the-counter medicine without asking your veterinarian first. If your dog starts to develop arthritis from this problem, if he is in pain, or this happens more than once a month, surgery may be the best option for him. Good luck.
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.