Dear Dr. Evans,
This is embarrassing, but my dog Cass eats her own, well, poop. Any other dog’s, too. Does this mean there is something missing in her diet? — Cyndi
Not necessarily. Yes, there are a few medical conditions that will cause a dog to eat stool (the technical term is coprophagia). You should have a talk with your vet, especially if there are other symptoms, such as excessive thirst or poor body weight. But for most dogs, it’s a habit, albeit a disgusting one.
If your vet gives you the all-clear, here are a few tips. Bored dogs eat strange things to amuse themselves, so provide lots of toys and play. Some people try placing noxious substances like cayenne pepper on the feces, but there’s not much evidence it helps, and it seems kind of mean to me. Instead, pick up the stool right away when you can. Countercondition Cass by offering a terrific treat when she defecates; who wouldn’t prefer cheddar to poop? And finally, you can use a basket muzzle judiciously if need be.
P.S. Don’t let Cass kiss you on the mouth. — Dr. Evans
Dear Dr. Evans,
My last cat, Rico, lived to twenty years old, and even at the end, he barely showed his age. He could sail to the top of his kitty condo, would eat like a champ, the whole nine yards. But I’m starting to think that his successor, Rocky, won’t be as lucky. He’s fourteen, and he seems to be slowing down. He hesitates to jump on the bed. He cries a lot, especially at night. He always seems to be at the food and water dishes. Any thoughts? — Jack R.
Rocky is definitely in his golden years, but with a little care, he may live a long, comfortable life. Some of the signs he’s showing–increased thirst (and probably urination) and appetite can be symptoms of a few diseases common to older kitties. Hyperthyroidism and diabetes are two that come to mind. Cats with overactive thyroids often become very vocal, but it’s also possible that Rocky is getting hard of hearing. Many old-kitty ailments are treatable.
Finally, even lightweight cats can develop arthritis or degenerative joint disease, which nutritional supplements can often manage nicely. A good checkup once or twice a year, simple blood testing, and any appropriate medications may make each of Rocky’s nine lives wonderful. — Dr. Evans
Dr. Lynn Anne Evans of the Barrington Veterinary Clinic has been practicing veterinary medicine for 26 years. Do you have a pet question for Dr. Evans? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org, with “Dr. Evans” in the subject line.