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Published March 02, 2012, 12:00 AM

Pet Care: Can’t tell cat’s age by teeth

Dear Dr. Fox: In the winter of 2004, a beautiful Maine coon/tabby mix showed up on my doorstep, grabbed hold of my heart and has remained my love ever since. I took her to the vet, had her checked out, vaccinated, etc. At the time, the vet estimated that she was about 2 years old.

By: By Dr. Michael Fox, INFORUM

Dear Dr. Fox: In the winter of 2004, a beautiful Maine coon/tabby mix showed up on my doorstep, grabbed hold of my heart and has remained my love ever since. I took her to the vet, had her checked out, vaccinated, etc. At the time, the vet estimated that she was about 2 years old.

The other day, I took her in for her yearly rabies shot. She was given two injections, a rectal examination and a clean bill of health. After I brought her home, she fell into a deep sleep that lasted throughout the next day. She didn’t eat at all, was lethargic for the rest of the week and looked significantly thinner. She had never had a reaction like that before, so I took her back to the vet. He took her temperature, said she had a cold and prescribed cephalexin (250 mg) to be given orally twice a day. As an aside, he commented that she was an old cat, probably about 12, because he detected arthritis!

This came as a shock to me, because this is the same doctor who estimated her to be 2 years old in 2004, which would make her 10 years old today. I asked him about this, and he said you can’t tell a cat’s age by the teeth the way you can with a horse.

Is it possible that a competent veterinarian could be so far off in his observations? – P.S., Boynton Beach, Fla.

Dear P.S.: Your veterinarian is correct – it’s difficult to determine the age of a cat by the teeth, because teeth do not wear down as consistently in cats as they do in horses (and in dogs, to a lesser degree).

Your cat most likely had an adverse vaccine reaction. Your veterinarian may want to reconsider vaccinating your cat next time.

Giving your cat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids will help the suspected arthritis. Try feeding her organic beef and dairy products (butter, yogurt) from grass-fed cattle, sardines and wild (not farmed) salmon and mackerel. But go easy on the fish at first – many cats are allergic, plus fish can contain mercury, fluoride and other harmful chemicals.

Try the massage techniques I outline in my book “The Healing Touch for Cats.” Massage therapy is both beneficial and enjoyable for older cats.


Dear Dr. Fox: I would appreciate any information you could give me about my parrot. He has pulled out all of his feathers, and now he is completely naked.

How can I get him to stop pulling out his feathers? – C.W.H., Detroit

Dear C.W.H.: Your poor parrot is one of many who develop this feather-pulling problem, which can lead to severe self-mutilation and is difficult to stop.

First, you need to find a veterinarian who specializes in birds. Your bird will be checked for skin and feather mites. The vet will most likely put your bird on a special diet, including fresh fruits and vegetables and a multivitamin and multimineral supplement. Too many parrots and other caged birds are fed the wrong kinds of food, like a mix of birdseed or parrot pellets that may be stale, moldy or lacking in essential nutrients. Lack of sunlight is also a factor in the feather pulling, and provision of a Vita-Lite or other full-spectrum light during the day may help.

Emotional stress, boredom and a high-strung temperament, especially in parrots who do not have a close bond with their human caretakers, play a major role in the development of this problem.

A course of treatment with an anxiety-reducing medication (like Valium or valerian) can be considerably beneficial. But the best solution is to try to identify and correct the cause, which could be boredom from being tied to a perch or imprisoned in a cage most of his waking hours.


Dear Dr. Fox: I have two golden retrievers (one was a rescue from a shelter), and they both engage in stool eating. With a little research, I solved the problem.

I bought a Super B-Complex vitamin at Wal-Mart. I give each dog one daily. I’ve done this for years, and it really works. It’s worked on my dogs and for other dog owners I’ve met over the years. – R.B., Waldorf, Md.

Dear R.B.: Every few months I receive a letter like yours, and it’s time to reaffirm the benefits of vitamin B complex in curing dogs’ desire to eat poop. Brewer’s yeast is possibly better – and cheaper, too. Give one teaspoon per 30 to 40 pounds of body weight in your dogs’ food daily.

Both of the supplements also help repel fleas, but neither will cure all dogs of coprophagia. For some, daily probiotics (in capsule form or in yogurt and kefir) and digestive enzymes will do the trick.


Send your questions to Dr. Fox in care of The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns. Visit Dr. Fox’s Web site at www.twobitdog.com/DrFox.

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