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Dogs eating poop

Dear Dr. Fox: I have two male Westies, ages 6 and 3. They are healthy, happy and look great. No wonder - they are fed your home-cooked brown rice and lamb diet, an occasional hard-boiled egg, some turkey breast and a variety of vegetables such as...

Dear Dr. Fox: I have two male Westies, ages 6 and 3. They are healthy, happy and look great. No wonder - they are fed your home-cooked brown rice and lamb diet, an occasional hard-boiled egg, some turkey breast and a variety of vegetables such as raw and cooked carrots, lentils, green beans and mung sprouts. They also get daily Brewer's yeast and garlic tabs. Each dog weighs about 18 pounds.

They have a large, fenced-in garden and wooded area where they get plenty of exercise chasing squirrels, chipmunks and each other.

The only problem I have is they became coprophagic about a year ago. I have tried every remedy suggested on the Internet, in library books, by two local vets and mail-order catalogs as well as a tablespoon of plain, organic, low-fat yogurt you suggested in a recent column. Nothing has stopped them from recycling.

I clean up after them as fast as I can, but they continue to get ahead of me. I am truly at my wits' end and hope that you can suggest a more effective remedy. - C.Z.D., Fairfax, Va.

Dear C.Z.D.: Your happy, healthy Westies may belong to that legion of dogs who have no dietary/digestive reason to engage in coprophagia and for which there is no cure. They are simply cleaning up after themselves.

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One reader, in her battle against coprophagia, decided to stop picking up her dog's poop in the backyard and simply ignored her dog. After a few weeks, the dog stopped cleaning up after itself. However, as soon as the owner started picking up the poop, the dog became coprophagic until the woman ignored the droppings and only removed them when the dog was out of sight.

In case this is not purely psychological/behavioral, put your dogs on a course of good-quality probiotics like PetGuard or Probios. These have helped many dogs like yours and also help dogs with more serious digestive and other health problems, like allergies. Some dogs also like to eat dirt/soil, and your dogs could be lacking in essential trace minerals, a deficiency of which could lead to coprophagia and pica (eating soil and other materials). So give them a daily multimineral tablet containing calcium, magnesium, zinc, selenium, etc. One-third of a daily human dose every other day should be safe and effective.

Dear Dr. Fox: We have a female cat that will soon be 17 years old. Almost a year ago, she developed a urinary-tract infection that took some time to treat with antibiotics and steroids. She was very sick and, at one point, we thought we were going to lose her. She is doing much better in that regard now but has developed arthritis in her legs and hips.

The vet says there is nothing they can give her because of her diseased kidney. She is taking Cosequin (regular strength) for dogs. The vet says it is also beneficial for urinary problems, and she is on a special food for this.

I feel so sorry for her because, at times, she looks so uncomfortable. I want her to be as comfortable as possible in her remaining years, which I hope will be a long time.

Also, over the past couple of days, she has been urinating in the litter box but pooping outside the box within a couple of feet.

Do you know of anything else we can try for the arthritis? - F.P., St. Peters, Mo.

Dear F.P.: Many older cats suffering from arthritis that is associated with long-term poor nutrition have difficulty arching their backs to evacuate properly, so they miss the box.

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Deep massage therapy along the back and around the hips twice daily (per my book "The Healing Touch for Cats") has helped many cats like yours.

Putting a teaspoon of good-quality fish oil (Nordic Natural or New Chapter's Whole Mega) in you cat's food will help, since this oil is anti-inflammatory. It is excellent for such conditions as arthritis and cystitis and can help improve skin condition and kidney function. Begin with no more than a drop or two - cats can be finicky. A teaspoon of organic, unsalted butter and up to a ½-teaspoon of turmeric spice (begin with just a pinch) daily in the food may also help.

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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