Hello there Dr. Walt: I have a dog and cat that eat each other's food. No matter what I do, one always seems to be in the other's food. Can I just buy one type of food for my pets? I have heard that it is OK to feed dogs cat food -- is this true? Thanks for your time!
Answer: The simple answer is no -- it is inappropriate and unhealthy to feed dogs cat food and vice versa. The reason is quite straightforward and based on the distinct genetic makeup of dogs and cats that dictate their nutritional requirements. Dogs, like people, are omnivores, meaning they derive their nutritional needs from eating a diet balanced with both plant and meat-based food sources.
Cats are unique in that they are true carnivores, requiring a diet comprised predominantly of meat-based ingredients to meet their nutritional needs. In cats, this distinction is critical and if not adhered to, can quickly cause serious health problems including blindness, heart failure, and seizures.
For dogs, while they don't share the same dramatic health concerns, the higher energy content of cat foods can quickly lead to obesity, the high protein content can worsen some health concerns (e.g., underlying kidney or liver disease), and differences in vitamin/mineral content can lead to deficiencies over time. While I can understand that our pets often live life under the same pretense as people -- the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence (food bowl) -- it is essential to find a solution to your dilemma to avoid future health concerns.
Consider set meal times for your dog and find a location for your cat's food bowl that allows her access but not your dog. Hope this works out for you!
Page 1 of 3 -- How to cope with a grown dog that has pees inside the house on page 2
Answer: While it is not normal behaviour, it is also not uncommon in the middle-aged to older spayed female dog. The most likely cause for your pet's urinary accidents is a condition called "hormonally responsive urinary incontinence." As its name implies, it is a condition that manifests itself as urinary incontinence (i.e., urinary leakage), generally while the dog is at rest or asleep with most dogs not aware it has occurred until after the fact; it is often medically responsive to hormonal (i.e., estrogen) supplementation. However, this condition must be differentiated from other causes of urinary incontinence, such as diseases of the internal organs or urinary tract infections, and the urinary leakage can often result in irritation of the skin surrounding the vaginal opening that may perpetuate the problem. Therefore, a trip to your veterinarian is in order. He/she will perform a thorough physical examination and likely suggest that a blood and urine sample be evaluated to investigate the various possible causes of her problem. To prepare for the visit, fast your dog and avoid access to the outdoors for a minimum of 8 hours before your visit so that these samples can be taken and some answers provided to you very quickly. If she is diagnosed with hormonally responsive urinary incontinence, both hormonal supplementation or other, more recent medications can be used to control her urinary leakage. In rare situations, surgery may be recommended although is not commonly required. Something that you can do to immediately help is to provide more frequent visits to the outdoors to encourage her to empty her bladder regularly -- the smaller the volume of urine stored in the bladder, the less likelihood of accidents in the house. Best of luck!
Page 2 of 3 -- On page 3, Dr. Walt gives advice on feline bullying
Dear Dr. Walt: Do you have any tips for keeping neighbours' cats from using our cat's cat flap, stealing his food, and spraying on our furniture? I live in a highly populated area in Holland and there are two bully cats locally who choose to intimidate our cat in every way that they can, often not letting him up the ladder to enter our home through the cat flap. We have a first and second floor maissonnette, and the chap who used to live in the floor below us allowed every cat in the neighbourhood to come onto his property -- the new neighbour doesn't seem to mind either and they still roam the garden. Do you have any suggestions?
Answer: I can certainly commiserate. When I was younger, my family had two cats that would come and go though their own basement cat window -- something that was shared by all neighbourhood cats! The final straw was when, during a particularly rainy day outside, they all decided to visit our house and promptly got into a collective brawl -- at 3 a.m.! Unfortunately, the only solution we found that worked was to close the cat door. Occasionally, changing routine over the short term (i.e., access to the ladder/cat flap) will result in the unwanted visitors going elsewhere, hopefully never to return.
Have you taken the opportunity to speak with your neighbour and ask for his/her help? Perhaps they allow the intruders access to the yard because it has no direct impact on them; however, if they understood how it affects you, they may be willing to help in solving your problem. Many devices now exist to try and prevent cats gaining access to your yard. Some people use motion sensors to scare unwelcome visitors. If the yard is already fenced, fence netting that is attached from the upper inside of your fence to the ground a short distance from the base of the fence, makes a triangle that prevents cats from accessing your yard; commercially available products exist on the market. Otherwise, can you determine who the owner of these cats are and have a frank discussion with them to find solutions of mutual benefit?
Page 3 of 3
About Dr. Walt Ingwersen
Dr. Walt Ingwersen is Chief Veterinary Officer at PetCare Insurance Brokers Ltd. He is a 1982 graduate of the Ontario Veterinary College. Board certified in Internal Medicine, he has the distinction of being the first Canadian editor of the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association, a position he currently holds.
Involved in many aspects of the national and international veterinary community, "Dr. Walt" is the recipient of the President's Award for outstanding contribution to the veterinary profession awarded by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA). He is also Chief Veterinary Officer and Chairman of the Veterinary Advisory Board at PetCare Insurance Brokers Ltd. -- Canada's leading provider of insurance for dogs and cats.