Q: Elmo, my elderly cat, is losing his appetite and getting thinner. A friend told me about a drug her veterinarian prescribed when her cat lost his appetite that helped him regain weight. What is the drug?
A: If Elmo is losing his appetite, it’s important to make an appointment with your veterinarian for a physical examination, lab work, and possibly X-rays or ultrasound to discover the reason for his lack of interest in food. Many conditions can cause loss of appetite, and each is treated differently.
For example, your veterinarian may find signs of pain. Elmo may have a broken tooth, infected gums, or some other dental disease that makes chewing painful. Arthritic joints can make his journey to the food bowl feel like more trouble than it’s worth.
Or Elmo may be unable to smell his food because of an upper respiratory infection or sinus obstruction. Cats that can’t smell won’t eat.
Alternatively, Elmo may be experiencing nausea or weakness due to chronic kidney disease, liver dysfunction, heart disease, diabetes, or some other disorder.
To identify the underlying condition causing Elmo’s loss of appetite, your veterinarian will examine him and do bloodwork, a urinalysis, and fecal testing for parasites. Take a fresh stool sample to the appointment.
Once your veterinarian uncovers the cause of Elmo’s diminished appetite, effective treatment can begin.
In addition to addressing the cause of Elmo’s appetite loss, your veterinarian may ask a board-certified veterinary nutritionist to formulate a diet that appeals to him. Your vet may also prescribe a medication to boost Elmo’s appetite until the underlying disease is controlled.
The two most effective prescription drugs to stimulate appetite in cats are Mirataz and Elura. Mirataz is a transdermal ointment applied once daily to the cat’s inner ear flap, where it is absorbed through the skin. Elura is a flavored oral liquid also given once daily.
Q: We want a healthy, well-socialized puppy. How do we choose a reputable breeder, and what questions do we ask?
A: Instead of buying a puppy bred by a large commercial operation and shipped to a pet store, look for a breeder who raises pups in the home.
Reputable breeders work with only one or two dog breeds. They don’t always have puppies available, but they keep a list of people interested in upcoming litters.
Visit the litter at least once; don’t buy a puppy online. Meet the mother dog and as many relatives as possible so you can judge how well their temperaments match your family’s personality and lifestyle.
The pups and their relatives should greet you in a friendly, confident manner and not shy away. The puppies should live indoors, and the areas where they spend time should be clean.
Before you visit, research the genetic problems inherent in the breed—every dog breed has them—and ask the breeder to provide certifications and test results showing the pup’s parents and grandparents are free of them.
Ask how many of the breeder’s puppies have earned obedience, agility, or working titles so you’ll know how trainable your pup will be. Also, ask to speak with other families that have purchased puppies from the breeder.
A dedicated breeder will ask why you want this breed, particulars about how you’ll care for the dog, and who will attend training classes with the pup. A good breeder also will require a veterinary reference and, if you rent or live in a condo, proof that you are permitted to have a dog.
Finally, a reputable breeder will require that you sign a contract promising to return the dog if you can no longer keep him.
Remember, you are choosing a lifelong pet, so do your homework and don’t hesitate to ask whatever questions will help you make such an important decision.