One Column, Five Answers!

Q: Hi, I recently moved and my 3-year-old old cat seems to be shedding a lot more than usual. Could this be stress related?

A: Yes, shedding can definitely be stress-related. In fact, cats in the hospital setting shed more than normal if they feel stressed.

The same thing can happen right after a move. Cats also shed more in the summertime when it’s warm, so that could be a factor.

Also — and I’m not saying this is true for your cat — cats who are obese and can’t reach around to groom themselves also end up shedding more. I hope these answers are helpful!

Q: My poodle has had what I call a backward sneeze. It seems it is hard to get his breath. The vet said most dogs do this and that I should just pick him up and distract him. This does help, but it is so scary. Is this dangerous? What can be done about it?

A: This is a question I get all the time. Instead of a sneeze, in which your dog expels air out, they suddenly breathe air in during reverse sneezing.

The good news is that this is not a dangerous condition and it does not mean your dog has some kind of disease that you need to worry about.

Occasionally, reverse sneezes occur because your dog has inhaled something like a blade of grass, or gotten a rather rare case of nasal mites.  

They can sometimes be related to allergies, although in that case, you would probably notice some other symptoms such as itchy or irritated skin.

The frustrating thing for pet owners is that there is not a cure per se, and it’s not usually possible to pinpoint a cause.

If the reverse sneezing persists, see your family veterinarian and possibly a veterinarian who is a specialist in internal medicine, as I am. But just be prepared for the possibility that the tests may prove negative, which makes it hard to do much for your dog other than wait for the reverse sneezes to stop.

Q: When my dogs develop a case of diarrhea, how long should I wait before I take them to the vet? Is there something that I can give them if they get diarrhea from a sudden change in their food or treats?

A: If this is just happening once or twice a day, you can probably wait 24 hours before calling your vet. Try skipping a meal and give them something bland for the next meal such as chicken breast with white rice.

But if you see blood, or if the diarrhea persists after 24 hours, or if your dogs are constantly straining and it’s becoming more frequent, I would take them to the vet right away. Good luck and thanks for the question!

Q: What is a good diet for a dog that gets bladder crystals?

A: The first thing I’m going to say is, don’t panic if your dog gets bladder crystals. But it is a good thing to talk to your primary care veterinarian about, in case it’s severe or comes with additional symptoms. In that case, your veterinarian may recommend a special diet. The diet will depend on the type of crystals, which your veterinarian will determine through urinalysis.

Incidentally, this is different than bladder stones, which are more serious.

Read more about bladder stones on PetMD.

Q: My 6-year-old lab mix has had horrible breath since he adopted me when he was two months old. His teeth are cleaned every two years and he gets regular physical exams. My vet says some dogs just have bad breath. Any suggestions would help.

A: Even well-cared-for and well-loved dogs sometimes do have bad breath. You might consider having his teeth cleaned more frequently, and ask your family veterinarian if your dog could benefit from a trip to a veterinary dentist.

Editor’s note: Some of these readers’ questions were slightly shortened and edited for clarity.