Pet Q&A: Work with a vet to ease dog's discomfort

02/19/2013 12:00 AM

02/19/2013 12:31 AM

I've read that prescription pain medications are deadly for my dog. Can you suggest an alternative?

– Via Facebook

There are things you can do to treat your dog's arthritis without using a prescription pain medication from your veterinarian, such as providing soft beds (warmed in the winter), glucosamine supplements and regular moderate exercise, and getting your pet down to a proper weight. But if these measures are not enough, you need to discuss effective prescription pain control with your veterinarian.

I know a little something about chronic pain, thanks to a chronic neurological condition, and I can tell you it's a miserable way to spend a life. And yet so many pets are in such misery because their owners have "heard" that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are deadly.

While no medication, however helpful, is without the potential for side effects (including very serious ones), the NSAIDs available from your veterinarian have high marks for safety as long as precautionary protocols are followed, including diagnostic tests to spot possible problems with internal organs.

Discuss all your options and all the precautions, and work with your veterinarian to ease your pet's suffering while minimizing the potential for side effects. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has an excellent free publication on NSAIDs (, and I encourage you to download it.

– Dr. Marty Becker

The buzz

Feral cat advocates bash predation study

A report asserting that free-roaming cats have a devastatingly large impact on populations of birds and small mammals has conservationists calling for an end to the live management of feral cat colonies, while feral cat advocates argue that the study is based on flawed research and that its authors are known to be anti-cat.

The report in the journal Nature Communications drew the conclusion that cats kill 1.4 billion to 3.7 billion birds and between 6.9 billion and 20.7 billion small mammals every year.

Alley Cat Allies argues that the study's methodology is inadequate and that the researchers are attempting to make scapegoats of feral cats, while ignoring factors such as deforestation, climate change and habitat destruction.

How smart is your dog? You can get an idea with a smartphone app developed by a Duke University researcher. Dognition uses questions and simple games to rate the intelligence of dogs. The release of the app coincides with the publication of "The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think," co-authored by the app's developer, evolutionary anthropologist Dr. Brian Hare. Information on both is available at

When a cat rubs against a person, it's accepted that it's a sign of affection. Which, of course, it is. But rubbing also performs a very important feline function: scent- marking. Cats want everything in the world to smell like they do, and they spend their lives trying to accomplish that feat.

– Gina Spadafori


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