Pet questions answered by Dr. Carol Miller 


 Ask the Pet Doctor

Dr. Carol Miller's Housecall business has taken off! For us, this means that she will no longer be able to answer new questions from our readers. Us Boomers thanks Dr. Miller for the support she was able to provide. Her very interesting questions and answers are given below.

Us Boomers wishes Dr. Miller continued success in her business. If you need a veterinarian to make a housecall in Lehigh Valley, PA and especially in the vicinity of Macungie, you can call Dr. Miller at 610-962-2313.

For more information about Dr. Miller, go to the article, "This Vet Makes House Calls".

Click here for previous questions and answers.

Dr. Miller


Question from Frank and Betty in Arizona

Maddie, our miniature poodle, is thirteen years old. She seems to be acting confused lately. By that we mean she will sometimes bark at the closet door instead of the front door when the doorbell rings, and she is having more accidents in the house. Is it possible for dogs to become senile when they reach a certain age?

Maddie is displaying certain behaviors which may be indicative of a condition known as canine cognitive disorder, or cognitive dysfunction (CD). The condition is not senility, but rather an Alzheimer-like disease of geriatric dogs and cats. In addition to the behaviors which you described, other signs may also include decreased activity and interaction with the family, aimless wandering, barking without reason, getting stuck in a corner, and increased daytime sleeping.

It is important to note that other diseases must be considered with this list of symptoms. Arthritis, for example, causes reduced activity. Dental disease can be painful, and cause reduced appetite and energy levels. Hypothyroidism may be the cause of decreased activity. Hyperadrenocorticism causes increased thirst and urination, which may lead to urination in the house. Therefor, a thorough diagnostic evaluation, including a physical exam, neurologic evaluation, complete blood screen, and urinalysis is required in order to make the proper diagnosis.

Medical therapy and natural supplements are available for treating CD, (as well as the other disorders mentioned above,), and I have seen positive results when treatment was initiated. It would be worth consulting your veterinarian about Maddieís behavior.

Question from Mike in Maine

My three year old cat Buster has been biting at his tail and dragging his rear-end across the floor. What is his problem? Sometimes he smells so bad after he does this that I have to leave the room!

Buster is presenting you with a problem which is quite common in dogs and cats, not to mention one of the less glamorous aspects of my job as a veterinarian. His anal sacs have become full of a natural secretion and it is causing him discomfort. The treatment is manual expression of the sacs with a gloved hand.

In a perfect world, Busterís anal sacs would empty themselves every time he defecated. This is natureís way of allowing Buster to leave his "calling card" for other animals in the area. The secretion has a very strong odor, as you have already discovered, and this is one way animals mark their territory in the wild.

Skunks have voluntary control over the muscles surrounding their anal sacs, which is why they are able to spray us at will. Dogs and cats cannot express their anal sacs "on demand", which is where the veterinarian, or groomer, or adventurous pet owner comes into the picture. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to have your veterinarian show you how to manually express them. Most people prefer to let their veterinarian perform this particular task. Busterís doctor can also tell if the sacs are infected or abscessed.

Most importantly, getting those anal sacs emptied will bring relief to Buster and make you a hero in his eyes!

For previous questions and answers, click here.

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