Q: Mec, our 14-year-old Silky Terrier, has deteriorating eyesight. This once active dog is now more ginger when walking down the street, and may bump into things. One veterinarian has advised against surgery to remove the dog’s cataracts, given Mec’s age. A second veterinarian also has advised against surgery because he says there’s additional retinal damage, so surgery wouldn’t do any good. What’s your advice? – A.S., Montreal, Quebec, Canada

A: Veterinary ophthalmologist Dr. Ralph Hamor, at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, Urbana, says dogs can have cataract surgery.

An electroretinogram (ERG) is a test to determine if there is retinal disease (a veterinarian might also want to do ultrasound). If there is retinal disease, there is, indeed, no point to cataract surgery.

Hamor notes that the natural aging process in dogs’ eyes, called nuclear sclerosis, often is dubbed cataracts, though they’re not true cataracts. This condition cannot be altered with surgery.

The key question is: Does your dog truly have cataracts? If so, it’s important to rule out retinal disease. Next, is the individual aging pet a surgical candidate? A general health assessment is required. The final question for the pet owner to answer regards cost, as cataract surgery can run about $4,000 (sometimes less, sometimes more).

“There’s no question, in appropriate candidates, cataract surgery improves quality of life,” says Hamor. “But then, it’s also true that dogs generally adjust amazingly well to diminished eyesight.”


Q: My cat licks my fingers, one by one, every night before I go to bed, and chews on them a little. Is this normal? – D.D., Port Richey, Fla.

A: Your hand lotion or soap may be attracting the cat. If, instead, your pet is suckling on your fingers, that’s a kind of infantile behavior, a harmless expression of insecurity and/or affection. If the behavior is too much to deal with, whenever your cat goes to lick you, redirect her attention with a CET chew (a dental product available through veterinarians).


Q: I thought it would be nice for my 4-year-old female cat to have a roommate. What a mistake! They fight and hiss. I adopted Zanny, a 2-year-old male, last August. Zanny has been sharing the basement with my 20-year-old son, while Cutie has the run of the house. Every day, when I come home from lunch, I lock Cutie up in a room and give Zanny the run of the house for a short time. I adore Zanny, so it breaks my heart that I may have to get rid of him. I’ve talked to the manager at the pet store and other cat owners – so I’ve gone to everyone for advice. What should I do? – M.B., Cyberspace

A: I hardly think that talking with a pet store manager or other cat owners is equivalent to seeking advice from a behavior professional or veterinarian. Having said that, what you’re doing is absolutely right, according to certified cat behavior consultant Beth Adelman, of New York City.

You might also want to rotate the cats’ bedding. Place Zanny’s bedding near Cutie’s food dish, and Cutie’s bedding near Zanny’s food bowl, so the cats associate something wonderful (food) with one another’s scent.

Put up a screen door or two stacked baby gates at the entrance of Zanny’s room in the basement, so the two cats can safely interact with one another. When they do come to the gates or door without hissing, reward both with a treat. Remember, they only get the treat when they’re close to one another and acting civil.

In addition, plug Feliway diffusers in the rooms the cats use most often. Feliway is a copy of a calming pheromone. You might even ask your veterinarian about a Royal Canin prescription diet called CALM, which can also lessen anxiety

“Typically, if you go slowly, this does work out,” Adelman says. “However, if it just doesn’t happen (and the cats never become compatible), then what’s so wrong with living in the basement with your son? It doesn’t seem that getting rid of this cat, who you seem to truly care about, is necessary.”

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