Dear Dr. Fox: I feel I must respond to the letter in your column concerning treatment for an arthritic dog.

Having had previous negative experiences with medications to treat arthritis (like pain, stiffness, etc.) in two elderly dogs, when our 8-year-old Corgi began showing such symptoms in one leg and was getting up slowly, I looked elsewhere for help for her.

I found your book "The Healing Touch for Dogs" (Newmarket Press, 2004), and after two days she thought every pat or tummy rub was going to lead to a massage session!

Now, three months later, she is doing so well that the treatment is ongoing. What a gift that approach has been! Thank you so much.

-- K.G.C., Virginia Beach, Va.

Dear K.G.C.: I am glad to hear my book on massage therapy for dogs helped improve your arthritic dog's quality of life. People with cats will find my "Healing Touch for Cats" helpful for a variety of conditions.

Massage therapy and the power of the healing touch now are becoming more widely recognized by both human and animal doctors. The benefits are many, and costs and harmful side effects are minimal compared to so many prescription drugs.

Dear Dr. Fox: I would appreciate your guidance on what to feed my two cats (ages 1 and 4), which have no health issues on a daily basis. Two vets have told me to feed them only the same dry food, day after day (no variation needed) and to avoid wet (canned) food.

Can you suggest a good dry food brand? Do you agree cats have no need or interest in variety, especially in dry food?

I am worried, not only about depriving them of variety (which humans certainly thrive on), but also of forcing my cats to eat food that might be too high in fat or salt or have other nutritional imbalances.

I've been troubled by these feeding issues for a long time, and I hope to see your answer in the newspaper. Thank you.

-- M.D., Minneapolis, Minn.

Dear M.D.: Any veterinarian who insists cats should be fed only dry food and never moist (canned) should either go back to school or find another job.

Dry cat foods can be extremely addictive to cats, who then refuse to eat canned/ moist foods. Then they may not get enough water in their systems, because cats do not have a good thirst mechanism that makes them drink when they are in poor fluid balance.

This may lead to urinary tract health problems, from cystitis to urinary calculi (stones, "sand" and mucous plugs), which result in urinary blockages and painful, potentially fatal urine retention.

Diabetes mellitus and obesity may also develop on a dry-food diet that is high in starch/carbohydrates. These are common health problems in cats and are best prevented by not allowing cats to eat dry food only.

There are many good-quality commercial cat foods on the market, dry and canned. Check out your local health store and buy those cat foods with ingredients that are certified organic.

A good book on home-prepared diets for cats and dogs is by veterinarian Dr. Donald Strombeck, titled "Home-Prepared Dog -- Cat Diets" (Iowa State Press, 1999).

Send your questions to Dr. Fox in care of The Norman Transcript. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

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