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Cocker spaniel has costly condition

DEAR DR. FOX: My dog Cappy is a 91/2-year-old cocker spaniel-mix and until recently has been in good health — except for many ear infections over the years.

Awhile back I noticed she was having trouble urinating, so I took her to the vet. He did a urine sample and put her on an antibiotic. This did not seem to help, so I took her back and an X-ray indicated she needed surgery for a bladder stone. That was done last May. The stone was very large (nearly the size of a half-dollar coin). She tolerated the surgery well, but got an infection the following week. I took her back to the vet, and she was given an antibiotic that seemed to help with the outside redness. She was also put on Hill's Prescription Diet u/d, 1 cup twice a day. She weighs about 43 pounds and never seems satisfied.

She has been passing clots and red blood since the surgery, and there have been numerous visits back to the vet. I had more X-rays of her bladder done, and I was told it looks good. A urine sample sent for further testing also showed nothing alarming. The vet has been treating her with Baytril and Uroeze (400 mg twice a day). He thinks the bladder wall may be damaged because of the large stone.

Today he suggested a sonogram of the bladder at the cost of $400, which is something I can no longer afford. All previous tests have come back with negative results, and I feel this would be the same. I felt as though we were dismissed today, and I am left with a dog who urinates infrequently, but with red blood and small clots.

I feel sorry for my dog and want her to be well. Further surgery is not an option. — T.S., Waldorf, Md.

DEAR T.S.: Cocker spaniels are especially prone to ear infections, and products like Zymox and Otomax can be very beneficial.

Now that the offending stone in your dog's bladder has been removed and she is on a prescription diet to help prevent recurrences, your veterinarian could provide you with a less costly home-prepared recipe if you are up to making your own dog food. Recipes are available from Balance IT (888-346-6362) and for no charge from www.dogcathomeprepareddiet.com.

Because of your financial constraints, economic "triage" is called for — you must seek the least costly alternatives to improve Cappy's health. This means opting out of further expensive diagnostic procedures and discussing the benefits of various supplements that may help heal your dog's damaged bladder. Supplements to facilitate healing include fish oil, glucosamine, glutathione, probiotics and various herbs such as couch grass, nettle, corn silk, marshmallow and even apple cider vinegar.

You are not alone in feeling guilty for lacking the financial resources to pay for costly veterinary diagnostics and treatments. Veterinary journals are voicing concerns over this issue and the fact that people are not taking their animals in for treatment because of the anticipated expense. But regular annual checkups are the best preventive measures, along with a wellness program beginning with good nutrition. Many veterinarians are adopting a cost-saving approach to animal treatment and health care maintenance by relying less on expensive tests and diagnostic equipment, as I urge in my new book "Healing Animals and the Vision of One Health" (CreateSpace).

DEAR DR. FOX: We have an indoor cat. She is 15 years old and has always lived inside. She's a large cat (not fat, just tall and long) and has been in good health.

One morning a month or so ago, she opened her mouth but no sound came out. What causes this problem? She tries, but no sound. She eats her dry and canned food and drinks plenty of water (no milk, though). — K.H., Chesapeake, Va.

DEAR K.H.: If your cat used to meow audibly (and some cats never do) and she now seems to be trying to communicate but is incapable of making a sound, a veterinary examination is called for.

There are various medical conditions that can result in paralysis of the cat's vocal cords, including viral infections, cancer and stroke. For your peace of mind, I would advise a veterinary appointment. She may have lost her voice for reasons that will never be known, but her attempt to vocalize could mean she is in pain, perhaps from arthritis.

Send all mail to animaldocfox@gmail.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. Visit Dr. Fox's website at www.twobitdog.com/DrFox.