Talking with Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins

Talking with Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins

Q. My friend’s cat has tested positive for FIV. Where can she look for information to treat her cat naturally?

A. Products that cause a natural increase in immune system health can be helpful in cats with FIV. One such product is extract of agaricus blazeii mushroom. You can find it in both a capsule and liquid form, especially for animals, at I have used this form of agaricus in a great many cats and feel it is safe, and can be very useful when administered as directed by the manufacturer.

Q. My co-worker has a 20-year-old cat named Zeus. She has been carefully managing his diet, but now he is a victim of fleas and one product (Hartz) actually made him sick and really upset his fragile balance. She is afraid to use any product with toxins. What kind of very gentle alternative is there? Giving him a bath is also stressful for him.

A. A new topical product (no bath required) called Promeris for cats is the one I recommend. Although it would be nice to have non-chemical treatments that worked well for ridding cats of fleas, this is not typically possible, at least not with the effectiveness of a product such as this one. Promeris is a new (meaning fleas have not had an opportunity to develop resistance), safe and very effective tool if used as recommended by the manufacturer.

I do not expect cats to need repeated applications of flea medication because they should be kept indoors; this will help greatly to control re-infestation. I find with my own cats, all indoor, that I will see a few fleas only every few years during times when fleas are exceptionally prevalent in the outdoor environment. If effective chemicals need only be used as infrequently as this, they are not toxic and do a good job of ridding our cats of the health threat posed by external parasites like fleas.

It is not a good idea to use over-the-counter products such as Hartz. In my professional experience, these products have a very poor safety record in cats.

Q. My cat seems to throw up a lot. She does not seem sick and has a good appetite. I give her olive oil three to four times per week yet she seems to struggle with hairballs and throwing up and appears to be losing weight. I brush her regularly and get a moderate amount of hair off her. Any suggestions on increasing her weight with healthy food and getting her hairball problem under control?

A. What are you feeding your cat? Commercial dry food is the single most common cause of intermittent vomiting in cats. Stop this food immediately (this includes kibble-type treats). Low-end dry cat foods are very poor nutritionally and will lead to a poor quality coat (and loss of excessive amounts of hair). They can also cause weight loss in some cats because they have very low levels of fat and protein.

If your cat’s symptoms continue after you have changed food to all wet (quality canned or raw), see your veterinarian. Vomiting and weight loss can be signs of serious disease that must be addressed medically.

Q. My cat is sick and we are unsure what is wrong. He lies around and is very painful in his abdomen and chest. He still goes to the bathroom and eats/drinks but he cannot walk around or anything. My vet is recommending FIP testing. I am unsure what to do as I have read so much about it and I am unsure whether it could be FIP or not. I was thinking about homeopathic treatments. What should I do, how do I start, and what do I feed him?

A. The first thing you need to do is find out what is wrong with this kitty. His symptoms are extremely general and could indicate a great many different kinds of problems. My strong recommendation is for you to have your veterinarian do blood and urine tests to determine exactly which organ systems are involved here. There is no accurate test for FIP in the living cat unless there is characteristic fluid in the abdomen or chest that can be removed and tested in a special PCR test. The blood tests that some labs sell are not accurate, and this condition may well not be FIP.

Your healthcare dollars will be better spent on a basic Complete Blood Count, serum chemistry (for kidney, liver and pancreatic function, among others) and a urinalysis. Likely a great deal of very helpful information will come from this basic testing.

For debilitated cats, I like to offer meat baby foods mixed with full-fat yogurt (with active cultures, of course) in a 50:50 ratio. Allow him to eat as much as he wants.

Q. I rescued a Manx cat from a campground six years ago. I don’t know how old she is but I would guess seven to nine years. Last year we had an earthquake which scared her and her back legs quit working. She has all the typical conditions of a Manx cat. She is constipated, cannot control when she urinates, is itchy all the time to the point of shaking, and can barely walk. Our local vet does not know what to do with her. Are there any treatments we can try?

A. Find a cat-exclusive veterinarian if at all possible. You are describing a number of very serious problems that must be addressed comprehensively.

Don’t give her commercial dry cat food – these products contain far too little nutrition and too much fiber for maintaining health in any cat, especially Manx cats. Itchiness may indicate an allergy, which is also promoted by poor quality ingredients in commercial foods. Additionally, a gentle, natural laxative like Miralax or Glycolax (used for humans, especially children, and available OTC in most pharmacies) can be very helpful for maintaining digestive function in cats like the Manx, which may have special problems with this system.

Note: The author has no affiliation with any of the products she has named in this column.