Q: Mr. Poo Poo Head, our 15-year-old cat, has started yowling to come into the house every night. He eats diced beef, chicken and tuna, and he’s healthy and active. His behavior is annoying, so we’d appreciate your advice.
A: Yowling is common among elderly cats. The causes are numerous, so it’s important to determine what’s prompting the yowling so it can be addressed effectively.
You might start by opening your door to allow Mr. Poo Poo Head to sleep inside at night. While it used to be common to allow cats to roam outside, we now realize that it’s important for cats of all ages to live indoors.
This safeguards them from aggressive cats, coyotes, cars and outdoor toxins, and it protects songbirds and other wildlife from cats’ predatory behaviour. Because most elderly cats have arthritis, and many have impaired hearing and eyesight, they are especially vulnerable outdoors.
If Mr. Poo Poo Head yowls indoors, make an appointment with his veterinarian. Senior cats often yowl because they have hyperthyroidism, chronic kidney disease and/or high blood pressure. Other reasons for yowling in elderly cats include pain, often from arthritis, and senile cognitive dysfunction, sometimes called dementia.
Fortunately, all of these problems can be treated.
In addition, Mr. Poo Poo Head’s all-meat diet is unbalanced and may be exacerbating his yowling, especially if he has kidney disease.
So, I recommend you move Mr. Poo Poo Head indoors and take him to his veterinarian for an exam and routine senior lab work to determine the cause of his yowling.
On an unrelated subject, I confess my discomfort regarding Mr. Poo Poo Head’s name, even if it was bestowed by a youngster. I recognize that your cat doesn’t know what his name means, so as long as everyone greets him with love in their voices, he won’t feel offended. Still, when you name your next pet, you might consider what other people will think when they hear the name.
Q: Lily, our 10-year-old spayed female Maltese dog, occasionally trembles for several minutes to an hour. The trembling stops for months but then resumes for no apparent reason. A friend who had a Maltese thought this might be little white shaker dog syndrome. If so, what should we do about it?
A: Lily’s episodes don’t sound like little white shaker dog syndrome, first recognized in the Maltese, West Highland white terrier and bichon frise, all small-breed white dogs.
The disorder is also called shaker dog syndrome since many patients are dogs of other colors and larger sizes. Yet another term is a steroid-responsive tremor syndrome, because immunosuppressive doses of prednisone, a corticosteroid, is an effective treatment.
The condition, usually diagnosed between 6 months and 5 years of age, is thought to be an immune-mediated disease.
Full-body tremors range from mild to so severe that they interfere with the dog’s ability to stand or walk. Shaking is worsened by excitement, exercise, anxiety or pain, and it lessens when the dog rests or sleeps.
The tremors are sometimes accompanied by vestibular signs, including loss of balance and coordination, head tilt and a rhythmic motion of the eyes called nystagmus.
Shaker dog syndrome tremors are continuous, not intermittent. So, it’s unlikely that Lily’s occasional trembling results from this syndrome.
To determine the cause of her shaking episodes, make an appointment with her veterinarian.
Lee Pickett, VMD, practices companion animal medicine in North Carolina. Contact her at https://askthevet.pet.