Q Recently, my cat got into my wine glass while I was away from the table. I caught him red-handed with the red wine. I noticed he enjoyed it. I don't think he got drunk, but he sure did sleep well that night. I know that since he's so small, a few licks could be damaging. I don't think this will happen again, but now I'm curious. Is alcohol any more dangerous for pets than for people?
A Dr. Steve Hansen, a veterinary toxicologist and director of the ASPCA Animal Poison Center, Urbana, Ill., says: "The primary reasons we don't want pets drinking alcohol is that their bodies aren't adjusted to it. And if they overindulge, they may lose balance and fall from a counter or down stairs."
Also, it's true - just a few sips for a cat or small dog may be equivalent to a single glass of wine for a person. There are no known studies on long-term use of alcohol by dogs or cats. However, Hansen suggests pets - cats in particular - may be even more susceptible than people to renal and especially liver issues as a result of too much of a good thing.
Q I hear it's possible for dogs and cats to get carbon monoxide poisoning in garages. If that's true, it must happen a lot. Can you tell me more?
A Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald, from Animal Planet's "Emergency Vets," says: "As the temperatures sink, people warm up their cars in the garage. It's ridiculous. We really forget about the dog or cat going into the garage - and the door is closed. A 10-pound cat kept in a sealed garage for 10 minutes with a car running will die of carbon monoxide poisoning. Again, this is no urban myth. I see this all the time, almost every week" in the winter.
Q Our 13-year-old black Labrador mix has had chronic ear infections for the last two years. The vet gives her antibiotics and ear drops. I use the drops a couple of times a week, but the vet says there's no way to clear up the infection for good because the dog is old and her immune system isn't what it once was. What do you think?
A "There's bacteria and yeast as normal fauna in all dogs' ears," explains Dr. Karen Campbell, veterinary dermatologist and internal medicine specialist at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, Urbana. "However, in your dog, the fauna continues to overgrow, and that's because there is some predisposing factor weakening the dog's immune system. Old age may be a factor, but old age is not a disease. There's likely to be another explanation."
If your vet hasn't already proceeded with a detailed drug panel and checked for disease such as hypothyroidism, those would be first steps. If your dog checks out, Campbell says that most likely she's developed a food allergy. Yes, that can spontaneously occur - even in an older dog. Your vet can instruct you on how to test that theory by feeding your dog a novel diet.
Meanwhile, until you determine the root cause of those chronic infections, continue to treat them as your veterinarian suggests.