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Ask a Vet: Your Pet Questions, Answered by the SF SPCA

Welcome to the first installment of our weekly 'Ask a Vet' feature on 7x7.com. Last week, you all posed some great pet questions for the vets at the SF SPCA. They've enlisted their Head of Shelter Medicine Program, Dr. Jennifer Scarlett, to answer two of your questions every Thursday. So ask away in the comments! Didn't see your question answered? Follow the SF SPCA on Twitter, where they conduct live chats every Wednesday at noon.

Here's a little information about Dr. Jennifer Scarlett:

Dr. Scarlett brings a wealth of veterinary experience treating all kinds of animals in all kinds of settings to The SF/SPCA. She graduated from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 1991, and served as a veterinary volunteer from 1992-93 with the Peace Corps in Morocco. From 1993-98, Dr. Scarlett worked at the Washington Humane Society’s Low Cost Spay Neuter Clinic as well as an emergency doctor at Friendship Hospital for Animals in Washington, D.C. From 1999-2001, Dr. Scarlett completed her Large Animal Residency at the University of Tennessee. She has served as a lead veterinarian for RAVS from 1998 to the present, leading field clinics in underserved areas in the U.S. and abroad. In 2007 Dr. Scarlett joined The SF/SPCA as the head of the Shelter Medicine program: her dream job!

Here are this week's questions:

We've adopted two stray cats, which have become quite tame and 'pet-friendly.' We feed them, have gotten them fixed/spaying and basic shots. Our problem is a yard full of cat poop. I'm concerned for our young children that a yard full of kitty yuk could result in health issues, not to mention super stinky. How can we get these cats to poop in a box of cat litter?


Thank you for taking these cats in and getting them sterilized.  Feral and/or community cats are a huge source of abandoned and homeless kittens and cats. But ick! Playing with the feces of any animal is a concern for health.  So, first, provide litter box areas—you can make an “in ground” litter box in a strategic area in your yard that is quiet and sheltered.  If possible, make two or three areas and see what the cats prefer.  Fill the area with sand or peat moss as regular litter won’t stand up to the elements.  As with indoor boxes, you’ll need to scoop the boxes regularly.  If you use sand, you’ll need to teach your kids that the sand box is for the cats!

Our 7 year old miniature poodle, Bella, has been taking one tablet daily of Proin for her incontinence since she has been 5 years old. She still dribbles urine, and recently it seems to be getting worse. Are there any long term side effects if she remains on this medication, especially since it has not really cured the problem? Can you suggest an alternative medication, or is there a surgical procedure we should consider?

The first step in helping Bella is getting the diagnosis correct.  It sounds like Bella has urinary incontinence but you may want to review the history and repeat an exam with your vet to rule urinary retention or other structural abnormalities that could result in urine dribbling.  The most common reason for urinary incontinence in a spayed female dog is hormone responsive.  This condition can usually be controlled but not cured.  Proin, phenylpropanolamine, is a non hormonal treatment that increases sphincter pressure.  It is safe to give long term but please check with your veterinarian regarding yearly check ups and review concurrent drug administration.  If you’re only giving Proin once daily there may be an opportunity to increase the dosage and/ or frequency.  Additionally, Proin also works synergistically with replacement hormone to stop incontinence, so the good news is there are some easy adjustments that you and your vet can discuss that may alleviate the dribbling.