My Pet World: The cat, dog 'who's more intelligent' debate rages on

Q: Don't you think it's about time you just came out and told the truth — that cats are smarter than dogs? -- H.J., New York City

A: Defining intelligence between species is challenging. (I can hear you now: "He's copping out.") Well, maybe I am. I will say that when I speak at veterinary conferences, as an introduction to one of my talks I ask if listeners think dogs or cats are smartest, or if they feel they're about the same. Around 30% say they're about the same; 30% bark for dogs, and about 40% yowl for cats.

No doubt, the world's authority on this topic is actress and animal lover Betty White. After all, she's lived with cats for all of her nearly 89 years.

"So many people don't understand cats because they've never had a cat," says White. "They think cats aren't affectionate or smart. Well, let me tell you, they're so smart that they may outrank dogs."

To promote cats, the non-profit Morris Animal Foundation, where White has been a board member for 48 years, has launched a Happy Health Cat Photo Contest sponsored by Sergeants. Cat lovers can enter by uploading a photo to http://www.research4cats.org or http://www.sergeants.com.

There are three categories:

• Happy Healthy Cat: One or more cats that appear to be healthy or active; or appear to be having fun

• My Favorite Human: One or more cats with their human family, kids or adults

• My Favorite K9: One or more cats with their favorite, dare we say, doggie friends, demonstrating that cats and dogs can live together in peace.

The winning cat, judged by White herself, will appear as a glamourpuss on the cover of the Morris Animal Foundation AnimalNews quarterly publication. There's no entry fee.

As for which pet is more intellectual, dogs are smart enough to typically seek help from humans to solve problems. Cats are smart enough to figure things out for themselves. Which is ultimately a more intelligent solution? Personally, I'm not intelligent enough to know.

Q: I have three Cocker Spaniels. My mom lived with me for 11 years, and Abbie quickly became her dog. In 2008, one of the dogs needed to be euthanized, and my mom passed away. Ever since then, Abbie have been grieving. Now, for the last six months, I've noticed muscle spasms in Abbie's heart area when she's lying next to me. To top this off, she was recently diagnosed with lupus.

Abbie is on Robaxin (a muscle relaxer), Metacam (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory for pain), vitamin E and Neosporin (ointment for skin irritations). Could stress cause the spasms in Abbie's heart area? My vet isn't especially concerned because Abbie's acting fine. I can't afford a veterinary neurologist. Can you help? -- V.P., Las Vegas

A: Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, an internal medicine specialist and chief medical officer at Banfield, the Pet Hospital, says he is concerned about a potential irregular heartbeat, and does suggest an EKG.

"A veterinary cardiologist (with an echocardiogram) or veterinary neurologist might find the explanation," adds Klausner, of Portland, Ore. "However, I understand that finances can be an issue, and since your dog is exhibiting no other symptoms, whatever is going on may not be something to worry about."

Q: One of my kittens developed an indolent rodent ulcer on its upper lip. The vet treated this with a steroid injection (depo medrol) several times. The ulcer improved slightly but was still present. My vet told me the only other treatment was a pill, which might cause diabetes. This treatment doesn't seem an option. Is this lip ulcer painful? Will this condition shorten the life span of my cat? -- D.P. Inverness, Fla.

A: An eosinophilic granuloma is a descriptive term for what the ulcer looks like under the microscopic (eosinophil is a type of white blood cell). This sore was originally dubbed a "rodent" ulcer by farmers, who believed their cats got it from eating rats and mice. However, indoor cats, probably like yours, who've never seen a rodent, are just as likely to get this condition. No one knows why some cats develop such sores, though an allergy may play a role.

"Of course, only cats know for sure, but probably the ulcer isn't painful, but instead is uncomfortable," explains Atlanta-based feline veterinarian Dr. Drew Weigner. "Usually, steroids are used to treat successfully. But some cats don't respond."

Likely the medication suggested which may cause diabetes is Ovaban, and Weigner believes you likely made the right decision to avoid this drug. Also, surgery is still considered an option by some veterinarians, but Weigner says, "This is worst possible alternative."

A newer and safer option is an immune suppressant drug called Cyclosporine. Most cats require a 2-week course (or more), but the downside is the cost of the drug.

"I've had great success, but not in every case," says Weigner. Sometimes an option that can work for these stubborn cases is an antibiotic in conjunction with the steroid.

Q: I read on your blog about Cesar Millan not being allowed into Ontario, Canada, with his pit bull, Junior. Here's this wonderfully-trained dog and he's not allowed because he's a pit bull. Isn't that ridiculous? -- B. J., Bangor, Maine

A: Yes, it's absolutely ridiculous! However, I smell something fishy about this story. After all, the breed ban for Ontario, which prohibits residents from owning pit bulls, does allow for exceptions, such as show dogs or dogs participating in special activities in the province, with advance permission.

It could be that headstrong Ontario Atty. Gen. Chris Bentley wanted to make some sort of political example of Millan, who's spoken out against the breed ban (and I agree with him on this one). But it might also be that Millan, who has a new book out, "Cesar's Rules: Your Way to Train a Well-Behaved Dog," co-written with Melissa Jo Peltier (Crown Publishing, New York, NY, 2010; $25.99), is making a stink over this to sell books and to sell tickets to his Canadian appearances.

By the way, thanks for reading my blog: http://www.chicagonow.com/stevedale.

Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column. Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is http://www.stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.

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