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Tuesday, December 28, 2004; Page C10

Dear Dr. Fox:

I am aware that you believe yearly vaccinations of our pets into old age is ill-advised. However, I have yet to see you mention other medication vets routinely prescribe for dogs -- monthly heartworm preventative.

Some of these are geared strictly toward parasites such as hookworm, roundworm and whipworm. The newest, which my vet is now recommending, targets these parasites as well as fleas, ear mites and deer ticks.

I am truly at a loss since I do not want to put my two small dogs (now 5 and 6) at risk; but neither do I want to ply them with unnecessary drugs. What is your recommendation on monthly heartworm medications? If it matters, I am in an area with many mosquitoes, and my dogs are out with me for walks and play for perhaps an hour a day.

B.R., College Park

These newer, "broad spectrum" anti-parasite medications are costly, and I do not see the need for them for most dogs. The majority of dogs primarily require only the tried-and-true monthly heartworm preventive medicine that should only be given after a blood test confirms that they do not have heartworm infestation.

I am concerned about the frequent reports of adverse reactions to some of these broad-spectrum pesticides and parasiticides in companion animals, and about the little-reported but highly probable adverse environmental consequences of these chemicals, which are passed out in their excrement.

All feces from dogs and other animals being given these kinds of drugs should be handled as hazardous waste, and should be carefully collected and disposed of rather than left on sidewalks, in yards or at local parks.

Dear Dr. Fox:

We took in two declawed cats that we found wandering around. Both cats have black gunk in their ears and they shake their heads constantly. What can we do about this situation?

E.M.W., Jewett City, Conn.

Both of your rescued cats have chronic ear infections that should be seen to immediately by a veterinarian. There is no simple home remedy for your cats' ear disease, which is most likely due to ear mites. These can drive cats crazy, causing them to scratch raw spots behind their ears, damage the ears by constantly shaking their heads, and result in secondary bacterial and fungal infection and loss of balance and hearing.

Please do not hesitate to take both cats in for immediate veterinary treatment.

Dear Dr. Fox:

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