Sorry About the Euthanasia -- Please Pay Up

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Dear Dr. Fox:

Why is it that veterinarians charge to euthanize an animal even though the owner has always been faithful regarding checkups and injections?

If I am faithful from day one with checkups and the like, I think my veterinarian should write off this charge. It is traumatic enough to have to put down an animal you have had for years, and then your veterinarian gives you a bill.


Arlington County

In the days before dehumanizing, money-driven ways took precedence over common sympathy and decency, a vet would never charge a regular and responsible client for euthanasia. Now the service is usually tacked onto a body disposal or cremation fee, the latter being reasonable. But as a business courtesy, if not on the grounds of professional etiquette and ethics, I think veterinarians should not charge their faithful clients one dime for euthanasia.

There are many overhead expenses when running any good veterinary clinic or hospital, but some loss of revenue regarding the euthanizing of one's animal patients would pay off in other ways. Imposing a bill for services during a time of intense grief and devastating loss seems impersonal and demeaning. Better to at least send the bill later, after a sympathy card.

Dear Dr. Fox:

I have a 5-year-old neutered shepherd-Lab mix with a recurring problem of cystlike growths between his toes on both front and back paws.

On a recent visit to the vet for his vaccinations, the doctor lanced one on a rear paw. He offered no explanation on what causes the cysts or if preventive measures would keep them from recurring. They seem to appear in the summer.


Oxford, Conn.

Your dog is suffering from what are commonly called interdigital cysts. The best treatment is to lance and drain them.

There is a breed-susceptibility to this recurrent condition that in some instances is linked to autoimmune disease.

One way to help reduce the problem is to give your dog's paws a weekly soaking in one part apple cider vinegar and one part water. Dry the paws thoroughly and apply an appropriate foot powder between the toes. If this does not prevent recurrence, apply the following essential oil treatment as a preventive, two to three times a day for one week, once every three to four weeks:

Mix up five drops each of essential oils of lavender (angustifolia), myrrh, frankincense and helichrysum in 100 drops of almond oil. Apply a drop or two between the toes and rub into the skin morning and evening. Don't let the dog lick its paws for at least an hour after application. Keep the dog out of water and away from muddy ground.

You might also want to give up to one teaspoon daily of fish oil in the dog's food. It's excellent for the skin and it has anti-inflammatory properties.

Dear Dr. Fox:

I would like to comment on the idea of putting cats on leashes. Since I was a little girl, I've been afraid that some unrestrained dog would come leaping out, barking at me and chasing me. It took years to get leash laws for dogs. What would it be like if I had a cat on a leash?

My husband and I have been married 55 years and have had wonderful cats. All of them enjoyed the great outdoors. Being smart, they knew their way home and made many friends. They were allowed to be out all day and were kept in at night.

I loved watching their supple bodies leap into the air and over fences. To keep them from using their beautifully coordinated bodies this way would be an unloving act. We need to keep nature in balance.



You raise two important points: Walking a cat in a harness or on a leash can be risky if you do not know the neighborhood and if the cat spooks easily (not just because of a dog barking from its yard, but from any sudden noise). Terrified cats have run up the closest vertical object for safety. That would be the person walking them, who might be badly clawed.

It's okay to periodically let cats out in a back yard at a set time every day. But not all day, and certainly not out of the yard. Give the birds a break.

Check out Don Barnes's cat safe fence, available on the Internet. It's an affordable and simple assembly kit that you can put around the top of your fence to keep your cats in the yard.

You must not let cats roam free. You were lucky that none of yours was hit by a car or mauled by a larger animal.

As for the "need to keep nature in balance," cats might be helpful on a farm or in warehouses, but in suburban and rural environments they compete with natural predators such as owls, hawks and foxes, and do more harm than good.

Dear Dr. Fox:

I have a Lab named Rowdy. We bought him at a farm in Indiana. There is something about him that is funny. When you scratch his neck and ears, he licks you like crazy and thumps his tail.


Mount Carmel, Ill.

I always like to receive letters from curious and observant young readers. When you scratch your dog, you are triggering his scratch reflex. It's an instinctual response and is quite natural.

However, dogs that scratch themselves a lot and often lick and whine when you tickle them behind an ear could have an ear infection or a skin disease such as mange. Be sure to check your dog's ears for any signs of redness and bad smell, which sometimes calls for a veterinary checkup.

Many itchy, scratchy dogs are super-ticklish, and their skin is driving them crazy because of their reaction to one or more ingredients in their food, such as beef or fish. Many dogs have dry and itchy skin because all they have to eat is dry dog food. Put up to a tablespoon of olive, flaxseed or coconut oil in his food and watch him shine.

Dear Dr. Fox:

Our wonderful 1 1/2 -year-old Welsh terrier recently had a diagnosis of diabetes.

He receives two insulin injections daily after meals. He gets six units at this time, but our vet has told us the dosage might change and that diabetes is an ever-changing and difficult disease to control.

Tucker is still on his regular dog food, Old Mother Hubbard Wellness Simple Food Solutions. So far, he seems to be much improved, although his water intake is still somewhat above normal. He'll be getting a blood test soon that will show blood sugar levels for the past 21 days. Do you have any suggestions for dealing with this chronic disease?

R. and M.W.

Baxter, Minn.

It would be wise to give your dog a pinch of cinnamon in his food every day, working up to a half-teaspoon as he gets used to it. The product Barley Dog might also help reduce his need for insulin.

Wean him off all dog food containing cereal products and explore the raw-food field. A diet of meat with some fat, mixed vegetables and a multivitamin/multimineral supplement could even reverse his diabetes if it is Type 2.

Unfortunately, Type 1 diabetes is more common in certain dog breeds and is more resistant to dietary changes than Type 2, which is more prevalent in cats that are fed high-cereal diets.

Michael W. Fox, author of a newsletter and books on animal care, welfare and rights, is a veterinarian with doctoral degrees in medicine and animal behavior. More pet care information is available at Dr. Fox's Web site, Write to Dr. Fox at United Feature Syndicate, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.

Copyright 2009 United Feature Syndicate Inc.

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