Dear Dr. Fox:

Although I have many concerns about animals, one really bothers me: people who drive pickup trucks with their dogs loose in the open truck bed. I recently saw a man with a large Rottweiler-type mix drive past my home going well over the 25-mph speed limit. As he went around a curve, he hit a pothole, and the dog lurched forward. I just closed my eyes. Luckily, the dog managed to balance himself, but it would have been a sad ending if the dog had broken his neck or otherwise been seriously injured.

Isn't there a law to protect animals from this kind of idiocy? And if there isn't, can't one be put into place?

-- M.A.

Springfield

All too often, people with pickups have their dogs free rather than tethered, which would prevent them from falling out on a fast turn or during sudden acceleration.

People on the road with dogs unsecured in the backs of their trucks put other drivers at risk, as well as their dogs. They are an abomination. I confronted one recently backing out of a parking lot and politely told him that I've seen dogs fall out and get injured or killed. He assured me that he thought his dog was fine, had never tried to jump out and that he would think about tethering him next time.

Every state should pass vehicular and road-safety laws to make it a moving violation to have an unsecured dog in the back of a pickup. And there should be severe penalties for having a secured dog in the back of a pickup in the pelting rain and in subzero temperatures, as I have witnessed from Maine to Minnesota.

Dear Dr. Fox:

Our golden retriever mix Sheeba has had a severe skin condition for almost a year. She has had two biopsies, and both indicated allergies to certain elements in commercial dog food, so I have been making homemade. She is also allergic to grass, weeds and trees.

She's taking Depo-Medrol injections, which give her relief for about two weeks, and then the intense itching returns. Her skin has black scaling spots, and when we started her on the allergy serum, the spots started to come off, exposing raw, bleeding skin. She went downhill after several serum shots, and we haven't been able to get her back to where she was before the serum.

Our vet says there's nothing more she can do. Sheeba has seen four vets, and our current one has consulted with experts. No one has seen anything like this. The vet indicated we might need to put her to sleep. I'm not opposed to this if there's nothing else that can be done.

If there were anything you could suggest, it would be greatly appreciated.

-- K.G.

Hendersonville, N.C.

Your poor dog, judging by the photos you sent, is indeed in a tragic state. Treatment with prednisone may give temporary relief, but it will worsen the problem because your dog's immune system is clearly compromised.

You did not say whether the veterinarians ruled out Cushing's disease and hypothyroidism. Those two endocrine diseases are the first things to consider and are all too common in older dogs.

Postscript: I telephoned K.G. to learn that her four veterinarians had never considered the above, or that allergies are a symptom and not a primary cause of disease. Sheeba suffered a stroke on the prednisone medication and was euthanized.

Dear Dr. Fox:

Recently, I have read several of your columns in which you recommend against annual immunizations for elderly pets.

I have three elderly indoor-only cats. Whenever I take them to the vet's office, they insist the cats receive full vaccinations or they will not treat them.

I've looked at your Web site, but I don't see anything addressing this issue. Could you please explain, in simple terms that I would be able to convey to my vet, why you think that vaccinations are unnecessary and even dangerous for elderly pets such as mine?

-- L.M.W.

Minneapolis

Some veterinarians, for reasons of belief if not for money alone, are still insisting that cats and dogs should be up-to-date on their vaccinations and have annual booster shots.

But they are not up-to-date on the vaccination protocols that more informed and responsible veterinarians are now following. Rabies vaccinations are the only exception because they are mandated in most states. But they can be waived by veterinarians who can certify that an animal is too ill or infirm and thus at risk from being vaccinated, and has zero risk of exposure because the animal never goes outdoors.

Check my Web site, http://tedeboy.tripod.com/drmichaelwfox, and click on the link "Cat and Dog Vaccination Protocols" in the left column for further information on the new minimal vaccination protocols for dogs and cats established by the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association. Your cats do not need any more vaccinations unless mandated. Veterinarians who insist otherwise should be reported to the appropriate authorities in your state.

Michael Fox, author of books on animal care, welfare and rights, is a veterinarian with doctoral degrees in medicine and animal behavior. Write to him at United Feature Syndicate, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.

Copyright 2007, United Feature Syndicate Inc.