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?
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.
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?
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,
Dear Dr. Fox:
Three months ago, I adopted from my local animal shelter a dog who supposedly was a mix of German shepherd, collie and Great Dane, and about 7 years old. I fell head over heels in love with this gentle giant.
Last Saturday night, right after he ate dinner, he acted as though he was going to throw up and seemed very uncomfortable. Nothing came up, but he couldn't lie still for long. After watching this for a short time, I took him to an emergency veterinarian, who told me he was suffering from bloat and needed surgery right away. They said the surgery and hospital stay would cost $2,500 to $3,500. Because I am a widow raising three teenagers, that price was very high for me and, with all he'd gone through, I decided to put the best thing that has happened to us in the past year to sleep.
Now I grieve more for this dog than I do for my husband. Do you think I made the right choice? How often does this happen, and is it more common in certain kinds of dogs? Also, what causes this?
Lincoln Park, Mich.
I share your grief, knowing how agonizing such a financial and emotional decision must have been for you. The symptoms you describe should be read by all, as often the seriousness of this condition is not recognized and instead is dismissed as acute indigestion that will soon pass.
Deep-chested, big dogs are especially prone to bloat. Preventive measures include feeding three to four small meals a day and not allowing strenuous physical activity or drinking a lot of water soon before or after eating. Also avoid exposing bloat-prone dogs to emotional distress. Have an in-house dog caregiver when you must travel, rather than putting the dog in a kennel, where separation anxiety could trigger bloat, as well as any change in diet and feeding regimen.
The one consolation is that, despite the expense, your dog would most likely have gone into shock and never recovered from emergency surgery.