Dear Dr. Fox:
I am writing in regard to the letter in your column from the pet owners who have no regrets about their dog’s surgeries.
I have three cats. Bosoco is 16 years old. When I adopted him, he had a broken jaw and some broken teeth. He also had a problem with his eyelids that was “taken care of” by the shelter, but we never knew what happened. The injury to his jaw was too old to fix, but you would never know anything was wrong. He also has high blood pressure and a thyroid issue, for which he is on medication.
Last year, Bosoco came down with a very bad upper respiratory infection that landed him at the vet’s for a week. He came home with a feeding tube. It took him a while, but he got better and has done very well. The cost was $2,000.
My other cat, Gabby, was adopted from a local veterinary hospital. Her owner was moving and wanted to put the cat down, but the doctor refused, so I took her and gave her a home. She had many health problems, including cat-scratch fever and gingivitis. The hospital cleaned her teeth, pulled some and treated her with antibiotics at no cost. When she came home, I noticed that when she ate, she would run off and cry in pain. She was diagnosed with stomatitis. She was given steroids for quite a while, until I read about the disease and found out that cats do well after having molars and pre-molars, pulled. In November, the vet pulled her teeth, and today Gabby is free from cat-scratch fever and stomatitis and is thriving. The shots and surgery cost about $2,000, which I am paying off each month.
I have no regrets — it was worth every penny, and I would do it again. The cats are our family. I’ve had five cats and was down to two when I took in Gabby. We’ve had people tell us we are crazy, spending that kind of money on animals — but, again, it was worth it.
L.Z., the District
DF: Thank you for sharing your experiences and costs for providing quality of life for two of your rescued cats.
I know that you know their lives are worth every penny you spent, and I wish that more people understood that responsible care can be costly for a dog or cat — regardless of age and source — so be prepared!
You, and others like you, might be ridiculed for such extravagant indulgence. Often such critics put people first and look down on other species, an attitude that is laying waste to the natural world and harming us all in the process.
I appreciate that you are paying off your veterinary bill in installments, and I wish that more veterinarians would be so accommodating, rather than demanding full payment before an animal is released from their care.
Dear Dr. Fox:
We have been told here in Florida that canine flu is a danger to our dogs and that we should get our pups vaccinated.
My girl, a 7-year-old cairn terrier mix, does not go to dog parks and takes walks only in the neighborhood. However, we do travel occasionally, usually once every month or so, and board her. Having someone watch her in our home is not an option.
What is your advice on getting the vaccine?
P.R., Wellington, Fla.
DF: I am not opposed to the appropriate and judicious use of vaccinations for disease prevention in animals. As I document in my article on vaccination risks and benefits on my website, drfoxvet.net, the precautionary principle should be applied to minimize potential adverse reactions and diseases in the category of vaccinosis.
The dog-boarding facility might insist on certain vaccines being up to date, but it should accept blood titers showing good levels of protection, even if some duration of vaccination dates have expired.
Very often, these are not needed, but some vaccines are short-lived, and taking blood titers for them is a waste of money. Kennel cough is one, and canine influenza vaccine might also give only short-term protection, in part because new strains tend to evolve. I would give your dog the flu vaccine only if your veterinarian says that this is a problem in your community at this time. If the boarding facility insists regardless, you might want to find a kennel for your dog that is more reasonable and informed about vaccinations.
If one or more vaccines are called for, always separate the mandatory rabies vaccination from other vaccinations by two to three weeks. Never vaccinate a sick animal and, because of the added stress of boarding, get all shots done two to three weeks before the drop-off date.
There are two canine influenza strains — neither of which, to date, can infect humans. The signs of this illness in dogs are cough, runny nose, fever, lethargy, eye discharge and reduced appetite. The severity of illness associated with canine flu in dogs can range from no signs to severe illness resulting in pneumonia and sometimes death.
Canine influenza H3N8 virus originated in horses, spread to dogs and can now spread between dogs.
The H3N8 equine influenza (horse flu) virus has been known to exist in horses for more than 40 years. In 2004, cases were reported in the United States in greyhounds.
The H3N2 canine influenza virus, diagnosed in dogs in 10 central and Southern states in May 2017, is an avian flu virus that mutated to infect dogs. H3N2 viruses have also been reported to infect cats. Canine influenza, an H3N2 virus, was first detected in dogs in South Korea in 2007 and has since been reported in China and Thailand. It was first detected in the United States in April 2015.
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. Send letters to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, Mo. 64106.