Dear Dr. Fox: My sister and brother-in-law adopted a black Lab. He was well cared for, but he got cancer in his nose and died.

After that, they decided they wanted a dog that was bred from good stock. They didn’t want to take a chance on other illnesses. They had a chocolate Lab bred for them. The dog is lively, friendly and wonderful. She is 5 years old. Recently, she was diagnosed with lymphoma.

I don’t believe in breeding dogs, because so many dogs need homes. But I love the dog dearly, and I have two questions. Is there anything we can do to prolong the dog’s life? Are Labs prone to cancer?

S.F., Rockville

DF: Yes, many good dogs are in adoption centers in need of good homes. The commercial puppy-mill mass production of purebreds and designer varieties is a major factor contributing to full-to-capacity shelters and adoptable dogs being killed.

Lymphoma is one of the more common canine cancers and is prevalent in certain breeds, including golden retriever, boxer, German shepherd and Scottish terrier. Exposure to lawn and garden herbicides, electromagnetic radiation, solvents and paints has been associated with increased incidence of the cancer. In cats, it is most commonly associated with feline leukemia virus infection.

Depending on the dog’s overall health and the invasiveness of this cancer, chemotherapy can lead to a complete recovery with the drugs doxorubicin and vincristine. The latter is an extract of the vinca rose, which I used successfully in India to treat dogs suffering from transmissible venereal tumors.

I would like to see clinical trials conducted on dandelion root extract, preliminary tests of which indicate a promising and safe treatment for lymphatic cancer.

about FERAL CATs

Dear Dr. Fox: For the past 17 months, I have been a feral cat colony caretaker.

All the cats were part of the Trap-Neuter-Return program, and further breeding has ceased. The colony had 10 cats originally; there are now five.

I have two beloved felines at home.

Are you an advocate of feral cat colonies, and, if so, what conditions must be met by the caretakers? Do you believe that euthanasia is a more humane approach for cats that are not receiving annual vet visits, such as feral cats? Do you think I am wrong in sustaining the lives of these animals, which are susceptible to disease and many other hardships?

My colony has ample shelter and fresh food and water provided daily. We clean feeding bowls, etc. We stress hygiene as much as possible in our efforts.

I decided to be a feral cat caretaker because we, as human beings, through neglect and disdain, have forced these innocent animals to fend for themselves through no choice of their own. As a caretaker, I do whatever I can to lessen the hardships of these animals.

G.L., the District

DF: I wish there were more compassionate and caring people like you helping animals. Unfortunately, the best intentions often go awry.

Maintaining a feral cat colony is a full-time responsibility. Cats that are sick or injured and too fearful to be caught do suffer. Even with neutering, there is the ethical question of providing food and shelter to cats only to prolong their suffering until they expire.

My biggest concern, and the reason I oppose Trap-Neuter-Return programs, is cats killing birds and other wildlife.

As I have discovered, some feral cats can be socialized and make good indoor companions. You might find more fulfillment facilitating adoptions at your local shelter (ideally for two or more littermates) and pushing for legislation and public education to deter people from letting their cats roam free.

I applaud your efforts to help these poor animals, and I respect all involved in Trap-Neuter-Return programs. But the consequences of humane intervention must be considered. I would rather advocate trap-neuter-adopt or trap-neuter-euthanize-the unadoptable, knowing that given time and patience, many wild, terrified cats can be rehabilitated.

signs of middle age

Dear Dr. Fox: Our cat is 9 years old and weighs 19 pounds. We have her on Purina Pro Plan weight management food to get her to lose some weight. The biggest problem we have is her throwing up.

She just started this about two years ago. We have been to three vets, and each says something different. Her stomach has been X-rayed. They think she vomits because of hairballs. She gets one Capilex pill every morning to try to digest her hairballs, but she still throws up.

B.K., Washington, Mo.

DF: You have a middle-age overweight cat that is probably suffering from the related health problems we see in overweight people. Those health issues include diabetes, arthritis, fatty liver and heart disease. A veterinarian should check this out.

The most common reasons cats throw up after eating are not only hairballs in the stomach but eating too quickly, usually because they are so hungry and are fed only twice a day, or being allergic to one or more ingredients in their food.

Give your cat cereal-free food such as Organix or Wellness. Give two teaspoons of food six to eight times daily, along with probiotics or a little plain live yogurt or kefir.

Try to get her to play more; physical activity is good therapy. This is one of the reasons I advise people to keep two cats. They stimulate each other and are more active and healthier than live-alone cats.

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. Write to him at United Feature Syndicate, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, Mo. 64106.

2012 United Feature Syndicate