Dear Dr. Fox:

For 21 / 2 years, my dog weighed 49 pounds and was given heartworm medicine for dogs weighing from 25 to 50 pounds (Sentinel once-a-month tablets).

Last week, she weighed 51 pounds, and I was told to increase the medicine to the 50- to 100-pound tablet. This seems like overkill, but the veterinarian made a big deal out of it. Although she was covered just fine at 49 pounds, she’s no longer safe since she gained two pounds?

M.K., Virginia Beach

DF: You raise an important question. I had the same conundrum with one of my dogs and decided to feed her less and exercise her more when she crossed over from a svelte 47 to 52 pounds, which meant I could keep her on the smaller dose of Heartguard’s ivermectin.

It is important in all states where there is a winter kill of mosquitoes to take dogs off this preventive medication and have a blood titer test done to make sure they are clear before resuming medication in the spring.

There are concerns that the heartworm parasite is developing drug resistance in some states, especially in the Mississippi River Delta, so extra vigilance and not missing the monthly preventive medication are called for at this time.


Dear Dr. Fox:

Do you recommend deworming cats? One of the three I have from a litter, now 9 months old, vomits after every meal. The other two are fine.

J.V., Winston-Salem, N.C.

DF: Please avoid the temptation to make your own veterinary diagnosis, and take your cat to see a veterinarian if you think your cat has worms because you have actually seen them.

Cats and dogs that sometimes vomit or have loose stools are too often given over-the-counter worming medications by their owners, which, more often than not, do more harm than good and are a waste of money, because worms were not a problem.

This is not to ignore the fact that most kittens and puppies need worming with the right medication once the kind of worms they have are identified.

Similarly, people will buy various flea sprays, drops and pills whenever they see their pets scratching, making a wrong diagnosis, sometimes with fatal consequences for cats that are given anti-flea preparations meant only for dogs. Cats and dogs scratch themselves intensely for reasons other than fleas.


Dear Dr. Fox:

I owned two cats, both indoor-only. One cat was domesticated when I got her. The other was a feral kitten someone found and gave to me. She was still young enough to tame, but even after she turned 4, she was not very trusting.

Both cats got their yearly exam and shots, including one for feline leukemia. A few months after Lovely got her annual shots, I noticed that she was limping. I examined her right leg and found a large mass on her upper shoulder. She has long fur, so it wasn’t noticeable except by feeling.

I took her to my vet, who did a needle biopsy and gave me some pain meds for her. The next day, after giving her the meds, her whole personality changed. She hid all day and came out only at night.

The lump was cancerous, and her leg needed to be amputated. Trying to get her to the surgeon that morning was terrible — she fought and tried to bite me. Finally, we got her there. The surgeon told us that her personality change might be permanent, and the stress of losing the leg would possibly make it worse.

He also mentioned that the leukemia shot could have caused the cancer and that it might have spread to other organs. We made the painful decision to have her put down.

After I asked another vet and my own about the possible cause, they admitted that the leukemia shot would, in some cases, cause cancer at the site of the injection in the upper shoulder.

Please advise other owners of indoor cats that this shot is not necessary.

A.M., Naples, Fla.

DF: According to veterinary literature, cancer (specifically fibrosarcoma) developing at the vaccination site is extremely rare, but it does occur.As a precaution, until nasal or oral vaccines are developed, the proper vaccination protocol for cats is to inject the vaccine as low down as possible on a hind leg. Amputation is then more feasible and less crippling than having to remove the cat’s entire shoulder area and foreleg.

I am surprised that your cat was vaccinated in the shoulder region. Certainly, the pain would have changed her personality. Also, the pain medication could have made her more fearful, as could the traumatic trip to see the veterinarian.

Send this reply to the veterinarian to change the vaccination protocol: Inject a lower hind leg; do not prescribe feline leukemia vaccinations for indoor cats; and separate giving rabies vaccinations from other vaccines for which blood titers can be conducted to determine whether they are needed.

A new protocol, which was suggested several years ago, of vaccinating in the tip of the cat’s tail has been confirmed as being effective and safe by Julie Levy and her team at the University of Florida School of Veterinary Medicine.

Cat’s internal clock

Dear Dr. Fox:

Amos is the sweetest, most loving cat we have ever had. He is intuitive and answers us when we talk to him, and he stays with us constantly. We adopted him in 2007, and he’s now about 10 or 11.

He is a real joy, the center of our family and is admittedly spoiled rotten. He has had no real physical issues, except with some of his teeth having to be pulled about two years ago.

We were wondering: Why does he get up every morning at exactly 4:20 without fail? Daylight saving time does not seem to throw him off. He starts to meow up and down the hallway and then jumps onto our bed to complete his mission.

My husband, as any dedicated pet owner would do, gets up and plays with him and feeds him. Amos then promptly takes a good old-fashioned “cat nap.”

We have tried everything, such as closing the bedroom door, playing with him late at night, and making sure he has kibble and water, but he is relentless until we get up.

We read in your column that some cats are calling for companionship from other cats when they cry out. Could this be the case, and is there anything we can do? He is such a joy, and we get a kick out of his habits, but we could use a little more sleep.

F.&P.S., Winchester, Va.

DF: There’s a time clock in your cat’s brain that you clearly cannot reset. You may have found the only solution other than trying to ignore him.

When his brain says it’s early to rise, it is telling him to go out to hunt and interact with other cats on their predawn roaming in the wild.

Adopting a younger cat might be the best solution. Providing your cat with a substitute for your husband to play with and race through the house while you both enjoy a less interrupted sleep could help all parites. Check my Web site, www.
, for important steps to take when bringing a new cat into your home.

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.

2014 United Feature Syndicate