The Animal Doctor

Beware of Online Puppy Scams

DEAR DR. FOX: There is an out-of-control puppy scam on the internet. Scammers take someone else’s dog picture off their website and post it on their own. They collect and post beautiful pictures of puppies, plus wonderful, endearing videos of them, then “sell” the dogs which aren’t actually theirs.

Many popular smaller dog breeds sell for $2,000 to $5,000 from reputable breeders. These scammers sell theirs for a bargain at $500 to $700. The seller writes a whole page about what a wonderful family the dog will come from, not a puppy mill. One scammer I talked to said he was a consultant in California selling a dog from Virginia.

They only want cash or Western Union money. They won’t take a credit card. They told me they were willing to send a puppy with a “pet nanny” on a plane in -50 windchill weather to Minnesota from Virginia. They wanted me to be at the Minneapolis airport waiting for them. I knew the dog would never arrive, but another victim would have been standing there feeling totally stupid, out of money, heartbroken, with no dog!

The scammers I talked to all spoke with thick accents, and were a little hard to understand. They would never give me their complete address. I came within two minutes of losing $700 to one, before I was able to cancel my Western Union transaction.

There is a website listing the names of current dog scams: ipata.org/pet-scams. Look at that before you buy one. I don’t know how people can be so mean and greedy to do this to others. Shameful!

By contrast, a rescue dog is one you can see, play with, and learn if it is trained and fixed. So if that works for you, give one a loving home. -- J.T., Alexandria, Minnesota

DEAR J.T.: I hope many readers of this column will take note of your experience and pass it along to their friends and relatives who may be contemplating getting a dog or puppy.

I have raised this issue in earlier columns, and appreciate you sharing your story and concerns. In addition, I implore people not to purchase delicate, small breeds, and those like pugs and French bulldogs with pushed-in faces, since they are likely to face many health issues in their often-short lives. Adopt a dog or pup from your local shelter instead!

DEAR DR. FOX: My 8-year-old standard poodle dropped in his tracks after doing a short romp around our yard, an exercise he does regularly.

Just as he fell to the ground, he made a short, shrill sound and then did not move. I ran to his side and tried to resuscitate him with chest compressions and breathing hard into his nose. I believe he died instantly. This dog was in perfect health with no known heart ailments. He had been fine all day with absolutely no signs of illness or distress.

Necropsy of his heart, lungs and gastrointestinal system revealed nothing out of the ordinary, and the vet said there was no reason to send off any tissue samples for analysis. He presumed it could have either been an aneurysm or undiagnosed genetic heart defect.

I have never felt such anguish in my life.

Your thoughts? We want to get another poodle. -- C.W. Root, Naples, Florida

DEAR C.W.: This must have been a terrible shock for you.

At least your dog’s suffering, if any, was short before loss of consciousness. Most likely, there was a brain aneurysm that ruptured. Any vascular weakness can lead to a stroke when there is high blood pressure associated with kidney disease in older dogs and humans. And around where you live, dog owners should look out for toxic toads that can kill dogs from what seems like a heart attack, but usually with other signs including seizures and drooling.

TOAD WARING: FLORIDA DOG DIES AFTER PICKING UP BUFO TOAD

A dog in Tampa, Florida experienced seizures and died within minutes of picking up a Bufo toad in his mouth, according to his owner. Bufo, or cane, toads are reddish- to grayish-brown with a light yellow belly, and they secrete a toxin that is lethal to dogs and cats. (WFTS-TV, Tampa, Florida, April 3)

(Send all mail to animaldocfox@gmail.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)

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