The Animal Doctor by Dr. Michael W. Fox

Adopted Shelter Cat Health Issues

DEAR DR. FOX: My daughter adopted a 6-month-old cat from a local charity in Asbury Park, New Jersey. From day one, the cat had weepy eyes and was sneezing and wheezing.

My daughter brought him to the vet the day after adopting him. The cat had an eye infection and an upper respiratory infection. With testing, meds and multiple office visits, treating the cat cost her almost $1,000. She was fine with that; we know that you have to plan on spending money on your pets. One week later, my daughter noticed a spot on the cat’s ear and went back to the vet. It was ringworm: more meds, more money.

She contacted the charity, which basically told her, “We don’t care, don’t publish this info on social media” and “How dare you accuse us of giving you a sick cat.” Well, a week later, the charity posted that they were closed indefinitely due to an outbreak of ringworm.

The cat has had eye infections and sneezing requiring vet visits two more times in the past five months. We were told that this could be a lifelong eye condition. My question is, could the ringworm have anything to do with the eye infection and the sneezing/wheezing? Any input as to how to help this kitty avoid constant, lifelong meds would be appreciated. My daughter does make his cat food with chicken, veggies, eggs and olive oil, and supplements that with an organic dry food. -- C.W., Long Branch, New Jersey

DEAR C.W.: This is indeed a sad story for your daughter’s cat, and a costly experience for her. This should not deter people from adopting animals from animal shelters, but should put all shelters on notice to properly quarantine incoming cats before putting them into the adoption area with other cats. Each incoming cat’s health and needs must be evaluated by a veterinarian.

It is vital to minimize stress while the animals are awaiting adoption. Veterinary supervision and good nutrition are crucial to ensure that viral infections, in particular, do not flare up in cats with stress-compromised immune systems, and then spread to other cats in the facility. Good ventilation, sanitation and socialization --with hideaway boxes for shy and fearful cats -- are all good protocols to follow.

Cats are especially prone to upper respiratory, eye and sinus infections from herpes and various viruses, often followed by secondary bacterial infections and other complications. There are supplements that can help prevent and subdue the severity of some viral infections, notably L-Lysine for cats, which may also help humans.

For our own protection, my wife and I take several immune system-boosting supplements like vitamin D3, vitamin C, selenium, magnesium, zinc and CoQ10, along with probiotics and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Also, we take omega-3 fatty acids from marine algae (we are vegetarians). Cats, as obligate carnivores, have a deficiency in these essential fatty acids when fed dry kibble, so I always advise giving them a few drops of fish oil in their food daily. This may also help your daughter’s cat stay healthy and reduce future bills for veterinary care.

Ringworm is another challenge in animal shelters, and routine screening for this should be part of the screening protocol for incoming animals. There are oral medications for ringworm, as well as bathing treatments with hydrosols of some antifungal essential oils. But these call for expert veterinary handling. Ringworm can also be transmitted to humans, as happened to my wife when she was working with animals in India.

Have your daughter visit ahvma.org to find the nearest holistic veterinarian, who may be able to help her keep her cat healthy without resorting to costly and potentially harmful medications.

TESTING ANIMALS FOR COVID-19 INFECTION

American veterinary diagnostics firm IDEXX has a test that veterinarians can use on dogs, cats and horses for infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, if an infection is suspected. (Note: This is not a kit that can be purchased for in-home pet testing.)

(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.)