The Animal Doctor by Dr. Michael W. Fox

U.N. Report: Framework for Preventing Zoonotic Diseases

DEAR READERS: A rise in zoonotic (animal-to-human) diseases is being driven by environmental degradation, according to a report by the United Nations Environment Program and the International Livestock Research Institute. The report cites rising demand for animal protein, intensive farming practices, exploitation of wildlife and climate change among key factors. The authors suggest adopting a One Health approach, which would unite public health, veterinary and environmental experts to respond to and prevent zoonotic disease outbreaks. (UN News, 7/6)

If preventive veterinary medicine had been applied in China and other countries to better monitor live animal markets and wild and domestic animal factory farms, in my professional opinion, this COVID-19 pandemic would have been much less likely to occur.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put in bold relief how the veterinary and medical professions, and associated public health services internationally, have failed to promote the first medicine: disease prevention. This responsibility has been corrupted by pecuniary interests and an increasingly distorted, dispirited and mechanistic perception of health, which is not simply the absence of disease. The human medical profession may be faulted for not engaging effectively in the politics of human overpopulation and ecologically damaging and unhealthful dietary choices. But many, along with veterinarians and other health care professionals and biological scientists, are rallying under the banner of One Health. This concept is not new, and enjoyed stronger endorsement and support in decades prior to the advent of clinical specialization in human and veterinary medicine. Steps to achieving the end point of this concept are well articulated by the One Health Initiative at onehealthinitiative.com.

DEAR DR. FOX: I have a rare Nebelung cat -- a rescue, who was named Smokey Robinson before I got him, much to my delight! I have had him for about eight years now.

I usually take him to a local vet for both grooming and his yearly shots. The price of both services has increased dramatically over the years -- grooming went from $25 to $65, for example. I don’t really mind this, as I assume the groomer is being paid more (as she should be, in my opinion). However, the price of his rabies and distemper shots has gone from about $30 each to $70 each over the years.

Our local Petco offers these shots for $30 each, which better fits my budget, as I am now retired and on a fixed income.

As the vet does not actually examine Smokey at shot time -- the last exam ran $110 -- are the actual vaccines identical in effectiveness? I don’t want to put him in any medical danger by “skimping” on these important items, but it is much better for my budget to pay $59 for these shots than $140 (which I assume will go up again this year, as it has every year).

The vet is what I would call a “high-end” operation with a large building, boarding and training services, etc., so their overhead is obviously larger than a part-time service offered by the store.

Should I feel safe taking Smokey to the pet store rather than the vet so I can save significantly on these shots? -- R.O., Boca Raton, Florida

DEAR R.O.: You do have a rare breed of cat -- there is some inbreeding in their creation.

I would only get the anti-rabies shot, which is mandatory under the law, and no other vaccinations if your cat is indoor-only and not exposed to possibly diseased cats outdoors. (In many instances, annual “boosters” are not needed; a blood-titer test can be done to be sure, but they are costly.) If other vaccinations are needed because your cat does go outdoors, have them given three to four weeks after the rabies shot. Multiple vaccinations at the same time can stress the immune system and result in adverse vaccine reactions, such as so-called vaccinosis.

Ideally a wellness exam would take place before any vaccination, but with many people financially constrained such as yourself, your Petco choice makes sense.

I worry that the groomers may insist on all other vaccinations being up-to-date. I protest this protocol when the cats are indoors all the time and the grooming facility is well-sanitized. (Using ultraviolet light at night to sterilize surfaces is a wise way to reduce potential feline and canine virus contamination.) Blood tests showing your cat is negative for feline leukemia and immunodeficiency virus infections are essential protocols for all cat care and boarding facilities.

INSECT-BORNE VIRUS CONCERNS

Iowa health officials confirmed the state’s first case of Heartland virus this year, as well as a case of mosquito-transmitted West Nile virus. The cases should serve as a reminder to prevent tick and mosquito bites, said veterinarian Ann Garvey with the Iowa Department of Public Health. Symptoms and signs of Heartland virus disease are often similar to those of other tickborne illnesses, such as ehrlichiosis or anaplasmosis. (Full story: Associated Press, 6/17)

(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.)