DEAR DR. FOX: I have a 5-year-old pug. He has several black spots that look like warts on his stomach.
The veterinarian I took him to retired, so a young vet has taken over. The previous vet put him on steroids, but the new vet said she could remove them with surgery. She tells me the warts are caused by a virus.
What could be causing these growths? What options do I have besides surgery? Can I be infected by this virus? -- D.J.W., Uniontown, Pa.
DEAR D.J.W.: Yes, your dog's warts are caused by a virus. But since it's different from the viruses that cause warts in humans, you have nothing to worry about. You can't get an infection from handling your dog.
I am glad that the veterinarian who prescribed steroids has been replaced. Steroids could make the problem worse and have other side effects.
Try "painting" the warts two to three times a day with apple cider vinegar -- you'll have to stop your dog from licking it off for about 30 minutes. If you see no improvement in a few weeks, I would consider surgery. Have the surgery done soon if any of the warts seem infected or ulcerated and are causing your dog discomfort.
Several other home remedies for warts are in the archives section on my website, www.twobitdog.com/DrFox. Some readers have found success by applying vitamin E squeezed out of the gelatin capsules.
DEAR DR. FOX: My ferret, Sparky, is 6 years old, and he has halitosis. When I am playing with him, my hands sometimes smell bad from his saliva. Sometimes he drools a lot.
He won't chew bones to keep his teeth clean. What do you advise? -- S.K.L., Springfield, Mo.
DEAR S.K.L.: Ferrets, especially older ones like yours, are prone to developing gingivitis, an inflammation and infection of the gums; tartar, especially on the upper back teeth; and periodontal disease.
Have your ferret examined by a veterinarian, especially because any of these dental problems can lead to complications, including heart, kidney and pancreatic diseases due to bacteria, toxins and inflammatory substances that build up in the ferret's diseased oral cavity.
After professional dental care, maintain oral hygiene by providing your ferret with thin strips of raw beef or slices of raw turkey gizzard to chew. Applying PetzLife Oral Care gel or spray will help keep the teeth free of tartar and maintain healthy gums.
DEAR DR. FOX: I had a cat named Samantha who lived to be 22 years old. The vet said he could have lived until he was 23 years old. (He had only nine months to go.) I had to have him put to sleep as he had throat cancer. The vet said he lived a good life and was well taken care of.
He ate all types of dry and moist cat food, plus tuna, chicken, turkey, salmon, ham, sweet potatoes and flaxseed oil. He was an indoor cat who never got fleas and who walked on a leash like a puppy. He was more like a kid than a cat.
He slept in my arms like a baby at night. He would use his litter box one time, then come to me and meow to let me know he wanted the litter changed. When company would come, he would go down the steps to greet them. (I live in an upstairs apartment.) He loved to go for walks, and he loved to have his hair combed like a person.
I could write more, but I should stop. I'm thinking about writing a book about that cat. -- N.K., Romney, W.Va.
DEAR N.K.: Cat owners and lovers will enjoy your brief story about life with Samantha.
Some of the ways to help cats enjoy a long and healthy life are confirmed in your letter -- love and understanding, a nutritious diet, and keeping your cat indoors unless walking on a leash.
Flaxseed oil is good for dogs and most humans, but it is inadequate for cats, who need fish oil as a source of essential fatty acids.
My book "Supercat" details other ways to enrich the lives of indoor cats and includes interactive games that can be applied to test cats' IQs. Some cats are brighter than others; they have greater insight, reasoning, focus and dexterity.
I wish more people would have more than one cat. Adopting littermates or a mother and her kitten(s) is an easy way to have multiple cats. Check my website for details about introducing a new cat.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 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 www.twobitdog.com/DrFox.)