DEAR DR. FOX: You recently ran a letter from V.A. in Virginia Beach, Va., who had a dog, Papi Lee, who kept falling down. You told the woman, "As long as he enjoys life and you keep him away from dangerous situations, his handicap is something you can all live with."
This condition is so similar to our experience with my 6-year-old Maltese that I have to wonder if it couldn't be the same. She was diagnosed with Canine Cranial Cruciate Ligament (ACL) disease, which was brought on by my teaching her tricks that were too energetic for her body. She would stumble and fall frequently. The veterinarian recommended surgery on her left hind leg first, and then planned to do a second surgery when she recovered from the first.
It took about 13 weeks of keeping her still, lying on a table and making sure she didn't walk. My daughter and I took turns sitting beside her. When she recovered, the doctor discovered that those long weeks of stillness had somehow cured the weakness in her other leg.
Now we have to keep her from running in circles, jumping up on her rear legs and running on wood floors. And since our floors were wood, we had to invest in wall-to-wall carpeting.
I hope this could possibly be a solution to your earlier letter writer. -- M.B.
DEAR M.B.: I decided to publish your letter because it raises an important point. This is separate from your point that the dog referred to in an earlier column possibly had the same problem as your little dog. This is not the case. But for all small dogs like yours suffering from painful, crippling cruciate ligament rupture, giving enforced rest, as you describe, can be a viable alternative to costly surgery.
I would not advocate keeping the afflicted dog on a table for 13 weeks. Simple restraint around the home or in a cage or crate and time under collar and leash control can lead to full recovery.
This knee-joint condition must be distinguished from patella luxation (dislocated knee caps), which is a common defect in small breeds. For that condition, enforced rest will not help -- surgical correction is the only option.
DEAR DR. FOX: We always look forward to your newspaper column. Your column about differing veterinary prices was interesting and held so much truth.
My husband and I have three dogs, and we treat them like family. We never leave the vet's without a bill over $100. But our little stray got cancer on his tummy, and it cost more than $1,000, including a teeth cleaning. He also needed an annual shot, so my husband said, "Tell them one shot but no wellness exam." They said that it would be $55 for a shot and tags. The Humane Society said $125. My husband found a vet who gave our dog the shot and tags for $19.95.
I don't mind a vet making money, but something is wrong with cheating your customers. There needs to be some kind of veterinary regulatory procedures. -- J. and E.K., Chesterfield, Mo.
DEAR J. and E.K.: Thank you for sounding off on the question of health-care costs for our animal companions and the lack of consistency in charges for products and services. Some procedures, especially those including anesthesia (notably for dental work), are unavoidably costly, as is diagnosing types of cancer and other diseases.
It is always advisable to get a cost estimate that includes line items rather than bundling. With that information, coupled with details about the animal's condition, you can seek a second opinion and price quote, provided the animal does not require immediate treatment.
Many veterinarians are open to discussion of fees and to clients seeking some kind of deferred payment or other arrangement in cases of financial hardship and limited monthly income.
CHINA POISONING AMERICA'S PETS AGAIN
Sweet potato treats made in China -- given names such as strips, tenders, chips and twists -- are being reported to cause kidney problems just like the chicken jerky treats (also made in China) that sickened or killed many dogs earlier this year. Symptoms can develop a few hours or days after consuming one of these possibly pesticide-contaminated treats. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea and increased urination and thirst.
I implore all pet owners to read the label and fine print, and buy nothing that says it was made in China.
Brands of concern include Canyon Creek Ranch Chicken Yam Good Dog Treats, Beefeaters Sweet Potato Snacks for Dogs, Drs. Foster and Smith treats made in China and Dogswell Veggie Life Vitality. Any other treats made in China should also be avoided. American companies distributing such imports should wake up to the fact that they have a duty to the pet-owning public to not put animals at risk when they have neither control nor effective oversight of ingredient quality and processing operations. The debacle of pet food poisoning from an ingredient imported from China that killed a reported 8,500 dogs and cats, documented in my book "Not Fit for a Dog," must never be forgotten or forgiven.
(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 DrFoxVet.com.)