DEAR DR. FOX: In October, we had our two beagles get their rabies shots from a veterinary house-call service. Two weeks later, neither could stand, and they dragged their rear ends on the floor. The vet said they probably had arthritis.
Is this just a coincidence, or could the shots have been tainted? The dogs are 12 years old. They have a hard time walking and both limp -- a back leg seems to be the problem for both of them. -- M.K., Clinton, Md.
DEAR M.K.: The answer that the veterinarian gave you is totally unacceptable. Both of your dogs becoming suddenly lame at the same time in one back leg can mean one of two things: The vaccine was improperly injected and caused damage to the sciatic nerve, or the vaccine caused a gradual-onset inflammatory reaction, causing your dogs pain.
Heat packs and massage applied to the afflicted limbs may help speed your dogs' recovery.
You should contact your state Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners if the veterinary house-call service does not make a free house call to check out your dogs and their conditions.
Adverse reactions to vaccinations are not uncommon in dogs and humans alike, and I am appalled by the cavalier attitude of many health care professionals on this issue of vaccinosis (vaccine-induced disease). I am an advocate for safe, effective, justified and closely monitored vaccinations. For details on this important subject, check out my article posted at DrFoxVet.com.
DEAR DR. FOX: I have two female mixed-breed dogs. Both have been spayed. Sadie is almost 13 years old, and Pudge is almost 11 years old.
I have washed them in flea shampoo and they both wear flea collars, but they scratch and lick their hindquarters incessantly. Sadie's back legs are now bare; Pudge's hair is thinning.
The licking and hair loss really alarm me. They will often lick until a small puddle forms on the floor. They have all their shots.
Any help for getting to a happier place for my girls would be truly appreciated. -- B.M., Hays, N.C.
DEAR B.M.: Your poor dogs must be suffering. Please understand that many -- probably millions -- of people believe that when a dog scratches a lot, it must have fleas. So they treat the dog with costly and hazardous chemicals in collars, dips, drops and pills. If there is only one flea, some dogs will scratch like mad because they are allergic to fleabites; others are less bothered by having fleas. But there are also other reasons why dogs scratch.
You should have a veterinarian examine your dogs to rule out fleas and consider other likely causes. At the top of my list is an allergy or hypersensitivity to some ingredient in their food. You should also consider something they may contact frequently, such as a chemically treated deck or lawn, new or recently cleaned carpet or floor, or possible inhalation of air freshener.
You must become a detective -- and buy a flea comb!
DEAR DR. FOX: We have had a cat for almost seven years now, and he is not declawed. When Jasper was a kitten, I went to the store and brought home an inexpensive ottoman for the living room. Jasper started to claw it immediately. I figured that if he was going to scratch at that and nothing else in the house, it was OK by me.
To this day, he still runs to that ottoman and nothing else. -- J.F., Kensington, Md.
DEAR J.F.: I wish that more cat owners (and pet owners in general) had your philosophical attitude of "live and let live."
Too many cat owners declaw their cats rather than giving them their own scratching posts, boards or selected furniture. Many pet owners do not accommodate their animals' behavioral needs sufficiently to optimize their pets' well-being. The end result can be frustration, stress, distress and the genesis of abnormal behaviors.
It is everyone's duty to learn about, appreciate and provide for their animals' basic needs. This is the right of all creatures great and small.
(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.)