DEAR DR. FOX: A year ago, I decided to take care of a stray cat in my backyard. When I saw him running around with a piece of bread I had thrown out for the birds, I knew there was a problem.
I would put food down in my garage, and it would be gone the next day. This went on for several days until I finally got to meet him. I call him Jack.
He's a very handsome rogue with beautiful tortoiseshell coloring. After weeks of working with him, I was able to get him close enough to me to sniff the fingers of my outstretched hand. All I wanted to do was to help the little fellow make it through the winter, and I did.
Jack has been with me ever since. But there are two problems:
First, he's a feral cat who has pretty much reverted back to the wild.
Second, he has worms. I've observed this from his insatiable appetite and his hyperactive behavior. I also saw a worm he passed.
I've called several local animal clinics, and they all want me to bring Jack in for tests and the works. I can't afford to do this. Also, I could never get Jack into a pet carrier, and I am afraid of how he would react around strangers. Have I any other alternatives? I'd like to be able to make him well by adding something to his food. -- J.M., Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
DEAR J.M.: You do not give enough details in your letter as to what kind of worm you saw Jack pass. If it was long and thin, it could be a Toxocara roundworm. If it was a white, oblong, rice-grain-sized wiggly thing, it's a tapeworm segment. If that's the case, he'll need to be treated for fleas, which carry tapeworm eggs.
While it may seem shocking that no veterinary hospital will give you some worming medicine to put in his food, without a stool sample and/or a sample of the worm you saw, the proper treatment cannot be determined. Get these samples and you won't need to take Jack in unless it turns out he requires flea treatment. Not having had a rabies vaccination may make these animal clinics worry about dealing with Jack, and I urge you to rent a humane trap and get someone to help you catch him and take him in. He may need to be neutered, which will make him easier to handle. If you have a spare room, put him in there when he's given a clean bill of health, and he may soon become sociable.
DEAR DR. FOX: I enjoyed your article about the cost of wart removal. My yorkiepoo had one under his jaw by his neck. The vet charged me $1,000 to remove it. I was upset, but the doctor said I should have it removed. My dog got another one by his eye, and I put Polysporin on top of it, and within two days it was gone. Some vets know how much you love your pets and will take advantage if you are a sucker. -- P.H., Brick, N.J.
DEAR P.H.: I share your incredulity that some members of the veterinary profession have evolved in parallel with some human doctors who put profits before ethics. Some even put their patients at risk by doing unwarranted -- but profitable -- diagnostic tests and "supportive" and "preventive" procedures.
A thousand dollars to remove a wart -- that's a record breaker! Can any reader top that?
FLEA AND TICK PREVENTION
Television and other media outlets foment public fears of fleas and ticks to sell various products to keep these pests off dogs and cats. Not all are safe, and none prevent these insects from biting the animals and possibly causing hypersensitivity or infection. Manufacturers, along with many veterinarians, are marketing these products as a preventive measure. This clever marketing ploy is adding to the numbers of animals having adverse reactions, including seizures and even death. Check DrFoxVet.com for more adverse reactions to flea medications. Also check the website for effective and safe methods of flea and tick control, and consider products like PetzLife's herbal spray, diatomaceous earth and daily flea comb monitoring.
The Environmental Protection Agency had no less than 44,000 reports of adverse reactions to topical anti-flea and -tick drugs just in the year 2008. Pet owners should not support this pharmaceutical industry profiteering insanity. I advise against using all non-herbal products, such as Bayer's new long-acting Seresto flea collar. The collars contain a nicotine chemical (imidacloprid) that can cause seizures, thyroid gland damage, mutations, abortions and birth defects. The collars also have a pyrethrin chemical that can cause nausea, vomiting and seizures. I worry for the humans petting animals with these chemicals seeping over the animals' skin, and of the animals grooming themselves and each other. Sheer insanity.
(Send all mail to email@example.com 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.)