DEAR DR. FOX: A stray kitty adopted me a couple months ago and has since been tamed enough that I have found a vet to neuter him and do some much-needed dental work. My fear is that the poor boy will be so traumatized by this ordeal that he will no longer consider my home his own and strike out on his own. He currently is still an outside cat as I already have four indoor-only cats in a tiny two-bedroom house. Due to the remoteness of where I live, the vet I will take him to is about an hour away. Do you have any recommendations on how to make his first vet visit a success? -- K.B., Snowflake, Arizona
DEAR K.B.: Cats, as you know, are exceptionally sensitive to the stress of being put in a crate and going to the veterinarian. There is no way to avoid such stress when performing neutering surgery and teeth cleaning under a general anesthetic. But first I would advise a blood test for feline AIDS and leukemia because if the cat is infected, you could be putting him at risk. Also, the cat should be scanned for an identifying microchip under his skin.
The bond of trust that you have with this cat will probably be broken because he will be suffering from the equivalent of post-traumatic stress disorder when it is all over. If you plan to bring him in to live with you, check my article on my website, DrFoxVet.com, on the steps to take when introducing a new cat.
Ideally, to avoid additional stress, have the cat given whatever vaccinations are called for at a later date by a home-visiting veterinarian. This is because I do not advise vaccinating cats that are already severely stressed, although the rabies vaccine may have to be given when he goes in to the vet's. It is a good idea to separate giving the rabies vaccination by three to four weeks from the three "core" vaccines of feline parvovirus, panleukopenia, calici virus and herpes virus. These vaccines can often give lifelong immunity. Injecting the vaccines under the skin at the end of the cat's tail is a new protocol veterinarians are following to reduce harmful complications if a fibrosarcoma were to develop at the site of injection.
Dog owners should note that similar long-term immunity has been shown for the "core" canine vaccines -- canine distemper virus, parvovirus and adenovirus -- and it is advisable to separate the rabies vaccination from these others to avoid "carpet bombing" the immune system.
EXOTIC PET HAZARDS: BEARDED DRAGON LIZARDS PUT SOME IN HOSPITAL
I am not an alarmist about people capturing, breeding and selling wild animals as pets and putting people who purchase them at risk from injury, disease and even death. My primary concern is about the plight of these animals being caught up in the international commerce of the exotic pet trade, which ignores the rights of all creatures to live wild and free regardless of the pittance in-field collectors receive and captive breeders may reap. As always, my advice to never purchase a non-domesticated animal is affirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which reports that over the past two years, 132 people contracted a rare form of salmonella bacterial infection, a little less than half of them requiring hospitalization. The source of infection was traced to their Australian bearded dragon lizards.
If you have one or more of these or other wild species held captive in your home, don't go out and dump them in the wild like many idiots have -- in Florida, escaped pythons, monkeys, parakeets and other formerly "exotic" pets are now multiplying in the wild and competing with indigenous species, many already endangered by other human activities. Just keep what animals you may have as healthy and in as enriched, natural-imitating environments as you can -- seek advice from local zoo experts -- and wash your hands well after handling.
TAKING YOUR DOG TO WORK
Many people experienced the fun of bringing their canine friends to work in June on "Dog Friday," when employers across the country opened their doors to workers' dogs. Companies such as Google, Procter & Gamble and Amazon allow dogs every day, and there are reports that workers are happier, healthier and more productive as a result.
Human Resource departments need to have canine resource specialists and move forward to "canidize" the work place! In my estimation, this would be good for most dogs, too, rather than being alone at home during the working hours, which is borderline cruelty that too many cross when they keep their dogs in crates all day.
(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.)