DEAR DR. FOX: Should a booked vet offer referrals? Our son's 14-year-old chow suddenly had problems standing on her back legs. When I helped her up and released her, her back legs buckled.
I called our vet for an appointment on a Friday, but was told there were no appointments available until Tuesday. I asked for a recommendation. The person taking the call said that without seeing the dog, she had no idea what to recommend. I said that I meant a recommendation of another vet. I was told I'd have to "call around." We have had this vet since 2001 when we moved to this area. I Googled other vets in the area and found one who took her immediately.
Am I wrong to be so disappointed in my vet? Shouldn't I have, at least, been told about emergency animal hospitals in our area? There were two vets at our office, but the original one has recently retired. -- P.K.P., Scranton, Pennsylvania
DEAR P.K.P.: No veterinarian who has been seeing a client on a regular basis has any excuse for not advising, personally, over the phone or through an assistant, what to do when there is an emergency like yours, and where to take the animal if she is fully booked with appointments. You should let her know your concerns so that this will never happen again in that veterinary practice.
DEAR DR. FOX: I noticed in a recent column that the Florida couple with the frantically grooming cat had recently done a lot of home renovation. Their cat's sudden licking problem could be related to new materials introduced in their home renovation.
We had a wonderful, well-adjusted Burmese who suddenly started twitching and licking as though he had biting insects on his body. Our vet checked him for insects, did a skin biopsy, tried him on a rotation diet and gave him a short course of prednisone. He found no insects or skin condition, and neither the diet change nor the prednisone had any effect. We tried other vets without getting any relief for him. He struggled with the problem for several years before he passed away at 16.
A few years ago, I read an article about new carpets being a culprit in allergic reactions. This reminded me that after our new wall-to-wall carpet was installed throughout the second floor of our house, I could no longer walk on it barefoot or my feet would itch. I don't know why I didn't connect this with our cat's frantic licking, which started around the same time.
Our cat spent most of his days sleeping in the sun on this carpet, often upside down. He always seemed to improve when we traveled with him, but we couldn't figure out why. You may want to advise your readers that there are other common sources of allergens besides food, and new carpets are among them. Thanks again for your column and for all your wise counseling. -- C.P., Neptune, New Jersey
DEAR C.P.: Yes, new carpets emitting formaldehyde, flame-retardant bromide chemicals and other potential endocrine disruptors and allergens, not to mention inhaled small fibers, volatile chemicals and chemical residues in dust can be a household health hazard problem for cats and people alike. I have often mentioned this in my column, and more than one cat owner like you has had problems like yours. Use throw rugs and nonsynthetic rug materials (cotton, jute, hemp and wool) since synthetics build up a static charge, which can cause discomfort.
POISONOUS WATER WORRIES
In early August 2014, 400,000 people in Toledo, Ohio, could not drink, bathe or cook with municipal water because of a blue-green algae bloom in their water source, a shallow part of Lake Erie. Waters polluted by phosphate and nitrogen run-off from farms and sewage treatment plants trigger such blooms. Blue-green algae (also known as cyanobacteria) produce various toxins, called cyanotoxins, which rapidly destroy the liver, causing acute illness, coma, seizures and death. Recovered animals can become sunlight sensitive, losing skin on their ears and backs, especially after exposure to sunlight.
This human-exacerbated water quality problem is likely to get worse with climate change and agricultural expansion with ever more agrichemicals being put on the land, many of which end up in surface waters without adequate buffer zones to limit runoff.
While ruminant animals (cattle and sheep) and birds are more sensitive to these toxins than monogastric animals like pigs and dogs, dogs frequently pick up cyanotoxins when allowed to drink from standing water and suffer the consequences. For more details about pure water and hazards in our drinking water, check my website, DrFoxVet.com.
(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.)