DEAR DR. FOX: Some 50 years ago, we adopted a dog from a family who was going to destroy her. We agreed to have her for a week and see how it worked out. Tammy was about a year old and already spayed. In those days, dogs were not required to have shots or a license.
All her life, we fed our Tammy Daily Dog Food from the A&P. She lived to be 19 and never saw the inside of a vet's office until her final visit, when it was obviously time to say goodbye. I seriously doubt whether better nutrition would have prolonged her life or made it any healthier. -- B.B., Fairfield, Connecticut
DEAR B.B.: Fifty years ago, manufactured dog foods contained mainly whole-food ingredients rather than ever more highly processed and denatured human food and beverage industry byproducts, additives and preservatives. The food had very few -- if any -- pesticide residues, and certainly no genetically modified organisms. While they were often too high in grains, they came from better soils than the nutrient-deficient ones of today.
Most crops that are not certified organic now come from depleted soils and finish up on our plates and in pet foods. Most dogs adapted to the high cereal content, along with table scraps, which were generally plentiful when most folks cooked meals from scratch. The composition of dog food was also low in fine particle processed gluten/lectin elements from highly processed grains, which can harm dogs' dental health and cause digestive and intestinal problems.
Fifty years ago, there were fewer pure breeds and "designer dogs," whose genetics now call for special diets, opening up the field of nutrigenomics and the pet food industry's lucrative special prescription diets market. Annual veterinary wellness evaluations are now called for, especially for pure breeds. As for vaccinations, much suffering from distemper and parvovirus has been greatly reduced in the canine population, though some pure breeds in particular have occasional, serious adverse reactions, called vaccinosis.
Veterinary hospitals, boarding kennels and groomers' insistence on up-to-date full vaccination records and vaccination regulations against rabies have certainly helped reduce the incidence of contagious canine diseases, but it brings with it various health problems.
DEAR DR. FOX: After Christmas, we took our 13-year-old Labrador-Rottweiler mix for her yearly checkup. We've been going to this office for approximately three years. I questioned the vet regarding my dog, Reille, getting the rabbi (sic) shot due to her age, but went ahead since the vet said it wouldn't bother her (and she said it was the law). A week later, Reille had a huge lump in the location where the shot was given. The vet says the big lump was a tumor and not a cyst, as I thought. She thought the tumor was cancerous, but said she'd have to get a biopsy to know for sure. We decided not to have the biopsy due to her age.
Could the shot have caused this mass? Now she has difficulty walking. She also sleeps all the time, but she still eats a lot and goes outside to potty.
I'm just concerned that this was caused by the shot. Can you clarify for me? -- D.G., Fenton, Missouri
DEAR D.G.: First, let me correct your error and give an amusing anecdote: It is "rabies," not "rabbi." At an international conference in Boston in the 1980s, where I gave a lecture on animal rights and the horrors of factory farming, an Indian veterinarian gave a lecture discussing rabies in India and said several times, "we are fighting rabbis and we must eradicate rabbis." He was disconcerted when some people began to laugh, but apologized when the moderator intervened and gave him the correct pronunciation.
I regret the experience that you and your old dog have gone through with this vaccination, which is mandatory under the law, but can be given every three years rather than annually. The injection site the veterinarian used is not unusual, but the reaction is. It could be a rare cancer called a fibrosarcoma, which is more common but still of low incidence, at the vaccine injection site. Fibrosarcoma tends to occur more often in cats than dogs.
Sorry to give you the probable bad news, which only a biopsy will confirm.
MORE PET FOOD & TREAT ISSUES
-- The Food and Drug Administration just released a jerky treat investigation update. For more than eight years, pets have been dying and sickened from Chinese jerky treats, and the FDA still can't determine why. The "adverse event reports" total more than "5,800 dogs, 25 cats, three people, and include more than 1,000 canine deaths."
-- J.J. Fuds expanded the list of pet food products it is recalling because of potential contamination with salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes. The recall now covers all products and lots of J.J. Fuds Beef Tender Chunks, Chicken Tender Chunks and Duckling Tender Chunks pet foods. The affected products were distributed to wholesale and retail stores in Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
-- A nationwide class-action lawsuit was recently filed in California charging Nestle Purina with breach of warranty, negligence and negligent misrepresentation (among other things). Visit truthaboutpetfood.com/class-action-lawsuit-filed-against-beneful-dog-food/ for more information.
(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.)