DEAR DR. FOX: I have a 7-year-old Chihuahua who I saved from the local pound. Is it necessary for him to get all of the shots they provide? Please tell me what medicines we need to continue with, as he will be going in for a rabies shot unless you advise differently.
This little one is strictly a house dog. Any suggestions? -- M.N., De Soto, Missouri
Dear M.N.: It is the law in all municipalities for dogs to be given an anti-rabies vaccination every year. More enlightened veterinarians favor the available 3-year interval vaccine. This lowers the risks of adverse reactions associated with annual vaccinations, including autoimmune diseases.
The next step is to evaluate the duration of your dog's immunity from a single vaccination by blood titer testing. Many dogs may need to be revaccinated less often than recommended. I encourage more public support for the Rabies Challenge Fund, which is doing research to determine the amount of time vaccinations last. Trials for the Fund are now approaching the seventh year. Visit rabieschallengefund.org for more information.
Your dog may or may not need other vaccinations, and your veterinarian can take blood samples to evaluate the need for booster shots. One other preventive treatment is antiheartworm medication, which calls for a different blood test prior to medicating. I also advise an annual wellness examination for all of your animal companions.
DEAR DR. FOX: I appreciate your recent article urging readers to stop the torment of animals.
If one wished to give some money to a charitable organization working to end this treatment, whom would you recommend?
I do not buy meat. But how much can one person do to alleviate these processes of pain? -- K.W., Takoma Park, Maryland
DEAR K.W.: I would advise you to go online and visit GuideStar Charity Check for assurance that any animal-protection organization you might consider supporting is putting most of the funds raised into direct action, which is often legislative. The charities all have websites detailing what issues they are addressing. In particular, check out the Humane Farming Association, the Animal Welfare Institute and the Humane Society of the United States. Millions of people, for health and environmental as well as farmed animal welfare reasons, are changing their diets. You are not alone. Check my book "Animals and Nature First" for more details and "sound science" reasons for going vegetarian, as well as bioethical reasoning.
DEAR DR. FOX: In an earlier column, you asked for reader input regarding animal affection. I'd like to share Black Jack's story:
Black Jack (B.J.) is a 5-year-old male cat. I am a charge nurse at a local nursing home and work second shift, getting home between midnight and 12:30 a.m. daily. B.J. comes running to the door and will jump up on the banister, meowing "hello" as he does so. Then, he puts his paws up to be held. Once in my arms, he licks my nose and climbs on my shoulders. He stays there until I get my stuff put away, and then he jumps down to be fed. Once he's done eating and I'm done with the rest of the crew (three other cats and a dog), B.J. jumps up into my lap for some snuggle time.
B.J. is the best masseuse I've ever had (yes, better than some humans). He starts by massaging my stomach, then works his way up to my shoulders, neck and upper back. He'll then snuggle for the rest of the time, unless I tell him I still need his paws. He waits for me on the bed and will massage my lower back as well. He'll do this sometimes for up to an hour.
There are times I think he must get cramps himself. He's knocked out several painful knotted muscles over the years and does it all for the minimal fee of food and lodging. He can sense how stressed I am, and the more stressed I am, the longer and deeper the massages get.
He's one of the best cats I've ever had.
This is all the more remarkable considering he was born feral to a feral mother under my neighbor's abandoned shed! -- T.C., Jefferson City, Missouri
DEAR T.C.: Your letter confirms what other people with certain cats have shared with me: They seem to be able to sense where we hurt and become more attentive, lying against the painful area; or, as in your case, using their paws and body weight to help relax tense areas.
In this realm of empathic somatic sensitivity, many cats are quite remarkable and, as I point out in my book "The Healing Touch for Cats," they themselves enjoy deep massages and can become quite addicted and demanding.
(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.net.)