DEAR DR. FOX: I just lost my dear cat to cancer that started at the site of his last rabies injection.
I have had several friends who also have had cats who developed that kind of cancer, I believe called fibrosarcoma, at the rabies injection site. Veterinarians have always told me that the risks from the injection are very low, but now I don't believe them. I am incensed that an indoor cat is, by law I am told, expected to have an injection for a disease that he would have no way of catching.
What is your take on this? -- M.H., Bethesda, Maryland
DEAR M.H.: I am sorry to hear about the death of your cat due to fibrosarcoma at the injection site. I have discussed this and other adverse vaccination reactions, so called vaccinoses, in an article on my website, DrFoxVet.net.
I think the protocol of annual rabies and other vaccination to indoor cats needs revision; it is questionable to vaccinate against rabies in cats who never go outdoors and have no possibility of exposure to a rabid animal unless one gets into the house. But if you need to board your cat, all such vaccinations should be up to date and you should get blood tests confirming that the cat does not have feline leukemia or immunodeficiency virus infections.
Regrettably, we have uninformed and uncaring members of the cat-owning community who let their unvaccinated cats go outdoors whenever they like. There are not enough communities with statutes and ordinances prohibiting cats from being allowed to roam off their property, and the enforcement is a joke. All cats who are outdoors in an enclosed yard and who do not wander off their owner's property but could be exposed to rabid animals and to diseased cats do, of course, need to be vaccinated.
In my opinion, judging by the number of letters I receive concerning cats developing injection-site cancer, the incidence is higher than the estimates reported in the literature, and not all veterinarians are following the new protocol of no longer injecting the rabies vaccine in the neck or shoulder area but down one limb or tail. When the anti-rabies vaccine is injected at these sites, it makes surgery to remove any tumor -- usually total amputation -- more effective in preventing its spread.
DEAR DR. FOX: One of our standard poodles often throws up a small amount of yellow substance when it is close to mealtime. We are very punctual about meals and try to compensate, but it doesn't work. Can you help? -- M.F., Springfield, Missouri
DEAR M.F.: This is probably bile and gastric juices triggered by the anticipation of food and aggravated by acid reflux, so try giving your dog a human Tums (or similar antacid) 20 minutes before mealtime.
A surprising number of dogs have this problem, but I do not advise people making their own diagnosis since such vomiting before and after meals can mean other serious health issues. So if the antacid does not prove effective, a full veterinary checkup is called for.
DEAR DR. FOX: Do you have any suggested changes in your home-prepared dog food recipe for geriatric arthritic dogs? -- S.M., Washington, D.C.
DEAR S.M.: I have recently made a few general changes to my home-prepared dog food recipe, posted on my website.
I have included natural herbal supplements that help dogs in general and older dogs in particular. Ginger and turmeric are two examples of such herbs that have a diversity of beneficial pharmaceutical and therapeutic properties.
I would add a little cinnamon for dogs with diabetes and high blood pressure (often associated with kidney disease). Try oregano, thyme, sage, cumin or fenugreek for those with digestive issues. I would give a pinch in the food for habituation and acceptance, then increase to about 1/2 teaspoon daily of each for a 50-pound dog. Many people are surprised how many good medicines they have in their own kitchens; traditional wisdom -- like Hippocrates urging, "let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food" -- is anathema and taboo to the pharmaceutical industry.
In addition to such supplements to help old dogs, I would add massage therapy that you can give yourself. Learn more in my book "The Healing Touch for Dogs."
(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.net.)