DEAR READERS: The question has at long last been provisionally and promisingly answered concerning the illogical protocol of injecting the same amount of vaccine for a Great Dane as for a toy poodle.
Now veterinarian W. Jean Dodds, DVM, Ph.D., has published her pilot study evaluation of giving a half-dose of canine distemper and parvovirus to small dogs to see if they develop protective antibody levels in their serum. She found that they do, indeed, develop such protection.
This elegant study, published in Integrative Veterinary Care Journal and American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association Journal, should be an incentive for vaccine companies to address this issue, since vaccines are not without risk; veterinarians should push for a broader study to confirm these findings in a larger population.
DEAR DR. FOX: I hope you can shed some light on my beloved pet's problem. I have domestic shorthair cat littermates who are 12 years old. They have been in good health until recently. One had hyperthyroid disease, underwent radioiodine treatment and is doing well. My other cat seems to have a strange condition.
We began to notice that Feliz was circling to the right as he got tangled under our feet. He started distancing himself from our cuddling activities. His personality seemed to change from outgoing, friendly and curious to having a faraway look in his eyes at times.
His physical exam didn't reveal anything except for the circling and lack of activity and somewhat decreased appetite.
The vet suspected the worst: a brain tumor. I was counseled that an abdominal sonogram, chest X-ray and neurological studies may or may not shed light on his condition. We started with blood studies that were all normal.
We gave him prednisolone and an antibiotic injection. Two days later, he seemed to get remarkably better, eating, coming around and interacting more. Two weeks later, he received another antibiotic injection and a reduced amount of prednisolone.
He seemed to be doing well, and after approximately six weeks, we slowly tapered off his medication. He did not do well off prednisolone. He became very withdrawn and has hidden from us, although he did continue to eat. He was restarted on his medicine and there was almost an immediate improvement in his behavior. We did see a change in his agility, as he no longer climbed on his favorite windowsills regularly. The circling decreased on good days.
His abdominal sonogram, chest X-ray and most recent labs are all normal. Unfortunately, the neurological studies are just too expensive.
Is this scenario typical of anything? What can I do to help my beloved pet? Is there anything I can add to his medical regimen? -- L.T., Kensington, Maryland
DEAR L.T.: There are various reasons why your cat developed the neurological and behavioral changes that may indicate either a brain tumor or quite possibly an inflammatory condition, which the prednisolone helped subdue.
Finding out what the cause may be will involve more tests, costs and stress to your cat. Since the steroid medication does seem to help, I would advise you to continue to work closely with your veterinarian on maximizing its effectiveness while seeking to minimize the daily amount prescribed to help reduce side effects.
I would urge you to consider including probiotics in the cat's daily diet, along with anti-inflammatory fish oil like Nordic Naturals for Cats, and make sure that no glutens from corn in particular are in your cat's regular diet. Let me know if there is a high cereal content in your cat's diet, since this can be a cause of neurological disease in dogs, notably border terriers. Also, if your cat consumes a lot of tuna fish, this could cause neurological problems because of high levels of mercury contamination.
OBESITY: THE MODERN PLAGUE OF CATS AND DOGS
America's pets are obese, and there's no sign that the trend is slowing, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, which reports that 53 percent of dogs and 58 percent of cats are overweight. Pet insurer Nationwide reports that claims for obesity-linked conditions and diseases increased 10 percent in the past two years. Excess weight causes health problems such as arthritis, bladder issues, kidney and heart disease and diabetes. Food addiction can lead to overeating and the metabolic syndrome. Certain flavors and additives in pet foods and treats coupled with a high cereal or starch content that causes an insulin surge can mean animals always feel hungry. Such biologically inappropriate dietary ingredients may cause proliferation of dependent and demanding gut bacteria that thrive on starches and sugars and influence dietary preferences.
(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.)