DEAR DR. FOX: Feral cats are disgusting. Within six months of my county instituting a trap-neuter-release (TNR) program, the feral cat population exploded. These vermin gravitated to my backyard, which abuts a wooded area. Now my yard smells like a litter box, the lawn is spotted with feces and most importantly, the health of my wife and child, both asthmatics, has been jeopardized, as the cat stench permeates everything. One day it was so bad that a neighbor's kid, another asthmatic, wouldn't leave our house unless I walked him home.
I understand the intention of TNR, but animal rights shouldn't trump public welfare. -- R.C., Bowie, Maryland
DEAR R.C.: As one of the first advocates of animal rights and as a veterinarian committed to improving the human-animal bond of compassion and understanding for the health and well-being of all, I am deeply disturbed by reports like yours.
Such examples of releasing neutered cats in relatively large numbers into unsuitable residential areas under trap-neuter-release (TNR) programs is animal abandonment, an act of cruelty contrary to most state and federal animal protection laws. Simply dumping unadopted cats (too often with no provision of food or care of any kind) because shelter staff and management are sick of euthanizing healthy animals is likewise a violation of anti-cruelty laws. Read my article "Releasing Cats to Live Outdoors" on my website, DrFoxVet.net.
Reach out to the Animal Legal Defense Fund (aldf.org) to find a pro bono attorney who may be enlightened enough to set this local TNR organization on the right path. Perhaps you will clean up the nationwide TNR movement -- a major topic in my newspaper column for some time. At the very least, you should contact the local police and public health authorities.
Personally, I find all cats, feral or not, very beautiful -- they are super-predators, not "vermin." But when people let their un-neutered cats roam free, problems arise. The cats kill wildlife, and they multiply -- and we all suffer.
Keep me posted about what happens.
DEAR DR. FOX: We have a purebred Jack Russell terrier we got from a rescue 15 years ago. The rescue recommended we use Frontline on him, as did the vet we took him to. We used the medicine, and he had a seizure within about a week, at which time we took him back to the vet. The vet told us that small breeds sometimes have seizures, and there was nothing we could do about it.
After a few months of the seizures, I noticed that they always occurred within about a week of when we gave our dog the Frontline. His stool would loosen, he would be lethargic and then he'd have a seizure. All this from a dog named Ziggy because he couldn't stay in one place.
I stopped giving him Frontline and gave him a pill I found in a local pet supply store that contains brewer's yeast, garlic and some other herbs; he hasn't had a seizure since. Taking this new pill also seemed to increase his strength and exuberance. He's had only one case of fleas, which we got rid of with a Dawn dish detergent shampooing. He has an occasional tick every few years. Ziggy is going blind and a little deaf, but he still runs around like a very happy dog.
The vet told us years ago that Ziggy would need to have two knee operations on his back legs because he had been kept in a crate and his knees would lock up. I tied a piece of yarn to a fishing pole and made him chase it doing figure eights in circles just about every day for about two years. He built up stamina, and he never had the knee operations; his knees don't lock up to this day. -- R.D., Eatontown, New Jersey
DEAR R.D.: Your letter is one of my more bizarre ones. I would never repeatedly prescribe any product known to cause seizures. I can't believe the veterinarian dismissed these seizures as a common problem in smaller dogs. Totally nuts!
Brewer's yeast (NOT baker's yeast) and a little garlic on a full stomach can be good for dogs in many ways and can help repel fleas. For some excellent natural, herbal products in this domain, check Petzlife.com.
Your physical therapy exercise to help correct the kneecap (patella) dislocation issue, which was probably in part an inherited problem, is commendable.
JERKY TREATS STILL SICKENING AND KILLING DOGS
Pet owners and veterinarians are still reporting cases of canine illness associated with jerky pet treats; however, reports have decreased, according to the Food and Drug Administration. There have been 6,200 canine illnesses and more than 1,100 deaths reported to the FDA, along with about two dozen feline illnesses associated with pet treats containing chicken, duck or sweet potatoes, most imported from China. In the last quarter of 2014 through the end of 2015, only 200 cases were reported. The reported signs of kidney illness are sometimes similar to those seen in dogs with Fanconi-like syndrome.
(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.)