DEAR DR. FOX: I recently read your column about how the reader's cat's kidneys might be damaged, and I wanted to tell you about an illness my 2-year-old cat had, called tularemia, or "rabbit fever."
Like the cat described in the column, my cat ran a high fever, lost all desire to eat or drink, stopped grooming himself and would hardly move around at all. He also developed swollen glands in his neck. The first vet I took him to assumed it was an infection, maybe from a bite (since our cat is an outdoor cat) and prescribed antibiotics and administered fluids in the office. My cat didn't get any better; he actually got worse. It wasn't until a couple days later that a second vet examined him and asked if my cat kills and eats rabbits -- the answer was an absolute yes. The vet said she had seen only one other case of tularemia, but it requires a special antibiotic, which she administered by injection three days in a row and then had us give in liquid form after that for a week.
Over the course of three days, our cat's temperature went from 107 to 104 to normal, and his appetite returned (and became voracious). Over a period of about 10 days, he made a full recovery!
I just wanted to tell you about this, in case it would help anyone else; it was almost a miracle that the second vet we saw even recognized the illness for what it was and knew how to treat it. -- T.B.B., St. Louis
DEAR T.B.B.: This disease is more prevalent in some states than others, and veterinarians are on the alert in areas of greater prevalence, especially since this is a disease that people can also contract. With climate change, it is likely to become more prevalent. In your case, it is a warning to not let cats roam free and kill wildlife.
DEAR DR. FOX: I have an 11-year-old schnauzer, Beau, who has survived two episodes of pancreatitis. I am a widow, and he is my baby and companion.
For the last seven years, I have had him on Natural Choice venison food. Once in a while, I cook for him fish (tilapia) with quinoa and green beans. He likes both foods. For snacks, I give three little pieces of banana and three little pieces of apples. For years, I have given him a capsule of omega-3 oil, as recommended by the vet.
For about two years, I have noticed some masses on his body: two about the size of a small orange, and the other about the size of a lemon. I take him to the vet every year for his annual checkup, and the vet told me the masses are not malignant and that they are typical of schnauzers. I have noticed, though, that he cannot climb onto my bed as he used to, so I have to carry him to my bed; he gets out of bed with no problem. Also, when he climbs the stairs, he is not as fast as he used to be. I am concerned that the masses are impeding his movement.
Please let me know what I can do about these masses. I love Beau with all my heart, and I want him to live for many more years. -- P.P., Fairfax, Virginia
DEAR P.P.: These are probably fatty tumors called lipomas, which are common in older dogs. They grow and grow, but they do not spread to the internal organs. Once they become large enough to interfere with the dog's freedom of movement, it is time to consider surgery under a general anesthetic if the dog is otherwise healthy. Discuss this with your veterinarian, who may refer you to a soft-tissue veterinary surgical specialist. This is the step we took with one of our older dogs; she had a new lease on life after successful removal of a large lipoma in her groin.
You dog may have arthritis. There are supplements like Cosequin and Nordic Naturals fish oil for dogs that can help, along with regular massage as per my book, "The Healing Touch for Dogs."
(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.)