DEAR DR. FOX: Our 8-month-old kitten has recently been diagnosed with feline leukemia virus (FeLV), which has spread to his bone marrow.
We adopted him at our local animal shelter when he was 4 months old. We brought him into our home with our 7-year-old cat who we had adopted two years ago from the same shelter. She has tested negative for FeLV and FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) several times, so we are assuming that our new guy was born with FeLV. He now has monthly checkup appointments at the vet and is on daily doses of prednisone.
I have two questions for you:
1. As the FeLV has spread to the bone marrow, what are the expectations for years of life left? Is there anything beyond steroid treatment we should be doing to improve his chances or extend his life?
2. Our older cat was never vaccinated for FeLV. She has since been tested again and is negative. She was immediately vaccinated and subsequently received her booster, during which time she was separated from her brother. We have now reintroduced them for quality of life purposes. Are we putting her at undue risk by allowing them to be together? Are there strategies we can employ to reduce her chances of contracting the virus?
Any insight you can share would be most appreciated. -- D.P., Washington, D.C.
DEAR D.P.: Cats are susceptible to a variety of virus infections, some contracted prenatally, others very early in life.
Those with certain infections, such as feline herpes, do well keeping the infection suppressed so long as their immune systems function well and they are no subjected to stress. Your young cat may cope with the feline leukemia virus infection so long as he is not unduly stressed, as by frequent trips to the vet; so arrange for in-home visits if possible.
Avoid boarding and separation from his family. Also avoid additional vaccinations and anti-flea drugs, which can wreak havoc with the immune system and trigger a flare-up of the infection. Good nutrition is essential, ideally some raw or freeze-dried cat foods, or my home-prepared diet, posted on my website.
DEAR DR.FOX: My 9-year-old spayed female yellow Labrador has been very itchy all her life. We had her tested for allergies when she was 2, and she tested positive for many food and environmental allergies. We can control the food allergies, and we give her allergy shots for 12 of her environmental allergies. She still gets so itchy by July and August that we can't even touch her or give her a belly rub because she goes into a scratching frenzy. Several summers I have had to give her prescription pills from my veterinarian, which can be quite costly.
This spring, I read in the newspaper about the benefit of local honey for people with seasonal allergies. I checked online to see if honey would be safe for dogs, and decided to try giving one teaspoon a day on her dry food. She loves it, and licks the spoon, but even better, within two days, her itching was gone. She got through July without itching, and I'm hoping she will get through the rest of the summer and fall without constantly scratching. Maybe some of your readers' itchy dogs could benefit from this cheap but effective remedy. It must be locally produced honey, which is available at local farmers markets and even some supermarkets. -- G.M., Jackson, New Jersey
DEAR G.M.: I have been advocating giving dogs local honey or bee pollen for decades to help stop seasonal allergies. Many thanks for confirming what some of my critics have said disparaging words about. Such treatment can indeed be highly effective, but of course it is not a panacea, since there are other causes of itchy skin in dogs, which call for different treatments.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 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.)