Everyone is trying to save money these days, including pet owners. But in an effort to cut back on costs, you may receive advice that could end up compromising your pet's health and cost you more money in the long run.
With that in mind, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has developed recommendations on how you can manage the cost of your pets' care with less risk with its "Money Tips for Caring Pet Owners" (avma.org). I encourage readers to check it out.
Good nutrition and exercise help prevent obesity in our pets, allowing them to live healthier lives and saving us money in the long run.
Still, there's one suggestion the AVMA makes that I would add a qualifier to: "Routine monitoring for tick-borne diseases and parasites (including heartworm), as well as keeping your pets up-to-date on medications, can save their lives," said Dr. Meghan McGrath, a Philadelphia-area veterinarian.
Anti-flea and tick insecticides should never be given for preventative purposes, especially for the millions of indoor cats, and dogs having only seasonal exposure. Ivermectin to prevent heartworm is my one seasonal medication for our dog here in Minnesota, but always check with your veterinarian first because this drug can harm some breeds.
Read on below to see my advice for one reader who is questioning whether to continue giving flea treatment to two indoor cats.
DEAR DR. FOX: I have two neutered male tuxedo cats. Each was found at about 7 to 8 weeks of age; one is now nearly 2, the other closer to 1. They are indoor cats and have never been out of the house except for vet visits. They are in exceptionally good health.
I have been using Advantage Multi as long as we have had them, but I am wondering if they really need this medication. We do not have mosquitoes in our home, so they shouldn't have heartworm. They are never outdoors, so they shouldn't have contact with fleas, ticks, etc.
Should we continue with this or another treatment? -- S.I., Sapulpa, Oklahoma
DEAR S.I.: I am disgusted, frankly, that the attending veterinarian is selling you this product. It could put your cats' health at risk with long-term use. Also, there are environmental concerns with the main ingredient being a broad-spectrum neonicotinoid, which has been linked to the demise of bees and other vital crop pollinators as well as to the starvation and death of other creatures dependent upon healthy insects for food.
Advantage Multi contains imidacloprid, the most well-known and widely used representative of the neonicotinoid insecticides. It is a broad-spectrum neonicotinoid with systemic and contact activity that supports its use on many food crops, turf and ornamentals, and for termite and flea control.
Because your cats never get outdoors, this product is not needed. Traces of the Advantage Multi's insecticide in cats' urine and feces raise environmental concerns with improper disposal of contaminated cat litter (such as spreading it in your garden as fertilizer or putting it in compost).
The less such insecticides are used on companion animals and elsewhere, the better for everyone. You should not need any anti-parasite drugs for your cats if they have no fleas or internal parasites. Instead, check for fleas with a flea comb, and check for internal parasites by taking stool samples to the vet for further examination.
DEAR DR. FOX: Our toy poodle loves to crawl underneath the covers in our bed at night and stay there. He always seems perfectly fine, but we worry at times that he will not get sufficient oxygen. Have you ever heard of anything happening to a dog engaging in this behavior? -- B.R., Boynton Beach, Florida
DEAR B.R.: I have never heard of an animal suffocating as a result of this behavior. However, sleep apnea is good for neither man nor beast, and this can be problematic for cats and dogs with pushed-in faces, like French bulldogs, pugs and Persian cats.
So, just as airlines refuse to fly such animals because of their breathing difficulties, I would not encourage them to get under the sheets in bed. They have difficulty breathing at the best of times, and being under the sheets with limited oxygen could cause even more cardiovascular strain.
Give your toy poodle his own loose, light blanket or towel to snuggle under.
(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.)