DEAR READERS: Many people believe that cats help prevent the spread of bubonic plague by killing the rats that can harbor the disease. In reality, they can help spread it.
This plague, also called the Black Death, is caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. It swept through Asia and Europe in the 14th century, killing over 25 million people (a third of the population) in Europe between 1347 and 1352. These days, an average of 10 human plague cases are reported each year in the United States; the majority are from New Mexico, California, Colorado and Arizona.
Yersinia pestis is maintained in the environment in a natural cycle between susceptible rodent species and their associated fleas. Commonly affected species include ground squirrels, prairie dogs, rabbits and wood rats. Cats are usually exposed to the bacteria by oral contact with secretions or tissue of an infected rodent or rabbit -- for example, eating an infected animal -- or by the bite of an infected flea.
To decrease the risk of pets and humans being exposed to plague, pet owners in areas where the disease may be found should keep their pets from roaming and hunting.
While rats and cats were blamed for the plague and killed in the Middle Ages, the disease mainly spread person to person via fleas and lice. But cats can transmit plague to humans by biting or scratching them. People can also be exposed to the illness through direct contact with an infected cat’s draining lymph node material. An infected cat may also carry fleas that can transmit Yersinia pestis to humans by biting them. If a cat has the pneumonic form of plague, it can easily be spread to humans through the air. Owners and veterinarians are at risk of contracting plague when dealing with an infected cat.
There are more than 30 other diseases cats can transmit to humans which, aside from their predation on birds and other wildlife, should mandate owned cats not being allowed to roam our neighborhoods.
DEAR DR. FOX: I am looking for any help for my 22-month-old cocker spaniel. He is my baby, but now I am afraid of him.
I gave him Bravecto one week ago, and he has become very aggressive and has attacked everyone in the house. He went directly after my grandson’s face. He appears fearful and confused at times.
This pill lasts three months. What can I do to help him and get through the next months? I cannot have family over for the holidays. Is there a detox protocol or anything I can do? -- Y.H., Fort Myers, Florida
DEAR Y.H.: This is a most distressing side effect of this widely used insecticide, which is a neurotoxin and should not be given to dogs, in my opinion. Some dogs will panic when they have a strange odor put on them, and show fear and defensive aggression when they experience side effects such as muscle tremors and incoordination.
There is also a condition known as cocker hysteria, which the drug may have triggered in a susceptible dog like yours.
I would have the vet check his thyroid function and prescribe him a low dose of Valium for five to seven days. Keep your dog quiet, with no visitors, and give him 250 mg each of milk thistle, vitamin E and vitamin B complex to help his liver detoxify the Bravecto.
Another veterinarian I consulted, Dr. Ava Frick, suggested an alternative to Valium: the natural herb valerian (namely, the Valerian Complex supplement from the Australian brand MediHerb), which can often reduce the amount of anticonvulsants and sedatives dogs are on. You could also give the dog calcium and magnesium to help calm the nerves.
Keep me posted. This is an unusual side effect of this drug, and I would like to hear from readers with similar experiences.
For details about the risks of these insecticides in our animal companions, check my website (drfoxonehealth.com) for the article entitled “Companion Animal Risks of Flea and Tick Insecticides.”
(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 DrFoxOneHealth.com.)