DEAR DR. FOX: I saw the warning from the Better Business Bureau about online puppy scams in your column. I think many people are aware that there are a lot of purebred puppy scams out there, but I didn't realize how many dubious mixed-breed adoption sites there were until recently.
I was trying to adopt a small dog after my 16-year-old Chihuahua mix died. All my previous dogs have been adoptions (whether from a shelter or from a friend or a vet giving me a puppy), going back 50 years. This was the first time I've had to go through the new adoption process of multiple-page forms and high fees, some as high as $950.
I was looking for an adult or senior dog: mixed breed, on the smaller side, and female. It took me over three months, lots of searching, filling out forms and honestly just luck till I was finally able to adopt a suitable dog. She's an 8-year-old Chihuahua mix and a real sweetheart. My other dog just loves her; they got along right away. Her fee was $350, which I thought was very reasonable, since she was spayed, up to date on shots and tested for heartworm and distemper.
Petfinder.com is an easy way to search for adoptable pets, but do your homework -- check out the rescue's reviews on Yelp and other review sites. Many of these dogs come from crowded high-kill shelters, and are not treated for distemper and parasites as advertised.
Adoption is the way to go, and while most rescues are run by legitimate, caring people, there are still those people out there who are only looking to make a buck. They really don't care about the dogs' welfare. -- L.D.R., Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania
DEAR L.D.R.: I hope that all readers who are looking to bring a dog or cat into their homes will follow your advice and exercise due diligence when going online to find a suitable animal. There are scams around every corner these days, where money over morality is the driver. Those who exploit our love and concern for animals are especially despicable.
Yes, adoption is the best way to go. In many communities, there are networks of foster care providers, who can give adoptable animals a better environment than most shelters can. Conditions at overcrowded, understaffed long-term rescue facilities can lead to PTSD, separation anxiety and other behavioral problems in cats and dogs.
DEAR DR. FOX: Your recent article about dogs having summer "hot spots" described what our schnauzer Max experiences. But he does not have any fleas, so I am thinking that his hot spots must originate with an allergy or some other source. What is your recommendation for canine hot spots that don't come from fleas?
We enjoy your column immensely, especially when you relate personal anecdotes, and have learned much about how to be better caretakers for our four-legged friends! -- H.M., Clemmons, North Carolina
DEAR H.M.: Canine hot spots are red, itchy and weeping sores most often caused by an allergic reaction to flea bites. Seasonal occurrences can also be due to other allergens, such as grass and various pollens. Bathing affected dogs weekly can help, along with having them wear a coat when outdoors, running free in brush and grass.
Many dog owners have found that putting some local bee pollen or honey in the dog's food -- about 1 teaspoon daily for a 40-pound dog -- can help. In some instances, veterinary-prescribed antihistamines can help reduce the allergy. This is a safer alternative to anti-inflammatory corticosteroids and immune-suppressing Apoquel.
DEAR DR. FOX: The owner of my local pet supply store is convinced that prescription diet foods from the vet's office are garbage, and are to be avoided. I conveyed her opinion on a local Facebook page and a vet replied, contradicting her -- saying that the food is good stuff and that vets make almost nothing selling it.
What do you say about this matter? I want to believe the pet store owner, who is very knowledgeable about nutrition and sells only healthy, organic pet food and supplements. But the vet disparaged her for daring to have an opinion on pet nutrition when she had not gone to vet school! -- K.L., Ashland, Oregon
DEAR K.L.: Some special prescription diets do help cats and dogs with various health issues, but by and large, they are unpalatable and overpriced. Vets do profit from selling them. For a good review of these diets, see the contribution by veterinary college emeritus professor Marion E. Smart, DVM, Ph.D., in the book that I co-authored, "Not Fit for a Dog: The Truth About Manufactured Cat and Dog Foods."
For special prescription diet formulations, I advise veterinarians to look into the vet-formulated recipes from Balance IT (visit secure.balanceit.com or call 1-888-346-6362).
(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.)