DEAR DR. FOX: The new NexGard Combo topical treatment for cats appears to have caused horrific problems for my 15-year-old cat, Whitey.
In the worst spur-of-the-moment decision of my life, I let the vet apply this treatment to him. She had just run his blood work, and said that one marker from the kidneys was a little high (though she didn't seem too concerned about it). He was also anemic, and in case the anemia was caused by parasites, I made the poor decision to have Whitey dewormed.
This combo product was clearly not tested on elderly cats with health problems. On the fourth day after application, he was no longer his normal self. He slipped and fell off the table where he always jumped to lick my elderly mother's plate after she was finished eating. And at his food bowl, his feet started slipping and sliding underneath him. He stopped eating, completely lost the use of his legs and died within two weeks.
It's obvious to me that this product needs a warning label that includes elderly or diseased animals. Animals that lived a dignified life deserve a more dignified death. -- N.M., New Orleans
DEAR N.M.: I see from the photo you sent me that your cat was indeed a beauty. I'm noting that the photo was taken outdoors, which can always put cats at risk from fleas and various infectious diseases. But if the attending veterinarian did not find any evidence of fleas on your cat, or parasites in a stool sample, prescribing the NexGard Combo was an unwarranted shot in the dark.
Considering your cat's age, I would have done additional tests for kidney function. Cats with chronic kidney disease can develop nonregenerative anemia when their kidneys produce less of a hormone called erythropoietin, which helps the bone marrow produce red blood cells.
Tell me, did the veterinarian check for fleas and parasites in Whitey's feces?
I am so saddened by your loss, and am once more dismayed by the cavalier actions of the many veterinarians who prescribe these antiparasitic drugs. They can have harmful, even fatal, consequences.
N.M. REPLIES: Whitey had been born under a house near ours and sheltered under it until he was a young adult, so he never would have been happy being an indoor-only cat. I noticed behavior changes in him last spring, including increased drinking and urination and not wanting to go outside. However, the health problems of the elderly people in our home took precedence, and I was not able to take him to the vet until August.
I don't know if she checked Whitey for fleas, though I don't think he had any at the time. But I know she didn't take a stool sample.
I had hoped Whitey could recover at home, with me continuing to hand-feed him. I would have tried to hospitalize him if I had a greater amount of trust in veterinarians.
I know the vet didn't intend to harm my cat, but I wish she would have explained the product she was going to use. I didn't know she specifically used NexGard until I got home and looked at the bill. I had never heard of any of the neurological problems caused by similar products in dogs.
DRAMATIC RISE IN PET SURRENDERS, EUTHANASIA
According to the Shelter Animals Count database, 37% more dogs were euthanized from January to July this year than in the same period last year. Animal adoptions and reclamations have failed to keep pace with surrenders and abandonments. Housing instability and the suspension of spay/neuter programs during pandemic shutdowns have contributed to overcrowded shelters, some of which are now focusing on helping people keep their pets. (Full story: Axios, Aug. 30)
The shortage of affordable pet-friendly housing is contributing to a record number of pet surrenders, animal shelter administrators say. Dog owners looking for homes to rent are encountering breed restrictions, weight limits, high fees and complete pet bans. And natural disasters have destroyed lots of housing this year, leaving people and animals alike homeless, says Laurie Garrison with the Central Vermont Humane Society. (Full story: National Public Radio, Sept. 7)
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