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By Dr. Michael Fox, Published January 18 2013

Pet Care: Vet took advantage of owner

Dear Dr. Fox: My 24-year-old grandson got his first adopted dog, a 1-year-old black Lab-mix. He is very protective of her and really takes good care of her.

She had a hot spot and licked it until it bled. He took her to the vet, who shaved the spot and put some kind of cream on it. The vet said he had to anesthetize the dog because he was afraid she would bite him.

Why would he do that? It is a very small spot, and he charged more than $350. I am upset that they took advantage of my grandson and that the dog was anesthetized unnecessarily. Am I wrong? – N.W., St. Louis

Dear N.W.: I am receiving too many letters like yours that disturb me deeply.

Your grandson owes it to his dog and to all other animals who may be seen by this veterinarian to file a formal complaint with the Board of Veterinary Examiners.

This animal doctor is putting an animal patient at risk and overcharging his client by adding an unnecessary procedure: He used anesthetization rather than simply muzzling or giving a sedative/tranquilizer injection and then physically restraining the dog as needed.

I also question the treatment – the dog would lick off any ointment put on the hot spot without some protective covering or neck restrainer. If no possible cause of the hot spot was considered (such as flea bite hypersensitivity) and no steps taken to stop the dog from reaching and licking the lesion, I think a full inquiry is called for.

Dear Dr. Fox: Our 6-year-old male seal point Himalayan cat, Jojo, started limping about six months ago. We recently took him to the vet, as the limp seemed to become worse. The physical exam was unable to provoke any pain response, and no swelling was noted. X-rays of the right and left shoulders showed a growth on both approximate to the humerus/shoulder. The growth is considerably larger on the right, and his limp appears to involve the right front side. Unfortunately, I do not have a specific name for this condition and cannot research the diagnosis to obtain alternative care other than a humeral head osteotomy, which has been mentioned by a consulting surgeon as a future possibility, but is not recommended at this time due to a questionable outcome.

Jojo has one capsule of Dasuquin per day. For pain, he can receive a small amount of aspirin every 72 hours. I have not started the aspirin due to potential liver and kidney issues.

We purchased Jojo and his brother, Mokie (who died of fibrocystic kidney disease at age 3), from a private breeder, and we are not aware of any injury or trauma. – P.V., Kansas City, Mo.

Dear P.V.: I suspect that your poor cat has a congenital deformity in both shoulder joints, the instability caused by dysplasia of the joints leading to the abnormal bone and connective tissue proliferation. This is how the cat’s body is reacting in an attempt to stabilize the joints. The inflammatory reaction may be temporarily alleviated by short-term treatment with steroids.

Long-term benefit may come from anti-inflammatory turmeric and omega-3 fatty acid supplements as provided in fish oils. Discuss sources and dosage with your veterinarian. Organically certified free-range poultry and other meats and dairy products contain more omega-3 fatty acids than conventionally corn-fed and factory farm animals.

Be sure your cat is on a corn- and grain-free diet. I would advise against invasive surgery. My massage therapy book, “The Healing Touch for Cats,” may help you make life more comfortable for Jojo with a daily massage. Any discomfort in one part of the body will throw the rest of the body out of balance and possibly lead to secondary injuries. Inform the breeder of Jojo’s condition and Mokie’s demise.

Dear Dr. Fox: My question concerns the relatively recent advice on cleaning the teeth of cats – a process requiring anesthesia. If you recommend this for a healthy animal, how often should he or she be subjected to it?

In my childhood, we had many pets over the years, and they all lived long lives. Our cats lived to be 18 to 20 years old, and their teeth were never cleaned. – M.C., Washington, D.C.

Dear M.C.: Some will argue that cats in years past did not receive adequate veterinary preventive care. But in years past, many cats were allowed to roam free, killing mice and other small prey that naturally helped keep their teeth clean. Nor were they fed high-fiber, processed ingredients in their diet, like the microparticulate, glutinous materials in many canned and dry (soak them and see!) cat foods.

Regrettably, periodontal and other gum and tooth diseases are all too common in cats and dogs, especially toy and brachiocephalic (pushed-in face) breeds with crammed and misaligned teeth. Neglected, these oral diseases cause animals pain, misery and secondary infections spreading to the heart, liver and kidneys. Inflammatory substances (cytokines) injure the heart, kidneys, pancreas and possibly the joints.

Daily brushing (with equal parts salt and baking soda), safe chew toys, and periodic treatments with specific oral care products – like those from PetzLife – will help reduce the need for annual dental cleaning under a general anesthetic. This is a high-risk procedure for many animals and could be avoided by owners taking better care of their animals’ mouths.

Send your questions to Dr. Fox in care of The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107. 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 Web site at www.twobitdog.com/DrFox.