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Dr. Michael Fox, Published October 17 2013

Dr. Fox: Question about growth on cat's leg

Dear Dr. Fox: I read your column faithfully every week and appreciate the sound advice you offer your readers. I’m especially drawn to the holistic nature of your advice and was wondering if you might be able to help me with my cat, Blue.

Blue is an incredibly adorable flame point Siamese mix. He’s 8 or 9 years old, an indoor cat, extremely healthy (although a little overweight) and has only one issue, really: a growth on his right hind leg.

I discovered this growth in March 2011 and took him to the vet for a biopsy that showed no malignancy. Since Blue is getting up in years and the growth doesn’t seem to bother him, I decided not to have it removed. But I also proceeded to comb the Internet for information regarding the connection between feline vaccines and fibrosarcoma – something that, quite honestly, scares the wits out of me. Even though the biopsy showed no malignancy, I’m concerned that the growth may still be there due to the rabies booster Blue had in August 2009. Consequently, when he was due for his next booster in July 2012, I took him to a vet to see if she could run a rabies titer before giving the vaccine. Unfortunately, the vet didn’t draw enough blood, so the test was never run. I decided against giving him the vaccine at that time.

Since it’s now been four years since Blue’s last rabies booster, I’m wondering how to best proceed from here. Should I have him vaccinated or should I try to have another titer run first? I’ve already decided against any additional FVRCP vaccines, but am concerned about the rabies.

– L.W., Pine Plains, N.Y.

Dear L.W: Because of the growth at the vaccination injection site, even though it did not test positive for cancer, it is evidence enough of vaccinosis, a vaccine-induced disease or adverse reaction. Your cat may well develop a similar reaction when a repeat vaccination is given, and there is no guarantee that the growth will not turn out to be malignant.

Since he is an indoor cat and because of his evident vaccinosis, I see no reason why the veterinarian should not provide you with a note indicating that, for health reasons, giving further vaccinations is not advised. Reasonable health authorities should accept this if the vaccination status of your cat is ever questioned.

Dear Dr. Fox: It is not unusual for me to see joggers running with pets on a leash and never stopping. Isn’t this unnatural and harmful to a pet? I know of a woman who runs around the high school quarter-mile track with her dogs. I have watched and noticed the dogs stop and sit sometimes, then run and catch up with her. Isn’t that more natural and healthful for a dog, rather than making them run all the time? – B.B., Manchester, Mo.

Dear Dr. Fox: Please write something in your column about dog owners who like to take their dogs along when they go running. Some dogs appear very fit and able to keep up, but all too often I see dogs, even puppies, that seem to be in distress because they can’t keep up with their owners or have been asked to run too far in hot weather. I hate to see these animals being dragged by the collar on a leash as they struggle to keep up with their athletic owners. How does a responsible pet owner judge how far and how fast he can ask a dog to go? – L.S., St. Louis

Dear B.B. and L.S.: I appreciate your concern. All dogs accompanying their jogging/running human companions should be first given time to sniff, mark and evacuate. They should be mature (not puppies), in good physical condition and show no signs of difficulty in keeping pace. Older dogs, those with pushed-in pug faces and all dogs in hot and humid weather may quickly become compromised and experience heat stress and even heat stroke, which is an emergency. A harness – rather than a collar – is essential when dogs tend to pull on a leash. Letting trained dogs stop by themselves and then catch up is fine if in a safe off-leash area.

All dogs need to be carefully monitored and provided with drinking water or even a cooling evaporative wet-shirt on long runs. Hot pavement can be an additional problem.

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 website at www.twobitdog.com/DrFox.