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Dr. Michael Fox, Published December 26 2013

Pet care: Preventive medication protocol

Dear Dr. Fox: For more than two years, my dog weighed 49 pounds and took heartworm medicine for dogs weighing from 25 to 50 pounds (Sentinel once-a-month tablets).

Last week, she weighed 51 pounds, and I was told to increase to the 50 to 100-pound tablet. This seems like overkill, but the vet made a big deal out of it. Though she was covered just fine at 49 pounds, she’s no longer safe since she gained 2 pounds.

What are your thoughts on this? – M.K., Virginia Beach, Va.

Dear M.K.: You raise an important question. I had the same conundrum with one of my own dogs and decided to feed her less and exercise her more when she crossed over from a svelte 47 to 52 pounds, which meant I could keep her on the smaller dose of Heartguard’s ivermectin.

It is important in all states where there is a winter kill of mosquitoes to take dogs off this preventive medication and have a blood titer test done to make sure they are clear before resuming medication the next spring.

There are concerns that the heartworm parasite is developing drug resistance in some states, especially in the Mississippi River delta, so extra vigilance and not missing the monthly preventive medication are called for at this time.

Dear Dr. Fox: Do you recommend deworming cats? One of the three from a litter, now 9 months old, vomits after every meal. The other two are fine. – J.V., Winston-Salem, N.C.

Dear J.V.: Please avoid the temptation to make your own veterinary diagnosis, and take your cat to see a veterinarian if you believe your cat has worms because you have actually seen them.

Cats and dogs who sometimes vomit or have loose stools are too often given over-the-counter worming medications by their owners, which, more often than not, cause more harm than good and are a waste of money because worms were not a problem. But this is not to ignore the fact that most kittens and puppies need worming with the right medication once the kind of worms they have are identified.

Similarly, people will buy various flea sprays, drops and pills whenever they see their pet scratching, making a wrong diagnosis – cats and dogs scratch themselves intensely for reasons other than fleas – even with fatal consequences for cats when given anti-flea preparations meant only for dogs.

Avoid corrupt charities with your end-of-year donations

There has been much talk in the news about various charities, designated as nonprofit organizations, from those claiming to help war veterans to international disaster relief, that prove to be scams with little or no funds ever going to help the designated causes.

Always make sure your donations are tax-deductible and go to a registered 501(c)(3) charity. For some guidance in this domain, visit charitywatch.org and charitynavigator.org. Also find some links to reputable nonprofit organizations on my website, DrFoxVet.com.

When it comes to animal and environmental protection organizations soliciting your support, some of the large ones are already well-funded by corporations and their spin-off charity branches or foundations. They may be limited in their effectiveness by conflicts of interest and by the need to maintain high executive salaries and slush fund travel expenses and other perks, some playing shell games with their accounting and accountability.

Remember, small is beautiful, and small, local groups and chapters of reputable larger nonprofits (such as the Audubon Society) are easier to support if you want to monitor your donations and not just send out some conscience money to feel good.

Small organizations include your local animal shelter and humane society – not to be confused with the Humane Society of the United States – and wildlife rehabilitation and environmental education centers.

Some larger nonprofits, such as the Animal Welfare Institute, Union of Concerned Scientists and Earth Island Institute, are reliably transparent. One must be especially cautious with those soliciting funds to help nonprofit organizations abroad. Find out if your donations are tax deductible and what percentage goes to actually help rather than paying for overhead expenses.

Send all mail to animaldocfox@gmail.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 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 DrFoxVet.com.