By Steve Dale
Tribune Content Agency
Q: I've written to you before about the scoundrel veterinarians who've cheated the public. Like the veterinarian in the recent "20/20" TV segment, when we changed counties, that new vet wanted to vaccinate my dog all over again with vaccines I'd never heard of. And the "20/20" segment (broadcast Nov. 24) proved that dogs only need vaccines every three years. Don't you think vets are vaccinating our animals to death? - V.C., Cyberspace
A: I absolutely do not think veterinarians are vaccinating dogs to death. Nearly all veterinarians follow vaccine guidelines suggested by the American Animal Hospital Association (for canines) and the American Association of Feline Practitioners (for felines).
These guidelines offer veterinarians science-based reasoning regarding which vaccines to use, and how often to vaccinate. However, as the guidelines suggest, there may be reasons for veterinarians to use their own discretion. For example, the canine distemper vaccine may be suggested more often in areas where outbreaks occur, which may (or may not) explain why in the "20/20" segment you saw, the veterinarian suggested a distemper vaccine after only a year.
Besides, you don't have the facts right in the first place. While some vaccines might be suggested every three years, others are only available on an annual basis, such as vaccines for leptospirosis or Lyme disease (both for dogs). These two vaccines are also examples of non-core vaccines, which are dependent on a pet's lifestyle and/or geography. Some pets may need non-core vaccines, while others do not.
For example, dogs become infected with leptospirosis by drinking lake or river water, or even water from puddles contaminated with Leptospira organisms shed in urine by the local wildlife, ranging from raccoon to city rats and infected dogs. Leptspirosis can cause serious illness in dogs, and it can be transmitted to people. Wherever leptospirosis occurs, it's important to vaccinate for it. Perhaps this is a vaccine you've never heard of.
Other vaccines, such as the one for canine distemper, are considered core vaccines, and are suggested for all dogs. A third category of vaccines are not generally recommended but still may be used based on veterinary discretion.
The guidelines (for both dogs and cats) are clear: Not all pets require all available vaccines, and certainly not every year, depending on the vaccine.
Here's a link to the 2011 American Animal Hospital Association Vaccine Guidelines for Dogs: https://www.aahanet.org/PublicDocuments/CanineVaccineGuidelines.pdf. Here's where you can find the 2013 American Association of Feline Practitioners Guidelines for Cats: http://jfm.sagepub.com/content/15/9/785.full.pdf+html.
Q: Our 17-year-old Scottish Fold has never liked being in a cat carrier, but has always calmed down once we've reached our destination, usually the veterinary office where she goes for exams and sometimes for boarding.
The last time we boarded her at the clinic, we have reason to believe she was treated very unkindly by a veterinarian. After this experience, she hissed and growled the entire time she was boarded, and when she came home she continued hissing and growling for a while. This veterinarian had the gall to tell us this new behavior would continue and our cat would never return to her sweet self. He recommended putting her down!
Eventually, our cat calmed down. Meanwhile, we learned that due to complaints from staff and other clients, the veterinarian was let go. But our cat now hisses and growls at the vet's office. How can we make these visits more calm, not only for medical check-ups, but also when we need to board our cat there? - D.W., Cyberspace
A: "Based on your description, I have no doubt that this veterinarian mishandled your cat," says Dr. Elizabeth Colleran, of Chico, CA. "But it's also possible that the veterinarian didn't consider your cat's age, and so many elderly cats do suffer from undiagnosed arthritis, or there could be another explanation for pain."
Colleran, a past president of the American Association of Feline Practitioners, suggests you leave the cat carrier out and periodically drop treats into it to positively condition your cat to the carrier.
Before visiting the veterinary clinic again, spray the carrier with Feliway or wipe the inside with Feliway wipes. Feliway is copy of naturally occurring pheromone which cats use to help them feel relaxed. Also, ask your veterinarian about a nutritional supplement called Anxitane (L-theanine), which can be an excellent stress buster.
You might also ask your new veterinarian about the veterinary practice becoming a certified Cat Friendly Practice.
Q: Call me cheap, but I'm not spending my hard-earned money any longer on pet books. You once mentioned on the radio a good, affordable e-book on dogs, available for Kindle. That's what I want. What's the title? - J.B., Cyberspace
A: Diamond Jim Brady, I have just the book for you: "Good Dog! Practical Answers to Behavior Questions." The book, which I authored, includes the best of over 10 years of my Q&A columns. They cover everything from puppies to senior dogs, and behavioral issues including aggression, attention-seeking behaviors and separation anxiety. The price is only $2.99.
The introduction was written by the one and only Betty White, the foreword is from Victoria Stilwell, of "It's Me or the Dog" on Animal Planet, and the preface is by Dr. Sheldon Rubin, a Chicago veterinarian and past-president of the Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association.
Call me old-fashioned, but despite having created this ebook, I still like books you can hold and smell!
Q: Whenever I return home with a paper sack from the grocery, our cats hop inside, even competing to see which can get into the bag first. We stopped letting them do this because it's the only time they fight. Any advice? - F.S., Livonia, MI
A: Always be prepared with one more sack than you have cats (unless you have a crazy number of cats). Therefore, if you have three cats and come home from the store with two sacks, go to your closet and open two more sacks. Your cats may generally get along fine unless they're squeezed into a small space - so one cat per bag. If this plan doesn't work out, you may have to recycle the bags before they become cat tunnels.
Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column. Write to Steve at Tribune Content Agency, LLC., c/o 16650 Westgrove Dr., Suite 175, Addison, TX 75001. Send e-mail to petworld(at)steve dale.tv. Include your name, city and state.
(c) 2014 DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.This column was printed in the December 14, 2014 - December 26, 2014 edition.