When it comes to flea control, don't throw good money after bad

LAS VEGAS, NV. -- These reader questions were answered by experts at the Western Veterinary Conference, attended by about 9,000 veterinary professionals and veterinary students, Feb. 19-23.

Q: My 12-year-old cat got fleas for the first time two months ago. She weighs about 25 pounds. I tried a flea powder, but no luck. Then I tried the cheap monthly treatment, which didn't work, either. Finally, I broke down and brought a $60 product, which did kill the fleas -- but now my cat isn't eating much and has lost 10 pounds. Any advice? -- R.M., Cyberspace

A: Please see your veterinarian as soon as possible about your cat's weight loss. Unless your email included a typo, this cat has lost nearly half her body weight. What you don't indicate is how long it took for her to lose the weight, and whether the weight loss was planned. Unless a cat is on a weight-loss program, steady weight loss is likely due to a medical issue - perhaps a serious one.

If you're inferring that the flea product is somehow related to the weight loss, "It's very unlikely," according to veterinarian Dr. Ernest Ward, of Calabash, NC. "Like many pet owners, you threw good money after bad," he notes. "The good news is that flea products recommended by veterinarians really do an excellent job."

Ward says the problem with choosing a flea product without veterinary input is that you're generally guessing that your choice is a good one.

"Some products simply aren't effective. Others may actually be dangerous if used under the wrong circumstances," Ward adds.

Q: Our 18-year-old tabby was rescued about four years ago. For the last year or so, she's been throwing up some of her food, maybe once a week to once a month. I've tried changing pet food brands and adding sugarless low-fat vanilla yogurt to her food. This hasn't seemed to help. Do you have any ideas? -- G.M., Valrico, FL

A: "Certainly, see your veterinarian," suggests Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins, director of veterinary medicine at Ceva Animal Health and author of "Your Cat: Simple New Secrets to a Longer, Stronger Life" (St. Martin's Press, New York, NY, 2007; $29.95). Still, I wonder if your cat is really sick, especially if the problem has not gotten worse over time. It's possible that your cat is getting one or two large meals a day, and eating them too fast. Overall, I'm a proponent of canned food, and dividing those meals up into small portions."

Q: My 13-year-old Silky Terrier is diabetic, and as a result developed demodectic mange. We tried everything topical, but the problem got worse until we began to use daily (oral) Ivermectin solution. This has worked wonders. The dog has been on Ivermectin for four months, and I'm told he should be on it for life. Have you ever heard of this treatment?-- M.B., Cyberspace

A: Demodex mange (caused by mites) usually occurs in very young or older dogs. Dr. Sheldon Rubin, a Chicago veterinarian, explains, "The mites are there and when the immune system is in some way compromised, the mites are no longer under control and become a problem. Ivermectin works, but isn't typically given daily. Also, after a few months of treatment, dogs are usually tested. If the mites no longer appear, treatment is discontinued."

Rubin is concerned about whether or not your dog's diabetes is being effectively controlled, or if there's another health issue involved, such as early kidney disease or hypothyroid disease. These problems and many others, can compromise your dog's immune system, allowing the mites to flourish.

"I do worry about safety if Ivermectin is used daily for an extended period of time, or for the remainder of the dog's life," says Rubin. "If the mange isn't resolved, consider a visit to a veterinary dermatologist."


Recently, I received several emails asking whether I'd seen GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich's "Pets with Newt" website (www.petswithnewt.com).

I've also received email asking if I'm aware of concerns that at least some pet lovers have about candidate Mitt Romney's treatment of his dog -- literally having the pet ride in a carrier strapped to the roof of the car on a family road trip in 1983. Angry pet lovers have even created a website: www.dogsagainstromney.com. Also, about 35,000 people 'like' the Dogs Against Romney Facebook page.

The candidate has insisted publicly, "My dog loved it." Romney blamed animal rights groups for the criticisms, noting, "They're not happy that my dog likes fresh air." According to media reports, not so much, as Seamus apparently soiled himself during the 12-hour ride. Besides, it seems to me that traveling with a dog on the roof of the car is unlawful. The website repeats the mantra, "Dogs are not luggage."

As for Gingrich, in his defense, he's long touted his love for animals. And he apparently realizes well over half of all voters have at least one pet.

(Steve Dale's NEW EBOOKS, "Good Dog!" and "Good Cat!", are available on all major eReader devices and platforms. The basic version of each book is $2.99. An enhanced version of "Good Dog!" with embedded videos is available at iTunes for $4.99. For details, check the "Good Dog!"Facebook page. Write to Steve at Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207. Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is www.stevedalepetworld.com)

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