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My adult cat never goes outside, but my veterinarian recommends that I keep him current on his rabies vaccination. Is it really necessary to continue to vaccinate him?

A -- Keeping your house cat current on his rabies vaccination is highly recommended and required by law in Erie County. One of our clients woke up to find her cats playing with a bat inside her house. She was not sure how it got in; possibly through an open window or the attic. Regardless, this sort of event happens all the time.

The next morning she wisely called her local health department, and the bat was tested for rabies. Fortunately for her (and her cats), both cats are up to date on their rabies vaccination which immensely reduces their chances of contracting rabies, a disease that is fatal to all mammals, including humans. After talking to the health department, she brought her cats to our clinic to have them examined for bite wounds and to booster their rabies vaccination.

The rabies virus is common in this state. Animals most frequently affected are bats, foxes, skunks and coyotes. Keeping you mammalian pets vaccinated is crucial to protecting public health as well as your pets.

Ted Winkle, DVM

A taste for coffee

Q -- My dog seems to have developed a taste for coffee. Is it OK for me to give him somewhile I have mine in the morning?

A -- Caffeine, in a family of drugs called methylxanthines, does contain some toxic principals. The dog's weight and product ingested will have a bearing on the possibility of toxicity, so a smaller dog ingesting espresso will be more likely to have a problem than a larger dog drinking one cup of coffee. A 15- to 20-pound dog could reach a fatal dose of caffeine by drinking three cups of coffee or only 1 1/2 cups of espresso.

Signs could be vomiting, hyperactivity, tremors, seizures, comas and even death. There is no cure for this toxicity, so if you believe your dog may have ingested this much caffeine, call your veterinarian immediately. Treatment involves supportive measures such as IV fluids and Valium to control tremors or seizures.

Ted Winkle DVM

Become a technician

Q -- The veterinary hospital I take my pets to has several people called "technicians." What exactly does a technician do?

A -- To become a veterinary technician in New York, one must complete two years of college courses at a licensed school, such as Medaille College. Licensure as a veterinary technician also requires competing two preceptorships at veterinary hospitals and passing a licensing exam. This makes veterinary technicians better educated and trained than some nurses are.

At our practice, we rely on technicians to do a wide varied of tasks. They assist with restraint during physical examinations, draw blood and do laboratory analysis, take and develop radiographs, (X-rays), monitor patients during anesthesia, act as surgical assistants, medicate sick patients, care for boarding pets, act as receptionists when the phone is "ringing off the wall," advise clients about pet care and perform countless other duties. Technicians make a veterinary hospital function. They do everything short of surgery, making diagnoses and prescribing medications.

Timm Otterson, DVM
Prepared as a public service by the Niagara Frontier Veterinary Society. Send questions to Pets, P.O. Box 403, East Aurora, N.Y. 14052-0403. Sorry, personal replies cannot be provided.

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