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Pets: ‘Remarkable!’ says ‘Dr. Flea’

Q: I went to the store and carefully chose positively reviewed products to keep fleas off our dog, but nothing has worked. What should I do?

– V., Tampa, Fla.

A: “Most over-the-counter products have no studies to verify efficacy (that they’re effective enough to deter fleas),” says veterinary parasitologist Dr. Michael Dryden of Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine-Manhattan. “Many contain pyrethroids, which fleas are often resistant to, particularly where you live.”

Dryden, often called “Dr. Flea,” says he’s ecstatic about the newest generation of flea products that offer a quick speed of kill, including AcuGuard, Bravecto, Comfortis, Nextguard and Vectra 3D. “They are remarkable!” he exclaims, “and they do work, even in Tampa, or any place in Southern states. Using any of these products correctly, you will defeat the fleas.”

Dryden explains, “Speed of kill is important for several reasons, among them: The fleas don’t have the chance to lay eggs in the environment.”

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Q: I have five cats and love them all. About two months ago, I noticed that Costa had a problem urinating. Two weeks later, OB started coughing. The veterinarian was able to help, but the fee came to $1,600, which I’m paying off a bit at a time. Why are veterinarians so expensive? I now call only when I see something is truly wrong. I can’t afford anything else.

– A.D., Coral Springs, Fla.

A: “I don’t know what your pets required, but I do understand your concerns,” says Dr. Richard Goldstein, chief medical officer of the Animal Medical Center in New York City. “Of course, veterinary care isn’t subsidized by the government. I’m not sure people realize the equipment, medical training and medications are often equivalent in veterinary care to human health care, but human health care is at least 10 times the cost. So relative to human health care, veterinary care is affordable.”

Of course, even bargains matter little if you can’t pay for them, and Goldstein understands that.

“Veterinarians don’t become veterinarians to become rich, but they have families, too, and that equipment, rent or mortgage and the staff need to be paid,” he says.

The price of care is an issue veterinary medicine is grappling with as costs escalate. This is happening, in part, because of cutting-edge medicine, which allows more to be done for our pets than, say, a decade ago. And also because everything costs more. There are no easy answers. There are low-cost veterinary clinics in many communities, at the very least for spay/neuter. Pet insurance is a terrific safety net, but you would have to pay the premiums, and with five cats this might be costly.

Many veterinarians (particularly if there’s a long-standing relationship with the pet owner) allow payment over time, sometimes interest-free.

“The truth is that preventive care is one way to save money,” Goldstein adds. “When illness is caught early, pets may suffer less, the treatment may not be as costly, and the outcome may more likely be successful.”

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Q: There are many rescue organizations, and they’re all online. We want to rescue a dog, but you’ve written that there are hoarders and puppy mills in disguise online, and places such as petfinder.com might include them. It’s all very confusing. Can you help?

– S.P., San Diego

A: “Never buy a pet from an unknown source,” says Mike Arms, president of the Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. “Wherever you go to get a dog, visit the place in person where the pet lives. An animal shelter or private home – it doesn’t matter. Don’t rely on visiting virtually. Look at the place and the conditions (under which) the animals are living.”

Also, not all individual pets are the right match for all families. “Falling in love with a picture,” Arms says, “isn’t the same as the real thing.