Q: is it necessary to have my indoor cat vaccinated for leukemia? She never goes outside, and she is the only cat that I have. I worry that she might get sick from the vaccine.
Valerie Hardesty, Seal Beach
A: Since the feline leukemia virus is a common disease-causing agent among cats, I would highly recommend having your cat vaccinated. Although the disease is spread by direct contact with other cats, it would be worth the peace of mind to have your cat protected. It may be necessary to board your cat in the future, or an injury or illness might cause your cat to become more susceptible if she is ever hospitalized. There is an occasional post-vaccination fever, but it is of short duration. I would also recommend that you have your cat tested prior to vaccination to determine that she is negative for the FeLV virus.
Q: Mike is an 8-year-old boxer who bleeds anally when he expels waste. He has been under treatment by three veterinarians for that symptom and for colitis. During the treatment, it was learned that he is allergic to soy and milk products. The colitis has been brought under control through diet, but the bleeding continues to be uncontrolled. His present vet states that an organism called Giardia is causing the problem. That organism is found in water. Medication prescribed for Mike seems to offer no solution. I'm hoping that you can provide a solution to this problem.
George Saturensky, Costa Mesa
A: Bleeding from the colon can be a sign of many disorders, one of which could be an infection from Giardia, which is the genus name for a protozoan organism. A Giardia condition is often difficult to diagnose, as it requires that multiple fecal smears be examined.
It is important to note that Giardia can also afflict human beings, so great care should be taken when removing contaminated feces from the yard. Giardia can be treated with antibiotics such as penicillin G.
Other causes of colon or rectal bleeding can be ulcers, tumors or mucosal injury. Since the colitis has been determined to be from an allergy and is being controlled by diet, other tests will be necessary to help find the source of the bleeding.
The most direct method is to use an endoscope to examine the entire colon. Since the surface of the colon is usually smooth and even in color, it will be easy to find tumor masses or ulcers. Should anything suspicious be seen in the scope, several biopsies should be taken and sent to a pathologist for a diagnosis. A barium enema is an alternative, but it may be less useful in coming up with a diagnosis. Exploratory surgery to examine the colon is another possibility, but small defects in the inside lining can be missed.
Chronic colitis often includes some bleeding, and it can be very difficult to treat. It often requires lifelong medication and a controlled diet. Unfortunately, not all cases respond well to medication.