Four Corners Animal League
Helping Creatures Without A Voice
Ask The Vet

Susanne R. Felser, VMD graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 1987. She owned a small animal practice in Maryland for 10 years. In 2000 she sold the very successful practice to move back out west, settling in Taos, New Mexico. Sue has done part-time work for USDA as a field veterinarian during the Foot & Mouth Disease outbreak in the United Kingdom in 2001 and the Exotic Newcastle Disease outbreak in California in 2003.

Dr. Felser has additional interests in animal welfare and particularly the need for education and preventive medicine and is currently president of Taos Search and Rescue.


Q. I have an indoor cat that is 12 yrs old, she has been checked recently by a vet. She is in excellent health, however I have a small problem. My cat has decided in the last few months to poop on my bed. I've talked to my vet and we believed at first that it was accidental. It now has become apparent that she is doing this intentionally. She lays on another bed most of the day and never messes it up ever. I need some advice on how to curtail this problem before I lose all sanity. The dry cleaning bill is killing me. Lori

A.Cats that stop using the litter box can take a bit of time to help out.  As long as the stool on the bed is normal - no diarrhea, blood, etc., then there is some kind of litter box aversion going on. Here are a series of steps to start.  Be sure the litter box is cleaned daily and even consider two boxes.  Be sure the box has not been moved or is near something that could scare the cat - i.e. furnace.  Have you changed the type of litter used? If can use two boxes, give the cat a choice - scoopable vs. clay.  Sometimes I have found that old cats are physically having problems getting into the box.  If it is a covered box, remove the cover. If it is deep/tall, use a different type of box.  Also need to consider closing the cat out of the room with the bed for a while and clean the spread well to remove the smell. Basically this involves retraining the cat to the box. I have gone so far as closing cat in room where box is on a daily basis for 2 weeks.  See if these few things help you get started.   Dr. S

Q. My dog (Lab/Chow) recently had puppies. My sister says that the pups are not healthy because their tongues look beige or dark brown. I was under the impression that if a dog had Chow in them, their tongues would not be pink. The pups all seem healthy enough. Should I worry about their tongue color? The pups are possibly lab/chow or lab/cur. Rebecca

A.The tongue colors of the pups are probably normal pigment changes from the Chow cross. I agree that if the pups are healthy - eating, playing, etc. - I would not be worried.  When they go for first vaccines at 8 weeks have your veterinarian check it out. Dr. S

Q.We just had 6 Heinz 57 puppies. One puppy had a white patch on his leg that looks like scar tissue. Another has developed a bump above his eye. Could there be a virus and I need to get them to the vet or Is there something I can do for them? They were born Jan. 11th. I have never seen anything like this. Also one puppy has a bite spot on his belly, but I have never seen anything around to bite them. Bonnie

A.The lesions you describe on the pups are hard to diagnose without visualizing. Have the pups checked by your veterinarian. The lesions could be no problem, but hard to say. Sorry. Dr. S

Q. When should I vaccinate my new puppy or kitten?

A. Puppy and kitten vaccinations should begin at 8 weeks of age. Boosters are required every 3-4 weeks until 16 weeks of age at which time a rabies vaccination is also given. An intestinal parasite deworming program is also performed during this period

Q. Why is an annual exam important to my pet?

A. An annual exam is the most important part of your pet's health care plan. Dogs and cats are not able to directly tell us how they feel and compared to human physiology they age at a much faster rate. As with your health early detection of a problem may lead to more effective and less costly treatment.

Q. What is a spay?

A. A spay is a surgical sterilization procedure technically described as an ovariohysterectomy. This means that both ovaries and the uterus are removed.

Q. What is a neuter?

A. The term neuter is usually used to describe the surgical sterilization of a male dog or cat and is technically an orchiectomy, which is the removal of the testicles.

Q. Why is it important to spay or neuter my dog or cat? Will it change their behavior?

A. Surgical sterilization is a safe and effective means to curb the serious pet overpopulation problem. In addition there are many health benefits gained from these procedures. These benefits include reducing or eliminating the risk of mammary cancer, testicular cancer, uterine infection, and prostatic infection. Male cats will have a reduced incidence of territorial markings by spraying urine. Female cats no longer go through prolonged periods of estrus (heat) during which time they are very vocal and may try to escape. Dogs and cats basic temperament does not change although they may be less likely to try to escape and wander.

Q. At what age should I spay or neuter my pet?

A. Neutering at 5 months of age and spaying at 6 months of age.

Q. Is it OK to administer over the counter (OTC) medications (aspirin, Pepto Bismol, etc.) to my dog or cat?

A. Dogs and cats do not always metabolize medications the same way as humans. Therefore, it is never a good idea to administer OTC medications without first consulting your veterinarian.

Q. What is heartworm disease?

A. Heartworm disease is a blood borne parasite that is spread by mosquitoes. Although it remains an uncommon disease in Colorado it is possible anytime mosquitoes are present, and is endemic in most parts of the country. This disease is often fatal and may result in serious complications. We strongly recommend once a month oral preventative medication during the months of May through October and year round if you travel with your pet. Before starting these medications we will perform a simple blood test to be sure your dog is not already carrying the parasite. Cats can be affected also but this seems to be extremely rare in this part of the country so we are not currently recommending monthly preventative for your cats. We will keep you informed as to any new developments in this area of research.

Q. What is feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)?

A. These are both retroviruses that spread among cats through close contact. A vaccination is available for feline leukemia and we recommend this for any cat that goes outside, or is living with other cats that go outside. No vaccination is 100% effective and no vaccination exists for FIV so we strongly encourage annual testing for both of these viruses in any cat that goes outside.

Q. What is FIP?

FIP stands for feline infectious peritonitis and is also a viral disease. This disease is most common in catteries and usually affects cats less than 18 months old or geriatric cats. This disease is almost 100% fatal. A vaccination does exist, but the efficacy remains uncertain and we currently do not recommend vaccinating except in special circumstances.