Dear Christopher Cat: My cats have fleas, so I ordered flea medicine online from a California pet pharmacy. Frankly, I was pleased that the online pharmacy didn't ask for a veterinarian's prescription, even though I was under the impression that the medication required one.

Later, I was shocked to read in the newspaper that the state is fining that company and 12 other California online pet pharmacies for illegally selling unlicensed products. How can I protect myself from this problem in the future?

Christopher responds: The easiest way is to buy medical products directly from your veterinarian.

If you prefer to buy online, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) helps you do it safely. Just choose one of the online pet pharmacies listed on their website at bit.ly/2h1wNkR.

NABP pharmacists research online pet pharmacies and certify only those that meet their strict criteria. These pharmacies are designated as Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites, or Vet-VIPPS.

You can trust a Vet-VIPPS online pharmacy to dispense legitimate medication that was stored and shipped at the proper temperature and humidity so its potency is maintained.

Not requiring a veterinarian's prescription for a prescription-only medication should have made you suspicious that the drug you would receive wasn't authentic. The next time something sounds too good to be true, walk away.

To protect your cats' health, buy only from your regular veterinarian or a Vet-VIPPS pet pharmacy.

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Dear Daisy Dog: My dog, Remington, started coughing a few days after he came home from the boarding kennel. His bordetella and influenza vaccines were current.

Nevertheless, his veterinarian diagnosed kennel cough and started him on an antibiotic. Why did I bother having Remy vaccinated if the vaccines didn't work?

Daisy responds: You vaccinated Remington to protect him from several germs: Bordetella bacteria, two strains of influenza (flu) virus, and the respiratory viruses included in the distemper combination vaccine, including distemper, adenovirus and parainfluenza.

However, these are not the only germs that produce kennel cough, also called infectious tracheobronchitis and contagious canine cough complex.

Kennel cough is caused by many other organisms, including herpes and respiratory corona viruses, as well as Mycoplasma and Streptococcus zooepidemicus bacteria. Vaccines aren't available to protect dogs from these germs.

It's also possible that Remington was infected by one of the organisms for which he was vaccinated. This can happen in dogs with insufficient antibodies, usually because they were vaccinated within two weeks of boarding.

Or Remy may have been stressed while boarding. Stress suppresses immune function, which increases the risk of infectious disease.

Finally, stress-induced barking irritates the throat, making what might otherwise have been a subclinical infection into full-blown kennel cough.

Ask the Vet's Pets appears Friday in the print edition of the Reading Eagle. The animal authors of the column live with Lee Pickett, V.M.D., who practices companion animal medicine. Contact them at www.askthevetspets.com.