Dear Christopher Cat: When our cat Angel starts eating, she cries and runs away from the food. Her veterinarian diagnosed stomatitis and showed me how red and raw Angel's mouth is. He prescribed pain medicine and recommended that a veterinary dentist extract all her teeth. Won't this cause more pain? How will Angel eat without teeth?

Christopher responds: Stomatitis, or mouth (stoma-) inflammation (-itis), is caused by the immune system's overreaction to oral bacteria and sometimes other substances.

Cats with stomatitis experience severe mouth pain. They drop food, are reluctant to eat and lose weight. They may have bad breath, rub their mouths, drool or stop grooming.

Treatment is most successful when the teeth are extracted, which minimizes the plaque bacteria provoking the overactive immune response. Of the cats whose teeth are extracted, 55 percent are cured and 35 percent improve markedly. Only 10 percent show little to no improvement and require medication or other therapies to manage the disease.

Before her dental surgery, transition Angel to soft food, which will be easy for her to eat after her teeth are extracted. Pain medicine will keep her comfortable until the extraction sites heal.

I know this treatment approach sounds drastic, but conservative therapies just don't work well. Regular professional dental cleaning is not effective in these cases, because the bacteria that trigger the immune system quickly repopulate the mouth. Long-term antibiotics also are ineffective.

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Dear Daisy Dog: Our dog Bear is sick with leptospirosis, but the veterinarian is optimistic he will pull through. She said there are many strains of lepto, and when he's better, she recommends vaccination to protect him from getting the disease again. Please educate me about leptospirosis.

Daisy responds: Spiral-shaped Leptospira bacteria cause leptospirosis, or lepto, in over 150 species of mammals, including humans.

Lepto occurs in all 50 states, and its incidence, which is increasing, is highest from July through November, particularly after heavy rains or flooding.

Carriers, including raccoons, skunks, small rodents and livestock, don't get sick but do excrete the bacteria in their urine. The bacteria flourish in moist, warm soil and stagnant water.

Dogs are infected when bacteria enter through the skin, mouth, nose or eyes.

Lepto is characterized by kidney and/or liver dysfunction. Mildly affected dogs experience decreased appetite, vomiting, weakness, fever, jaundice, and excessive drinking and urination. Severely affected dogs develop multi-organ disease with lung problems, bleeding, muscle pain and neurologic abnormalities.

With antibiotics, most dogs recover, although some never regain normal kidney function. The prognosis depends on how quickly the disease is diagnosed and treated.

Avoid contact with Bear's urine, and talk with your veterinarian about additional measures to protect the humans and any other dogs in your family.

To prevent lepto in the future, keep Bear away from puddles, slow-moving water and areas with extensive rodent populations. The vaccine protects dogs from four of the most prevalent strains of leptospirosis and lasts for 12 months, so you'll need to have Bear vaccinated every year.

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.