The Animal Doctor

DEAR READERS: In a recent article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune about Somali-Americans establishing a community in Shakopee, Minnesota, reporter Liz Sawyer notes the need for “halal meats such as chicken legs, diced beef, goat and camel -- a Middle Eastern delicacy.”

Now progressive Muslim communities, with the help of some imams, animal protection organizations and veterinary experts, are seeking to ensure that the slaughtering of animals for consumption is in accord with Muslim beliefs. This movement, begun by my late friend, the internationally renowned Imam Al-Hafiz B.A. Masri, promotes the adoption of pre-slaughter stunning to render the animals totally unconscious before the blood vessels in their throats are severed with just one stroke. This is because of the relatively recent scientific discovery of other blood vessels -- especially in young kids and lambs -- that are not severed because they course through the neck vertebrae and are protected by the bone. This means that unconsciousness and death are protracted because there is still some circulation to the brain. Total decapitation, as I have witnessed with goats being ritually slaughtered by Sikhs, is more humane than traditional halal (dhabihah) and kosher (shechita) slaughter. But decapitating larger animals such as cattle and camels is more problematic.

According to Gail Eisnitz with the Humane Farming Association, "Rendering farm animals unconscious prior to bleeding and butchering them is far less inhumane than allowing them to slowly and consciously bleed to death. Stunning also reduces the possibility that the animals have sensibility during the butchering process. We encourage the Muslim community to institute stunning as a routine practice if slaughter is being conducted."

Slaughtering without stunning first is no longer done in many countries, such as Sweden, Denmark and Germany.

DEAR DR. FOX: We have been told here in Florida that canine flu is a danger to our dogs, and we should get our pups vaccinated.

My girl, a 7-year-old cairn terrier mix, does not go to dog parks and just takes walks in the neighborhood. However, we do travel occasionally, usually once every month or so, and board her. Having someone watch her in our home is not an option.

What is your advice on getting the vaccine? -- P.R., Wellington, Florida

DEAR P.R.: In principle, I am not opposed to the appropriate and judicious use of vaccinations in disease prevention in humans and other animals. But as I document in my article on vaccination risks and benefits on my website,, the precautionary principle should be applied to minimize potential adverse reactions and diseases in the category of vaccinosis.

The dog boarding facility may insist on certain vaccines being up to date, but it should accept blood titers showing good levels of protection even if some duration of vaccination dates have expired.

Very often, these are not needed, but some vaccines are short-lived, and taking blood titers for them is a waste of money. Kennel cough is one, and canine influenza vaccine may also only give short-term protection -- in part because new strains tend to evolve. I would give your dog the flu vaccine only if your veterinarian says that this is a problem in your community at this time. If the boarding facility insists regardless, you may want to find a kennel for your dog that is more reasonable and informed about vaccinations. If one or more vaccines are called for, always separate the mandatory rabies vaccination from other vaccinations by two to three weeks, never vaccinate a sick animal and, because of the added stress of boarding, get all shots done two to three weeks before the drop-off date.

There are currently two canine influenza strains -- neither of which, to date, can infect humans. The signs of this illness in dogs are cough, runny nose, fever, lethargy, eye discharge and reduced appetite. The severity of illness associated with canine flu in dogs can range from no signs to severe illness resulting in pneumonia and sometimes death.

Canine influenza H3N8 virus originated in horses, spread to dogs and can now spread between dogs. The H3N8 equine influenza (horse flu) virus has been known to exist in horses for more than 40 years. In 2004, however, cases were reported in the United States in greyhounds. The H3N2 canine influenza virus, diagnosed in dogs in 10 central and southern states in May 2017, is an avian flu virus that mutated to infect dogs. H3N2 viruses have also been reported to infect cats. Canine influenza, a H3N2 virus, was first detected in dogs in South Korea in 2007 and has since been reported in China and Thailand. It was first detected in the United States in April 2015.

(Send all mail to or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

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