The Animal Doctor by Dr. Michael W. Fox

NRDC Protecting Children From Toxic Flea Collars

DEAR READERS: The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is filing suit against the Environmental Protection Agency over its continued approval of flea collars and powders. These products can put children, in particular, at risk from their highly toxic chemicals, as well as other animals in the home.

For details on the suit, visit The NRDC is also challenging the EPA over its continued approval of the herbicide Roundup, whose main ingredient, glyphosate, is linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

When governments fail to protect citizens, other animals and the environment, personal responsibility is called for in the name of Earth justice and respect for all life.

DEAR DR. FOX: In your article about the benefits of children being in contact with livestock, you mention animals at petting zoos in state fairs.

I would like to point out that, at a lot of those fairs, there are livestock animals in exhibits that are privately owned. I would like to remind readers that these animals are not part of the petting zoo, and should not be touched without permission from the owner. They are there as show animals and may not be accustomed to strange people touching them.

I speak from experience. I have a horse that I take to the local fair, and I usually have to hang a sign on her stall telling people not to touch her. We take our animals there because it’s fun for us, and we want to share their beauty with everyone else. The majority of people passing by respect the sign, but there are some who don’t. My horse, when spooked, will slam herself against the stall door. If someone has their arm in between the bars to pet her, they could end up with a broken arm.

When visiting fairs, please obey the “Don’t Pet” signs, and always ask permission to pet an animal. -- S.A., Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania

DEAR S.A.: I would never leave any animal in an enclosed space without a person present when at a state fair, or any other outdoor event with large crowds, unpredictable adults, rowdy teens and curious children with inattentive parents. I adhere to the general rule of protecting animals wherever there are people, rather than the reverse!

I firmly believe that some animal exhibits should be prohibited for humane and public health reasons. Sows, for instance, would normally build a nest in a quiet spot before giving birth, but at state fairs, they are in pens surrounded by a gawking -- and sometimes screaming -- public. And that is after enduring transportation over long distances in late pregnancy.

Just this summer, public health authorities traced a strain of E. coli 0157, which can sometimes be fatal to humans, to exposure to pigs at the Minnesota State Fair’s Miracle of Birth exhibit. (Minnesota Star Tribune, 9/18) Handwashing and footwear-cleaning stations will not suffice. Time to stop this exhibitionism of what, in my opinion, is unacceptable animal mistreatment.

DEAR DR. FOX: I have a 7-year-old Westie. When she was around 5, we discovered that eating turkey or chicken (whether freshly cooked or in packaged dog food) would make her sick. She would throw up, not eat or drink for several days and be very listless. Finally understanding the cause, I researched dog food labels and settled on a poultry-free, beef-based food from Whole Earth.

All was well for a couple of years, but then the same condition reared its ugly head. When nothing showed up from tests at the vet, I tried changing her food on a suspicion that the latest bag may have been contaminated with poultry. Almost immediately, she was better. Afraid it might happen again, I searched for a new food and settled on Zignature.

Once again, all was well, until I read one of your articles about dog food. I was shocked to see Zignature was second-highest on the list of cases tying it to dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).

Will you please recommend some good dog foods that do not have poultry? We are running out of options.

Also, she has trouble from time to time with impacted anal glands. A friend has suggested giving her canned pumpkin for this issue. What is your opinion? -- T.W., Tulsa, Oklahoma

DEAR T.W.: Sorry to hear about your little dog’s issues.

Food allergies and intolerances can cross over from one kind of meat to another, so many holistic vets suggest a “rotation” diet, changing the kind of animal protein in the food every five to seven days. This can mean rotating among fish, eggs, cottage cheese, lamb, mutton, duck, high-protein pulses (lentils, chickpeas or butter beans, containing 250 mg taurine per serving). Your dog may need digestive enzymes, such as a tablespoon of papaya or crushed pineapple at each meal.

Try my home-prepared recipe, since many manufactured pet foods can contain animal proteins other than the main one or two indicated on the label, which is problematic for many dogs -- and for veterinarians trying to determine which ingredients may be causing problems.

Anal gland problems can be a sign of food intolerance/allergy, as can lack of exercise and too little fiber in the diet. Two tablespoons of canned pumpkin, oatmeal porridge or crushed white beans once daily can help.

(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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