DEAR DR. FOX: Please settle an argument I am having with my brother, who insists that dogs are smarter than cats and that pigs are really stupid because they wallow in mud and get all dirty. -- H.F., Fargo, North Dakota
DEAR H.F.: People have a lot of misconceptions about intelligence, which comes in many modes -- from cellular microorganisms, to the cells and organs in more complex plant life-forms, to animals that include insects and us.
In complex life-forms we have innate, genetically determined tropisms, like most plants' sense of light and gravity and recently discovered chemical communication between trees. In animals we have genetically programmed instincts, which we see in kitten and fawn play as they engage in predatory and anti-predatory behaviors. Many birds and mammals can mimic and understand human speech and have sensory abilities, such as navigation, scenting and sonar, evolved far beyond some of our best technologies. Some possess remote supersensory abilities ("psychic" in the vernacular), as I document in my book "Animals & Nature First."
So, to answer your question: Differences in dogs and cats are more noticeable between individuals than between breeds. There are, however, games one can engage in that help test and determine an animal's basic IQ, which I explain in my books "Supercat" and "Superdog."
As for your question about pigs and mud, they instinctively wallow to keep cool and repel flies, a survival skill they have learned. Wild pigs, as I have seen in the Indian jungle, are a highly empathic species, and savage in defense of their young and sounder (social group). They are little different from the millions of pigs raised in hog factories under inhumane conditions, which reflect our disregard and ignorance.
Intelligence is a universal, self-organizing and creative phenomenon that can be genetically encoded and expressed as we live and breathe.
DEAR DR. FOX: Our 11-year-old, 20-pound Pomeranian had a pancreatitis attack three months ago.
Our vet warned us about the need to avoid high-fat food to keep the condition from recurring, but our dog is a very picky eater. He doesn't like the prescription food to help with digestion, so we have been feeding him low-fat food that he loves -- human-grade low-fat chicken breast, low-fat ground beef and scrambled eggs with half the yolk discarded. He also has developed a fondness for fat-free milk, which we drink.
He has not had an attack of pancreatitis since he has been eating these foods, but his elimination feces are always very runny in consistency, so we need to shampoo his backside frequently.
I have researched ways to firm up his eliminations, but the suggestions I have gotten, such as giving him pumpkin, have not worked. Meanwhile, he can't or won't eat manufactured dog foods.
Before we resign ourselves to this routine, can you suggest any safe supplement that we could give our dog that would allow him to eat the food he enjoys while processing it better in his digestive system? -- C.C., Washington, D.C.
DEAR C.C.: I am sorry about your dog's situation. Prescription dog foods are generally unpalatable and too often contain ingredients not fit for a dog.
You can find my basic dog food recipe on my website, drfoxvet.net. You can tweak the recipe to reduce all fats. Lightly simmer all meats and poultry, then chill and skim away the fat. Also, feed your dog three small meals a day and be sure to give him good, human-grade quality probiotics and a teaspoon daily (in one of the meals) of unsweetened pineapple or papaya as a source of digestive enzymes to help support the pancreas.
BRITISH GROUP WARNS AGAINST USING REGULAR TOOTHPASTE TO CLEAN PETS' TEETH
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals issued a warning last fall that toothpaste meant for human use should not be used to brush pets' teeth, because exposure to high fluoride levels or the artificial sweetener xylitol is dangerous for animals.
Moreover, pets don't like the flavor or foaming action of toothpaste for humans, says RSPCA London veterinary director Caroline Allen. The organization recommends using dentifrices, chews and foods formulated specifically for pets. (From telegraph.co.uk, Nov. 12.)
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