The Animal Doctor

A story in The Guardian earlier this month warns that "(m)ore than 40 percent of insect species are declining and a third are endangered," citing a study from the journal Biological Conservation. (From The Guardian, Feb. 10.) The main culprit? The newspaper quotes study author Francisco Sanchez-Bayo, an environmental scientist at Australia's University of Sydney, who says, "The main cause of the decline is agricultural intensification" through "synthetic fertilizers and pesticides."

Insects are a foundation class of animals, far more ancient than we are. They sustain life on Earth, from pollinating plant life to being the primary food source for other creatures. In damaged ecosystems, some insect species, such as disease-carrying ticks and mosquitoes and crop pests like locusts and weevils, can suddenly flourish because natural biodiversity controls have broken down. Asian longhorned ticks, for instance, which can transmit several diseases, are now invading the United States.

Insect decline is but one issue on the agenda of civil society awakening to the importance of planetary CPR (conservation, protection and restoration). This is the foundation for our own health and future viability.

DEAR DR. FOX: Our 11-year-old Cardigan Welsh corgi is eating and exercising normally, but he has all but stopped having bowel movements.

On a walk, he stops and appears to strain until one or two nuggets come out. Our longtime vet can't feel any organ abnormalities or impacted stools, and an X-ray showed nothing special. He has the dog on the laxative Lactulose, which has had little effect after nine days. Other than straining, the dog seems happy. What are your thoughts? -- R.H., Red Bank, New Jersey

DEAR R.H.: Unless your dog is on a special low-fiber diet that results in a small fecal load, the animal could well have an intestinal blockage, possibly cancer. I would advise more tests and a second opinion referral to a veterinary internal medicine specialist. Treat this as an emergency, and do let me know the outcome.

DEAR DR. FOX: Thanks for responding. We took the dog for a second opinion and ultrasound. The exam and ultrasound image showed an enlarged bladder and his prostate impinging on the colon. The dog's condition improved within a few hours of catheterizing to empty his bladder. The specialist recommended we neuter the dog to reduce prostate enlargement, and we are working on that. I hadn't noticed his reduced urination during walks, but there you are. -- R.H., Red Bank, New Jersey

DEAR R.H.: Do contact the first veterinarian who found nothing wrong with your dog and get your money back. Ask why your dog was not properly examined. A finger up the rectum is a diagnostic tool par excellence!

DEAR DR. FOX: I woke up one morning to find my 11-year-old, 9-pound cat dead. He had always been an indoor cat and never had fleas or ticks. He was playing and seemed healthy the day before. The vet thought it might have been a stroke or blood clot.

Was there anything I could have done to prevent this from happening? I did not do yearly checkups with the vet. Now, of course, I regret not doing this to keep my cat alive longer. -- T.A., Trinity, North Carolina

DEAR T.A.: I am so sorry to hear of your loss. Your cat probably died of a massive brain hemorrhage associated with high blood pressure or a blood clot, which better nutrition might also have prevented.

Cats need regular veterinary health checkups; most cat owners are seriously negligent in this regard. Getting the animals used to a cat crate (and keeping it as an open den in the home) should be standard care.

The suffering of your cat was blessedly brief in all probability.


Last month, (a site I contribute to) reported that two shipments of an ingredient laced with pentobarbital were sent in March 2018 to Champion Petfoods, the maker of Orijen- and Acana-brand dog and cat foods. Pet food industry monitor Susan Thixton confirmed the shipments through a Freedom of Information Act request. Still, no FDA recall was required.

Thixton, who runs, writes: "No uniform enforcement of pet food regulations leaves pet owners confused at what the FDA is actually doing to protect pets ...

"If pentobarbital was considered an adulterant in so many other recalls -- just the Smucker's-manufactured Gravy Train, Kibbles 'n Bits and Skippy pet foods was over 107 million cans recalled -- why wasn't it considered an adulterant in Champion Petfoods?" (For more information, go to

(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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