The Animal Doctor by Dr. Michael W. Fox

Overcoming Child’s Fear of Dogs

DEAR DR. FOX: When our son was 5 years old, a friendly dog jumped up and knocked him down. Since then, he has been scared of dogs. We are thinking getting a puppy may help. Rob is 9 now. What do you think we should do? -- K.L., Fargo, North Dakota

DEAR K.L.: Where there is fear, there can be neither trust nor understanding. That goes for animals as well as our children, and our relationships with each other. Unresolved fears can lead to categorical ignorance, prejudice and hatred.

I would first take your son to a dog park and let him observe dogs playing together. Stay at a safe distance, since dogs can knock people down while chasing and playing with each other. Explain how they enjoy running, chasing toys and each other, along with how they communicate by wagging tails, body language and even wrestling/play-fighting. Make a few visits, and perhaps a quiet and friendly dog will come close to Rob and you. Pet the dog so your son will see that dogs are not a danger. Have him remain quiet and still and extend his hand to let the dog sniff him, if the dog wants to. If you have a neighbor with an easygoing dog, have your son accompany you and the neighbor while walking the dog, and explain why dogs like to sniff and mark along the way. Also, go over and visit the dog in the home.

All of this will help desensitize Rob, and hopefully, convince him that dogs are really cool, after all -- especially if he can throw a ball for one to retrieve. Then ask him if he would like one of his own. If that is his wish, visit the local animal shelter and see what dogs are available of the size and temperament you feel is best. (Remember that pups, while cute, require extra care and attention to become housebroken.) Shelters can be very unsettling, with loudly barking caged dogs, so I would not take your son with you; he may feel overwhelmed and afraid.

DEAR DR. FOX: In your columns about cat nutrition, you really missed discussing an important diet for cats with hyperthyroidism. Are you aware of the research done by Hill’s, and the Prescription Diet y/d food that was developed as a result of their findings?

After practicing for 51 years, I prescribed this diet for some patients, and over time, it brought their thyroid function to normal levels. -- Dan Merkey, DVM; Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

DEAR DR. MERKEY: I appreciate your confirmation that this prescription diet can help cats recover from hyperthyroidism.

I would expect some recovery of thyroid function, provided the condition is caught early on. But not all cat owners are that vigilant, and I wish more would get their cats in for annual wellness examinations before this and other chronic diseases take hold.

One issue is that cats can be so difficult for owners to get into a carrier. Getting the cat used to sleeping in an open crate makes all the difference when it is time for an annual checkup. Some veterinarians do house calls, though these are generally more costly.

Since thyroid disease is so common in cats, it does become the responsibility of cat food manufacturers to address excessive levels of iodine in their products containing seafood/seafood byproducts, along with fluoride. This is one of the ironies of the pet food industry: It makes animals ill with some of its conventional dietary formulations, then profits by selling corrective prescription diets -- most of which are very costly, generally unpalatable and include biologically inappropriate ingredients.

My advice to cat owners to prevent this disease is to avoid cat foods containing seafood ingredients; visit feline-nutrition.org for home-prepared diet recipes; get rid of flame-retardant, chemically treated carpets, and cover treated upholstery with cotton sheets; and avoid large cans of cat food lined with BPA, a chemical that can disrupt thyroid function.

DOG BITE PREVENTION: WHY BREED-SPECIFIC LEGISLATION IS NOT THE ANSWER

Breed-specific legislation (BSL) targets specific breeds of dogs that are wrongly thought to be dangerous -- most frequently “pit bull types” -- and places stricter regulations on these dogs or even makes ownership of them illegal. While BSL may look good on the surface, it is not a reliable or effective solution for dog bite prevention. This position, taken by the American Veterinary Medical Association, is detailed at avma.org/public/Pages/Why-Breed-Specific-Legislation-is-not-the-Answer.

(Send all mail to animaldocfox@gmail.com 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.

Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)