The Animal Doctor by Dr. Michael W. Fox

Lawn Begone

DEAR READERS: I live in Minnesota, where many serious environmental issues remain unresolved. These include the conflicts between industrial farming, water quality and climate change, and the protection of wolves from being “harvested” as a resource for trophy-hunters and trappers.

So I was pleasantly surprised last month to learn that a bill has been introduced to the state legislature to encourage residents to convert their lawns from grass to wild, indigenous flowering plants, which would help save the bees and other pollinators. The proposal would allot $2 million to subsidize 75 percent of the cost of these conversions. Funding the “Lawns to Legumes” program will increase the number of residential lawns with native vegetation and pollinator-friendly forbs and legumes.

I am confident that this legislation will pass, and that funding will be secured. It should be adopted by all states, especially targeting the absurd, irrigated lawns in California and the Southwest.

Also, Gov. Tim Walz’s Executive Order to Restore Healthy, Diverse Pollinator Populations became effective on April 19, directing several state agencies to promote “healthy and diverse pollinator populations that sustain and enhance Minnesota’s environment, economy and way of life.” This order comes at an important time, as pollinator populations are seeing critical declines. It will also help improve air and water quality, reduce chemical and noise pollution, and save energy!

I have long railed against lawns -- private ones, corporate ones, public ones along parkways and especially golf courses -- in this column, informing readers that many lawn chemicals are known to cause cancer in dogs as well as people. No offense to Tiger Woods and his industry, but golf courses, like lawns, are abominations when they widely and routinely apply chemicals, especially Roundup (glyphosate). These run off into surface waters and groundwaters, which we eventually drink, and also come down in rainwater far away.

Pesticides and chemical fertilizers should be prohibited, and a percentage of every golf course should be dedicated as a wildlife habitat.

DEAR DR. FOX: I’m just wondering, is it OK if I give my dog chicken bones? Some say it’s not good, and others say it doesn’t matter. -- B.D., Trenton, New Jersey

DEAR B.D.: The short answer is “no!”

The more detailed answer: Ground chicken bones (not from spent laying hens) are a good nutritional additive to a balanced diet. But raw and cooked chicken bones alike can splinter and cause internal damage.

The only safe bones to give a dog are raw beef soup bones (shank bones). Allow only a few minutes of chewing, and monitor closely, since some dogs can crack a tooth on them. This is also a problem with other very hard “chewable” items, like the popular deer and elk antler pieces. Other chews, from various animal parts -- from pigs’ ears, snouts and feet to bull penises -- can carry harmful bacteria.

Safer chews to keep teeth clean and gums healthy are rawhide strips and rolls, ideally U.S.-manufactured. Avoid knotted ones, since the knots may be chewed off and swallowed, causing choking or intestinal blockage. Raw chicken wing tips that are mainly cartilage can be fed with the skin after sterilizing in boiling water to get rid of bacterial contamination, a common problem with chicken from factory farms.

Turkey and pork bones, cooked or raw, should not be fed to dogs.


Denise Ellsworth, an entomologist at Ohio State University, says bumblebees and some other wild bees do something honeybees don’t do: buzz pollination.

Bumblebees “can unhinge their wings from their wing muscles and vibrate their bodies,” Ellsworth says. This not only makes a buzzing sound in the tone of middle C, but also “causes the flower to explosively release pollen.”

(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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