The Animal Doctor by Dr. Michael W. Fox

The Politics of Animal, Environmental and Public Health

DEAR DR. FOX: Kudos to you!

I don’t have a pet, but I read your article regarding President Trump’s environmental plans for our country. I wish you had a larger platform with which to let your thoughts be known. Please run for office somewhere in our country -- we need more people to voice their thoughts and vote in 2020. -- R.A., Bonita Springs, Florida

DEAR R.A.: Your words of support are appreciated.

Every nation must unite for the good of all life on Earth to avert the catastrophic consequences of intensified climate change, which is the result of accelerating the “metabolism” of the planet through the burning of fossil fuels.

More carbon is being put into the atmosphere, whereas a less polluting and more sustainable agricultural and industrial economy would impose carbon limits, capturing and recycling any excess. The challenges are enormous, but must be addressed. For governments to ignore this is a crime against humanity, and would severely compromise the health and quality of life of future generations of many species, including our own. The Trump regime’s move to essentially demolish the Endangered Species Act for the benefit of the oil, gas, fracking and timber industries is a travesty.

Below is a letter antithetical to yours, which shows we are a nation divided.

DEAR DR. FOX: How about sticking to something you know, like animal health, instead of showing your political ideology?

I have enjoyed your articles up to now, but if you continue your political attacks, I will no longer read anything you write.

Please stick to animal care. -- J.W., address withheld

DEAR J.W.: I appreciate your communication and expect that other readers may share your opinion, so allow me to clarify:

Animal health and welfare issues become political at local, national and international levels. Look at the unresolved controversy at the community level over people allowing their cats to roam free. This is an animal health and welfare issue that confronts a virtually unexamined cultural tradition that puts wildlife and public health at risk.

Progress in animal health and welfare has been limited for decades, not simply by a lack of knowledge, but by unchallenged cultural traditions (for instance, it’s OK to let one’s cats roam, but not one’s dogs) and by politics and economics in other sectors of the animal population. Ditto the cultural traditions, at home and abroad, of trophy hunting and whaling. Look at the plight of factory farmed animals, where the economics of scale and profit margins trump the hidden environmental, animal health and welfare costs.

But put under the banner of One Health/One Welfare, where animal health and welfare are linked with environmental and public health, cultural, political and economic obstacles might then be trumped by enlightened self-interest. In the process, the contributions of the veterinary and allied animal welfare science and bioethics professionals would surely find more fertile ground and public acceptance for generations to come.

What’s good for the animals is good for us, and the environment. This truism must be tempered by the reality of over-population of certain species, including humans and domesticated animals, and its adverse impact on biodiversity -- the keystone of sustainable, healthy ecosystems, upon which our own health depends. Good governance and “greener” politics are long overdue, as the climate crisis we now face clearly underscores! For more documentation, see my recent book, “Animals and Nature First.”

DEAR DR. FOX: I am forwarding you a very sad post that was sent to the Black Cat Appreciation Group. I would appreciate your responding to me so I can forward to her. She is asking for advice:

“I am in the U.K. and looking for a very good-quality wet food for Petra. She has heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease, arthritis and skin issues, and she is going blind. She is getting really picky with her food, and at the moment will only eat a mouthful or two of Felix (which is not a good food). I am trying to give her the best possible for what is left of her life.” -- A.T.B., Bridgeport, Connecticut

DEAR A.T.B.: I appreciate the photo you sent of this poor cat, who is indeed in failing condition.

Normal saline (100 cc), injected daily under the skin, will help, since she looks dehydrated. This is like dialysis for a patient with kidney failure. Appetite can be boosted with tasty, blended baby food -- beef, chicken or turkey. And if she’s not allergic to fish, a canned sardine in water twice daily will help the sarcopenia (wasting associated with failing kidneys).

Keep the cat warm, and give very gentle, full-body massage, as per my book “The Healing Touch for Cats.” Gently groom her with a soft brush.


A female bottlenose dolphin adopted an orphaned melon-headed whale -- something researchers say has never been observed before -- and the calf took on dolphin characteristics, staying with the mother dolphin for about three years.

“We were really excited to be able to witness such a rare phenomenon,” said Pamela Carzon, author of the study published in Ethology. (National Geographic online, 7/30)

This touching story is one of many I have heard of, where wild animals of one species have bonded with an orphan of another -- even a lioness and an antelope, in one case! These unusual bonds are perhaps driven by parental hormones, but also reflect animals’ capacity to empathize and show compassion. At my wife Deanna Krantz’ refuge in India, an orphaned sambar fawn was “adopted” by one very protective resident dog until she was old enough to be successfully released back into the wild.

(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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