The Animal Doctor by Dr. Michael W. Fox

The Plight of the Donkeys -- And All Who Care

DEAR READERS: All of us involved in animal health, welfare and protection feel close to burned out with the rampant animal exploitation, cruelty and abuse reported week after week from around the world. My latest confrontation with our inhumanity is with China’s demanding folk-medicine market for ejiao.

Ejiao is a gelatin extracted from boiled donkey skins that is used as a blood tonic, libido enhancer, treatment for dizziness and insomnia, a lung “moisturizer” and for anti-aging. I just received a synopsis from the British Veterinary Association of the U.K. Donkey Sanctuary’s Under the Skin report, which documents the sale and theft of millions of donkeys -- especially in Africa -- involving illegal wildlife traffickers and drug dealers. The poor donkeys are transported long distances, with many injured, sick, pregnant and young animals crammed together for days on end without food or water, prior to being killed and skinned. Up to 20% are dead on arrival. In addition, handlers and processors are at risk from zoonotic diseases such as tetanus and anthrax.

Animal protection organizations have lobbied 18 countries, including Pakistan, Ghana, Nigeria and Uganda, to stop this cruel industry, and are pushing China to produce artificially cultured donkey-derived collagen. Kenya, with four donkey-only abattoirs, has yet to take action. Nigeria has lost up to 1 million donkeys per year to the trade, and has passed legislation banning the slaughter of donkeys for their skin. China’s market for ejiao calls for 4.8 million donkey skins annually.

Donkeys have served humanity as patient and gentle beasts of burden for millennia. Their mass slaughter to meet consumer demand for this dubious natural product is an international atrocity, and a disgrace in any culture. See thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk for more details.

DEAR DR. FOX: I give my dog prescription Royal Canin Veterinary Urinary So dog food. Is there a recipe that I can cook instead? -- J.M., Boston

DEAR J.M.: There are veterinary science-formulated diets for a variety of companion animal health problems available (for a fee) from Balance IT: secure.balanceit.com or by phone at 888-346-6362. I wish more veterinarians would use this company, which also provides some excellent nutritional supplements, and that they would make their own diets from whole-food ingredients -- or provide the recipes to their clients for in-home preparation.

This approach is preferable to many of the manufactured (and very profitable) prescription diets widely marketed today. I co-authored a book on this topic with Marion Smart and former Science Diet company veterinarian Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins entitled “Not Fit for a Dog: The Truth About Manufactured Dog and Cat Food.”

HUMAN CASES OF EASTERN EQINE ENCEPHALITIS INCREASING

More cases of Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) were reported in animals in 2019 than in the prior five years. And though the number of human EEE cases reported last year totaled only 36, that was five times the average, write viral disease experts Thomas Yuill and Donald Kaye:

“The public must remain aware that the risk for EEE virus infection is not zero, and people should take appropriate preventive measures to ‘fight the bite’ by protecting themselves and their family members and by vaccinating their horses,” they said. (Healio/Infectious Disease News, January 2020)

Longer, warmer and wetter months associated with climate change mean more such insect-borne diseases putting us, and our animals, at risk.

(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.)