The Animal Doctor by Dr. Michael W. Fox

Ethical, Humane Accountability for Pet Stores

DEAR READERS: Chicago Alderman Brian Hopkins wants to cap the fees pet stores can charge for shelter dogs, in order to close a loophole in an ordinance that allows commercially bred dogs to be sold as “rescues” in pet stores. Two businesses in Iowa that supplied dogs to Chicago stores agreed to close and pay $60,000 in fines for operating “sham rescue groups.”

This dubious activity may be going on in other states, so I urge all who are looking for canine or feline companions to seek out a legitimate animal rescue, shelter or refuge organization. For humane and public health reasons, pet stores should be prohibited from selling puppies and kittens from breeders. Ditto for across-state-lines internet sales of animals. People have become ill from infections carried by pet store puppies and other animals. Inadequately screened dogs brought up from southern to northern states, some veterinarians contend, have increased the incidence of canine diseases like heartworm and giardia in the local dog population.

For similar animal welfare and public health reasons, I would outlaw the sales of any wild animal species -- reptile, amphibian, crustacean, fish, bird or small mammal -- from wholesale-retail market chains. The live-animal markets in China, where it is thought this devastating COVID-19 pandemic arose, surely serve as warning enough.

Animals are not commodities and require proper, informed care, a knowledge of which impulse-buyers may lack. Better to adopt, and phase out commercialized animal exploitation. Responsible rescue and re-homing organizations provide information as to proper care -- for any kind of animal, from rats and ferrets to gerbils and bunnies -- and expect compliance, including home inspections for some rescued species. But non-domesticated species bred in captivity or taken from the wild should not be regarded as “pets” because, with rare exception, the natural environmental and social conditions they require cannot be provided, and they suffer the consequences of a dispirited existence for human enjoyment.

DEAR DR. FOX: I just read disturbing information on the product Bravecto, and now need to know how to protect my 10-year-old American Staffordshire terrier from fleas and ticks. She has a recurring skin condition and breaks out in whelps about twice a year. She is allergic to the meds that have been prescribed (Clavamox and others in the same family). I’ve been giving her Benadryl to soothe the itching, but I’m looking for some guidance on what else to do. -- S.P., Palm City, Florida

DEAR S.P., Yours is one of many letters I receive in the spring and the fall, concerning dogs who have an environmental allergy aggravated by fleas and complicated by flea-bite hypersensitivity. Poor nutrition can also play a role, as can swimming in a pond or stream, which can mean a damp coat and fungal infection. Many older dogs have low thyroid activity and derive much benefit from thyroid hormone supplementation, including better skin and coat condition.

Essential fatty acids are vital for many body functions, including the health and integrity of the skin. A few drops of fish oil daily (or one canned sardine) in your dog’s food will help, plus 1 teaspoon of brewer’s or nutritional yeast per 35 pounds of body weight. This yeast product is rich in B vitamins, and many veterinarians and pet owners contend that it helps keeps fleas away.

A daily teaspoon (per 35 pounds of body weight) of local honey or bee pollen has helped subdue allergy problems in many dogs with a skin issue like yours.

If your dog does swim -- and please, dog owners, never allow this if your dog has a topical anti-flea and -tick treatment or wears a pesticide collar, since these chemicals are deadly to aquatic life -- rinse her off well to get rid of possibly toxic blue-green algae that kills dogs every summer, and dry her thoroughly.

(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.)