The Animal Doctor by Dr. Michael W. Fox

Calling for Ethical Accountability: A Global Movement

DEAR READERS: Philosopher and priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin famously wrote, “Everything that rises must converge.” There is a convergence today in the United States, and around the world, of ethical, legal and moral concerns about racism, speciesism, oppression, poverty, exploitation and cruelty. Likewise, there is a call for equal justice for all under the banner of the Golden Rule.

The COVID-19 pandemic, which is anthropogenic -- a consequence of our exploitation and killing of animals for food -- is sending psychological, political and socioeconomic shockwaves around the world. It is making us confront how the soon-to-be 8 billion of us are living, and is kindling the fires of ethical accountability.

My friend Thomas Berry, the late environmentalist and priest, saw this convergence of environmental justice, social justice, animal rights and environmental protection as the beginning of the “ecozoic” age: a time of ecological awareness and responsibility to ensure economic, social and environmental justice, determining the quality of life of future generations of humans and animals. Thomas wrote the foreword to my book “Animals & Nature First: Creating a New Covenant for Animals and Nature,” which promotes the concepts of One Health, One Justice, One Economy and One Earth. If religion cannot move us, then surely reason can. Where there is passion and compassion for all life, as well as awe, wonder and, above all, enthusiasm for ethical values, there is hope.

DEAR DR. FOX: My husband and I have a nearly 14-year-old Siberian feline, Niki. He is a much-loved and well-treated member of our family. He will sometimes join us on our deck, but prefers to find a soft, sunny spot indoors. He returns our affection by wanting to be close to us for brushing, petting, etc.

Our concern is his coughing: It starts as a dry cough, but ends up as a wet one (like he’s trying to cough up phlegm). We have taken him to a veterinarian, who has prescribed allergy medication (chlorpheniramine maleate). His lungs are clear, per X-ray, but we are concerned as Niki still struggles with this coughing three or four times a day. He also is taking prednisone once a day for asthma.

We give him his meds in a pill pocket. He gets occasional dental treats, and his regular food is canned Hills c/d. -- L.W. & J.W., Boone, North Carolina

DEAR L.W & J.W.: Your cat’s symptoms could mean a number of issues. Some cats diagnosed with asthma have a food allergy, so a change in diet is called for. The whole-grain corn and corn gluten meal listed in the prescription diet you are feeding Niki could be a contributing factor. Corn and glutens have no place in a cat’s diet, since they are obligate carnivores.

I especially like The Honest Kitchen’s freeze-dried cat food; that, or my home-prepared diet (posted on DrFoxOneHealth.com), may help. Other potential reasons for the cough include irritation and chemical sensitivity to formaldehyde-releasing carpets, various floor cleaners and other in-home chemicals. Also, the dust in some cat litters can be problematic, so a change in cat litter may help. Try washed sand or shredded newspaper for a while.

The most common reason for cats gagging and making distressing sounds is that they have fur caught in their gullets from self-grooming and swallowing, so groom your cat well every day. Offer some sprouted wheat grass or mashed green beans or butterbeans in his food, as the natural roughage can help get clear the trapped fur. Fur accumulates in a cat’s stomach if not fully regurgitated or passed in the stools, leading to trichobezoars: solid balls of fur in the stomach that can impair appetite and digestion before moving into the intestines and causing blockages.

So you need to do some more detective work on your cat’s problem. The current medication that has been prescribed may or may not help.

Excessive grooming because of thyroid disease, with a lot of fur being swallowed, as well as fluid in the lungs from cardiac problems, can also lead to the kind of coughing fits your cat is exhibiting. Keep me posted.

(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.)