The Animal Doctor by Dr. Michael W. Fox

Saving the Amazon Forest -- And America’s Environment

DEAR READERS: The Amazon rainforest is one of the “lungs” of our planet, releasing oxygen and helping sequester atmospheric carbon, which combats global warming and climate change. The destruction of this vast forest and the demise of indigenous animal and plant species and peoples is criminal ecocide and genocide. But no government is standing up to stop Brazil, and other surrounding countries bent on short-term profits, from destroying the forest through logging, mining and burning. This is being done to clear land for growing soybeans, which are exported to feed livestock and poultry (undercutting U.S. producers) and to raise cattle for the beef-export market.

The U.S. government refuses to label any beef products sold in America with their country of origin. American multinational corporations, notably Cargill, have turned a blind eye on the soybean issue until recently, thanks to increased public pressure for environmentally responsible business practices and the efforts of nonprofit organizations like Mighty Earth.

According to environmental group One Green Planet, while the U.S. is technically the world’s largest beef producer, meatpacking companies from the second-largest country of origin -- Brazil -- are consolidating the industry. The U.S. National Beef Packing Company is now nearly 80% owned by the Brazilian company Marfrig Global Foods S.A. Of the four top meatpacking companies in the U.S., which collectively process roughly 74% of all beef in the country, Brazilian-owned companies control half of them.

Some critics say that reforms are too little, too late, but we can all make a difference in terms of our dietary choices. We can boycott beef products in general, and food products from Brazil in particular, at least when labels are in evidence.

The international priority of protecting biodiversity and of restoring natural ecosystems must take precedence over nationalistic, profit-driven industries that are ultimately detrimental to our health and to the common good -- as exemplified by President Trump’s weakening of the National Environmental Policy Act on July 15 and reported rollback of rules protecting clean air and water.

DEAR DR. FOX: How can I protect my dog from ticks without resorting to Bravecto and similar products? I worry about how toxic they might be to my dog. -- S.B., Tulsa, Oklahoma

DEAR S.B.: We should also be concerned about the environmental toxicity, and about the exposure of family members, especially children, petting animals treated with some of these insecticides. Several holistic veterinary practitioners are now advocating various essential oils to repel ticks, as I have been doing for decades, in order to avoid the risks of conventional petrochemical-derived insecticides.

Both the CDC and EPA recommend oil of lemon eucalyptus as a natural insect repellent for humans. (Note: “Lemon eucalyptus” is not approved for use in disease-endemic areas due to its lack of efficacy. In contrast, “oil of lemon eucalyptus” contains a much higher quantity of a substance called PMD, which provides highly effective mosquito protection and is approved for use in all disease-endemic areas.)

Mix six to eight drops of this essential oil in a quarter-cup of warm water and sponge this over your dog. It will remain effective as a repellant for a couple of hours. This is one of the essential oils detailed in the Animal Wellness magazine article “Natural Tick Repellants” (volume 22, issue 4, 2020) by Kyle Holgate. He reports the benefits of oil of lemon eucalyptus, and similar benefits from oil of turmeric, which, according to studies in the U.K., was comparable to insecticides such as DEET in its ability to repel ticks. He also notes that essential oil of geranium has been shown to repel ticks, especially Lone Star tick nymphs.

In addition, I would advise keeping dogs out of vegetation that can harbor ticks, and using a flea comb after going outdoors in grassy or wooded areas. Rake the comb through the dog’s fur, and especially look between the dog’s toes and around the ears where ticks can lodge.


Rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus type 2 (RHDV2) has been spreading in wild and domestic rabbits, hares and pikas throughout the Southwest, and veterinary epidemiologists say it’s only a matter of time before the virus is endemic throughout the U.S. A vaccine exists, but RHDV2 is still considered a foreign disease, making it both difficult and expensive to obtain the vaccine in the U.S., so the Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians is coordinating efforts to have the disease reclassified. (Tufts University, 7/13)

Dubbed “bunny Ebola” -- because the toll it takes on rabbits is as devastating as the toll the Ebola virus takes on humans -- the virus is not actually related to Ebola and does not affect humans, but it is carried easily on shoes and clothing. In rabbits, it destroys liver cells and causes lesions on the heart and lungs, as well as internal bleeding and death.

(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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