The Animal Doctor by Dr. Michael W. Fox

Protecting Wolves From Legal ‘Sport’ Killing and Trapping

DEAR DR. FOX: Thanks so much for the wonderful piece about wolf conservation that you penned recently. My wife and I never miss your “Sunday school,” as we call your column! We learn so much.

Folks like you, your family, authors Barry Lopez and David Mech and a host more are heroes to people like us. You belong to a small group of warriors that think outside the box, trying to make certain that our animal friends, who have been here eons before us humans, have a future. -- B.S. and M.S., Jacksonville, Oregon

DEAR B.S AND M.S.: I much appreciate your words of support, and you gave me a smile alluding to my column being your “Sunday school.” That reminded me of an agribusiness reporter who asked me: From what higher authority did I get my moral position with regard to animals having rights? My response was simply “the authority of the heart” -- of compassion and empathy, which mean giving all sentient beings equal and fair consideration. Without an open heart, we cannot have an open mind.

Barry Lopez was indeed a kindred spirit, and I just learned he passed away in December at age 75. But I do not put myself in the same league as David Mech, who is of the old school of wildlife management, opposing the push to have wolves protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. (For details, see my article “Crying Wolf Too Much” on The gray wolf should stay protected under the Endangered Species Act and not be delisted, as is in process right now.

Our redemption, recovery of our humanity and ultimate well-being will hinge in large part on our renunciation of a culture and economy of harm. Such liberating redemption is at the core of all the world’s religions, and secular humanism, when shorn of politics and human-centeredness.

DEAR DR. FOX: I adopted a mixed breed from a shelter. She is 1 1/2 years old, and I have taken her for walks with me from Day 1, when she was 3 months old. She loves people, and used to run up to anyone who passed us.

A few months ago, I took her for a walk and noticed she seemed frightened. There were a few noises around us -- someone working on a roof, a car starting, etc. -- but nothing terribly unusual or loud. I live in a quiet suburb. Ever since that day, she is excited to get her leash on, but as soon as I get about 1/4 mile from home, she starts to panic, pulling me like her life depends on it until we get home.

I have tried going in different directions, going to a park, bringing treats with me, but nothing works. I took my walks without her for weeks, then tried again. She is so excited when we walk out, and then the tail goes down, she hears every unfamiliar noise, and panics.

Any suggestions you can give me would be appreciated. I miss my walking pal. Other than this problem, she loves to play -- she can’t get enough of chasing tennis balls in the yard, and she loves people when they come to our house.

She was at the vet in May. She got a rabies vaccine that day, and she’s also on Interceptor and Advantix. It’s hard to pinpoint when the “phobia” started, but it was definitely spring/summer because I was walking every day. -- E.B., via email

DEAR E.B.: I would suspect that the anti-flea treatment may be responsible for your dog’s change in behavior. Advantix contains imidacloprid, which is toxic to the nervous system. It can cause seizures in some dogs, and other psychological problems, such as anxiety, in others.

So I would stop using this product, then take your dog on very short walks in different locations several times a day. I recommend putting two or three drops of essential oil of lavender on a bandanna around your dog’s neck before setting out, as this natural product has a documented calming effect on dogs.

If the phobic behavior does not subside, discuss an anxiety-relieving medication with your veterinarian. Keep me posted.


Gorillas are the latest animals to contract SARS-CoV-2 outside of lab studies. A press release from the San Diego Zoo suggests that the virus likely passed to the gorillas from a staff member with an asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection. After two members of the gorilla troop at the zoo started coughing, testing of fecal samples confirmed the presence of the virus.

”Aside from some congestion and coughing, the gorillas are doing well,” Lisa Peterson, the executive director of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, said. “The troop remains quarantined together, and are eating and drinking. We are hopeful for a full recovery.” This cross-species infection puts wildlife safari operators on notice, as well as zoos and laboratories around the world where asymptomatic people could pass on the disease to primates and other susceptible species.


About 120 black-footed ferrets at the National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center in Colorado were inoculated last spring and summer with an experimental SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. Black-footed ferrets are among North America’s most endangered mammals, and are in the same family as mink, which have proven to be highly susceptible to SARS-CoV-2. An effective vaccine for ferrets would indirectly protect people, too, scientists say. (Full story: Kaiser Health News,, Dec. 23)

(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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