DEAR DR. FOX: My male border collie/spaniel mix is 5 years old, and he often throws up or has diarrhea. When I take him on walks, he has diarrhea more often than not. He sometimes wheezes, too.
I don't understand why he would be getting sick all the time, because he normally eats his kibble that is a good brand, and we've been using it for a while. I don't think the kibble is causing him to get sick. What do you advise? -- K.B., Silver Spring, Md.
DEAR K.B.: Your judgment/diagnosis that kibble is not the reason for your poor dog's illness may be erroneous. You should know that even with "good brands," ingredient sources and quality of dog foods can change from one manufactured batch to another. My website (www.drfoxvet.com) alerts dog and cat owners to the all-too-frequent recalls of pet foods that can make animals ill from bacteria, mold and other contaminants.
There are reasons other than diet that could account for your dog's vomiting and diarrhea. Any animal showing such symptoms for more than 24 hours should be seen by a veterinarian. You owe your dog no less.
Because a contaminant or nutritional additive problem could be affecting one batch of a particular brand of dog or cat food, I advise caregivers to get their animals used to eating two or three different, good-quality brands of dry, cannned, frozen and/or freeze-dried pet foods as an insurance against such an eventuality. I call such dietary diversity "risk dilution," and coupled with rotation -- changing the main protein every week or so (from chicken to turkey to herring, for example) -- it can help some animals suffering from food hypersensitivities.
DEAR DR. FOX: I am writing this in response to a letter in your column from P.B. in Fairfax, Va. It was about her "grandbaby" -- a 12-year-old male shepherd mix who was dying of kidney disease after being caged, deprived of water and proper nail clipping, and abused by her daughter and the dog's owner for the last 12 years.
This woman who said she "loves" the dog needs to turn in her daughter for animal neglect or abuse. This dog is suffering at the hands of someone who should never own an animal again.
When people see this kind of treatment of any animal, it is our duty as caring human beings to report it and stop it at all costs. It broke my heart to know what kind of prison this animal has lived in for 12 years -- death would be a blessing for this poor creature. I have turned in people I know and even family members for not taking proper care of animals, and I will continue to do so.
It is our duty to defend those who cannot defend themselves. -- D.M., Huntington, Md.
DEAR D.M.: Your letter is a clarion call to all readers who may be aware of or suspect animal neglect/abuse in their family or neighborhood.
I agree that it is the duty of everyone to call the police or sheriff's department and provide full details, as well as photo or video documentation that gives time and date. This is also important when filing an "animal at large" complaint, as when a cat comes onto your property to hunt and kill birds and other wildlife, which is illegal in many communities. You may ask the sheriff or police to not disclose your name if you fear possible retribution.
Law enforcement authorities around the country are more responsive to animal cruelty and neglect complaints, thanks in part to the good work of one of my former graduate students, Dr. Randall Lockwood, now with the ASPCA in New York. This is because of the now more widely recognized connections between animal, child and spousal abuse and sociopathic and potentially psychopathic behavior in preteens and teenagers.
This issue is close to my heart, and I discuss it in more detail in my new book, "Animals and Nature First." Animals can help teach children to be responsible and responsive, empathic caregivers, provided there are appropriate adult guidance and role models. This can help make children better parents and break the cycle of family violence passed down from one generation to another.
As for the "educational" value of animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs and gerbils in grade school classrooms, I believe they tend to foster the throw-away pet attitude more than real compassion and understanding. The keeping of animals in cages, so often depriving them of contact with their own kind and any natural stimulation, desensitizes children into accepting such mistreatment. Unless cared for by good teachers, these animals too often are neglected over weekends and vacations.
Local humane societies and wildlife rehabilitation centers have educators who bring animals to schools for educational purposes. I would applaud prohibiting the keeping of any animal in a cage in any school.
BIL-JAC DOG FOOD RECALL
According to an announcement from the manufacturer, Bil-Jac has requested that a select number of retailers withdraw one small batch (256 cases) of Adult Select Formula dog food from their warehouses and stores.
"We have had a few reports of mold in bags from this batch that was caused by higher moisture content in the food," the announcement said. "We know the entire batch has not been affected, but have requested the entire small batch be removed from warehouses and stores."
The recall affects only batch number 1792-02 (expiration Dec. 27, 2013), all in 6-pound bags.
(Send all mail to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106, or send email to email@example.com. 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 www.twobitdog.com/DrFox.)