DEAR DR. FOX: I have no pets, but I really, really, really love animals, particularly kitties!
You've made mention of using fish oils rich in the omega compounds. However, some media and concerned environmental groups talk of the depletion and pollution of global fisheries. Flaxseed and hempseed are processed to provide omega oil compounds 3, 6 and 9. Is there any harm in using a plant-based source instead of a fish or krill oil as you recommend?
My other question is about toxoplasmosis, which can be found in pet cats, rats and ferrets. It is harmful to humans. An infection of toxoplasmosis can result in compromised cognitive function and other health problems. How can current and future pet owners reduce the risk of acquiring a toxoplasmosis infection? How can they check for it? -- J.R.M., St. Louis
DEAR J.R.M.: Nutritional science has shown that some people, like most cats and probably many dogs, are unable to process or convert omega-3 fatty acids of plant origin into DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). These acids are essential for brain development, vision, immune system function and a host of other body functions. They also help balance inflammation-causing omega-6 fatty acids, which tend to be in excess in the human diet. For details, see my article about krill oil on my website, DrFoxVet.com.
American consumers and their pets are facing a major nutritional deficiency and imbalance when it comes to these essential fatty acids. As a vegetarian, I rely on flax and several supplements, including DHA Algal-900 from Finest Nutrition and Nordic Naturals Algae Omega. For dogs and cats, I recommend Nordic Naturals fish oil or free-range, grass-fed beef, dairy or poultry, which is higher in omega-3s than products from conventionally raised and fed animals. A small amount of canned sardine or mackerel can also provide some of these essential nutrients.
Toxoplasmosis is diagnosable by alert epidemiologists and parasitologists, and it is treatable in patients not too damaged by these organisms. To best prevent toxoplasmosis, be careful when handling raw meat (or go vegetarian/vegan); wear gardening gloves when working in soil; outlaw people allowing their cats to roam free, becoming infected from killing and eating rodents; and avoid contact with feces when cleaning out the litter box.
DEAR DR. FOX: As a horse owner, I am bugged by all the vaccines being given to them. I agree with you that they can harm the horses' immune systems. Now we have eastern equine encephalitis, which can infect humans, and West Nile virus, which can kill horses and people. What's next? We never had these diseases when I was younger. What is going on? -- A.R., East Lansing, Mich.
DEAR A.R: Your question is timely because health experts and a few political leaders are waking up to the consequences of climate change/global warming, which facilitates the spread of some insect-borne diseases like the two that you mention.
Wind currents and warmer temperatures help spread viruses across continents, as can infected migratory birds. We need to acknowledge the role of humans in helping spread these so-called emerging diseases like West Nile virus and the increasingly frequent influenza epidemics.
Insect-borne diseases such as eastern equine encephalitis, West Nile virus, epizootic hemorrhagic disease, the Schmallenberg virus, and a host of tick-borne diseases from Lyme disease to Rocky Mountain spotted fever might be reduced if we stopped using pesticides. This may seem counterintuitive, but biting insects quickly develop resistance to the pesticides while the bats, birds and other creatures that consume them and help control their numbers get poisoned. The white nose syndrome fungal disease currently decimating bats may be a consequence of immune system impairment by pesticides. Ditto the fate of the honeybee and other beneficial insects.
But the agrichemical industry does not want to hear any of this, and the drug and vaccine industries continue to profit from anthropogenic, man-made diseases. The solutions are seen as an economic threat to this establishment, but they should be regarded as an opportunity to serve the greater good and profit ethically.
(Send all mail to email@example.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 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 DrFoxVet.com.)