DEAR DR. FOX: I have concerns about the special needs of white and/or blue-eyed dogs.
I have a 40-pound dog who is part miniature Australian shepherd, part blue heeler. He is mostly white with some small dalmatian-type spots and a few larger spots of black, brown or merle. Half his face is black, and both eyes are blue. He is 3 years old.
I have two concerns. One, with blue eyes: Is he more likely to get cataracts? I have found UV goggles for dogs -- if I can get him to leave them on, is this the best way to go for him? Or are there supplements he needs?
Also, although he has a black nose, there is a spot on top of his nose about the size of a quarter that is basically flesh-colored with only very fine, short, colorless hair on it. Does this need to be covered by sunscreen when he goes out? What kind would be safe for a dog? -- A.P.
DEAR A.P.: I appreciate your canine vigilance. Eye issues are mainly a problem with albino animals, so I would not be concerned about your dog's blue eyes being more susceptible to UV damage. Many sled dogs have one or two eyes that are blue and do not, to my knowledge, have a greater incidence of eye problems. But protective goggles would be a good idea for working dogs, like search and rescue dogs, and for dogs who like to ride in the car with a window down.
I am concerned about the loss of pigment on the nose, especially if it is increasing in diameter. Some dogs do develop solar photosensitivity and benefit from sunscreen when outdoors. But this could signal canine lupus, an autoimmune disease that your veterinarian should evaluate.
DEAR DR. FOX: I appreciate your column, especially since I live in Florida and have dogs and a garden. Various harmful bugs, from fleas to aphids, can infest my pets and harm my plants -- not to mention the termites that want to eat my home!
You often write about ways to avoid using harmful pesticides, and I took note of the nicotine chemical in the new Sentra flea collars from Bayer that I nearly bought.
What do you advise to control fleas and other pests for us folks living in states with no winter and with bugs year-round? -- J.M., Fort Myers, Fla.
DEAR J.M.: First, keep up with the heartworm preventive medication for your dogs and have annual blood tests done because of possible heartworm drug resistance developing.
Second, consider replacing wooden frames and flooring with cement and tiles rather than hiring chemical fumigators to temporarily repel termites. Avoid insecticides and herbicides in your garden, which can actually make your plants more susceptible to disease. Ingredients in some of these products have been linked to cancer, also.
I am in shock to learn from Friends of the Earth and other organizations that companies like The Home Depot and Lowe's are selling garden plants and seeds pretreated with neonicotinoids to kill insects and are also stocking this chemical for sale on their shelves. The big concern is that this class of insecticide is most probably the trigger factor in the disease called Colony Collapse, now afflicting bees across many continents. If this decimation of bees, wild and domestic, is not arrested, the consequences to agriculture and to our food security, which is deeply dependent upon a healthy bee population to pollinate various crops, will indeed be catastrophic. Selling these chemicals to protect decorative garden plants and to protect pets from fleas is evidence of the irresponsibility of transnational corporations that operate within the laws of government regulations that their lobbyists helped put in place.
A NEW YEAR'S WISH FOR 2014
I believe that we have reached the point in the history of the human race that all religions must extend the golden rule to treat all living beings as we would have them treat us -- and also the forests, oceans, grasslands and all the ecosystems that sustain our living world and help maintain a healthy environment. The same must be said for all other human inventions -- religion being but one, and cultures, customs, economies, industries and technologies being others, the failures of which we are witnessing today. This is in part because the golden rule was human-centered, limited to exclusive rather than enlightened human self-interest. The compass of compassion can help direct us toward a more empathic and viable future, which most people embrace in their love for their animal companions, for wildlife and the natural world. Many find that through such love or biophilia, they experience the realm of the sacred. When all of life is sanctified, as Albert Schweitzer advised in his simple philosophy of reverence for all life, peace on Earth may have a chance.
(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.)