DEAR DR. FOX: I am a fan -- you are an excellent columnist with much to offer.
I am a lifelong animal lover. I am also lucky enough to live on a tract of contiguous mature forest near Missouri's Cuivre River. I enjoy daily interaction with hundreds of my "pets" -- many wild species that happily live, breed and feed themselves. What a joy to watch them.
I feel that the true disgrace is not that so many unwanted animals die (as all do), but that so many people, ignorant of an animal's true needs, feel that they must "own" a living creature for their own pleasure. I don't get it. A rational look at the big picture shows the industry of providing designer pets for sale, plus all the commensurate problems, to be absurd on its face. We are creating an endless supply of pets who are doomed to be killed.
I have one rhetorical question for pet owners: How many times have you wished you could dash off somewhere for a few days, but for that adorable dependent pet waiting at home?
Pets are not for everyone, but not enough of us know that. Thank you, Dr. Fox, and keep up the great work. -- D.S., Troy, Missouri
DEAR D.S.: I appreciate your letter, but perhaps some readers may not embrace, or even understand, your concerns. My wife and I joke that we are "captives of our compassion" with the two feral cats we caught and rehabilitated; they cannot be boarded, nor could we adopt them out. We are bonded!
The pet supply industry spends a fortune touting the benefits of animal companionship for obvious reasons. We owe domesticated animals a huge debt of gratitude for how they have served our many needs since the beginning of civilization -- some have argued that they even helped civilize us. Now serving our emotional needs as companions, we are morally obligated to settle the score and make sure we can provide for their emotional needs and overall well-being. An honest appraisal of many people's lifestyles would indicate that they cannot. Keeping a dog alone in a crate all day, an increasingly common practice, is to trade the animal's unconditional love for the conditional, selfish love too prevalent in our own kind, which makes us the inferior species.
DEAR DR. FOX: My 4 1/2-year-old boxer-pit bull was recently diagnosed with lymphoma.
I kind of believe that a rabies vaccine triggered it. I took him to a new vet for an ear infection because he was tilting his head, and the vet prescribed Zeniquin. However, since our dog did not have a current rabies shot, she said she could not let me leave with him if I did not get him the shot that day. I should have known that you don't give a sick dog a shot (I'm not a fan of shots anyway).
About three weeks after the shot, he lost the ability to walk. He was dragging his front paws, tipping over and urinating on himself. I took him to another vet, who told us to see a neurologist and get him an MRI; she thought he had a brain fungus. The neurologist ordered X-rays and ultrasounds, and the day we had our MRI appointment, the office called us to tell us that he had a mass in his chest. The vet did more ultrasounds to get a better view of it, aspirated it and found that it was T-cell lymphoma.
He's on prednisone and doing OK for right now. But what I would like is for you to help me figure out if I'm crazy for thinking it was the rabies vaccine he got while was sick. -- A.P., Winston-Salem, North Carolina
DEAR A.P.: I see one possibility concerning the rabies vaccination, other than it being ill-advised to ever vaccinate a dog who is not in good health at the time.
It could be a very clear vaccinosis, which is an adverse reaction affecting the nervous system of the dog due to the neurotropic proteins in the vaccine and other additives (mercury and aluminum). With the dog's immune system thus compromised, a latent lymphoma problem may have been unmasked rather than actually caused by the vaccination. But more research on this consequence is called for.
The prednisone treatment is appropriate, and I would advise improving your dog's diet as per the wonderful insights in the book "Canine Nutrigenomics," by Dr. W. Jean Dodds and Diana R. Laverdure.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org 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.)