DEAR DR. FOX: We have an adorable corgi-bichon dog, Missy, who is 11 years old. She had a bout with arthritis lately that took her down. She was having great difficulty getting up and even had a couple accidents in the house, which she had never done before. After a disappointing appointment with her vet, we stopped at the Natural Pet Center in town and talked to them. They recommended Wapiti Labs Elk Velvet Antler Powder; they said we’d see a difference in seven to 10 days. In just a few days, she was getting up much easier; by day seven she was able to go for a walk!
She’s been doing absolutely amazing, and I can’t say enough about this product! It’s given us back our Missy! Have you heard of it, or do you have an opinion on it? We took her back to her vet -- they couldn’t believe the improvement. Maybe other readers will find help in elk velvet antler products. -- E.N., Fargo, North Dakota
DEAR E.N.: Even though such "biologics" -- products and extracts from various parts of other animals -- may have some value as nutraceutical supplements that help alleviate various conditions in us and those animals under our care, there are ethical questions that need to be addressed.
An extreme example is the use of rhino horn and tiger bones for arthritis and impotence in Chinese folk medicine, along with a host of other products from animals domesticated and wild, captive, endangered and poached, that are purported to be of medical benefit.
I think it is always questionable when parts of one animal are used to improve the health of another. Harvesting krill for their oil as a nutraceutical supplement rich in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and as a protein source to feed farmed animals for human consumption robs whales and other marine mammals and birds of an essential food source. Another extreme example is harvesting kidneys from healthy cats to be transplanted into cats with kidney failure.
Other ethical questions need to be raised and answered, such as humane treatment of the donor animals and the environmental impact of raising and "harvesting" them. Harvesting the velvet from captive deer and elk can never be done humanely. Deer farms may be disease reservoirs, putting wild deer at risk, as with chronic wasting disease in Minnesota. So we must ask: Are there humane, ecologically and less environmentally harmful alternatives to many of the animal-derived products on the market today? There is a vegan source of omega-3 fatty acids from marine algae. For arthritic dogs, chondroitin and glucosamine, derived from such sources as ground chicken cartilage (a byproduct of the poultry industry) as well as beneficial herbal extracts like ginger and turmeric have proven beneficial.
I oppose in principle the commercial exploitation of ever more species such as deer and elk and also farmed salmon, a popular source of fish oil, because of captivity-related stress, disease and suffering. At least poultry are domesticated, better adapted to confinement and live short lives before slaughter. They have a far less negative environmental impact than cattle raised for their meat, bones, hides and other valuable byproducts, an industry having a worldwide presence and major factor in climate change and loss of wildlife and wild lands.
DEAR DR. FOX: I just read your column about perfumed dogs and the calming effect on their owners. I would like to propose that the same thing exists with certain cats. I have a 16-year-old Himalayan who has a very distinctive, warm aroma. When I am stressed, I stick my nose in his tummy, inhale, listen to the purring and feel better instantly.
Ah, the healing power of our animals!
By the way, when Sam was very sick about 10 years ago, I used your book "The Healing Touch for Cats" to nurse him back to health. Thank you for the additional years you helped give him -- and me. -- S.N., Rockville, Maryland
DEAR S.N.: Your proposal is accepted with the understanding that cats have dry saliva from self-grooming, which can trigger a big sneeze when you sniff and nuzzle a cat!
As per my book "Cat Body, Cat Mind," cats have scent glands especially around their lips, chins, temples and along their tails, but I for one do not have a sensitive enough nose to detect any perfumelike quality like we find in many dogs. Our formerly feral cat Mark Twain had a wonderful fresh haylike odor on his flanks when I nuzzled him -- and then I usually sneezed!
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org 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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