DEAR DR. FOX: I read about the woman from Washington, D.C., whose dog had health problems costing her $10,000. This is about the lack of a response from the American Kennel Club. Some years ago, we reported our dog's breeders, concerned that they were not taking proper care of the dogs they were breeding. We had purchased a 3-year-old Belgian shepherd. When we picked her up, she was in a crate sitting on top of other crates in a garage. When she was taken out, she looked to be in poor shape, and she was -- skinny, poor coat, bad teeth and her vocal cords had been cut. We kept her and got her treated, and she was with us for nine years. She was a lovable and tremendous addition to our family.
Shortly after we got her, I reported her condition and the breeder to the AKC. The group wasn't interested and did nothing. It occurred to me that the AKC was less concerned about the dogs and more on its breeders and dog show. Our experiences with the breeder and the AKC were disappointing, and I was wondering if you have heard from others with similar experiences? -- C.H., Leesburg, Virginia
Dear C.H.: The American Kennel Club is simply a registry that issues pedigree papers, essentially without any policing of the sources the dogs come from -- notably puppy mills. It insists that it has no policing or advocacy intentions or authority, which I see as an abdication of responsibility and a great loss of opportunity.
By not having a dual registry with a special category of pure-breed dogs who have been progeny tested and screened for genetic abnormalities and heritable diseases, the "papers" are of little value, though many believe them to be like some Good Housekeeping seal of approval.
The popularization of dog shows for pure breeds, many with evident structural defects, has contributed to the genetic decline and suffering of many breeds of dogs, especially those of abnormal size and structure. The burdens that human selection has created and others find profit in continue to propagate, to the detriment of the animals.
DEAR DR. FOX: In a recent column, a reader mentioned their dog, who seemed to have allergies from November through April. We had the same problem with our Labrador retriever-pit bull.
We tried the same remedies -- putting her on a grain-, poultry-, peanut- and soy-free diet and giving her Benadryl. A couple of years ago in desperation, we tried putting a humidifier in the living room, where the dogs sleep and spend most of their time. Within a couple of days, the itching diminished greatly. Apparently, the dog's skin is quite sensitive to the drier air caused by the furnace running in winter (from November through April). We also put a humidity gauge in the room, and the dog seems most comfortable at around 45 percent air humidity. We monitor the level carefully to avoid getting mold in the house.
Since our dog chooses to spend most of her time in the house, we have to bathe her about once every four or five weeks, and we use a lanolin-based shampoo and conditioner for this. We keep her on the same diet year-round.
The extra humidity gave our dog relief and might work for others. -- C.D., Worden, Illinois
DEAR C.D.: It is enlightening to hear from readers who have found cures for their animal companions' maladies. It is encouraging that common sense can often supplant conventional veterinary medical science and treatment protocols. Your discovery underscores the importance of considering the animal's environment. I just wonder how many dogs like yours have been put on prednisone and special, costly and generally unpalatable special prescription diets and suffered the consequences.
(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.
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