DEAR DR. FOX: Can you share your philosophy or professional views on how we can keep animals well and prevent their suffering? -- L.O., Washington, D.C.
DEAR L.O.: I contend that all animals should be treated humanely, and their basic biological, psychological and emotional needs provided for, be they companion animals, farmed animals or captive wild species.
Resistance to adopting humane alternatives to how animals are raised and killed by the pig, livestock and poultry industries, with their disease-promoting concentrated animal feeding operations, is problematic. Government support of this agribusiness sector and allied pharmaceutical food industry complex puts consumers and the environment at grave risk. It must be confronted by the medical and veterinary professions, and be supplanted by more humane, ecological and healthful food production systems and informed consumer choices.
Above all, I see my mission as helping to heal the human-nonhuman bond, which involves education and inspiration through promoting understanding and respect; a relationship with the environment; and ethical animal breeding and rearing. We must focus on optimal nurturing of body, mind and spirit -- the soma, psyche and ethos of every creature under our care and assumed dominion.
These basic animal rights are the core principles of holistic, preventive medicine. Combined with veterinary bioethics and applied veterinary ethology, it optimizes the provision of animals' behavioral needs. For more details, see my books, "Healing Animals and the Vision of One Health" and "Animals and Nature First."
DEAR DR. FOX: I have a pug who is 13 years old. He sneezes and coughs from his throat rather than his lungs. I'm told it is his trachea.
He has been on different types of medicine. The latest is a high dose of steroids. He's been on it for almost a week with no relief. He's been coughing and sneezing like this for months now.
Can you please help my pug? This happens constantly when he is awake. -- J.M., Cumberland, Maryland
DEAR J.M.: I am so sorry for your poor dog. So many dogs afflicted with the condition called brachycephaly -- a foreshortened muzzle or squashed-in face -- suffer lives of misery.
Brachycephalic animals are unable to breathe easily, so they cannot enjoy much physical activity. The pressure created by the abnormally narrowed nasal orifices and especially the relative excess of soft palate tissue in the pharynx (back of the throat) set up such a negative pressure that the trachea (wind pipe) collapses. Pulling hard when wearing a collar may aggravate this; I advise a no-neck-pressure harness for all the afflicted breeds, from bulldogs and boxers to Boston terriers and pugs. These dogs also have protruding eyes, which make them more injury- and infection-prone. The large, domed heads mean difficult births, often calling for emergency surgical intervention. And many of these breeds have become more popular than ever.
Remedial surgery to reduce the amount of soft palate tissue and widen the nasal orifices can help provide these poor dogs with better quality of life. But the ultimate solution is to stop breeding those with extreme brachycephaly and change the breed standards to stipulate longer muzzles and snouts.
In the U.K., a committee including the British Veterinary Association, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Kennel Club and breed club representatives has been set up to address this long-neglected human-caused genetic abnormality, which can result in much suffering. The American Veterinary Medical Association -- of which I am a member -- and the Humane Society of the United States -- where I once served as a vice president -- should follow suit, along with the American Kennel Club, with whom I consulted some 30 years ago on this and related canine concerns.
OUTRAGEOUS PET FOOD COMPANY BEHAVIOR
According to Susan Thixton at truthaboutpetfood.com, "2013 FDA testing of Beneful found above allowed levels of cyanuric acid and melamine, and ethoxyquin that was not listed on the pet food label. Purina Beneful refused to provide FDA documents, refused to provide FDA with testing methods and in one instance, Purina refused to provide FDA the actual content of ingredients in a suspect food."
Cyanuric acid and melamine were linked with the manufactured pet food debacle of 2007, when thousands of dogs and cats developed kidney disease, many being killed or chronically impaired. Ethoxyquin has been linked to cancer and other health issues. For historical details, see my book "Not Fit for a Dog: The Truth About Manufactured Cat and Dog Food," which I co-authored with two other veterinarians.
(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.net.)