DEAR READERS: We are all moved by the rescue efforts on behalf of people’s dogs and cats when natural disasters like hurricanes and forest fires strike their communities. But what of farm animals out on the range, in corrals and sheds, or confined to stalls, cages and pens?
Generally, they must fend for themselves, which means millions of animals out in the open suffer and die around the world from droughts, floods and extreme temperatures. Those kept in confinement on factory farms, where we are talking about billions of poultry and pigs worldwide, are most often left where they are, or released to fend for themselves.
One farm animal welfare investigator wrote to me, stating: “Producers (in the United States) either release or let animals drown, because producers can be reimbursed for the bulk of their losses under the USDA’s Livestock Indemnity Program.” There is little chance of rushing them to slaughter, because most slaughtering facilities are running at full capacity every day to meet the public demand for meat. While we cannot control the weather, we can control our appetites. We can help reduce this population of vulnerable animals already suffering on factory farms and out on the range by choosing to eat fewer -- or none -- of them.
There is a growing scientific consensus that our appetite for meat, coupled with our ever-increasing numbers, are arguably the biggest drivers of climate change and natural disasters, and certainly of wildlife and habitat decimation.
DEAR DR. FOX: Our 50-pound dog, Mo, around 10 years old, had a vestibular incident early in the morning 18 days ago.
He had all the major symptoms -- sudden onset of loss of balance, disorientation, head tilt and irregular jerking eye movements -- and he also threw up three times. I understand it is like vertigo for dogs, especially old ones. We rushed Mo to the emergency clinic, where they gave him medication for the upset stomach, meclizine for the dizziness and IV fluids. The next day, our regular vet also prescribed Zeniquin just in case he still had an ear infection. (Mo had had an ear infection several weeks before the incident and was treated with Gentizol, which I have since read can contribute to vestibular incidents.)
Before the incident, we knew there was something brewing because Mo started having accidents in the kitchen, which he had never done before. Blood and urine tests indicated he was in great shape, but the incident let us know that there was a definite problem.
Mo is doing much better now. He still has his head tilt, but his big problem is at bedtime, when he gets very restless and appears disoriented. We have added night-lights, and our vet prescribed trazodone to help calm him down, but it hasn’t worked. He has also started having accidents in the kitchen during the night again. I finally tried Dramamine last night, and he was able to sleep for six hours. However, when he woke up at 4 a.m., he was restless again and started roaming the house and whining.
Do you have any suggestions to help us get through the night? My wife and I are getting large bags under our eyes and feel really bad that our best friend is uncomfortable. -- P.N., St. Louis, Missouri
DEAR P.N.: You give a very clear description of this old-dog middle-ear condition, which is relatively common and usually associated with an earlier ear infection. It can sometimes be prevented with optimal nutrition.
He now seems to be showing signs of anxiety, which could have been triggered by the intense vertigo and nausea that this condition brought on. Since the trazodone has not helped, discuss increasing the dose with your veterinarian, or try Valium.
He may be also be showing early signs of dementia or cognitive dysfunction, which you should raise as a possibility with the attending veterinarian. Supplements such as fish oil and coconut oil have multiple benefits for older dogs. Also try 3 to 6 milligrams of melatonin at bedtime. Another treatment worth trying is prescription medication selegiline (1 mg/kg).
Many older dogs become restless because of the constant pain of arthritis. Others become anxious because they need to be taken out more often to urinate, as a result of drinking more water due to kidney disease. Both of these common old-animal issues need to be considered. Slippery floors can also be hell for older dogs, so you may need some new, secure carpets.
My book “The Healing Touch for Dogs” will give you advice on how to help him relax and feel secure while enjoying the therapeutic benefits of a full-body massage.
(Send all mail to email@example.com 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.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxVet.net.)