DEAR READERS: A new scientific report on humans’ global impact on the planet, in producing food for ourselves, shows that while meat and dairy provide just 18 percent of people’s calories and 37 percent of protein, they use the vast majority -- 83 percent -- of farmland and produce 60 percent of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75 percent -- an area equivalent to the U.S., China, European Union and Australia combined -- and still feed the world.
Loss of wild areas to agriculture is the leading cause of the current mass extinction of wildlife. Other recent research shows 86 percent of all land mammals are now livestock and humans. Radical dietary changes, such as eating less or no animal produce -- including seafoods and “bushmeat” -- are implied as bioethical imperatives in these studies. Any economic, political and food-industry opposition to such changes must be met with consumer responsibility and greater public awareness.
While many mourn the recent death of TV’s global gourmand, Anthony Bourdain, it is regrettable that he did not live long enough to enlighten his audiences about eating with conscience. Instead, he once wrote that “vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, an affront to all I stand for, a pure enjoyment of food,” and castigated “their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans.”
The communion and sacramental aspects of our food and culinary traditions call for cruelty-free, sustainable and healthful dietary choices, including what we feed to our animal companions. For instance, I would never advocate making our cats vegans -- they are obligate carnivores!
DEAR DR. FOX: I’ve read a lot of stories about dogs with seizures of various sorts, and I’d like to share our experience with you.
Our 9-year-old female black Lab began having what we later learned were seizures at about 3 months old. We had never seen anything like it before: very violent, with a lot of head spinning, eyes rolling, foaming at the mouth, and all four legs going. She had no idea where she was or who we were. The first time, we ended up with stitches after thinking she might have been choking.
We took her to the vet immediately, who said, “If she does it again, then she has epilepsy and she needs to be on phenobarbital for life.” Well, she was averaging about one seizure per week, all of them just as intense. I couldn’t bear the idea of lifelong meds that could possibly shorten her life, so I started poking around.
I began giving her melatonin in different doses until I settled on a 5 mg slow-release dose, twice a day. By the time she was about 9 months old, she would have an occasional, less-intense seizure (about every three weeks). By the age of 1 year, her seizures had pretty much stopped.
She reminded me of someone with migraines: She could feel it coming on, and would come to me and pretty much ask for her meds. On those few occasions, I would give her an extra melatonin and she’d go to her safe room (our dark, quiet closet) until it would pass -- usually about 30 minutes.
She has not had a full-blown seizure since she was a little over 1 year old.
She still gets the same dose of melatonin, and every now and then will come to me with the signs, but it’s very rare. She is on no other meds and lives a very happy and healthy life now. -- S.D., Palm Beach, Florida
DEAR S.D.: I hope that you have informed your dog’s veterinarian of the possible benefits of melatonin in helping control and prevent seizures in your dog.
More studies are called for in this regard, and I agree with you that putting a dog for life on a barbiturate drug is not the best solution if it can possibly be avoided because of potentially harmful side effects.
For some dogs, eliminating wheat in the diet or making coconut oil the main fat in a high-fat diet have proven beneficial.
I recall several years ago one reader writing to me that their dog’s terror of thunderstorms was effectively alleviated by giving 6 mg of melatonin when a storm was anticipated.
Melatonin, which is the plant hormone that puts plants to “sleep” at night and links them with a circadian rhythm, can also give us a good night’s sleep and help blind people set their circadian clocks. As a super-antioxidant, it may also help with inflammatory conditions and possibly some cancers. It is one of many gifts from the plant kingdom being laid to waste by herbicides and our collective desecration of the natural environment.
TICK-BORNE DISEASE SPREADS AMONG DOMESTIC CATS Veterinarians in Arkansas, Oklahoma and other states are reporting an increase in bobcat fever, which is transmitted by ticks from wild bobcats to domestic cats and is characterized by jaundice, temperature elevation and depression.
The disease can be fatal, especially if it’s not treated promptly. The best prevention is to KEEP CATS INDOORS! This applies to all states, because with climate change, ticks and tick-borne diseases -- which can infect humans as well as our companion animals -- are spreading like wildfire. (KFSM-TV, Fort Smith, Arkansas, 5/10)
BILL BANNING CAT-DECLAWING ADVANCES IN NEW JERSEY
A proposal to ban most declawing of pet cats in New Jersey cleared the state Senate Economic Growth Committee this week. The measure would exempt cases where a veterinarian deems the procedure necessary for the health and well-being of the animal. (N.J. Advance Media, Morristown, N.J., 5/31)
(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.)