DEAR READERS: Our rescued cattle dog, Kota, like millions of other dogs, is given regular anti-heartworm medication. But for her own health reasons, she is given no other insecticidal and anti-parasitic drugs, only an as-needed spritz with an herbal insect repellant such as PetzLife’s Herbal Defense.
Many drugs are widely prescribed by veterinarians and sold over the counter to treat and prevent internal and external parasites, from hookworms to fleas and ticks -- which we should rightly fear and seek to prevent, with the rise of tick- and flea-borne diseases accelerating with climate change. But in the process, there are inevitable harmful side effects from such drugs on our pets, as well as environmental contamination and the possibility of drug-resistance evolving rapidly in target species.
These drugs are even more widely used by the livestock and poultry industries, along with antibiotics and other production-enhancing drugs and hormones. These substances are then found in the animals’ excrement, contaminating the environment and killing scatophagous (waste-removing) insects. This disrupts the ecosystem’s various cycles. All such excrement from treated animals should be collected for biodegradation in manure containment or non-leaching landfill facilities.
As for dog poop, it is best disposed of in garden compost pits, where the heat generated kills off harmful organisms, or with household garbage in contained landfills. Many different chemicals and pharmaceutical products are in our dogs’ feces and urine, as well as in our own -- from prescription drugs to food additives to contaminants. These substances render such excretions harmful to the bacteria and other microorganisms that make for healthful soils, and inevitably affect our water quality.
We must all pick up our dogs’ poop for reasons of environmental and public health, and to protect other dogs from parasites they could pick up. When we adopted Kota from the Minnesota Animal Humane Society, she was released to us as a “healthy dog,” but actually had hookworm, whipworm and giardia. So it is advisable to have dogs’ stools checked for parasites on a regular basis to help stop possible transmission to other dogs in the community -- and people, too.
DEAR DR. FOX: Since you recently shared your views about there being a Heaven, and us being with our loved ones, including our pets, in the afterlife, what is your take on the notion of reincarnation? Some religions, including Buddhism, I think, say it is a fact of life. -- R.K., Washington, D.C.
DEAR R.K.: I embrace the core of Buddhism with the belief that the highest and only religion is loving-kindness toward all sentient beings. I devoutly pray for this for my kind, and strive to follow that ideal myself in these challenging times.
Buddhism recognizes our kinship with all life, over which we have no kingship. It embraces the concept of the transmigration of the soul, or spark of consciousness, from one life to the next -- and also from one species to the next. For instance: Be kind to the street dog, because she could have been your mother in a past life, and is a mother in this life to other souls who may become human in the future.
Hinduism also accepts reincarnation as a fact of life, although some believers have used it for sociopolitical purposes to preserve caste systems. Fatalism and predeterminism promote acceptance of one’s position in life, saying that with good conduct, one will reincarnate at a higher level. (This is not to imply that other religious traditions do not also have pernicious and sophisticated ways of maintaining social control.)
URGENT APPEAL FROM THE NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL
A petition from the Nation Resources Defense Council (NRDC) urges readers to call on Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to protect Alaska’s bears, wolves, coyotes and other native predators from being brutally hunted and killed on our public lands. According to the NRDC, the administration is “considering rolling back critical protections that prohibit cruel and aggressive hunting practices in Alaska’s National Preserves.”
If these regulations are repealed, the group says, “it will become legal to:
-- lure grizzly bears and black bears with bait so they can be shot point-blank;
-- use dogs to hunt black bears;
-- kill hibernating black bear mothers and cubs;
-- slaughter wolves and coyotes and their pups during denning season, when the young animals are still dependent on their parents.”
Why? So that the state of Alaska can conduct “predator control” -- a scientifically indefensible method of population control that involves killing off native carnivores to artificially boost populations of deer, moose and other prey animals for hunters to shoot. Predator control is cruel and unethical, and it threatens the natural diversity of Alaska’s fragile ecosystems and wildlife.
Tell Secretary Zinke to reject this misguided plan and uphold protections for Alaska’s iconic wildlife. For more, and to sign the petition, visit nrdc.org.
(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.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxVet.net.)