DEAR DR. FOX: As a regular reader of your column, I am impressed at the devotion so many people seem to have for their pets.
As a longtime cat owner, I can say they give me more than I give them, so I don’t mind paying for regular veterinary wellness exams. I give them a home, food, games and regular grooming, and in return they give me companionship, affection, sympathy (expecially when I have a migraine!) and so much more. I wonder what your other readers can say about what their animals give them. -- O.M.S., Arlington, Virginia
DEAR O.M.S.: As my mentor, the late professor Konrad Lorenz, would say, “I could not disagree with you less.” The Nobel Prize laureate and one of the founders of the science of ethology (animal behavior) asserted that you must first love animals before you can begin to understand them, and that those who believe that other animals do not have emotional experiences -- feelings -- similar to our own should be “in a psychiatric clinic.”
When our ability to love opens us up to what animals can give, we are indeed blessed in countless ways physically, mentally and spiritually. And this means that we suffer with them when they are ill, and commit to ensuring their quality of life is the best we can provide.
I would indeed enjoy hearing from other readers about what their animal companions have given them. Animals have given us so much since the beginning of human history, and payback is long overdue: namely, to acknowledge their basic rights and interests and apply the Golden Rule to all living beings.
DEAR DR. FOX: I have been hearing a lot more about cancer in dogs, and may have a theory. If you agree, I would love for you to educate the public about it in your forum.
So many dogs like to run and fetch balls. But if your grass is regularly fertilized, the chemicals may be getting on the ball, which Rover is happily chewing. We have lost three vizslas to mouth cancer.
Also, believe it or not, many people allow their dogs to drink reclaimed water. Down South, so much of the irrigation water is reclaimed -- it stinks, and is not fit for human OR dog consumption!
People need to be more vigilant about what their dogs are consuming. Don’t let them eat fertilized grass, even if your landscaper says the fertilizer is organic. And let’s not even talk about Roundup! -- L.B., Southport, North Carolina
DEAR L.B.: I agree with you that we need to exercise far greater caution when out with our dogs along sidewalks and grassy areas, especially when they come into contact with recently sprayed areas. When they lie down and run around, picking up a ball or other thrown toy, they also pick up any chemicals present. Municipal authorities and homeowners need to exercise due vigilance and post warning signs in treated areas.
I would add another concern to your plausible hypothesis: that potentially carcinogenic chemicals are present in various synthetic (especially plastic) chew toys and treated rawhide chews, ranging from phthalates to arsenic compounds. Dog owners should seek natural chew products, such as untreated rawhide strips and raw beef shank bones. Cooked bones can splinter and cause internal damage, and hard pieces of deer and elk antlers can break dogs’ teeth.
DEAR DR. FOX: I would just like to chime in that my vet recommended and sold me a Seresta collar for my 8-year-old female Doberman pinscher. ($60!) She became lethargic and wouldn’t eat, so I removed it. Within days, she recovered. I shudder to think what residual poison might be lurking in my home and threatening my grandchildren, who love dogs. We never really had a flea problem anyway. -- L.P., St. Louis, Missouri
DEAR L.P.: My article on this topic (posted on my website) should be read by all veterinarians who are selling these products to their clients, especially when there are no fleas or ticks around. The risks are not worth it, and the long-term consequences essentially unknown.
Treating cats and dogs with insecticides to prevent infestation is like taking antibiotics to prevent disease. This is a practice adopted by the livestock and poultry industries to compensate for poor animal care, especially overcrowding, and it has led to the evolution of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.
“Meet disease as it comes” -- Venienti Occurrite Morbo -- is the motto of my alma mater, the Royal Veterinary College in London. Only when all efforts to control fleas and ticks have failed should these insecticides be used. Insecticidal products are no substitute for safe, effective prevention.
PET ADOPTION SCAMS PROMPT BBB WARNINGS
Scammers are setting up websites purporting to be pet adoption organizations, or individuals who need to rehome a pet. While they do not charge an upfront adoption fee, they require payment by wire service or prepaid cards for veterinary and shipping fees.
The Better Business Bureau’s tips for avoiding scams include adopting locally, avoiding online-only adoptions, picking up adopted pets in person, paying only with a credit card, demanding veterinary records and contacting the veterinarian. (The Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, West Virginia, Aug. 20)
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