DEAR DR. FOX: I find it curious that pet owners seem to fixate on proper diet, supplements and socialization for their pets, but rarely mention how much exercise they need. I believe the key to long-term health is EXERCISE!
Walking a dog on a leash is how most people exercise their dogs. But for how long? I'd say the majority of folks walk just long enough to get their dogs to defecate. Many dogs do not get the chance to sniff and mark, which is a natural habit, as is running free.
I am fortunate to live in a neighborhood where my dog can be off-leash (yet under control) for a while. She can run and explore and move freely. Eventually, I put on the leash. The point is, she seems a lot more vital at 12 1/2 years old than other dogs half her age. She maintains her weight and has a happy attitude.
While quality food is important, exercise is equally key to a healthy and happy life. Simply training a dog to retrieve a ball or play "chase" is a fun and easy way to provide the exercise they require and let them blow off a little steam.
My two cents! -- B.G., Hendersonville, North Carolina
DEAR B.G.: You are absolutely correct.
I have long advocated this in my column and posted recent clinical studies that indicate that physical activity helps maintain good bowel health, especially in small dogs who are confined much of the day. It may help protect them from inflammatory bowel disease and other issues such as impacted anal glands.
A sedentary existence is not good for anyone or any dog. One solution is to hire a dog walker for those who cannot get out regularly with their dogs. Another step is to push for local off-leash dog parks or large outdoor enclosures, at least. I see so much public space where I live dedicated to children exclusively, with all kinds of plastic structures, slides and swings. But these playgrounds are rarely used. Why not dedicate some of that space to dogs?
Several dog owners who are relatively confined with their dogs sing the praises of doggy treadmills, details of which I will be posting soon in my column.
The new book, "Unleashing Your Dog: A Field Guide to Giving Your Canine Companion the Best Life Possible," by my former student Dr. Marc Bekoff and bioethicist Jessica Pierce, is a good guide for all caring people who share their lives with dogs.
DEAR DR. FOX: My friend has a senior Cavalier King Charles dog that's overweight and is suffering from arthritis. Do you think laser would be beneficial to poor Oliver? -- K.S., West Palm Beach, Florida
DEAR K.S.: If your veterinarian can provide laser therapy for your friend's dog, I would certainly advocate such treatment.
In addition, I would give the dog anti-inflammatory supplements in his food every day – namely, one-quarter of a teaspoon each of powdered turmeric and ginger, and a few drops of fish oil. My home-prepared recipe, if your friend is up for home cooking, could help take care of the overweight issue, especially if the dog is eating high starch/grain kibble. The recipe is posted on my new website, www.DrFoxOneHealth.com
Horses Disguised as Zebras Baffle Flies
Fewer flies landed on horses after researchers put zebra-striped cloth coats on them, suggesting that zebras' stripes protect them from insects and insect-borne diseases.
Horse flies fail to decelerate properly when trying to land on zebras (or horses disguised as zebras) and fly past them or bounce off of them, according to a Feb. 20 article on DiscoverMagazine.com.
This is indeed a fascinating observation. Scientists also think the stripes help the zebras when they are moving quickly to avoid predators, who may have difficulty judging distance because the stripes on a moving body interfere with their depth perception.
(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 DrFoxOneHealth.com.)