DEAR READERS: The natural diversity of animals (including insects), plants and microorganisms that are native to a particular place -- its ecosystem -- help maintain environmental health and sustainability, as well as the food web.
Such communities help prevent the spread of harmful and invasive species. These controls break down when various human activities, especially industrial farming, aquaculture and agroforestry, reduce biodiversity. Invasive weeds, pests and diseases take hold. Rather than change practices and adopt organic, ecologically sound systems of production, the treadmill of reliance on pesticides and various drugs becomes the accepted norm. The rising incidence of cancer in children and dogs is no coincidence.
We must all be vigilant and practice good personal and public hygiene; humane, responsible animal care; thorough wildlife protection; and robust environmental stewardship. And we must avert the need for chemical agents. This is because, as with antibiotics and fungicides, insecticides kill many harmless species that help control the proliferation of other potentially harmful species through competitive exclusion. Such loss of biodiversity helps create terrible “superbugs” -- the drug-resistant bacteria and fungi now resident in many hospitals -- and herbicide-resistant “superweeds” and resistant populations of mosquitoes and internal parasites around the world.
The rising incidence of tick-borne diseases in the Americas is not attributable to climate change alone. There are many factors, including human and livestock encroachment, habitat change, and the hunting, trapping and poisoning of natural predators -- even using cyanide guns to kill coyotes. A paucity of foxes, and other eaters of small rodents that are reservoirs of disease, and a similar lack of insectivorous birds and reptiles that consume the ticks that transmit these diseases to humans, make the outdoors unsafe. So more pesticides are used, and the cycle continues.
Additional problems are created by the importation of plant and animal produce and animal feed from abroad. This calls for heightened biosecurity and the discouragement of, if not legislation against, the ownership, propagation and deliberate or accidental release of “exotic” animals and plant varieties.
Optimal biodiversity is the keystone of One Health -- encompassing animals, plants, the environment and humans. The contribution of biodiversity to One Health includes clean air, pure water, productive soils, ecosystem resilience and food safety and security. These then lead to greater climatic, economic and social stability -- provided that human greed is effectively restrained.
For detailed documentation of the degradation of global ecosystems and loss of biodiversity, see the 2019 United Nations’ IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services at ipbes.net/assessment-reports/eca. The report finds that around 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades -- more than ever before in human history. It is a clarion call to all of us, and to our governments in particular.
DEAR DR. FOX: I read your regular column in our local newspaper, and have a question about the use of tramadol for dogs.
My goldendoodle had some surgery yesterday, and the veterinarian has put her on 50 milligrams of tramadol once every 12 hours for pain. Is this the suggested dosage? Are there any negative side effects that I should be aware of? -- S.M., Medford, Oregon
DEAR S.M.: Your veterinarian has not kept up with the professional literature on tramadol. It has recently been shown to be an ineffective analgesic for dogs (and also for rabbits). I have long questioned its use for dogs, since it can cause anxiety and palpitations in some dogs. Cannabidiol (CBD) would be a superior alternative for analgesia, and is also an anti-inflammatory.
DEAR DR. FOX: I am having an ongoing debate with my husband about cleaning out the cat box. We have two cats, and they use the same box. I say we should clean it out twice a day, and he says once is fine. What do you say? -- G.L., Fargo, North Dakota
DEAR G.L.: I would clean the litter box four times a day for two cats, or add another box and clean both twice daily, if equally used. Always wash your hands after scooping, raking and adding fresh litter. Empty the entire contents and replace with fresh litter every week or two.
Also: If you are pregnant, your husband should be the litter box cleaner for health reasons. For more litter box insights, check my website: drfoxonehealth.com.
(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 DrFoxOneHealth.com.)