DEAR DR. FOX: I’ve lost two dogs in the last two years due to illness and age.
They were 40- to 50-pound mixed breeds. One died at 12 years old from probable liver cancer, considering blood test results, and the other at 16 from a weak heart (treated) and other age-related problems.
I’ve lived in a senior community for not quite three years. In that time, it has come to my attention that there have been what I would consider an abnormal number of dogs passing away, from age 8 and up, many due to cancers. It has also come to my attention that weed killers are routinely used around the community where many of us walk our dogs. Roundup was used regularly, until recently, when another brand replaced it due to the controversy about Roundup.
What is your opinion of my suspicion that the weed killer may have contributed to the loss of at least some of these dogs and/or shortened the dogs’ lives? In particular, I’m thinking of my 12-year-old dog with liver cancer. Could his year-and-a-half exposure to weed killer have done it?
All my dogs have lived to 15 or 16 until now. I know there are other factors that can contribute, such as food, vaccinations and flea treatments, etc. Honestly, I’m somewhat fearful of getting another. -- M.J.S., South Bend, Indiana
DEAR M.J.S.: I sympathize with you over the loss of your dogs. But do consider adopting an older one, regardless of the fact that many dogs are dying at a younger age than anticipated because they developed one form of cancer or another. They are like the canaries down in the mine, alerting us to environmental carcinogens also in our food and water, which they share with us.
The high incidence of cancer in young children today is in large part due to pesticides and other carcinogens -- even in the air we breathe -- that have been blithely released for decades and approved by one government after another.
The best preventive approach, for all of us, is to use a good-quality water filter, buy organically certified foods and avoid using herbicides and insecticides in and around one’s living area, both outdoors and in. These pesticides are creating havoc ecologically and, like antibiotics, should only be used as a last resort. Seeing herbicides applied for aesthetic reasons to control so-called “weeds” means a loss of natural biodiversity, and consequential pest and disease problems.
There’s nothing better than letting indigenous wild plants, and the insects and birds who depend upon them, flourish. Get rid of monoculture lawns and decorative plants, many of which are pretreated with neonicotinoid insecticides. These plants may please the eye, but are of no ecological or food value to bees and other beneficial insects.
DEAR DR. FOX: You write about mercury being a problem for cats, especially when they are fed seafoods like tuna. Where does this mercury come from? Stopping the source may be the solution. -- Y.McF., Fort Myers, Florida
DEAR Y.McF.: Mercury can cause birth defects, cancer and brain-development disorders in humans and other animals. It accumulates in the bodies of fish when bigger fish eat smaller ones that are contaminated with this toxin (a process called bioaccumulation). Major sources of mercury are paper pulp mills that discharge into waterways, as well as coal-fired power plants that contaminate the air and waterways. The latter also emit lead and arsenic. Yet the Trump administration is now moving to roll back Obama-era regulations to limit such pollutants from being released by power plants in order to reduce costs and encourage more coal-fired power plant construction.
Mercury (as thimerosal) has also been used as a preservative in vaccines; many health experts sought to outlaw thimerosal, for good reason.
SPEECH PATHOLOGIST’S DOG COMMUNICATES WITH SOUND BOARD
Speech pathologist Christina Hunger developed a sound board that her Catahoula and blue heeler mix dog, Stella, uses to communicate. The dog presses buttons with her paws to indicate her owners’ names, different activities and basic emotions, and Stella can string words together to form short sentences. (The Daily Dot, Nov. 6)
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