DEAR READERS: I was glad to see the University of Minnesota’s Dr. Michael Osterholm on MNSBC’s “Morning Joe” (March 13) discuss something other than contaminated surfaces and hand-washing -- namely, aerosol infection, or the transmission of a virus in respiratory droplets when people talk, cough or sneeze. Floating microparticles of dust and viruses in the air, especially in poorly ventilated indoor environments, are problematic, along with lung-damaging particulate air pollution.
Dr. Osterholm has previously voiced concerns about live farm animal exhibits at state fairs, especially the “miracle of birth” swine barns, where families can go and see sows giving birth to piglets -- risking infection from swine flu and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
I goofed up yesterday, greeting a friend while dog-walking with a reciprocal elbow-bump: That part was fine, but I pet her dog when he came running up to greet me. If I had had the virus, I could have at least contaminated her dog for a short while, who might have cross-infected her!
As I’ve said before, we are likely to keep experiencing pandemics in the future, requiring ever-more vaccines and medications, so long as preventive medicine remains human-centered and reactive rather than proactive. Governments must address wildlife poaching, trafficking, habitat encroachment and the killing of animals, wild and domesticated, for human consumption. For example, the hepatitis E virus was recently found in 40 percent of U.S. slaughterhouse pigs that were tested. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, zoonotic diseases are very common, both in the United States and around the world. Scientists estimate that more than 6 out of every 10 known infectious diseases in people can be spread from animals, and 3 out of every 4 new or emerging infectious diseases in people come from animals.
For more, see my article “What Coronavirus (COVID-19) Is Telling Us: A Holistic Veterinary and One Health View” on my website (drfoxonehealth.com).
DEAR DR. FOX: I often see, especially in the warmer months, a person riding a bicycle while their dog is on a leash or rope, having to run with the bike. Am I wrong, or is this outright cruelty to the dog? The pavement is normally hot, the biker is riding too fast and the poor dog can’t yell for them to stop or slow down. I wonder how the biker would enjoy being towed behind a bike, unable to tell the operator to stop. Your thoughts on this activity, please. -- W.R., West Palm Beach, Florida
DEAR W.R.: You raise a serious dog-welfare issue I have repeatedly discussed in my column; this activity is just as irresponsible as leaving a dog in a closed car in hot weather and walking a dog on hot pavement. These are especially dangerous for older dogs and those with brachycephalic (“pushed-in”) faces, such as pugs and bulldogs. They are especially susceptible to heat stroke and death from hyperthermia.
Exercise is not a panacea, but in degrees of intensity, can be highly beneficial. But overexercising any dog after the long, less-active winters is ill-advised, often leading to costly knee (cruciate ligament) damage, especially when the animal is overweight. I advise a spring wellness exam for dogs before they get more active, and especially when the owner is a runner or cyclist who takes the dog along, with all due safety precautions.
On a different note, a friend asked me about using a dog buggy, essentially a small pram, to take her dog out since she was not very active or stable on her feet. Her toy poodle was only a year old, and still not pee-pad trained.
She got upset when I said not to use the buggy as a substitute for walking her dog on a leash and allowing her to run around in a safe area. Dogs need to get out and sniff all around as much as they can, chase a ball or play with another dog. I told her about two women who used telemeter devices to record dogs’ heart rates when they are enjoying the outdoors and “shaking it off.” After shaking, and while sniffing, the dogs’ heart rates went down. This is part of their relaxation response.
I added that one study has shown small dogs who do not get much of a chance to run around -- an activity that helps maintain regular bowel function -- are more prone to develop inflammatory bowel disease, as well as obesity and all its complications.
On my advice, my friend is now sending her dog to a local small-dog playgroup as often as she can afford it. She attested to how more relaxed and happy her dog seemed.
(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.)