DEAR READERS: We may have learned something about karma and the laws of consequences from the COVID-19 pandemic. We should not forget that the virus responsible for this global calamity came from animals as a result of human exploitation.
International trade in animals -- wild and domesticated, dead and alive -- for human consumption should be curtailed as a public health service, as well as for national security and animal health and welfare. Farmed animal production and trade within nations should be tempered to help reduce this major industry’s contribution to the climate and extinction crises and the decline in public health. This industry also plays a role in rural poverty, as small, sustainable producers are marginalized and veterinary services primarily directed to large commercial operations.
A team of Vietnamese scientists, along with Amanda Fine and Sarah Olson of the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York, tested field rats harvested for human consumption for coronavirus at different points along the wildlife supply chain in Vietnam. They found that the infection rates increased markedly as the rats went down the chain: 20.7% of rats handled by wildlife traders tested positive compared to 32% of rats in marketplaces and 55.6% of rats in restaurants. The team also found that about 75% of bats on guano farms (constructed roosts where people collect and sell bat droppings for fertilizer) were infected with coronavirus -- more than 10 times the infection rate (6.7%) in naturally roosting bats. (Full story: “Coronavirus testing indicates transmission risk increases along wildlife supply chains for human consumption in Vietnam,” PLOS ONE)
According to a Nov. 27 article in The Guardian (London), a few thousand mink escape Denmark’s fur farms every year -- and it’s possible some carrying SARS-CoV-2 are now in the wild, says Sten Mortensen, veterinary research manager at Denmark’s Veterinary and Food Administration. Mink are solitary animals, but an infected mink could transmit the virus to ferrets, raccoon dogs (an invasive species related to foxes) and possibly domestic cats.
All who live or work with animals, or come close to them in any way, must now practice preventive measures. Many mammalian species could be infected by humans and become a source of human reinfection.
DEAR DR. FOX: I just read your column entitled “Animal Spirits and Alternative Realities.” The letter from T.G. in San Diego describes the very same experience I had after the death of my 16-year-old cat, Rocco.
I never told anyone about it for fear people would think I was crazy or dreaming at the time. I was awake, but kept my eyes closed during Rocco’s “visitation” because I was afraid he would vanish if I opened my eyes. The experience gave me comfort in a time of deep grieving.
Since T.G. had never owned a cat, I am curious about the retirement community he moved into three years ago. I’m specifically wondering about the previous owner of the condo: Did that person have a much-loved cat who is attached to the place? I have lived with cats and dogs since I was 4 years old, and I feel cats are more attached to places than to people -- the opposite of dogs. -- C.F., Mishawaka, Indiana
DEAR C.F.: I appreciate you sharing your experience with your deceased cat. Many people having after-life experiences with their animal companions share your feeling of being comforted by such visitations, especially during the grieving period.
With T.G.’s experience, there was probably a cat living in the place sometime prior to his occupancy. Another couple has told me that they had frequent visitations, feeling a cat jump on their bed at night, before coming to learn that the prior owners of their home did indeed have a cat.
As a rational person with the skeptical objectivity of a scientist, I am drawn to the metaphysics of these existential phenomena. Many people have also reported their surviving pets’ reactions and responses to visitations from recently deceased pets, as documented in two of my books: “Cat Body, Cat Mind” and “Dog Body, Dog Mind.”
HOOKWORMS PREVALENT IN PETS THROUGHOUT U.S.
In July, the Companion Animal Parasite Council reported continued increases in the presence of hookworms, with the highest monthly increases in canine or feline hookworm infections occurring in Georgia, South Dakota and California.
“This demonstrates how vital it is for dogs and cats to be protected against hookworm parasites with broad-spectrum, year-round preventatives and, at a minimum, biannual testing,” said veterinarian Craig Prior, a CAPC board member. “By protecting your pet, you are protecting other pets, your family, other families and your entire community.” (Full story: Veterinary Practice News, Aug. 18)
An evaluation of dog parasites in parks across the country has confirmed the need to have dogs’ stool samples routinely tested as part of at least one wellness examination every year. Ideally, this would be done twice yearly.
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