DEAR READERS: The European Parliament and the European Commission -- the European Union's legislative branch and executive branch, respectively -- voted this summer to take steps toward ending the cage and crate confinement of farm animals. The use of cages for hens, rabbits, pullets, quail, ducks and geese, among others, would be prohibited, as would sow stalls, farrowing crates and individual calf pens. Also banned would be the force-feeding of geese and ducks for foie gras. The potential phase-out date is 2027 (JAVMA News, Aug. 15).
This progress is thanks, in large part, to the popular "End the Cage Age" campaign. This is a major step for the farming community and for the market regulatory and oversight agencies. However, it's a small, long-overdue step for the animals who, for generations, have suffered extreme confinement stress and the thwarting of their natural behaviors and needs.
Overall, this represents a significant cultural advance for Western civilization, which often regards -- and treats -- such animals as mere commodities. The U.S. and other nations may be forced, for financial reasons, to follow suit if their farmed animal products are not accepted for import into Europe when these new humane standards are not met. But more likely, the U.S. will resist, as profits take precedence over compassion and ethics, and progress in animal welfare -- as well as human rights -- will linger in the dark ages.
DEAR DR. FOX: My two rescued Yorkies, 7 and 8 years old, are healthy overall. They are house pets and rarely like to walk. They go to the backyard and do their business and quickly return. Walking has been a pure calamity, pulling them along.
They have been on the prescription Revolution to prevent parasites. What are your thoughts on this drug, which is administered monthly on the back of their necks? Is there a natural substitute you would recommend? They are rarely around other dogs, and they are up to date with their vaccines. They see the vet annually, unless there is a problem.
Also: Yorkies are known for dental caries. What can I use to minimize this problem? -- H.L.M., West Palm Beach, Florida
DEAR H.L.M.: Repeated human exposure to selamectin (the drug in Revolution) from handling and petting dogs treated with this drug can pose potential health risks, especially to veterinarians, vet technologists, dog trainers/handlers and pet owners, according to research published in the journal Toxicology Mechanisms and Methods.
Rather than relying on this drug to prevent heartworms, ask your veterinarian for ivermectin, which is given orally. To control fleas, use the integrated steps in my post entitled "Preventing Fleas, Ticks and Mosquitoes" on my website (drfoxonehealth.com).
Regarding your concerns about the dogs' dental health, you should get your dogs used to having their teeth brushed and encourage them to chew on U.S.-manufactured, chemical-free rawhide chews. See my review "Dental Problems in Companion Animals," also posted on my website.
DEAR DR. FOX: I heard that there is an ingredient in Milk Bones that has been reported to cause tumors in dogs. If this is true, could you please tell me the name of that ingredient? -- D.B., Trenton, New Jersey
DEAR D.B.: The issue is with BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), found in many pet foods and treats as well as in our own foods. In the trace amounts used to stabilize fats in food, it is considered safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. There are no documented cases of cancer or other illness being caused by BHA in dogs and cats.
However, the National Toxicology Program classifies BHA as "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen," and the European Union classifies it as an endocrine disruptor. (For more details, visit ewg.org/consumer-guides/ewgs-dirty-dozen-guide-food-additives.) One may argue that the small amounts in pet foods and treats, and in human foods, are not harmful. But I embrace the precautionary principle of risk minimization, especially considering the number of toxic chemicals we have put into the environment that contaminate our food and water.
As for dog treats, make your own, as per the "Dr. Fox's Good Dog" cookie recipe posted on my website, or buy dog treats that are preservative-free, freeze-dried or dehydrated, and made with nonirradiated poultry meat. Please, no jerky treats from China or smoked pig parts, which are often contaminated with bacteria.
(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.)