DEAR DR. FOX: I thought I'd ask you what you think about the Bureau of Land Management's roundups of wild horses. While I've always adored all animals (even worms as a young child), I never had a "thing" for horses, but recently started following Skydog Sanctuary on Instagram. It's a rescue group that works tirelessly to reunite mustang families after their brutal captures, and they post amazing stories, pleas and videos. I would like to know your thoughts about these brutal and tragic roundups. -- G.C., West Palm Beach, Florida
DEAR G.C.: Roundups and horse auctions have resulted in thousands of these beautiful animals being transported to Mexico for slaughter, after slaughtering in the U.S. was prohibited following petitions by horse-protection associations. This is an instance of good intentions having worse consequences.
This entire issue is a mess and has been mishandled by state and federal agencies for decades. These groups put the interests of cattle ranchers before the humane treatment of equines and the sound management of ranges -- including the provision of feed and water, especially during periods of extended drought.
Horses, sheep and cattle all graze differently; with good rangeland management, overgrazing and habitat degradation can be prevented and all three species can sustainably coexist. But democracy is dead in these cattle baron-ravaged wildlands, as most cattle ranchers see sheep, and now mustangs, as competitors to be exterminated. Ranchers' war on wolves and other predators is another contributing factor to the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem health.
It is the cattle, and not the wild horses, that are a blight on rangelands. Humans have taken over the role of predator and, therefore, some reduction of horse numbers may be indicated. But many captured horses can be adopted out to responsible owners. Stallions can be vasectomized, and mares given long-acting hormone implants to inhibit ovulation, before being released back into the wild to help with population control.
There are a few nonprofit organizations doing good work to provide sanctuary for wild horses/mustangs. For example, my wife and I donate to Equine Voices Rescue and Sanctuary in Arizona.
DEAR DR. FOX: What is your opinion of dog parks: Do the benefits of leash-free exercise and social interaction outweigh the drawbacks? Also, we were always told to keep puppies away from other animals until they were fully vaccinated, but now we're hearing that it's more important to socialize them, even before that fully vaccinated date. The thinking is that there is less risk of illness than of problems from not being socialized, which could set them up for behavioral issues throughout their lives. What are your thoughts? -- G.F., San Diego
DEAR G.F.: I am all in favor of off-leash dog parks and large community enclosures for dogs to interact. But there must be rules for all entrants to follow. No "bully" dogs should be allowed, for instance, nor any unspayed females in heat.
All dogs must be under close monitoring by owners/handlers at all times. Only too often I have seen a circle of people gabbing together, with no one watching the dogs to intervene if a fight begins (or even if one or more dogs have pooped). Owners should always clean up after their dogs, who should have annual fecal tests to rule out internal parasites. Dog parks can easily become contaminated with such parasites and spread infections to other dogs.
All dogs should also be up-to-date on their core vaccinations, and should wear collars with ID and anti-rabies tags. Ideally, they would all be microchipped, just in case one or more get out of the enclosure (such as when someone leaves a gate open, or when a dog rushes past a person entering or leaving).
Regarding puppies: They can be allowed to mingle, ideally with small and/or gentle dogs, after 16 weeks of age if the basic vaccination protocol -- as practiced by most veterinarians -- has been followed.
DEAR DR. FOX: My 3-year-old rescue dog just had bladder stone surgery and had struvite stones removed. She had a UTI, also. She was placed on Hill's Prescription Diet c/d, but she hates this food.
The vet said she's to stay on a prescription diet for life. I would like your opinion on what else I can feed her. -- L.M., Tulsa, Oklahoma
DEAR L.M.: Many of these costly (and profitable) "prescription" diets are very unpalatable for dogs and cats. A good source for more palatable, veterinary-formulated special diets is a company called Balance IT (balanceit.com).
Cats and dogs seem more prone to develop urinary crystals (also called calculi or stones) when fed only dry kibble. Moist canned, freeze-dried or frozen food formulations often produce less concentrated urine, less bladder inflammation and fewer bacterial infections. The likelihood of struvite or calcium oxalate crystals forming in the urine also declines.
For details about your dog's problem, which is partly genetic and partly induced by diet (and possibly by bladder infections), see the article "Urinary Tract Stones and Cystitis in Cats and Dogs" on drfoxonehealth.com.
(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.)