DEAR READERS: I find it too simplistic to say, "Dogs love us unconditionally." The love of dogs is a result of their socialization with us in puppyhood, enhanced by generations of domestication and heredity. They are highly empathic: They sense what we feel, and can detect when we are emotionally distressed or physically sick.
In many ways, dogs' love makes us "human" by bringing out the best qualities of human nature, acting as our exemplars of loyalty, trust, devotion and, often, protection and heroic rescue. But they also suffer the consequences of our inhumanity, cruelty and indifference, as well as our overindulgence. Their basic needs and well-being are compromised when treated as surrogate objects of selfish emotional gratification.
Our dogs can comfort us when we are grieving, depressed or suffering from PTSD; they take away loneliness and join us when we are ready to play and explore the great outdoors; their senses enrich our own experiences and heighten our communion with nature. Children growing up with dogs learn compassion and caregiving as well as respect for other species, breaking through the self-limiting barriers of egotism and anthropocentrism.
As veterinarian Sean Weasley writes in his book "Through a Vet's Eyes": "The animals we welcome into our homes have become family members. But love is a feeling in our minds, and can only be appreciated by animals through our actions towards them." Those actions should be in their best interests in terms of physical health and emotional well-being.
Dogs have shared and added to our lives and civilization for millennia, and deserve greater recognition under the rule of law. The latter should make abandonment and all acts of cruelty and neglect (certified by a veterinarian or animal welfare investigator) felonies, rather than misdemeanors, just as such crimes against children are judged and prosecuted.
DOGS CALM CHILDREN
School-age children who spent time with a therapy dog twice a week subsequently had lower levels of salivary cortisol than children who participated in guided relaxation sessions and those who did neither, according to a study published in PLOS One. The study involved children with and without special educational needs, and both groups appeared to benefit from therapy dog time, researchers reported. (Full story: The New York Times, June 15)
Other studies have shown that children learn to read, and read better, when a dog is next to them!
DEAR DR. FOX: I read your article about dogs getting sick, and even dying, after having Seresto flea collars put on them. I found this statement online about how they work: "The Seresto collar works with a unique polymer matrix of two active ingredients, which spread from the site of direct contact over the skin surface of your dog: Imidacloprid has been used in products for years to control flea infestations. Flumethrin effectively kills and repels ticks."
So what about people, especially children, petting their dogs? It seems crazy to me. Are the anti-flea pills that contain these same insecticides, but are given orally, any safer? Your website says they are not. So what are the best options? -- R.E., Washington, D.C.
DEAR R.E.: These insecticidal products, widely used on livestock, should be prohibited on companion animals. They contaminate the environment when a dog plays in a stream or lake wearing an insecticidal collar (or after receiving a topical treatment), and also when insecticides and parasiticides are given orally and then excreted in urine and feces. These poisons are also absorbed into various internal organs, causing subsequent health problems.
But you know the story: Big Pharma seems to regulate most legislators and regulatory agencies, rather than the logical reverse.
The fact is that, in addition to the animal health, public health and environmental risks these widely marketed products pose, fleas and ticks still have time to suck blood when they get onto an animal -- and trigger allergic reactions and transmit diseases in the process. In my opinion, the safest approach is to apply various botanical products that are nontoxic but act as potent repellants of these insect pests (as I have repeatedly stated in my columns and posted on my website: drfoxonehealth.com/post/preventing-fleas-ticks-and-mosquitoes).
Visit earthanimal.com to find various botanical products that help prevent fleas, ticks and mosquitoes from infesting dogs and cats, and possibly infecting them with insect-borne diseases. The products include nutrient supplements, repellent collars, sprays, spot treatments and shampoos.
'DISTURBING': WEEDKILLER INGREDIENT TIED TO CANCER FOUND IN 80% OF U.S. URINE SAMPLES
More than 80% of urine samples drawn from children and adults in a U.S. health study contained a weedkilling chemical linked to cancer -- a finding scientists have called "disturbing" and "concerning." The report, by a unit of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that out of 2,310 urine samples taken from a group of Americans intended to be representative of the U.S. population, 1,885 were laced with detectable traces of glyphosate.
Commonly known as Monsanto's Roundup herbicide (now owned by Big Pharma company Bayer), this toxic chemical is widely used on various nonorganic food crops and by homeowners on their properties. Glyphosate residue in many pet foods, and around homes and gardens where pets and children may play, certainly puts our animal companions at risk.
(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.)