DEAR READERS: Caring for all creatures great and small in the diminishing wild is a responsibility all communities and countries must adopt. The harmful incursions of people, along with our free-roaming and feral domestic animals and unattended livestock, cannot continue.
Allowing cattle, sheep and goats to roam free in and around wildlife areas should be prohibited, yet is actually subsidized by government "predator control" programs that have all but exterminated the wolf and cougar in most states. These animals, when pushed into developed areas in desperate search of food, can spread diseases that put other wildlife at risk. They can also infect cattle, sheep and goats with Lyme disease and spread other tick-borne illnesses.
Feral pigs -- "feral" meaning any domestic animal that adapts to living in the wild -- are becoming an increasing problem in the U.S. and Canada. The swine have established themselves in Canada and are encroaching on border states like Montana and North Dakota. Feral pigs can put domestic pigs at risk from diseases such as African swine fever.
There is also a feral dog problem. Feral dogs have been documented in all 50 states, doing an estimated $620 million of damage in the U.S. annually. In Texas alone, it is estimated that over $5 million in annual damage to livestock can be attributed to feral dogs. Feral dogs spread diseases such as distemper and parvovirus that put endangered and protected species like the wolf at risk, as well as other wild canids -- the various fox species and coyotes.
The feral cat problem is also a major factor in the loss of songbirds and small mammals. Cats spread diseases to wild felids such as the Florida panther and the northern lynx and bobcat. They also spread toxoplasmosis, which infects many species, including humans. According to one assessment of predation by domesticated cats, "When reptiles, amphibians, and small mammals are included in the tally, scientists estimate that feral cats in the U.S. kill 6.9 to 20.7 billion animals annually. Outside of human-driven habitat destruction, there is arguably no greater threat to small wildlife species -- especially birds -- than feral cats." (Source: the Bard Center for Environmental Policy, bard.edu, citing numbers from abcbirds.org)
As potential carriers of rabies, feral cats and dogs pose a greater public health risk than wild carnivores such as coyotes and foxes. Collectively, the negative impact of feral animals on biodiversity must be addressed.
The Biden administration has yet to sign and support the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity 2022 resolution to take concerted action to protect at least one-third of the world's natural ecosystems, aquatic and terrestrial. The issue of invasive species (both plants and animals) and free-roaming livestock cannot be ignored.
We must make fundamental changes in how we treat domesticated animals for food and other purposes, and those who become feral at home and abroad. For detailed references, go to drfoxonehealth.com/post/wildlife-protection-reducing-domestic-animal-insurgents.
DEAR DR. FOX: Our latest rescue dog, Shaney, lived in a filthy neglectful situation her first six years of life. She had to have bilateral inner ear surgeries because of longstanding untreated infections, and is now joyful.
The problem is that she sleeps in our bed. The first night she arrived, she made it clear that our bed is her bed. If I accidentally touch her during the night, she growls and is immediately prepared to fight. She opens her mouth to bite the offender. She bit my foot once and it took two months to heal.
I assume she's become protective after all the pain she suffered, and she probably has PTSD. But I'm afraid she'll bite me again and it could be worse.
Can I give her melatonin every evening? Might CBD help? Anything else you can recommend would be appreciated. -- L.H., Cleveland, Ohio
DEAR L.H.: This happens on occasion when a dog is evidently having a bad dream: The owner pets and comforts the dog, who then awakens partially and bites. Dogs with a history of emotional trauma -- the equivalent of humans' post-traumatic stress disorder, as you reference -- can react by defensive biting when suddenly disturbed. It is always important to rule out some underlying painful injury or chronic condition such as arthritis, which can make animals react this way when disturbed.
Try coaxing Shaney onto a soft dog bed, placed next to your own, with tasty treats during the day and at bedtime. This could take several days and nights. Hopefully she will come to accept the dog bed as a rewarding and safe place.
If she will not accept a dog bed and continues to insist on joining you, you are putting yourself at risk. A facial injury or deep bite on any part of your body is a serious possibility. I am sorry to hear that this has already happened once. For the time being, when in bed, wrap yourself in a thick robe or blanket and set a row of pillows between yourself and Shaney.
There are long-acting melatonin supplements worth trying. I would begin with 6 mg, given a half-hour before bedtime, plus 250 mg of L-tryptophan, which will convert into relaxing serotonin. In the morning, give her 200 mg of L-theanine. This will help elevate levels of GABA, a neurochemical that promotes relaxation without feelings of drowsiness. My other thought is a veterinary prescription for an anxiolytic psychopharmaceutical such as clomipramine.
I am not an expert on CBD, relaxing mushrooms or other herbal products which could be of help for dogs suffering from anxiety and related behavioral problems. For information on these matters, I suggest you contact Dr. Robert Silver, president of the American College of Veterinary Botanical Medicine, via his website, wellpetdispensary.com.
Good luck and keep me posted on your progress.
(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.)