DEAR READERS: For many, a traditional part of celebrating Easter has been purchasing a baby rabbit, chick or duckling. I wish for a break in this tradition, which may go back to pre-Christian renewal-of-life celebrations. Too often it means the opposite: chicks and ducklings and baby rabbits soon dying from lack of informed care.
Avoid young poultry because of the risk of salmonella and other bacterial infections, which could sicken family members. Stick with chocolate eggs and bunnies -- but keep these away from sweet-tooth dogs, who can become sick and have seizures from consuming chocolate.
Many post-Easter rabbits end up in animal shelters looking for new homes. But if you really want to take on such a responsibility, read up on proper housing and care. Remember, it is more humane to keep two rabbits than just one, and be sure to have them neutered. Make sure they are vaccinated against the virus that causes rabbit hemorrhagic disease, which has decimated domestic and wild rabbit populations in several countries, including the U.S.
DEAR DR. FOX: I am in search of your "Endocrine Disruption Syndrome" article addressing Cushing's. I have a 14-year-old Lhasa Apso who has been diagnosed with Cushing's recently. Initially, he was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and treated with surgery years ago. Although his calcium levels are still high, they are stable.
We were just told by our internal medicine doctors that we cannot treat his Cushing's because Trilostane would make things worse. So I am on the hunt to improve the quality of life of my poor dog. -- S.M., West Palm Beach, Florida
DEAR S.M.: There is evidence that dogs, especially females, are more at risk from developing this disease if they have been neutered, a consequence I have long suspected due to endocrine imbalance.
I have also recommended melatonin to help dogs with this endocrine disease. Here are some relevant details from a study entitled "Treatment Option Considerations for Hyperadrenocorticism in Dogs" from the University of Tennessee's Clinical Endocrinology Service (part of the College of Veterinary Medicine):
"Melatonin is often used as a first treatment, especially if alopecia is present, since it is cheap, has few side effects and is available in health food stores or via nutrient suppliers on the internet. Typically, a dose of 3 mg is given every 12 hours for dogs of 30 lbs. Regular melatonin is usually used rather than rapid-release or extended-release products. ... Allow at least four months for treatment to be effective. Response time is variable among dogs. Monitor treatment effectiveness by improvement in clinical signs, biochemistries or by repeat of steroid profile."
To read the full document, visit vetmed.tennessee.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/Treatment-Considerations.pdf.
CANCER RESEARCH HELPING DOGS AND PEOPLE
Dr. Amy LeBlanc, a veterinarian and the director of the Comparative Oncology Program at the National Institutes of Health, says that dogs provide researchers with the "best representation of human cancer aside from humans themselves." This is because they develop cancer naturally, just as we do; share our food and environment; and are vaccinated and occasionally get sick. Canine and human cancers are molecularly similar, says LeBlanc. The NIH now directly funds some canine cancer research, including the Integrated Canine Data Commons repository. The Comparative Oncology Program has led to an experimental vaccine for bone cancer in dogs and children, and a new drug for multiple myeloma that is well tolerated in dogs and may also be in humans. (Full story: AVMA News, March 13)
The NIH's Comparative Oncology Program has been advancing the study of canine cancer, to the benefit of both dogs and people, since it was founded by veterinary oncologist Chand Khanna 20 years ago. "I don't want to use dogs" in research, Dr. Khanna said. "I want to include dogs, so that the dogs and their owners are given the same options for innovation that human cancer patients are given in the form of access to clinical trials." (Full story: AVMA News, March 6)
In my opinion, this is real progress and underscores the fact that dogs are not being given cancer under "controlled" laboratory circumstances being held in small cages for most of their lives, but rather, are patients under veterinary care that become part of the cancer research program. I have long advocated this humane, One Health approach to cancer and other diseases seen in humans and other animals.
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