DEAR READERS: Several years ago, I inspected dairy cow feedlots in California after thousands of the exposed, unshaded and stressed creatures died from heat stress. I also flew over dairy feedlots in the Arizona desert that were taking water from the Colorado River to grow alfalfa to feed the cows. It was evident to me then that these factory-scale dairy operations were unsustainable as well as inhumane, and my view has not changed.
These feedlots compete with smaller-scale, generally more humane operations in other dairy states such as Minnesota and Wisconsin. These smaller operations have been forced out of business by government subsidies going to larger factories and farms, which claimed false efficiencies based on the economy of scale. "Get big or get out" was the memorable proclamation of Earl Butz, secretary of agriculture under Presidents Nixon and Ford.
Rising costs for feed, water, electricity, medication and other inputs, along with supply chain disruptions -- all exacerbated by climate change -- call for closing all large dairy operations.
California is the biggest U.S. producer of dairy products. Many of the state's farms rely on irrigation from the Colorado River -- a dwindling resource -- to produce alfalfa for dairy cows and also for export, as highlighted by Washington Post reporter Joshua Partlow ("Water Cuts Could Save the Colorado River. Farmers Are in the Crosshairs," April 16). That same week, New York Times reporter Elizabeth Williamson offered a troubling report that said suicide rates among farmers are more than three times higher than among the general population. And the suicide rates in rural communities increased 48% between 2000 and 2018 ("A Death in Dairyland Spurs a Fight Against a Silent Killer," April 19). More broadly, the shortage of veterinarians in rural communities is a national concern.
Together, these stories point to a crisis created by a highly competitive industry that is bad for all involved -- including the animals at its center. There are glimmers of hope, however. More and more consumers are choosing organically certified dairy products from pasture-raised cows, such as those supplied by cooperatives like Wisconsin's Organic Valley. For these smaller operations, securing a reliable, affordable supply of organic, non-GMO feed is a continuing challenge -- one that could be alleviated by a secure market of consumer support.
DEAR DR. FOX: I am beside myself. My Lab turned 2 in June -- a gorgeous dog who loves obedience and agility, and swims like a fish. All of a sudden, he has developed aggression that I'm convinced is a type of seizure. These episodes come out of the blue: I can see a shift in his demeanor, and his eyes look wild. He acts like he is going to get beaten.
He had a brain scan on Friday, and we are waiting for the results. I have stopped giving him his Simparica Trio and have ordered the necessary meds that you have suggested in the past for detoxing. (It doesn't help that my husband, a Vietnam vet who was exposed to Agent Orange, now has Parkinson's, which has added a tremendous amount of stress to our household.)
Is there anything else I can do? I want my dog to be happy and healthy. We did have plans for him to be a therapy dog, and I did a lot of training with him. -- J.M., Hawthorne, New Jersey
DEAR J.M.: I sympathize deeply with your situation, as both your husband and your dog are experiencing the harmful consequences of exposure to dangerous chemicals.
Your dog's symptoms -- fear and seizurelike behaviors -- are often reported in dogs as adverse reactions to these widely marketed pesticides, which I find utterly unethical. Some dogs may have frequent seizures, while others become aggressive. There are botanical insect repellants available, such as those from Alzoo and Earth Animal, that are highly effective and harmless to dogs -- and us!
There is a remote possibility, considering your dog's age, of thyroid dysfunction. My friend and veterinary colleague W. Jean Dodds, DVM, writes that there is a significant relationship between thyroid dysfunction and seizure disorder, and between thyroid dysfunction and dog-to-human aggression. This confirms the importance of including a complete thyroid antibody profile as part of the laboratory and clinical workup of any behavioral case.
I am surprised about the brain scan you mentioned, so far as its value versus cost, and urge that your veterinarian evaluate the dog's thyroid function as well. Continue to follow the detox protocol I have posted. In addition, keep your dog calm and quiet and give him a thorough bath/shampoo to remove any remaining pesticide residue.
Have your veterinarian (and your husband's physician) read this article by veterinarians Ihor J. Basko, DVM, and Laurie Dohmen, VMD, about using the Lion's Mane mushroom to treat neurological conditions, including Parkinson's disease in humans: ahvma.org/journal/PSSJ9210.
Also check out the Guardian article entitled "Revealed: The Secret Push to Bury a Weedkiller's Link to Parkinson's Disease." From the introduction: "The global chemical giant Syngenta has sought to secretly influence scientific research regarding links between its top-selling weedkiller and Parkinson's, internal corporate documents show." (Full story: The Guardian, June 2)
(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.)