DEAR READERS: I sent this letter to my local newspaper. It was never published, because ruffling the feathers and twisting the tails of the poultry and livestock industries is a cultural taboo, but I urge all states to consider the proposal within. It is an idea that I, and other veterinarians and public health experts, have been calling for for several years.
My letter read as follows:
"As a veterinarian -- and concerned humanitarian -- I urge the Minnesota State Fair to put an end to all live animal exhibits for public health and humane reasons. An article by New York Times reporter Emily Anthes, which ran in the Star Tribune in August under the headline 'Fertile Vector,' underscores the risk of exhibited pigs transmitting the influenza virus to visitors. This is one of several so-called zoonotic diseases that farmed animals, including poultry, can transmit to humans, and which routine sanitation measures may fail to control when people enter the same airspace where the animals are penned.
"There is also the issue of animal stress and suffering under conditions of high temperatures and humidity while being held for exhibition, and during transportation to and from agricultural shows and state fairs. Surely, Minnesota could take the lead and put an end to all such events. Public health and animal welfare should not continue to be trumped by animal industry interests."
Additional support comes from these reports:
-- An exhibitor at this year's Oakland County Fair in Davisburg, Michigan, is presumed positive for swine flu, and county health department representatives are contacting other exhibitors to see whether they or their families also may have been infected. (Full story: MLive.com, July 27)
-- From the abstract of one review of this issue: "We detected 370 separate human-to-swine spillovers, with the frequency of interspecies transmission increasing when the burden of influenza A virus (IAV) was highest in the human population. ... These data suggest that controlling IAV infection in humans working with swine can minimize spillover into pigs, reduce resulting genetic diversity of IAV in pigs, and proactively reduce the potential for swine-to-human transmission of IAV with zoonotic potential." (Full study: A. Markin, et al: "Reverse-zoonoses of 2009 H1N1 pandemic influenza A viruses and evolution in United States swine results in viruses with zoonotic potential," PLOS Pathogens, July 27, 2023)
Following this same line of evidential concern, all live animal markets and shows should be closed. At the very least, they should be limited in size and frequency, and take place under full veterinary, public health and animal welfare surveillance.
For similar reasons, all traffic and trade in live animals, domesticated and wild, should be prohibited except for legitimate conservation and animal health purposes. The lesson from the live-animal "wet" markets in Wuhan, China -- where the COVID-19 global pandemic is thought to have originated -- is warning enough.
DEAR DR. FOX: I came across one of your articles when I was searching for advice for my cat with hyperesthesia syndrome. Can you please help me in figuring out what to feed him and how to treat him?
The vet had him on gabapentin, but I noticed it really didn't work well, and once it wore off, his episodes were worse and he needed MORE gabapentin. Every time I'd try to administer it to him, he made it clear that he did not want it. I think it made him feel yucky. He only took it for about 2 1/2 months, and he has been off all medicines for about that long now.
I notice he sleeps a lot, is not as active and doesn't want to eat as much as he used to. It breaks my heart. To see him experience these terrible episodes, especially when it's a really bad one, is killing me. -- P.S.P., Victorville, California
DEAR P.S.P.: Diagnosing the cause of a cat's hyperesthesia -- a condition of extreme sensitivity of the skin -- can be challenging because several factors may be involved. For instance, some cats just do not like to be touched. Our rescued cat, Fanny, can only be petted when she is on the bed and ready to sleep, and occasionally when she is eating. At other times, she avoids hand contact and her skin shivers if touched.
Some horripilation (hairs standing on end, "goosebumps") can be anxiety-driven, but also may represent a form of epilepsy or seizure in some cats. Gabapentin can help, but as you experienced, the benefit may be temporary. The attending veterinarian may consider treating your cat with a psychotropic medication such as alprazolam or buspirone, which can take some weeks to become effective.
The veterinarian should also rule out other possible contributing factors, such as blocked anal glands; chronic physical pain, particularly along the back; flea-bite allergies; and food allergies/intolerances, especially to fish. I would begin by eliminating all fish from your cat's diet, but give him some marine algae for the much-needed anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.
Paradoxically, the stimulating effects of catnip can also be sedating. Giving your cat a pinch, especially in the evening, may help, as may crushing 1 mg of melatonin in her favorite food at bedtime.
One remote possible cause is a parasitic infestation that has gone to the brain, such as toxoplasmosis, heartworm or roundworms. So if all else fails, have your veterinarian consider trying an antiparasitic medication.
(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.)