A.R., East Lansing, MI
Tags: small pet MI horse East Lansing
Feb 17, 2013
As a horse owner, I am bugged by all the vaccines being given to them. I agree with you that they can harm the horses' immune systems. Now we have eastern equine encephalitis, which can infect humans, and West Nile virus, which can kill horses and people. What's next? We never had these diseases when I was younger. What is going on?
A.R., East Lansing, MI Feb 18, 2013
Your question is timely because health experts and a few political leaders are waking up to the consequences of climate change/global warming, which facilitates the spread of some insect-borne diseases like the two that you mention.
Wind currents and warmer temperatures help spread viruses across continents, as can infected migratory birds. We need to acknowledge the role of humans in helping spread these so-called emerging diseases like West Nile virus and the increasingly frequent influenza epidemics.
Insect-borne diseases such as eastern equine encephalitis, West Nile virus, epizootic hemorrhagic disease, the Schmallenberg virus, and a host of tick-borne diseases from Lyme disease to Rocky Mountain spotted fever might be reduced if we stopped using pesticides. This may seem counterintuitive, but biting insects quickly develop resistance to the pesticides while the bats, birds and other creatures that consume them and help control their numbers get poisoned. The white nose syndrome fungal disease currently decimating bats may be a consequence of immune system impairment by pesticides. Ditto the fate of the honeybee and other beneficial insects.
But the agrichemical industry does not want to hear any of this, and the drug and vaccine industries continue to profit from anthropogenic, man-made diseases. The solutions are seen as an economic threat to this establishment, but they should be regarded as an opportunity to serve the greater good and profit ethically.
R.E., Falls Church, Va
Tags: small pet Falls Church VA animal rights
Jun 17, 2012
Do most pet owners really care about what is happening to animals around the world?
There is so much animal abuse and suffering, and I believe that anyone who has an animal as a pet has a duty to help all animals. Same for those who eat them. They should not be supporting factory farms and fast food outlets that serve meat from abused animals.
I am a vegetarian, I support animal rights and I foster cats for adoption. Some of my friends and relatives think I am nuts, but at least my boyfriend supports me. Is there any real hope for change? I have supported some of the big animal welfare and conservation organizations, but I stopped after they sent me expensive publications soliciting more donations and I learned about how much goes to salaries and travel expenses rather than to programs to help animals.
What organizations would you support, and how can individuals like me make a difference?
R.E., Falls Church, Va Jun 18, 2012
If more people felt as you do and acted accordingly, I might hold more hope for a viable future for our own kind.
The physical, mental, social and economic well-being of future generations is dependent upon how well we treat the environment and fellow creatures. These connections are being recognized by various authorities under the banner "One Health." I discuss this in my books "Healing Animals and the Vision of One Health," and "Animals and Nature First."
We can all make a difference by changing our dietary habits and reducing meat consumption. Try supporting local farmers and organic agriculture, your local humane society, local Audubon Society chapter and clean water and conservation initiatives. You can also recycle, encourage humane and environmental education in grade schools, don't use pesticides and donate to organizations like the Animal Welfare Institute, Sea Shepherd, Earth Island Institute, Greenpeace International, Environmental Working Group, Union of Concerned Scientists and Natural Resources Defense Council -- just to name a few!
A few readers, including those who believe that climate change is a fabrication of extremists, have complained about this column, insisting that I should stick to pet health issues and not get "political." But the politics of extinction and human and animal health cannot be ignored. I see it as my professional duty to do what I can to help heal our relationships with other animals and the natural world for the good of all.
P.E., Saint Ann, Mo
Tags: small pet MO Saint Ann horse
Jun 03, 2012
Now that it looks like horse slaughter will soon return to the U.S., what is your take on it? I've heard that horsemeat will be sold in the U.S.
I find this appalling. Horse slaughter is always cruel, and it is not humane euthanasia.
P.E., Saint Ann, Mo Jun 04, 2012
I have followed the U.S. horse slaughter issue closely. Unfortunately, horse protection organizations' best intentions in banning horse slaughter in the U.S. led to the stressful transportation of horses to Mexico for slaughter and export -- primarily to France and other horse-eating cultures, including China.
As an ethical vegetarian who has documented the suffering of animals raised for their meat and the negative environmental impact of the livestock and poultry industries -- see my website, DrFoxVet.com, for details -- I see a global reduction in meat consumption as enlightened self-interest and a vital contribution to wildlife protection.
Horses in the U.S. primarily come from the horse racing and rodeo industries and from people who keep them as pets. It is incumbent upon all involved to enforce the highest humane standards in the care and handling of all horses destined for slaughter in the U.S., which, in the final analysis, is a better fate that being sent to Mexico.
Private horse owners can have their veterinarians humanely euthanize their horses with an injection, though the owner will have to pay for the disposal of the animal, which cannot be used for human consumption or incorporated into livestock feed and manufactured pet foods because of drug residues.
Tags: small pet rabbit
May 07, 2012
Sometimes after petting our new rabbit, I get itchy and wonder if I am allergic to him. I get little red dots. He doesn't scratch, so it's not fleas.
What do you suggest? Right now, I wear a long-sleeved shirt that seems to help a bit.
May 08, 2012
Even though your rabbit is not scratching himself, he could still have fur mites (Cheyletiella). These pests are commonly called "walking dandruff" because they resemble large, mobile flakes of dandruff. Their eggs adhere to the hair shafts in the animal's coat. Sometimes, as with your rabbit, there is no evident dermatitis or patchy loss of fur from scratching, though these are common clinical signs of infestation.
These mites can infest people, cats and dogs, causing itching and discomfort. Have a veterinarian examine your rabbit. Ivermectin is the usual treatment choice, along with removing all bedding material and disinfecting the rabbit's enclosure.
Rabbits can also become infected with other kinds of mites, including those that cause mange in dogs and cats; they can also harbor fleas.
W.M., Fort Myers, FL
Tags: small pet Fort Myers FL python
May 06, 2012
I have a small reticulated python. After the last time it shed its skin, it seemed like some is left on the eyes. Should I try to take it off myself, or is it best left alone?
W.M., Fort Myers, FL May 07, 2012
Any local pet store that sells snakes or the municipal zoo should be able to refer you to a veterinarian who has experience treating snakes. Even though most do not, all "exotic" animals should have professional advice when health issues arise. You could also contact any local veterinary hospital and ask for a referral.
Most likely, your snake has not gone through a normal skin-shedding cycle, which can be disrupted by the snake's environment being too dry or the animal not having suitable rough surfaces (like rocks and tree branches) to rub against. The modified skin over the eyes (called "spectacles") has been retained. Trying to pull them off could damage the corneas and result in ulceration, scarring and loss of vision.
Purchase over-the-counter human ocular lubricant and apply three to four times daily. Make sure the snake's enclosure is humid and suitable objects for the snake to rub against are included. If the spectacles have not been shed in 10 to 14 days, a veterinary specialist should examine your snake for possible eye infection causing the spectacles to continue to adhere to the surface of each eye.
S.K.L., Springfield, Mo
Tags: small pet Springfield MO ferret halitosis
Apr 22, 2012
My ferret, Sparky, is 6 years old, and he has halitosis. When I am playing with him, my hands sometimes smell bad from his saliva. Sometimes he drools a lot.
He won't chew bones to keep his teeth clean. What do you advise?
S.K.L., Springfield, Mo Apr 23, 2012
Ferrets, especially older ones like yours, are prone to developing gingivitis, an inflammation and infection of the gums; tartar, especially on the upper back teeth; and periodontal disease.
Have your ferret examined by a veterinarian, especially because any of these dental problems can lead to complications, including heart, kidney and pancreatic diseases due to bacteria, toxins and inflammatory substances that build up in the ferret's diseased oral cavity.
After professional dental care, maintain oral hygiene by providing your ferret with thin strips of raw beef or slices of raw turkey gizzard to chew. Applying PetzLife Oral Care gel or spray will help keep the teeth free of tartar and maintain healthy gums.
Tags: small pet diet food parrot
Feb 26, 2012
I would appreciate any information you could give me about my parrot. He has pulled out all of his feathers, and now he is completely naked.
How can I get him to stop pulling out his feathers?
Feb 27, 2012
Your poor parrot is one of many who develop this feather-pulling problem, which can lead to severe self-mutilation and is difficult to stop.
First, you need to find a veterinarian who specializes in birds. Your bird will be checked for skin and feather mites. The vet will most likely put your bird on a special diet, including fresh fruits and vegetables and a multivitamin and multimineral supplement. Too many parrots and other caged birds are fed the wrong kinds of food, like a mix of birdseed or parrot pellets that may be stale, moldy or lacking in essential nutrients. Lack of sunlight is also a factor in the feather pulling, and provision of a Vita-Lite or other full-spectrum light during the day may help.
Emotional stress, boredom and a high-strung temperament, especially in parrots who do not have a close bond with their human caretakers, play a major role in the development of this problem.
A course of treatment with an anxiety-reducing medication (like Valium or valerian) can be considerably beneficial. But the best solution is to try to identify and correct the cause, which could be boredom from being tied to a perch or imprisoned in a cage most of his waking hours.
G.W., Fargo, ND
Tags: small pet Fargo ND
Feb 13, 2012
You sometimes deal with aquarium animal health questions in your column, so I hope you have an answer to my question.
I get so disgusted when I read newspaper articles about the chef Andrew Zimmern, star of the Travel Channel's "Bizarre Foods" and "Bizarre Foods America." He goes all over the world eating unimaginable things. I don't know why people watch, except to be grossed out. When I read about Zimmern cutting slices off tentacles from a live octopus and serving them while they are still wriggling, I just about gagged. Don't these creatures feel any pain?
G.W., Fargo, ND Feb 14, 2012
I share your disgust. Zimmern gets a thrill out of challenging the squeamish, making a small fortune from his gross gustatory showmanship. Of course, that is not to say that slimy blue-green algae he eats is not a food of the future -- and a biofuel!
In my estimation, Mr. Zimmern is simply an ignoramus, and I trust that once informed of his folly, he may reform. He seems to embody the sad trait of having less and less feeling for other living beings the less and less they look like us. Yet empathy is one quality that makes us human. It may be difficult for some to empathize with a creature like an octopus, which looks and behaves so differently from us. But scientific studies have shown that they are extremely intelligent creatures, possessing great dexterity and the ability to reason, use tools, show fear and avoid pain. Octopuses also have other emotional reactions, including a degree of empathy and cooperative social behavior with one another.
So my philosophy is to show respect and compassion toward all living creatures since we really do not know what they are feeling and thinking, and to give them the benefit of the doubt with regard to their capacity to suffer. For more details see my new book, "Animals and Nature First" (published by CreateSpace, and available at Amazon.com).
As for Mr. Zimmern being a "chef," there are cooks and there are COOKS! In my kitchen, a chef of the highest order is one who considers compassion and environmental sustainability as well as nutrient value when it comes to considering food ingredients, not simply taste and novelty!
M.W., Norman, OK
Tags: small pet Norman OK gerbil
Dec 11, 2011
My old gerbil has a lump on the lower part of his chest and partly over his tummy. It seems more swollen than usual, and I wonder if it is cancer. Should I take him to the vet? I guess it will cost me more than I paid for him, but he's worth it to me.
M.W., Norman, OK Dec 12, 2011
I am glad that you are not one of those people who say that seeing a veterinarian isn't worth the expense for an animal you paid only a few dollars for.
First, you should know that what you are seeing on the underside of your gerbil is a scent-marking gland that tends to get bigger with age. Rarely does it become cancerous. More often, it is a mild infection and inflammation that can be treated by careful cleaning and application of an antibiotic ointment the veterinarian can prescribe. Call first, tell them how old you are and ask what they might charge you after my provisional diagnosis. After applying the ointment, you should keep your gerbil actively distracted for as long as you can -- at least half an hour -- to stop him from licking off the medication.
D.K.W., Sarasota, FL
Tags: small pet FL Sarasota frogs
Sep 11, 2011
I took my son to our local pet store, and he was fascinated by the African dwarf frogs. He wanted me to buy a pair, but I said I would write to you first and get your opinion.
My son is 10 years old and loves animals, and I want to encourage his interest. The store manager told me the frogs were not taken from the wild but were "captive-bred."
D.K.W., Sarasota, FL Sep 12, 2011
Captive-bred or not, these are not domesticated animals, and they require proper habitat and special care. During the last couple of years, this variety of frog has caused salmonella infections in more than 200 people, most of them under the age of 10, and some 30 percent had to be hospitalized. Fortunately, there were no deaths. Terrapins (water turtles) pose a similar hazard.
While your son might be able to follow strict hygiene measures, I would not run the risk. Encourage him instead to join a local nature club or Audubon Society and learn about the wildlife in your state. Some school districts, in collaboration with municipal zoos, wildlife rescue and rehab centers and conservation organizations, have excellent in-field programs for children and internships for those in high school that can lead to a meaningful career or avocation.