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Dr. Michael Fox, Published June 14 2012

Pet care: Say ‘no’ to docking, declawing

Dear Dr. Fox: I totally agree that this country should outlaw docking dogs’ tails and ears, as they do in the United Kingdom. Can you start this ball rolling?

I volunteer at a shelter and agree with you that these poor animals need good homes today. – J.C., Kitty Hawk, N.C.

Dear J.C.: I frequently raise this issue of ear-cropping and tail-docking of various dog breeds and the declawing of cats in my writings. In my new book, “Healing Animals and the Vision of One Health,” I detail the adverse consequences of these companion animal mutilations.

Cutting tails and cropping ears are part and parcel of certain breed standards. Breed clubs should phase these out, and there should be a clause stipulating that no altered dogs will be allowed in the show ring after a certain year.

People wishing to purchase a particular breed need to let the breeder know that they don’t want a “standard” docked-tail puppy. Ear cropping is done at a later age, and the owners themselves should bear that responsibility and say “no.”

As for veterinary practices that do routine kitten declawing without question, I say put animals and ethics before profits and pandering.

Dear Dr. Fox: I have a shorthair Maine coon (according to my grandson). We rescued him as an abandoned cat. He was an indoor/outdoor cat when he came here, and he will not stay in all the time. Because of this, I treat him with Frontline or similar products.

This takes care of fleas and ticks, but not flies and mosquitoes. They bite his ears, and he scratches until he bleeds. He has lost a lot of hair on the ears. I put on antibiotic ointment, but as soon as his ears halfway heal, he gets bitten again. People use Avon Skin So Soft on dogs’ ears to repel insects, but I’m afraid it would be poison to cats because they wash and clean themselves so much.

Do you have a suggestion as to what to use that won’t harm my cat? We would truly appreciate it. – B.M., Chesapeake, Va.

Dear B.M.: Some cats develop a severe hypersensitivity to insect bites, especially mosquitoes. This can become an inflammatory, proliferative skin disease (eosinophilic granulomatosis) that can be difficult to treat. This is one of many reasons to encourage cats to enjoy life indoors and to not let them out during the summer months.

Essential oils such as eucalyptus are good insect repellants but pose some risk when applied to areas that cats can reach to groom. Hydrosols (water-based distillates) are safer for cats. If you can’t find any, dilute one drop of essential oil in 10 drops of olive oil. From that mixture, put one drop on the tip of each ear. Alternatively, put a few undiluted drops on a strip of gauze wrapped around a breakaway collar.

Outdoor cats should wear collars with their ID tags and, as is mandated by law in some municipalities, a valid antirabies vaccination tag. Breakaway collars are advisable since they can pull apart if the cat gets the collar snagged on a branch or fence and might otherwise get strangled.

Book review

This 200-plus page book profiles many of the most readily available herbal extracts (such as oils and hydrosols) that can be used exclusively or as part of an integrative approach to a variety of health problems in dogs, cats, horses and other domestic animals. Against a backdrop of Chinese medical philosophy and practice and supported by some evidence-based treatment successes, this book is a major contribution to the growing recognition of the therapeutic value of herbal extracts. It is a welcome addition to the veterinary and animal care libraries and is an inspiring reference and guide for all animal healers.

While I do not encourage pet owners to make their own diagnoses and treatments, many will find this book invaluable when exploring effective and safe treatments for a variety of animal ailments with their veterinarians, more and more of whom are becoming receptive to this therapeutic modality and are integrating essential oils into their treatment protocols.

Visit www.OfftheLeashPress.com for more information.

Send your questions to Dr. Fox in care of The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107. 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 Web site at www.twobitdog.com/DrFox.