Another look at trap-neuter-return programs for feral cats

May 14

Dear Dr. Fox:

I have read your column for years and find it a wonderful resource for animal lovers and pet owners.

Recently, your column has featured numerous articles denouncing the trap-neuter-return method of feral cat population control. As a lifetime resident of Washington, D.C., I have seen the positive impact that TNR has had on our community and I am very surprised at your position. I would be eager to learn more about what you have personally observed and experienced, and what has led you to believe that TNR is not a humane population-control method.

In my experience, TNR has been an effective and humane approach to the abandoned pet crisis in my area. In my opinion, your columns have not explained the method adequately. I would appreciate it if you could clarify what approach you think might be best, and address the systems for population control that were in place before TNR.

H. H-D., Washington D.C.

DF: I would say that I have yet to see one scientific study confirming that a well-maintained group of feral cats had no adverse impact on indigenous wildlife, that no cat needing veterinary care was ever left untreated, and that the presence of the feral cat colony reduced the number of stray cats in the contiguous community/ecozone, which is a common claim.

I did include a letter in my column advocating horse-barn and hobby-farm placements of feral cats, which I see as a possibility, but not without disease risks to humans, as well as to cats and other animals. Feeding colonies of outdoor cats also feeds competing wildlife such as raccoons, rats and opossums, and sets up a feeding station for wild carnivores — notably coyotes, who are cat eaters.

I appreciate your care and concerns.

DISABLED WITH A PUPPY

Dear Dr. Fox:

My son got me a Yorkie last May. The dog is less than a year old. I am handicapped, and he is hyper and constantly barking.

Is there anything I can do? I love him but don’t like his behavior. He is about 10 pounds. I had a Yorkie several years ago that was small, and the most wonderful dog you could have. This dog is hard to understand or try to teach anything. He is so strong-willed. Please help!

P.L.

DF: I presume that your son is a caring person, and not just giving you a dog as a substitute for him visiting as often as he can. If he were better informed, he would have found you an older dog, not a young one who is physically active and probably gets easily bored when not engaging in various activities.

All being well, as the dog matures in a year or so, he will calm down. But right now, he needs lots of stimulation that you must provide to whatever degree you can, considering how severe your physical handicap may be. Call in a dog trainer to teach you interactive games and how to reward him for not barking, which he probably does for attention. If you can’t walk the dog and get him outside for off-leash running and exploring in the yard or a safe dog park, hire someone to come over at least once a day. Maybe your son could help, too.

Good luck to you and your young dog.

DIABETES AND DIET

Dear Dr. Fox:

We have a 7-year-old yellow Labrador retriever who was diagnosed with diabetes last July.

Although caught early, the vet prescribed too low a dose of Humulin N insulin, causing the dog to lose his appetite and 20 pounds. He also developed neuropathy in his rear hindquarters, causing him not to be able to walk. For two weeks, the vet couldn’t get it under control, so we took him to another vet, who increased his dosage, and he started responding. He began to eat, and after two weeks was able to get up and walk again.

It seems to have aged him, but he still wants to go for walks — although shorter than normal for a 7-year-old Lab. He’s been on Hills W/D prescription food, and his weight has been pretty stable at 73 pounds. I monitor his glucose, but it seems to fluctuate, and every couple of weeks the vet has me increase the insulin. He’s now at 30 units twice a day. I also feel he is still drinking more water than normal. The costs, between the prescription food and insulin, are getting ridiculous.

Do you have any suggestions on why his glucose isn’t leveling off, and maybe alternative treatments?

M.W.F., Interlaken, N.J.

DF: You and your poor dog have my sympathy. There is a strong genetic basis for the development of this pancreatic hormonal deficiency disease, possibly triggered in susceptible dogs by what their mothers were fed, and what they themselves eat — namely, a high-carbohydrate diet with high glycemic-index ingredients such as corn.

As with diabetic people, dogs may benefit from a daily supplement of powdered cinnamon (1 teaspoon per 50 pounds of body weight, mixed in with food).

I, and others, have written critically about these manufactured prescription foods (see my book “Not Fit for a Dog: The Truth About Manufactured Cat and Dog Food”). Your dog may well fare better on a home-prepared diet such as those developed by veterinarians and available for sale in recipe format from Balance IT. Call 888-346-6362 or visit secure.balanceit.com for information. Also check veterinarian D.R. Strombeck’s Web site, dogcathomeprepareddiet.com.

Michael W. Fox, author of a newsletter and books on animal care, welfare and rights, is a veterinarian with doctoral degrees in medicine and animal behavior. Write to him at United Feature Syndicate, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, Mo. 64106.

2014 United Feature Syndicate

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