J.R.M., St. Louis
DF: Nutritional science has shown that some people, like most cats and probably many dogs, are unable to process or convert omega-3 fatty acids of plant origin into docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
These acids are essential for brain development, vision, immune system function and a host of other body functions. They also help balance inflammation-causing omega-6 fatty acids, which tend to be in excess in the human diet.
Consumers and their pets are facing a major nutritional deficiency and imbalance when it comes to these essential fatty acids. For dogs and cats, I recommend Nordic Naturals fish oil or free-range, grass-fed beef, dairy or poultry, which is higher in omega-3s than products from conventionally raised and fed animals. A small amount of canned sardine or mackerel can also provide some of these essential nutrients.
Toxoplasmosis is diagnosable by alert epidemiologists and parasitologists, and it is treatable in patients not too damaged by these organisms. To prevent toxoplasmosis, be careful when handling raw meat; wear gardening gloves when working in soil; outlaw people allowing their cats to roam free, becoming infected from killing and eating rodents; and avoid contact with feces when cleaning out the litter box.
too many pesticides
Dear Dr. Fox:
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, Mich.
DF: Health experts and a few political leaders are waking up to the consequences of climate change, which facilitates the spread of some insect-borne diseases such as the two that you mention.
Wind currents and higher temperatures help spread viruses across continents, as can infected migratory birds. We need to acknowledge the role of humans in helping spread these emerging diseases such as West Nile virus and 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, such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever — might be reduced if we stopped using pesticides.
Biting insects quickly develop resistance to pesticides, while the bats, birds and other creatures that consume them and help control their numbers get poisoned. The white nose syndrome fungal disease decimating bats might be a consequence of immune system impairment by pesticides. Ditto the fate of the honeybee and other beneficial insects.
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.
2012 United Feature Syndicate