Dear Dr. Fox:

After reading your article about the importance of giving animals the purest possible water to drink, I bought a water purifying system for my cats and me. In a few days, they were drinking more water, and they now have few, if any, digestive problems.

Thanks for pointing out this important aspect of health care. We take water for granted, but what comes out of our taps, as my cats confirmed, might not be fit to drink.

G.C., Duluth, Minn.

DF: I am not the only veterinarian recommending pure drinking water, especially for cats, because many do not drink sufficient water on a regular basis.

Some cats enjoy a bubbling water dispenser, but the water must not come from the tap. Surprisingly, “spring water” sold in stores might not be the best, and distilled water lacks essential trace minerals. I use a ZeroWater filter; the reverse ionization method is a good investment for every family.

We are facing a global water-quality crisis, as governments around the world do little to protect this vital resource. I live in Minnesota, the land of 10,000 (many now seriously polluted) lakes. This state’s recent abolition of the Pollution Control Agency’s Citizens’ Board — for dubious political reasons — casts a shadow across the state’s image of responsible wilderness management and protection and is a potential national disaster in the making.

The business-friendly initiative of abolishing the Citizens’ Board underscores the influence of various industries that marginalize long-term environmental risks and costs. Public health consequences are virtually ignored and trumped by the promise of jobs and taxable products and services.

Surely, without containment and immediate environmental remediation of the multiple existing and well-documented harms of Minnesota’s major industries (agriculture, mining, energy and forestry), further industrial expansion is imprudent. But this continues virtually unabated, as fracking, sod-busting biomass fuel and livestock feed production, expansion of concentrated animal feeding operations and yet more mining take finite water resources at a non-sustainable rate. And what of the downstream public health costs and irreversible loss of biodiversity?

The worldwide problem of an ever-expanding, biodiversity-diminishing and polluting carbon footprint left by industrial exploitation gives short-term benefits to a diminishing few. Will it deprive our children’s children of their right to purer water, cleaner air and more wholesome food? Climate change, loss of biodiversity, and the obesity and cancer epidemics are all interconnected. Land, water and air are part of the global public commons.


Dear Dr. Fox:

My 6-year-old dachshund-greyhound mix was recently diagnosed with granulomatous meningoencephalitis (GME). She is under the care of a neurologist and is being treated with steroids and antibiotics.

I did research on her condition, and medical literature said it is a common neurological disease in dogs. However, no dog owner I know has ever heard of it. We were told the prognosis is poor, but she is responding well to the medication.

Can you give me any information about this disease? Is there anything I can do to extend this period of remission? I was told that the treatments can give her a good quality of life for a while but that the disease is ultimately fatal.

J.B., Newark, N.J.

DF: This is certainly a devastating condition for your poor dog. It is a fairly common condition of unknown origin, affecting smaller female dogs, often at about 5 years old.

There is increasing evidence that this is an autoimmune disorder that could be triggered by certain components in vaccines.

Treatment with oral procarbazine and prednisone can help subdue the inflammation. I would also explore potentially beneficial anti-inflammatory and antioxidant supplements, such as Resveratrol, fish oil, quercetin and melatonin, especially before bedtime.


Dear Dr. Fox:

My Yorkie-dachshund mix has been diagnosed with mange. So far, she has had three shots of ivermectin, just finished Simplicef tablets and has some special shampoo.

Her condition seems to be improving, but now she has matted patches of hair on her hind legs. When you scratch the matted hair, it comes right off. The vet says the entire family — my husband and I — needs to be treated for mange, but so far our medical doctors will not help. My husband has a recurring rash on his back, arms and legs. I have had few symptoms.

We don’t know how the dog came into contact with mange, but there was a mangy timber wolf in our pasture. We saw the wolf a number of times when he was sleeping in our pasture. In the spring, we burned the brush pile he slept on.

The doctors have been clueless, and my husband has gone to the emergency room twice, a walk-in clinic twice, to a dermatologist (who said he had dry skin), his regular doctor and back to the same dermatologist. I have had only minor irritation.

When my husband burned the brush, he thinks the smoke may have gotten on him. But my mother and brother-in-law were diagnosed with scabies recently. We told all this to our doctors, but all we have gotten so far is various creams for ourselves, none of which are working very well. What else can we do, for the dog and ourselves?

M.J., Bemidji, Minn.

DF: First, good for you for at least giving that poor wolf some shelter through the winter in your pasture. Many wolves with mange, having less and less fur insulation, die during the winter. The disease can wipe out one pack after another. Although it’s against state wildlife regulations, providing food for such suffering wolves is one humane option. In severe cases, they should be euthanized or captured, treated and released.

Your dog probably picked up the Sarcoptes scabiei (itch mite) while sniffing around where the wolf had been sleeping in the brush, and then infected you and your husband. I came home from India one time after treating dogs and other animals and developed itchy bumps on one arm, which I recognized as probable scabies. I went to an emergency walk-in clinic at a major teaching hospital, where the staff did a scraping and found nothing, which is not uncommon. The only thing I needed was Benzyl benzoate cream.

This is what you and your husband need. Essential oils of lavender, black pepper or citronella can also help. A lime-sulfur shampoo might help your dog. Usually, no more than two injections of ivermectin are needed to clear up the infestation in dogs. Boil all sheets, covers and clothes. Don’t sleep with your dog, and put out clean sheets for the dog to sleep on to break the infection cycle.


Dear Dr. Fox:

I have a 3-year-old Tonkinese cat who chews off all my purses’ leather zipper pulls. She does not chew the leather purse itself, or leather shoes, just the long leather fringelike pulls. I have been replacing these pulls with beaded pulls as I find them, but she always seems to find another purse fringe to chew on.

My guess is that chewing on dyed and processed leather is not good for her, but is there a small leather chew toy suitable for cats? Is something missing from her diet?

M.G., Alexandria

DF: One of our cats likes to chew and swallow any kind of threadlike material: string, clothing tassels, shoe laces, etc. This can put cats in jeopardy from swallowing harmful materials, including needles on the ends of threads, and in large quantities could cause intestinal blockage and perforation.

A cat-safe environment includes keeping all such materials out of cats’ reach, which calls for vigilance!

Your cat might crave more fiber in her diet, and part of a cat’s natural diet includes skin, tendons, etc. from their prey. In some cases, this becomes an obsessive behavior and might be associated with underlying chronic infection/inflammation, which chewing and swallowing may help alleviate.

Try giving your cat some sprouted wheat grass to chew on, scalded raw chicken wing tips or very thin, three- to four-inch long strips of raw chicken or turkey, with the skin attached. Be sure to scald or briefly microwave the poultry pieces first to kill potentially harmful bacteria that contaminate factory-farmed animal products.

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. Send letters to or write to him at United Feature Syndicate, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, Mo. 64106.

2015 United Feature Syndicate