from the desk

From The Desk of Dr. Fox: Foie gras

There are things you see online and on Facebook and other social media about pets every day that make you laugh and smile. And then there are those other stories. The ones that challenge you to think, question a belief or just simply watch and see something that is profoundly disturbing. Or downright sickening.

Humans use animals in a lot of different ways - some productive and sustainable like dairy cows or plow horses, some for recreation like horseback riding, some for companionship like dogs and cats and of course some for food, fabric and other products that require the sacrifice of an animal's life.  Some people choose to be vegetarians because of this, or only eat fish or certain types of meat.  I always am cognizant when I eat meat that an animal somewhere gave the ultimate sacrifice for that meal.  

There are some things that humans have done with, or more accurately to, animals that are abhorrent; probably too many to list truth be told, and sometimes it helps to just focus on one in order not to be overwhelmed by a tidal wave of information.  Maybe not a lot of people reading this enjoy or have ever eaten Foie gras which is defined on Wikipedia as;

A luxury food product made of the liver of a duck or goose that has been specially fattened. By French law, foie gras is defined as the liver of a duck or goose fattened by force-feeding corn with a feeding tube, a process also known as gavage.

That doesn't sound awful but when you do something to an animal that causes it's liver to increase to 10 times the normal size it's not pretty.  The video circulating is disturbing to say the least.  It's hard to watch, harder to imagine who could do that job and the hardest question of all is - Is any food possibly worth this amount of pain and suffering to an animal? For a so-called delicacy, not something essential to our daily lives?

Mahatma Gandhi said “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Judging by the fact that these types of practices continue we have quite a ways to go.

The video in reference to this write up can be found here. Viewer discretion advised: related content may be disturbing to some individuals.

From The Desk of Dr. Fox: It's Allergy Season

Summertime is here in full force in Florida and with the sunshine and outdoor activities we all enjoy comes something that every dog owner hates - itchy dogs.  Skin problems are the most common problem that we see dog owners bring their dogs in for treatment for and they can be frustrating for owners to deal with at times.  There are numerous reasons that dogs itch, which leads to scratching, licking, biting and chewing, but the most common that we see are fleas and allergies.  Fleas are ever prevalent in Florida but worse in the warmer months.  The good news is flea control has never been easier with many easy to give monthly (or longer) products available. The bad news is allergies, which just like in us humans, are extremely common in Florida and they are not something that we can cure for good, also just like in people.

The most common cause of allergies in dogs is not food as many owners think - it's called atopy.  Atopy is an allergic reaction to the same things that we react to - oak pollen, pine pollen, grasses, mold spores, all the various weeds and plants outside. Basically dogs can be allergic to almost anything a person can.  The difference is how dogs react and can be summed up in one sentence:

People who have allergies have sneezing and respiratory signs (think hay fever) while dogs respond to the same things in a different way - ITCHING!! 

The symptoms of allergies can be treated in dogs just like people but it's not a one size fits all approach. There are many different ways allergies cause problems in dogs - skin infections (scabs, crusty spots on the skin), ear infections, infections on the feet, and hot spots which are extremely itchy, moist areas that pop up quickly.  The best approach is to stop the itching before it starts as much as possible and head off a lot of the issues before they develop.  We use everything from shampoos, topical sprays and creams, antihistamines and occasionally steroids to control itching and it's always best to start small and work up the ladder of treatment options to minimize side effects and cost. 

The take home message for allergies is this. They are extremely common in dogs, they are frustrating for owners to deal with and sometimes it takes a few tries to find the best medicines for your pet. After all there's a reason there are a dozen different antihistamines available at the local drugstore for you and at least that many more nasal sprays available from your MD.  Once we find something that works for your dog, don't stop using it. Prevention is the best approach.  Again, think people - taking a Zyrtec or Claritin everyday is much better than sneezing constantly, having itchy eyes and ending up with a sinus infection and feeling miserable.