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Animal Doctor: Fish have feelings

Animal Doctor: Fish have feelings

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Dear Dr. Fox: Your article on fish cruelty really hit home. I have always been an animal lover and advocate, but I was also a fisherman. Spring through summer I fished every chance I got. I always put them back unless the fish was hurt in some way that I knew it would not survive. About 10 years ago, I suddenly realized what I was doing — the terror I was putting these poor animals through. I haven’t fished since. I believe that all living creatures have a soul, feel pain, and have a purpose. This includes fish, bugs, snakes, other animals that people just kill without a thought. When I try to explain this to people, I use the example of a chain necklace. If you are wearing a necklace and a link breaks, you lose the whole necklace. Nature is like this. Every living thing, whether plant or animal, has its place; it is a link in the chain of life. — L.D.R., Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania

Dear L.D.R.: I am sure many readers will appreciate your communication and empathetic transformation upon realizing how fish suffer in this traditional and cruel “sport.” Fish indeed have feelings; for details, visit

It is worth noting that in some cultures, the catching of fish is done as gently as possible because those consuming them can taste the difference between those scooped up in a net and killed swiftly and those that struggled to escape — or worse, those that were strung alive through the gills and tied to the boat.

This reminds me of the advice given to a young hunter to kill the deer swiftly with one arrow; otherwise you will feed its fear to your family. I wonder, in this regard, how the meat from the millions of pigs, poultry and cattle being transported to slaughter here in the U.S. and around the world may affect consumers. Meat processors can indeed recognize how stress affects meat quality.

Dear Dr. Fox: I just read your column advising a person about their dog’s anal gland problems. Besides adding shredded coconut to the dog’s food, as well as getting more exercise, why did you not mention adding more fiber, like vegetables, to their diet?

My vizsla had leaking anal glands, so, after a doc visit to make sure there was not an underlying problem, I added chopped cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and other dog-friendly vegetables to his diet. Since then, he has had absolutely no problems at all. — T.S.G., Owasso, Oklahoma

Dear T.S.G.: I appreciate your sharing the benefits of fiber in the diet of dogs with anal gland issues. Shredded, unsweetened coconut (or flakes or powder) is the best and most convenient source. I also often give my dog shredded raw organic carrots.

Go easy on the broccoli, cabbage and related vegetables — they can depress thyroid function. I would steam them lightly. Even if you feed only a small amount of these vegetables, I call for caution, since there are many other environmental contaminants that act as endocrine disruptors and can affect thyroid function in dogs, cats and humans.

From a Mayo Clinic column on this topic: “Concern surrounding the impact of spinach, kale and other similar vegetables — including broccoli, broccoli rabe, turnips, Brussels sprouts, Chinese cabbage and cauliflower — on thyroid health is due to the effect they can have on the thyroid’s ability to absorb iodine. Having enough iodine in your diet is crucial for thyroid health.” (Source:


For readers interested in learning more about the One Health movement, the article “One Health approach: a symphony of effort, a health exigency worldwide” is a great introduction. To read it, visit

I emphasized this principle — which is becoming a global movement, especially in steps toward disease prevention and climate change — in my book “Healing Animals and the Vision of One Health.” Human health, as we are learning (too late, some fear), is dependent upon a healthy environment filled with healthy animals and plants. In a practical sense, this is a call to science- and ethics-based planetary healing and stewardship.

Send all mail to or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.


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