D.F., Silver Spring, Md
Aug 30, 2010
My golden Lab eats the lumps in the kitty litter, and I am worried it will harm her. It's not a case of her being hungry; she is well-fed twice a day. Each time she gets half a can of meat chunks, about 2 cups of dry food, half a can of vegetables (carrots or green beans) and sometimes table scraps. She is 13 years old, but shows no signs of age! I read that there are studies of Rottweilers who live to be 13 and are immune to cancer. My Lab seems to be in this category. She is obedient, a good watchdog and my dear companion. She tolerates the cat indoors, but I'm afraid to let them both out in the yard at the same time, as the dog chases any creature that moves. She killed a squirrel recently. Any advice?
D.F., Silver Spring, Md Aug 30, 2010
Your dog is old for the breed and must have some good genes! Dogs self-medicate by eating grass and soil or dirt. Your dog may be craving certain minerals in her diet. Giving her a daily (human) multimineral/multivitamin tablet or capsule that's broken up and mixed with her regular food may be what she needs. Some dogs eat cat feces they find in the litter box because they are motivated to clean up the mess, as they would with their own pups. Eating the litter itself could mean there is some abdominal discomfort, which may need to be checked, especially if other symptoms develop. Set up a low gate so the cat can jump over and use the box, but the dog cannot. More than one dog has developed acute intestinal blockage after consuming cat litter. Clay-based and especially mineral-based cat litter can also harm cats. Try changing the litter to no-clay, like the corn-based World's Best Cat Litter or Purina's Yesterday's News Paper-Based Cat Litter made from recycled newspaper (primarily harmless cellulose). Avoid all scented cat litters for cat's sake. Clap your hands or blow a whistle to scare squirrels out of the yard before your dog goes out.
A.&E.S., Boynton Beach, FL
Tags: dog Boynton Beach FL
Aug 30, 2010
We adopted a 1-year-old abused and starved female beagle/terrier mix. We have had her for three months, and she is sweet, gentle and lovable. But she is afraid of all except us. When people come into our house, she paces or hides until they leave. What can you recommend to help make her more sociable? We love her dearly, and she loves us.
A.&E.S., Boynton Beach, FL Aug 30, 2010
Dogs like yours who may have been abused or not properly socialized with people as a puppy can be difficult cases when it comes to overcoming fear and strangers. Teach her with praise and food rewards to sit and stay while on the leash at your side in the living room. When visitors come, they should understand what you are doing and be quiet when entering. Keep your dog leashed at your side while you engage in normal conversation. Have the guests ignore the dog because even looking at her could be perceived as threatening. Invite a couple of friends over to help desensitize your dog by coming in, sitting down and chatting, then leaving and coming back several times; repeat over several days. You should not allow your dog to run away and hide, which indirectly rewards/reinforces her avoidance behavior. Give praise and treats when she settles down with guests in the same room.
J.K., Laurel, Md
Tags: dog Laurel MD fleas
Aug 29, 2010
Our 8-year-old, 10-pound mini-dachshund receives several vaccines each year:
- Bordetella booster
- DA2PP booster
- Heartworm/Borrelia/E. canis
- Lyme-disease booster
- Rabies canine booster (every three years)
Are all of these vaccines necessary on a yearly basis? Are the doses adjusted according to the weight of the dog?
I ask because our dog gets very ill for up to three days after receiving these vaccines. He won't move, he won't eat (or must be coaxed to eat) and is very sore. He has the same reaction every year, and I wonder if the pain is worth it. One last question: Do we really need to apply Frontline on a monthly basis for flea/tick prevention?
J.K., Laurel, Md Aug 29, 2010
Dogs who have received the "core" vaccinations to protect them against canine distemper, canine hepatitis and parvovirus are good for at least three years, and are probably protected for the rest of their lives. The vet can run blood tests to confirm this -- a much safer protocol than simply revaccinating. Your old dog is being overvaccinated. The bordetella-disease booster is only needed if your dog is going to soon stay at a boarding kennel. The Lyme-disease vaccine, which may not give any protection, is only justified if your dog gets exposed to ticks and you can't check your dog daily and remove any you find during the season. Vaccine doses are regrettably and inexplicably not adjusted to a dog's size or body weight. Check my book "Dog Body, Dog Mind" or go to my website for flea-control measures. Frontline and similar products should only be used as a last resort when fleas are out of control.
K.S., St. Louis, Mo
Aug 29, 2010
I have a little Yorkie who is 10 years old. She is a former puppy-mill dog whom my husband and I adopted last June. She is perfect in every way, and we want to give her the best life possible. But we were wondering if what we feed her is appropriate. We feed her Science Diet each day, but we also give her two thin slices of turkey bacon each morning when we have breakfast. She absolutely lives for this. We mix it in with her Science Diet nuggets. Is it OK to give her turkey bacon on a regular basis? Are we doing something we should avoid? We adopted another puppy-mill dog a few years ago. She was also 10 years old, and we were able to give her three happy years before losing her. She was perfect in every way, as well; but I wouldn't recommend a puppy-mill dog for just anyone, because they require a lot of time, love and attention -- they cannot do anything and they must be taught everything. But what a joy it is to see them climb up stairs or jump on a sofa for the first time. Imagine a dog sitting in a cage for 10 years, and imagine all the things they don't have the opportunity to learn. Someone once asked me what I expected to get from a dog "like that." My response: "I don't expect to get anything. I hope only to give." Many puppy-mill dogs have had little human contact. It took both of our dogs a few months to take a treat from our hands, but the wait was well worth it.
K.S., St. Louis, Mo Aug 29, 2010
I hope your letter will be read by many and help put an end to the government's (U.S. Department of Agriculture) "regulated" commercial puppy-breeding industry. Puppy mills are an abomination. They are a disgusting and disgraceful reflection of our culture and our spiritual decline as a civilization. I would urge you to transition your dog onto a home-prepared diet, as per my recipe on my website, DrFoxVet.com/info. Also on the website, you will find many good brands of dog food -- from frozen to canned and dry -- that may be best for a small dog with such a stressful and physically/psychologically damaging past. A little turkey bacon is OK as a treat, but it would be best to get away from all processed meats. There are some excellent organic and freeze-dried salmon and other meat treats, additive-free, such as PetGuard and Stella & Chewy's, that would be better for your dog. In the long run, especially for an older dog whose health may need attention -- teeth, gums and kidneys in particular -- fresh foods would be best.
L.T.H., Brewster, NY
Aug 23, 2010
With all the information I have read in your columns, I've never seen any article dealing with ways to remove the smell of skunk on a dog (or any animal, for that matter). I have tried several methods, to no avail. What do you advise?
L.T.H., Brewster, NY Aug 23, 2010
The scent emitted from an alarmed skunk is an oily secretion, so first use an absorbent like talcum powder or cornstarch. Work it into the dog's fur, and brush or hose it out after 15 to 20 minutes (outdoors, of course) and then apply liberal amounts of ketchup (the traditional treatment) or an enzyme-based cleaner like Nature's Miracle or Orange TKO, which is a safe cleaner and deodorizer. After 30 minutes, bathe the dog using a penetrating shampoo like Head & Shoulders or Selsun Blue.
B.C., Fort Worth, TX
Tags: cat Fort Worth TX
Aug 23, 2010
My mother was bedridden the last few months of her life. She had been taking care of my dog Heidi and said if anything ever happened to Heidi, she would love to get a cat. Well, Heidi died about a month before my mom passed away. The morning after Heidi's death, a beautiful Siamese cat came to her front door. We let him in. He walked through the house to mom's bed and curled up by her feet on the bed, where he stayed until she died. He just took up residence there. We had never seen him in the neighborhood before.
B.C., Fort Worth, TX Aug 23, 2010
This touching story makes me wonder about the metaphysical dimensions of animal communication and awareness. But coming back to earth, I hope you kept this wonderful feline and made every effort to find his original owners in your community. I have received a few letters like yours over the years where a strange cat or dog has come into a home right after the resident animal has passed on. Is it coincidence? I call it part of the Great Mystery.
H.A., Naples, FL
Tags: dog Naples FL
Aug 22, 2010
We purchased our second male West Highland white terrier from a respected breeder. This male puppy came from a litter of two -- the other pup was stillborn. We brought the pup home at 11 weeks to our 12-year-old neutered male Westie. The older dog was quite tolerant and even played with the puppy regularly. At three months, the puppy displayed some aggressive behavior, not allowing objects to be taken out of his mouth, jealousy of the other dog, and biting anything that came between us and the other dog. We shared this information with the breeder, and he said we were not being firm and forceful enough. We tried to be more firm and seemed to manage, but there were still incidents of the puppy getting very snappy, growling and biting. We have taken the puppy to kindergarten, and he goes to daycare with other dogs and always behaves himself there -- no aggressive behavior noted. Perhaps of note: Apart from not having had littermates, the puppy's mother was taken away early. As the breeder told us, "She didn't like him anymore."
H.A., Naples, FL Aug 22, 2010
My guess is that this poor dog had a bad start in life, and I wonder why he was not placed in a home at the optimal age for socialization (between six to eight weeks of age). Emotionally traumatic experiences can permanently harm puppies, especially when they are affected between eight to 12 weeks of age. First, he should have a full physical to rule out any medical condition, notably craniomandibular osteopathy, not uncommon in this breed, which can make it painful to open the mouth and lead to behavioral problems. Barring any such medical condition, he may do better in a home with no other dog to compete with, because his aggression may be dominance-motivated, at least in part. There may also be complications related to fear or a quasi-psychotic conditioning for which treatment with Xanax or Valium may help. Ask your veterinarian for a referral to a good, qualified animal-behavior therapist -- not some psychic communicator -- who will help you see how possibly some of your own behavior and reactions to your problem pup contribute to his difficulties.
V.P., Washington, DC
Tags: cat Washington DC
Aug 22, 2010
My parents have a 7-year-old male shorthair cat. He has been an indoor/outdoor cat his whole life but spends most of his time indoors. My mom wants to get him declawed and keep him indoors permanently because he has a bad habit of scratching up her furniture. My dad is concerned that he's too old and this will hurt him. I'm concerned that never going outside again will hurt his emotional well-being. Should we declaw him? Are these legitimate concerns?
V.P., Washington, DC Aug 22, 2010
Regardless of whether the cat goes outdoors or not, he's going to need some scratching areas in the house to mark his territory and give his claws a workout ("cat yoga"). Your concerns are legitimate, as are your father's. Declawing will be traumatic and could have serious lifelong complications and bring much suffering. This unethical surgical mutilation of cats removes more than their nails -- it includes removal of their first digits, like the entire ends of your fingers from the last joint. Many cats become permanently crippled. It's a game of roulette. You never know how much the procedure will harm a cat or how much permanent psychological trauma it will inflict. Set up scratch posts and scratchboards with a sprinkling of catnip and a little spray of the cat pheromone Feliway. Check my website for details about the hazards of the hazards of declawing. Your cat may take to a harness and leash and enjoy regular outdoor strolls. Alternatively, give him a screened-in cat house that can be simply constructed as an A-frame covered in chicken wire, and set it out in the yard where he can enjoy the outdoors (in good weather only).
P.M., St. Louis, Mo
Tags: dog MO St Louis
Aug 22, 2010
I have two 1-year-old Pomeranians. Calvin has shown alpha-dog signs since we brought him home at eight weeks. He seems to know his place with the family (eight children live at home). The problem occurs when other children come over to play. He tends to pick one and dominate the youngster. I watched him with one child: He had a strange look on his face while staring at her. He actually bit one little girl twice. And there are certain people in the neighborhood that he wants to go after. He has also started wetting when he sees my husband, sometimes on him. He will snuggle up to my husband at night, showing no signs that he fears him. My husband never had a dog and expects Calvin to understand more than he is capable of. He has chased the dog down angrily, punished him for running out the door, etc. Is there a way to stop these behaviors? The dog's, I mean; I don't think I can do anything about my husband's.
P.M., St. Louis, Mo Aug 22, 2010
Husbands can be a problem. Many flunk basic obedience school. Your spouse should learn that getting frustrated and angry at the dog will cause fear and confusion. Calvin could benefit from the cradling therapy described on my website and in my book "Dog Body, Dog Mind." In this book, you will also learn how to better communicate with Calvin and help him not to act aggressively toward visiting children. In the interim, keep him in another room or on a leash when children visit; and when on the leash, he must sit and stay. Above all, he needs to learn self-control -- what Ivan Pavlov called "internal inhibition" -- and the cradling therapy can be extremely effective in this regard.
T.U., Minneapolis, MN
Tags: small pet
Aug 16, 2010
I grew up in a small town in southern Minnesota and had many occasions to stay over at a farm owned by a family that regularly attended my father's Lutheran church. I enjoyed getting a taste of farm life. They were dairy-cow farmers, and I remember asking the father as he was milking cows why he had the radio on and why he was playing classical music. He said that he tried rock, polka and most everything else and concluded that classical music produced the best milking. Somewhere, it has been said that "music hath charms to soothe the savage breast." I believe it also can arouse and agitate. My farmer friend said the cows were as calm as can be with classical music playing in the barn.
T.U., Minneapolis, MN Aug 16, 2010
Thank you for your interesting recollection!