Ask the expert.. | March April 09

My five-year-old Spaniel is not neutered. Once when I took him for a walk, without any reason, he snarled and tried to jump at a passer by. This has happened three times in a month. Can you advice me why this sudden aggression and what can I do to remedy it?
– Harshil Mishra, Baroda

The two most common manifestations of aggressive behaviour toward humans are fear biting and dominance-related aggression. The other serious types of aggressions are possessive aggression, conflict related aggression, protective aggression, and predatory behaviour. Fear biting is most commonly seen in a dog raised without appropriate human contact during the socialization period of growth (6 to 12 weeks of age). Such an animal fears people who are unfamiliar to him, and he may attempt to bite when feeling threatened. The more he gets outside and encounters lots of other people and unfamiliar things, the less likely he will act aggressively around people. So provide your dog with a chance to socialize with people and other dogs. Take him out and spend lots of time with him. Reward him with a pat or a snack if he doesn’t react. If biting continues to be a problem, take your dog to a professional dog trainer who will work to change the behaviour.

I take my pet Jugnu who is just four months old to a vet for vaccination/health problems when they arise. I wanted to know whether a six monthly overall check-up is better or should one do it annually? Also what are the things the vet will check to determine that the overall health of the pet is perfect?
– Ruby Garg, Ludhiana

When you get a new puppy, you need to know about minor and major ailments, and when to consult a vet. As a puppy owner, it is recommended to visit your vet every three months, following the last vaccination and at least twice a year after reaching adult stage. The routine preventive health care procedures include complete physical examination, weight and body condition, vaccination, progress made in housetraining & behavioural training, parasite control, neuter surgery, diet/feeding suggestions and dental home care.

My three-year-old Lab is always hungry; we give him dog food twice a day – morning and evening. Over the last couple of months, his appetite has increased. Is this normal?
– Ragini Shah, Delhi

If he’s eating a lot, maybe he needs the food to fuel/match his activity level. Or it could be just that he’s bored – just like when we humans get bored and end up reaching into the refrigerator. Is he having any signs of illness? Is he losing or gaining bodyweight? Some medical problems like diabetes, pancreas insufficiency or drugs may also cause this problem. Answer to some of these questions will help to find underlying cause for his voracious appetite. Please take him to your vet.

Susan, my Dalmatian, starts panting very soon when I take her for a walk. She is four years old. Should I reduce her walk time or how do I build up her stamina?
– M Rana, Mumbai

If your dog hasn’t done much exercise in the past, it’s best to start off slowly. In fact, before you get your dog started on any exercise programme, you should take her to the vet first for a thorough check-up. Start off with 10 to 15 minutes a day of walking to allow your dog to build up her cardiovascular and muscle strength. Eventually, you can walk up to an hour a day – again, if it’s appropriate to her. After a few months, you both will be up for a good run. Exercise to Susan’s abilities, not yours. Make sure Susan always has plenty of fresh water before and after exercise.

While reading a pet food label, what are the important ingredients that one should take note of?
– Dinesh, Pune

The ingredients list cannot be used to assess the quality of a dog food. The ingredients used should be of very high safety and quality as laid down by the regulatory bodies. The final nutrient profile of a pet food is most important factor in meeting the recommended pet’s daily nutritional needs. If the food meets your pet’s nutrient profile, it does not matter whether the sources of those nutrients are cereals, chicken by-products or soyabean. The ingredients do however affect taste and hence most pet foods are designed to be very palatable (using tested and established ingredients). Knowing ingredients list matters only when a pet has ‘allergy’ to a particular ingredient. The incidence of true food allergy in pets is not exactly known but very low as per scientific publications. It is a frequently overestimated problem by pet owners.

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