Ask the Expert/Jan-Feb 2005

Dr. Pradeep Rana is a well-renowned vet in Delhi. He has his veterinary degree from College of Vet Sciences, Hebbal, University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore. He is an expert in solving queries and curing pets.

Dr. Umesh (MVSc, MSc (UK)) is a Postgraduate in Clinical Medicine. He has been a lecturer in clinical medicine at Vet College in Bangalore for 15 years and won the Best teacher award in the year 2000. He is a member of European Society for Vet Dermatology and is presently working for WALTHAM as Regional Associate for South Asia.

Q : When I take my dog Diana, a 2 year old Labrador for playing in the park- she whines looking at the other dogs present. Does she want to meet them? Is she unhappy? She also eats grass, is that dangerous? Should I find out if the park has been sprayed with some fertilisers- which might be dangerous for her? – K Murthi, Bangalore

Dr. Rana : I am sure you know why a Labrador is such a popular breed worldwide. Being a very friendly, intelligent and energetic breed, they are very anxious to please everyone around and are very gentle and kind to children. They can play for hours without tiring. No wonder Diana wants to meet and play with the other dogs she meets in the park. It’s playtime for her and this behaviour is absolutely normal. But please be careful of what she eats. Yes fertilisers and pesticides can be life threatening!

Q : My 5 month old German Shepherd pup Buzo is very active. While sleeping too, he keeps moving his paws. Is he dreaming? First we were amused but now are getting concerned if he is getting proper rest? – Ritu, Mumbai

Dr. Umesh : Puppies spend most of their time sleeping. There is considerable motor activity during sleep and is characterised by jerking, tremor, crawling, scratching and occasional vocalisation. Scientists are not sure whether puppies can also dream but definitely show some electrical changes in their brain during sleep. Do not worry if this movement happens only during sleep. This type of movements generally disappears as age advances.

Whether he’s a new resident in your home or you’ve had him for some time, there are some things which you can do help him settle. Make sure that he has a comfortable bed which is placed away from draughty areas. Your puppy may be feeling separation anxiety from you as well as from his mum. The blanket from mum place (ask mum’s owner to put the blanket on his mum for couple of days before collecting it) would be a comfort for him. You can also try soft toy or soft light which may make him feel more settled. Consult your vet for further examination if this activity worsens.

Q : I have noticed white flakes on my dog-Sultan, when I brush his hair. Is it dandruff? Should I stop brushing? Please advice. – Kirti Somiya, Mumbai

Dr. Rana : Flaky skin can be caused due to a number of reasons like poor diet, stress, shampooing too often, etc and of course dandruff. Dandruff flakes are slightly different since they tend to be more oily and larger than the dry skin flakes. Since you have not mentioned about any foul smell or oily flakes, I gather it could easily be a nutritional cause. Try a commercially available petfood like Pedigree, which addresses nutritional needs.

Q : My blue colour Great Dane female is 20 days pregnant and the father is a light brown brindle coloured Dane. This is the first time that I have a pregnant dog at home so, I have the following queries: What should her feed be? What arrangements should I do for her delivery? What colour pups can I expect? Anything that you feel is important to know? – Rahul Gandhi, Sirsa, Haryana

Dr. Umesh : Make sure that your dog’s pregnancy is confirmed by tests available from your vet. Pregnancy ranges from 60-67 days and most deliver between 63 and 65 days.

Feeding: Her food intake should not be altered during first two-thirds of her pregnancy, i.e. until approximately 6 weeks of pregnancy, and if a complete food is being fed, there is no need to give additional vitamin or mineral supplements. After 6th week, food intake should be gradually increased by 15% until she is receiving 50-60% more food when she gives birth (whelps). At the height of lactation, approximately 3 weeks after whelping, food intake should be 2.5 to 3 times her normal maintenance food, particularly if she is feeding a large litter. A high energy complete prepared food like “Pedigree Active” fed in a number of small meals is ideal during late pregnancy and lactation.

Delivery arrangements : It is helpful to get her familiar with the place you want her to have the puppies well in advance of the whelping. Prior to the time of delivery, a whelping box (or a quite place at home) should be selected and placed in a secluded place such as a closet or a dark corner. The box or the selected place should be long enough for her to move around freely and the floor or the bottom of the box should be lined with several layers of newspaper or any disposable, absorbent safe bedding material. I suggest regular visits to your vet for monitoring her pregnancy and health. She would also require deworming around 45 days of pregnancy. It is difficult to predict colour of puppies and it is good to have some surprises. Please consult your vet to get more info on signs of whelping and puppy care.

Q : What age is a dog considered to be old? My dog Julie, a Golden Retriever, is 7+. Should I keep her on the same food and exercise? Should I take her to the doctor for regular check ups? – Vikas Rao, Hyderabad

Dr. Rana : Dogs reaching the final “one-third” of their lifespan undergo a variety of physical and metabolic changes that may cause them discomfort and change their behaviour. For example the senses — sight, hearing, taste and smell — are reduced. Metabolism slows and immunocompetence decreases. Muscle and bone mass decline, and arthritis may affect the joints. There is an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and endocrine, renal and hepatic disorders. From now on, do take Julie for regular health checkups to your vet, at least once every 3-6 months so that they are able to catch any abnormality and treat it sooner than later.