Ask the expert..July-Aug 06

Q?:?What is your opinion on BARF diet? Or is commercial available dog food best for dogs?
–Bikram Suri, Gurgaon

Dr. K.G. Umesh?:?BARF, a “Biologically Appropriate Raw Food” appear to follow the concept of feeding dogs naturally as they believe that dogs have been evolved to eat a carnivorous diet. The diet is based on feeding dogs as close to the prey model as possible. They believe that dogs are carnivorous (meat eaters) while vets and scientists are convinced that dogs are omnivorous (eat vegetarian and/or meat).

Traditionally, dogs have been fed table scraps and left to scavenge whatever food they can. However, the domestic dog has become elevated to near family-member status. Concurrent advances in the knowledge of canine nutrient requirements (NRC, 2003, AAFCO 2004) have resulted in sophisticated, balanced and nutritionally complete manufactured diets for dogs.

The manufacturers of pet foods are equally convinced that health and longevity are best achieved by feeding their nutritionally complete and balanced formulations. There is a general belief that the feeding of manufactured pet foods since their introduction in the 1950s has been associated with increased health and longevity throughout the pet population.

Q?:?Can dogs see in colour?

–?Ranganathan Menon, Secuderabad

Dr. K.G. Umesh?:?It is not true that dogs can only see in black and white. Dogs are thought to have similar colour vision to humans who are red-green colour blind. They are better adapted for low light conditions and sensitive to movement. However, they can’t see the fine details as humans.

Q?:?My dog keeps searching and looking for dirt, whether it is the dustbin or on a walk he sniffs out the dirtiest things. I cannot understand his habit and am worried that he will catch an infection. Please let me know what measure to take to prevent infections.
–?Divyani, Kolkata

Dr. K.G. Umesh?:?This type of behaviour may start after a change in the dog’s routine or lack of socialisation/exposure to environment or as result of boredom. If your pet has developed this habit, behavioural modification or training can help to correct this activity. One method is to distract your pet away from these things using toys or showing element of surprise (squirt him with water/make unpleasant distracting noise/throw a toy near him). Giving your dog much more physical and mental stimulation prior to leaving him will quickly reduce the possibility of him looking for such things.

This can easily be achieved by playing in and around the house, hiding toys and food treats. Learning in the ‘doggy world’ consists of trying out new behaviours and seeing what happens as a consequence of this behaviour. If the behaviour (action) is followed by a good consequence, this behaviour will be repeated. One example could be begging at the table which is rewarded by getting food. If the behaviour (e.g. the begging) is, however, followed by a negative consequence (in this case, no food given), the behaviour will eventually be stopped. Effective training should work on the same principle and should be a combination of information (what you want the dog to do), motivation (a reason for your dog to do it), and timing (when to reward a good action). If this behaviour persists, seek professional training for your pet. Lastly make sure that your pet is receiving complete and balanced pet food.

Q?:?What are the signs that show that my dog might not be well?
–Ritu Puri, Pune

Dr. K.G. Umesh?:?Signs of illness in dogs vary depending on the age of the dog, system affected, type and duration of illness etc, e.g., some dogs with simple fever continue to eat and play while some become lethargic and loose appetite. Therefore, regular visits to your vet for monitoring his health is essential in preventing and controlling serious ailments. To help you figure this out, here’s a partial list of signs worth reporting to your vet as soon as possible :

  • Collapse or convulsions.
  • Increased frequency of urination, increased amounts of urine produced, or difficulty in urination, urination in the house by a previously house-trained dog.
  • Greatly increased thirst and water intake.
  • Persistent cough or abnormal breathing.
  • Discharge from nostrils, eyes, ears etc.
  • Diarrhoea, constipation or vomiting that lasts more than 24 hours.
  • Loss of appetite for more than 24 hours.
  • Weakness or lethargy. Loosing body weight.
  • Swelling/lumps anywhere on body.
  • Lameness or a change in the way your pet walks or runs.
  • If your dog is in obvious discomfort. Persistent head shaking, excessive scratching, pawing at ears, or rubbing his hindquarters along the ground may be signs of distress.