Ask the Expert | July Aug 2011

Q: My three-year-old son wants to adopt a Labrador. I will like to know how much space a grown up Labrador needs to feel comfortable and what costs are involved in maintaining a dog on a monthly basis. Also, do advice us about the temperament of the Labrador.
– Churamany Chetry, Assam

Dr KG Umesh: Labrador, being a large breed, cannot be cramped in a small apartment.ask the expertThey need plenty of space to run around and more importantly, the availability of open spaces nearby for exercise. The initial cost of your puppy must certainly be taken into account, but be aware that other costs continue for the rest of his life – the daily cost of feeding and veterinary visits (for both routine check-ups and unexpected problems), training, kennelling during holidays and regular grooming sessions, etc. Labrador is an affectionate and loyal companion. Dogs are social animals. They need a lot of attention, especially when young, and sufficient time must be set aside for their training, exercise and grooming.

Q: I have a two and half years old male Labrador, who is extremely friendly and docile. We are planning to bring home a second dog, probably a Saint Bernard or an English Mastiff. We want to ask you how to introduce them and manage them both- so they grow to like each other? Can you also recommend some other medium or large breeds?
– Nikhil, Palli

Dr KG Umesh: Whatever your reasons to add another dog to the family just be aware that bringing in a new dog is a huge change for an older dog – and unless you go about it the right way, it could create a lot of stress. Here are a few ways you can help make the process of introducing your older dog to a new dog less stressful. With the new puppy/dog in your lap/lease and your older dog on a leash held by someone else, let the older dog sniff, lick and explore the puppy/dog. A couple of minutes are more than enough time for this initial introduction. Remove the new puppy/dog from the room, and then lavish your older dog with attention and praise. On the second or third meeting, if all seems safe, allow the puppy/dog onto the floor, and monitor that situation carefully for a few minutes. Repeat this exercise at least twice daily until you’re comfortable that the two will get along. It’s not a good idea to leave your puppy/dog alone with your older dog. There should always be someone there to supervise. When you talk to each of the dogs, use a happy, friendly tone of voice. Never talk to them in a way that is threatening. Reward good behaviour with treats and/or compliments of “good dog!” Monitor their body language. And be sure to give him lots of individual attention so he’ll know that he still holds a special place in your heart and hasn’t been ‘replaced’.

Q: My five-month-old puppy has hookworms. What measures should I take with the puppy? Also, I have an infant and a toddler- what preventive measures to be taken with them?
– Monica, Kolkata

Dr KG Umesh: Keep the dog in good health. Go for regular examinations by a veterinarian as well as up-to-date vaccines and regular fecal exams to check for intestinal parasites. Ensure that the dog is free of fleas and ticks. Simply practice good hygiene at home – washing hands with soap and water after coming in contact with urine, feces or any bodily discharge from a dog. Feed a high-quality commercial dog food. Do not feed raw meat or untreated animal-based treats. Do not let the dog lick or sleep in the same bed. Always supervise children when they play with a pet. For most puppies, it is sufficient to worm routinely every 2-3 weeks until six months of age and then as advised by your veterinarian. There are many safe, effective products available which will eliminate these worms.

Q: I want to know if I can keep a female Labrador with a one-year-old Lhasa Apso. What is the correct age for spaying the female dog? Is it a complicated operation? Further I want to know whether the female Labrador will come into cycle or season or heat despite being operated.
– Ajay Kumar Khanduri, Delhi

Dr KG Umesh: Spaying is an irreversible means by which a dog is rendered sterile. The procedure entails complete removal of the uterus and ovaries in females – means no cycles. Surgery is preceded by a fasting period and requires general anaesthesia and hospitalisation. The incision must stay dry and suture removal is usually performed 7 to 10 days after surgery. There are also hospitals/clinics, which conduct spaying with Keyhole or Laparoscopy methods, with minimum invasive surgery and on outpatient basis. Complications are unusual but may include post surgical haemorrhage and infection, etc. Postoperative care includes restriction of exercise for a week, protection of the incision from contaminants, and daily monitoring of the incision for inflammation or discharge. Some suggest spaying as early as three months of age, while few spay after first season for female dogs. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you on what exactly is involved with the operation and also on the best time for it to be performed.

Q: My four-year-old black female Lab constantly gets urinary tract infections. Steffi also has major skin problems diagnosed as psoriases. Do advice what is best for dogs- home food or commercial food.
– Abhijit Bhagwat, Pune

Dr KG Umesh: Urinary tract infection (UTI) refers to bacterial colonization of portions of the urinary tract that are normally sterile (kidneys, ureters, bladder, and proximal urethra) and is the most common infectious disease in dogs. Management of recurrent urinary tract infection is based on proper diagnosis of the underlying disease. This involves complete examination, blood tests and urine analysis including culture. This may help to identify some predisposing or perpetuating factors like diabetes, anatomical defects, urinary stones and systemic diseases. Ideally, patients with bacterial UTI that have been treated with antibiotics should have bacterial urine cultures periodically performed after completion of the course of antibiotics to ensure that the infection has been eliminated. There is no nutritional advantage to feeding home-made or raw foods over a commercially prepared pet food product, but there is the very real risk of illness. You may have to avoid only the particular ingredient in either home or commercial food that your dog has proven to have ‘allergy’ or adverse reactions (which are uncommon). The diet in fact plays an important role in management of some forms of urinary tract infections.

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