Ask the expert… | Sep Oct 10

Q: I have a one-year-old Labrador, who is losing a lot of fur. I have shown to my doctors but they cannot figure out the reason. Please help.
–Deepti Shah, Pune

Dr KG Umesh: Hair loss is a common complaint in our country in dogs with skin ask the expertdisorders and results from a number of causes. Unlike human being, hair growth cycle in dogs is different. For example, hair does not grow continuously in dogs. Photoperiod (light intensity) is main factor besides nutrition, genetics, health that can cause dog to shed hair excessively during some seasons and therefore, can be physiological. Dogs may also shed excessive hair because of stress, worms, harsh climate and general illness. Therefore, my approach would be to find underlying cause(s) like fleas, ticks, mange or allergy, hormonal imbalance, bacterial or yeast infection, etc and then your vet will be able to recommend suitable medications that will eliminate the cause and therefore hair fall. Your vet may suggest some blood tests and trichogram. Evening Primrose oil capsules (1 cap per day) or corn oil (2-4 tsp) and Zinc capsules everyday in the feed may also help him improve his hair coat in the short term when no underlying cause is identified.

Q: My 33-day-old pug ‘Dhanush’ seems to have a birth defect on his right paw, which is slightly bent as diagnosed by my vet, Dr. Morton. He limps slightly when he walks. His paw is slightly bent inwards. Is this correctable by surgery? When is the right time? The breeder even offered to take him back but we are all so emotionally attached to him that we wouldn’t give him up at any cost. I look to you for help.
–Bharati Ramesh, Bangalore

Dr KG Umesh: It is difficult to recommend or suggest suitable therapy without reading his radiograph and confirming the diagnosis. Juvenile carpal flexural deformity and carpal laxity syndrome are pretty common growth-related conditions in young pups (usually less than four months of age). Most people advise a good quality puppy diet and good footing but there’s no sure evidence that this makes any difference. Splinting does not help and may be contraindicated. Thus, the best treatment here is probably benign neglect. Please contact your vet who can suggest orthopedic specialist in your region.

Q: I kept a street pup at the age of about 20 days, now she is two months old and she is having bowing of front legs with inversion at ankles, she was diagnosed with rickets and was given calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D without any improvement. I have just gone through a website which says it is a disorder called knuckling over which is due to overnutrition, my dog is on Puppy Pedigree–200 gm per day. Please help.
–Vikrant, Bhopal

Dr KG Umesh: Growth in dogs occurs within a genetically determined time frame, but is influenced by a variety of environmental factors, including nutrition. No specific cause has been identified as being ultimately responsible for the clinical manifestations of developmental bone disease, but research indicates that two of the more important nutritional factors are calcium and energy. Whereas simple deficiencies of both of these variables can induce growth and developmental problems, it is their excess (calcium and overfeeding/energy) or alterations in calcium homeostasis that are likely to be of more practical significance. Dysplasia, OCD, hytertrophic osteodystrophy, Valgus deformity are few examples of common orthopaedic problems seen in growing dogs. Therefore my suggestion is to find the cause by thorough investigations including radiograph. Treatment is to decrease the energy intake if the puppy is being fed ad lib and to discontinue any and all dietary supplementations while it is fed on recommended quantity of Pedigree.

Q: My eight-year-old Dachshund has not been able to walk for the past 15 days with his front legs. I took my dog to our veterinary doctor here in Thanjavur – they said it is due to spinal problem. They gave him two injections (painkiller and B-complex) and also IR therapy. His condition has worsened as he cannot get up at all—when he tries to stand up he makes noise. Please advice.
–Balraj & Alex, Thanjavur

Dr KG Umesh: Slipped disc (dislocation of cushioning disc between the vertebrae) is very common in short-legged, long-backed breeds like yours. Intervertebral discs function as shock absorbers and stabilizers of the spine. In these breeds, the disc undergoes degeneration over time but trauma and embolism etc are some other causes. The degeneration causes loss of normal disc architecture and function, resulting in disc bulging or herniation into the spinal canal. Severity and type of signs depend on the rate of disc extrusion/protrusion, volume of compressive mass/cord compression, and lesion location. Surgery or conservative management is used to treat the disease. Conservative treatment is recommend for grade 1 and 2 which includes strict confinement for 4 to 6 weeks; using harness rather than a collar to walk dogs with neck disease. Keep him in a well-padded, clean area to help prevent bed ulcers and urine scald, and bathe as needed. Loss of conscious urination will require manual bladder emptying. Range-of-motion exercises/physiotherapy help maintain muscle and joint health, and standing/balancing exercises encourage limb use and build strength. Non-ambulatory animals should not be allowed to drag themselves around. A cart is a good option for animals with permanent loss of mobility as long as the owner can provide appropriate care.

Q: How can hot spots be prevented? I have a 3 years and 10 months old Labrador who has just recovered from hot spots on the tail and I am a bit worried about recurrence.
–BG Menon, Ghaziabad

Dr KG Umesh: It is very important to recognise that recurring hot spot is secondary to some underlying disease in majority of cases and therefore it is important to perform appropriate diagnostics to find the cause. The most common underlying causes may include fleas and other parasites, nutritional deficiencies, hormonal or other metabolic disorders, allergies and immature immune system. Your vet may suggest some basic blood test and skin tests to find the possible cause. Make sure he is receiving balanced food containing adequate zinc and fatty acids that may help strengthen skin barrier function and bathe only when required (your vet may recommend suitable antibacterial plus colloidal oat meal shampoo). Grooming and flea control are equally important in prevention of hot spots.

Ask the Expert / July-Aug 2010

Dr. K. G. Umesh (MVSc, MSc (UK)) is a Postgraduate in Clinical Medicine. He has been aask the expert lecturer in clinical medicine at Vet College in Bangalore for 15 years, and has 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: My Labrador is 13 years old. He is developing weakness in his hind legs and he has to make an effort to stand up. Our vet suggested a medicine named ‘Care 0 Pet’ by Cipla. We are giving this tablet every day alongwith Condro and Neuribion forte. Is there any thing else we can do? What is the normal life span for a Labrador? Please advise. – PKSengupta, Noida

Dr KG Umesh: Weakness in hind legs of aged pet may result from dysfunction of the nervous system, neuromuscular system, metabolic, cardiovascular or joint problems. Therefore, the cause of such weakness can either be such primary disorder or can result from dysfunction of a number of other systems that result in impaired neuromuscular function. Some common causes include spinal/backbone problems (particularly disk), heart problems, anemia and arthritis. A reasonable work-up for the weakness is required with selected tests to identify underlying cause, considering pet’s age, breed and concurrent clinical signs. This will help your vet to provide appropriate treatment plan based on cause. Physiotherapy and supportive treatment may benefit until cause is identified or when no underlying problem can be identified. The average life span of Labradors in India may range from 10-16 years depending on level of care.

Q: Please advise the care to be taken of my three months old Lhasa Apso pup, also can I feed him curd and fruits? What tonics are supposed to be given for growth and better coat? He has been given rabies vaccination – can I give booster dose after 21 days? – Dinesh Koti, Nellore

Dr KG Umesh: Feeding your dog a well balanced diet is clearly necessary to keep him fit and healthy, and there is a whole variety of different types of products to choose from, including diets designed for specific stages of life (Pedigree puppy) and foods which deliver additional health benefits (Pedigree small breed puppy). Just curd or fruits is not adequate for a growing puppy. Please remember that it is not possible to feed your dog a consistent and adequate home-prepared diet without considerable time, effort, and expertise. There is no need to feed any tonics/calcium or home diet while he is feeding on a balanced food like Pedigree, except clean fresh water. Other activities such as exercise, training, grooming and regular visits to the veterinarian are equally important to keep your dog happy and healthy. It is recommended to have booster doses for all vaccinations including rabies.

Q: My eight-year-old cross-breed has become very aggressive. He sometimes bites our family members in anger. What can be the reason behind this? – Rai Saxsena

Dr KG Umesh: The two most common manifestations of aggressive behaviour towards humans are fear biting and dominance-related aggression. Fear biting is most commonly seen in a dog raised without appropriate human contact during the socialization period of growth. Biting is a canine dominance behaviour and is surprisingly, a form of communication to establish standing within the pack. So, if the pack leader (your dog) decides that a member of the pack (you or a family member) is getting out of line, he may bite that person to show them ‘who’s boss.’ Good training plays a crucial role to ensure a happy and successful relationship between you and your dog (reward good behaviour and ignore unwanted behaviour), that means everyone being diligent in enforcing basic commands to show your dog who the real leaders of the household are. Some examples – If your dog barks, growls, or ignores you, try to shift his attention to an exercise or a task he knows well. If this doesn’t help, walk away from the dog. While instinct is a powerful determinant, dogs also take cues from an owner’s personalityfriendly, secure dogs, for instance, often have calm owners, while dogs who are easily frightened might have anxious owners.

Q: I have a two-year-old GSD named Bebble. She is falling sick frequently, is not eating food and is losing weight. Please advise. – Anthony Fernandes

Dr KG Umesh: Any chronic or recurring illness requires some basic investigations to find the underlying cause. Please take her to your vet for complete examination and the vet may recommend required lab tests (it may include stool examination, radiograph, tests for liver and pancreas function, etc)

Q: I have a male three-month-old Golden Retriever. He urinates more than 20-30 times, sometimes white in colour and sometimes yellow. He does poop four times or more and its colour is blackish brown. Is his urination normal, do dogs urinate at one place only or move about and urinate at different locations. – Aroonita Ghosh, Ko/kata

Dr KG Umesh: Puppies are not capable of controlling urination or defecation until eight weeks of age. A young puppy needs to urinate and defecate frequently as he has a very small bladder and bowel. Housetraining a new puppy usually takes 2 to 4 weeks and is accomplished through confinement, a regular schedule of feeding and elimination breaks, and a great deal of praise but no punishment. It is your responsibility to ensure that you take your puppy to the chosen toilet area as frequently as he needs to go, generally as soon as he wakes up, after every meal and at hourly intervals. Whilst he is learning, it is essential that you wait with him, so that you can praise him at the correct time. Young puppies will inevitably have ‘accidents’. It is important to ignore these, and to clean up well so that the smell does not linger, as this may encourage him to repeat the performance on the same spot. It is also possible to train your puppy to urinate and defecate on command.

Q: I have a male Lhasa Apso. Pleaseadvice whether a Boxer/Spitz will be a suitable breed with the Apso or do you suggest any other breed so as to avoid clash. Is neutering necessaryfor keeping two male dogs? – Aiay Kumar Khanduri, New De/hi

Dr KG Umesh: Whatever your reasons you decided to add another dog to the family, just be aware that bringing in a new dog (breed or size does not matter) is a huge change for an older dog – and unless you go about it the right way, it could create a lot of stress. With the puppy in your lap and your older dog on a leash held by someone else, let the older dog sniff, lick and explore the puppy. A couple of minutes is more than enough time for this initial introduction. Remove the puppy from the room, then lavish your older dog with attention and praise. On the second or third meeting, if all seems safe, allow the puppy 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 or have mutual understanding of their position/rank in the family. It’s not a good idea to leave your puppy alone with your older dog. There should always be someone there to supervise. Be sure to give old dog lots of individual attention so he’ll know that he still holds a special place in your heart and hasn’t been ‘replaced’. Neutering may help to minimise some behavioural issues like aggression, etc.

Ask the Expert / Mar-Apr 2010

Dr. K. G. Umesh (MVSc, MSc (UK)) is a Postgraduate in Clinical Medicine. He has been a ask the expertlecturer in clinical medicine at Vet College in Bangalore for 15 years, and has 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: My six years old GSD is having an infection on her front leg near the elbow area. It’s a black patch and she keeps licking that area. Now, it is bleeding and little puss is coming out from that patch, we have tried many medicines and creams in consultation of vets, but it’s just not healing, can you recommend some medicines which will dry that wound? – Sanskriti, Mumbai

Dr KG Umesh: Any wound that shows poor response to conventional therapy should undergo some basic laboratory tests like biopsy, culture or cytology to find underlying cause. Some common causes are deep pyoderma, sinus, lick granulomas which require aggressive treatment. Please consult your vet who may recommend suitable tests to find specific therapy.

Q: I am a new pet owner of a three months old Pug. Do advice what human medicines are not to be given to dogs at all? – K Pathak/ Sirsa

Dr KG Umesh: For a basic first aid kit, I would suggest having cotton balls, paracetomol syrup for fever, an antihistamine or steroid ointment in case of an insect bite, Savlon or Betadine liquid to clean out a wound, bandages to make a muzzle and to protect an injured area, balanced oral electrolyte solution to prevent dehydration from vomiting or diarrhoea, and astringent/gauze pads to help stop bleeding. All drugs are dosed in dogs generally on body weight basis and therefore any human medicine can cause serious adverse effects when used inappropriately in dogs. Common poisoning of pets from human medicines includes pain killers, anti-inflammatory drugs (Brufen, Diclofenac), drugs used for hypertension, vitamin D, cardiac drugs, cough syrups and many more. Remember to always phone your veterinarian for advice before you attempt to do anything to help your pet.

Q: My dog is eight years old and her paws are cracked. Please advice. – Hema Sen/ Kolkata

Dr KG Umesh: There are several known causes of cracked footpads. You will need to take your dog to the vet so he can give your dog a thorough examination and to see what has caused the cracking of his pads. A dog’s paws exposed to irritants, floor cleaning detergents, chemicals or even cold pavement or rough road – all of which cause drying and cracking of the paw pads. Some common medical causes include allergies, chronic yeast infection, autoimmune diseases and nutritional deficiencies. Some dogs develop a condition called digital hyperkeratosis which can only be controlled with topical creams. Meanwhile, try smearing petroleum jelly (Vaseline) or moisturising creams every 4-6 hours. Wrap your pet’s paw after cleaning to prevent infection or dust collecting between cracks and old sock can sometime help. Consider using dog booties. Feed her on complete food like Pedigree to prevent any nutritional deficiency.

Q: Pepper, my eight years old Basset Hound, is having a stiff back. He seems to wince in pain when we touch him. Do advice what all is to be done to diagnose the problem. – Stephan/ Bangalore

Dr KG Umesh: The backbone of dogs is made up of bones called vertebrae. These bones protect the spinal cord, which extends from the brain to your pet’s tail. A pad of tough, fibrous tissue called a disc, is located between each vertebra. These intervertebral discs function as shock absorbers and stabilizers of the spine. In chondrodystrophic breeds like yours, the disc undergoes degeneration over time but many changes are present early in life. Disc degeneration is the main cause of the back problem but trauma is also a common cause. Your vet may advice radiograph, spinal tap or even MRI or CT scan to identify cause of back problem. Some dogs respond well to rest, anti-inflammatory drugs, and pain medication. However, some dogs treated with rest and medications have recurrent attacks of back problems. Your veterinarian may recommend surgery if the disease is rapid and severe, if weakness or paralysis is present, or if your pet had repeated attacks. Limiting running and jumping has been suggested to prevent occurrence, but the value of this has not been proven. Feeding balanced food and regular exercise will keep him fit and healthy. Make sure that he is not overweight or obese.

Q: My two months old male Pug frequently gets very small boils under the body on his stomach. Our vet has given him two doses of antibiotics, they go for a week and then again come back. Can you please help? – Prashin Jhobalia, Mumbai

Dr KG Umesh: Superficial bacterial infection (pyoderma) is an extremely common presentation in the dog. In the majority of cases, it is caused by Staphylococcus intermedius. Staphylococci are carried on normal dogs at certain body sites. Superficial pyoderma can be follicular or non-follicular. The non-follicular pyoderma (bacterial impetigo) is very common condition in puppies particularly on skin of ventral abdomen/groin region. The development of recurrent pyoderma is most commonly a secondary phenomenon and predisposing factors should be investigated. Any condition that disrupts normal skin barrier function or compromises the immune system may predispose to the development of pyoderma. Some common predisposing causes of impetigo in puppies include unhygienic bedding/floors, urine scald or poor nutrition. Feed him good quality puppy food like Pedigree and keep him clean with antibacterial wash/creams for at least few weeks following complete recovery.

Ask the expert..| Jan Feb 10

Q: I am planning to get a Doberman pup and I want to get his ear cropped. What care ask the expertshould be taken before and after the cropping?
– Chaitanya Raut, Yavatmal, Maharashtra

Dr KG Umesh: Ear trimming or Ear Cropping (Cosmetic Otoplasty) does not need to be performed except on the pet owner’s request. However, it is banned in most countries. The procedure should be done (only by qualified vets) in puppies who are healthy and well nourished to minimize the possibility of infection. Requirements vary with breed and are based on standards of the Kennel Club. The age at which the procedure is best performed ranges from 8 to 24 weeks. The surgery is performed under general anesthesia, preceded by a fasting period. The puppy is sent home with his ears bandaged and will feel pain for about 5 days after surgery. The bandages must be checked daily for malpositioning, complications and discharge. The sutures are removed 7 to 10 days after surgery. The ears must be checked and rebandaged regularly for 4 to 6 weeks. External support of the ear may be required for as long as 20 weeks.

Q: My 8-year-old dog’s nose is turning very dry and appears a little cracked. Please guide.
– Yogita Das, Dehradun

Dr KG Umesh: Thickening and cracking of skin on Nose Bridge (Nasal planum) is a common finding in old dogs with any chronic localized diseases. Some common causes include pyoderma, nutritional, idiopathic hyperkeratosis and immune mediated diseases. Therefore treatment outcome of this depends on the extent and depth of the skin involvement and the underlying disease. Please get it examined by your vet. Topical and/or systemic drugs can be used. If there are no signs of infection, consider using moisturisers/Keratoplastics/lytics. Vaseline/Petroleum jelly also helps to some extent. Meanwhile, make sure he is on complete balanced food like Pedigree.

Q: Yearly rabies vaccination of our pregnant dog is due. Is it safe to vaccinate her now- also when she is nursing her puppies- or do we wait after she has finished nursing?
– Sunanda, Mysore

Dr KG Umesh: Some killed virus rabies vaccines although appear to be safe, it is generally not recommended to vaccinate a pregnant dog. Get her vaccinated either after whelping or weaning puppies.

Q: My dog Bagels is six years old. He is on dog food and I buy him chewsticks/dental chews occasionally. Do advice is it mandatory to brush or can I give him chews, which will clean the tartar? Is it necessary to take him for a yearly dental check-up to keep teeth problems away? For a check-up, does he have to undergo anaesthesia?
– Niti Paul, Udipi

Dr K G Umesh: Just like people, dogs need to have their teeth brushed and cleaned. But the fact is, probably the number one health problem for dogs, apart from being overweight, is periodontal disease. More than 80 percent of dogs over two years of age who haven’t received regular dental care have these dental problems. The accumulation of tartar and plaque and the resulting gingivitis can lead to more serious disease. And worse, it often leads to damage to the jawbones, and loss of teeth. Infection may spread to vital organs like kidney or heart.

Regular dental check from your vet, at least twice a year is recommended which do not require any anaesthesia. Your vet may use short time anaesthesia only for procedures like dental scaling. Owners can lightly brush their dog’s teeth at least twice a week to remove plaque deposits. A pet toothbrush or child’s nylon toothbrush dipped in toothpaste made for dogs should be used. If the dog will not tolerate a toothbrush, you can try using a soft cloth instead. Do not use toothpastes made for humans, which can cause nausea in dogs if swallowed.

An alternative to brushing is using a dental chew. Clinical studies by Waltham have shown that certain specifically designed dental health chews (Dentastix) result in a significant reduction of plaque and calculus accumulation, gingivitis and malodour. This product is endorsed by British Veterinary Dental Association and European Veterinary Dental Society. Dry dog food like Pedigree may also help prevent dental plaque accumulation.

Q: Cheeni, my-two-year-old GSD is very boisterous and active. Lately, we have noticed that he has not been wagging his tail and seems uncomfortable. I have checked his tail thoroughly for bite marks/ hurt but cannot find anything. Please help.
– R Banerjee, Kolkata

Dr KG Umesh: In absence of any physical abnormalities, my suggestion is to get opinion from your vet, who may help find underlying causes including injury to nerves, healing fracture or soft tissue injury. He may recommend radiograph if required.

Ask the expert….| Nov Dec 09

Q: Joey, my six-year-old Pomeranian was well toilet trained but since past six months, she has forgotten everything. In fact she loves our carpet in the drawing room and relieves herself there. Please advise.
– Tarun Bhatnagar, Chandigarh

Dr. K. G. Umesh: It is not unusual for dogs to have an occasional accident in the house. If ask the expertthis behaviour is occurring on regular occasions, there can be a number of reasons as to why. Has the pet got access to the outdoors? Is there an underlying medical cause? Is there an underlying behavioural cause? It is not uncommon for the older dog to lose some of the ability to control his bladder. There are many medical problems that can cause signs of incontinence. Some causes of incontinence can be due to urinary infection, cystitis, bladder stones or hereditary defect. Most urine related problems can be managed very successfully using drugs and/or diet. The other possibility for your dog’s house soiling is if there is an underlying behavioural cause, such as, submissive urination, stress, a breakdown in toilet training, territorial marking or separation anxiety. Once again, these behaviour problems can be modified effectively. Your veterinary surgeon will initially run few lab tests to rule out any underlying medical cause. If your dog has soiled the house, it is important that the affected area is cleaned promptly using a biological washing powder in warm water. If it is not cleaned effectively, she may mark that spot on repeated occasions. Therefore, it is best to seek veterinary advice to determine the true cause of the problem.

Q: I want to bring home a Labrador. Do let me know how do I go about it? What all should I look for in the puppy and should I see the parents?
– Kartik, Thane

Dr. K. G. Umesh: The best place to get a purebred dog is from a recognized, reputed and ethical breeder or rescue organization who understands the character, temperament and challenges of this breed as well as what kind of home will make their dogs the happiest. Unfortunately it is difficult to find such well-organised breeders in our country. We recommend asking lots of questions about their facility, the bloodlines of their dogs, height and weight, socialization level, health record etc and the warranties/guarantees offered. Papers may be required if you intend to show your pet in a dog show or for breeding. The vet may help to screen or identify common genetic/inherited disorders common to Labradors. You can also check with your local Vet or use an Internet search engine to buy a healthy puppy.

Q: My six-month-old Golden Retriever is constantly slipping from his hind legs, what problem can it be? – Rukmani Swami, Cochin

Dr. K. G. Umesh: Developmental skeletal disease is common in large- and giant-breed puppies. One manifestation – hip dysplasia – affects millions of dogs. Genetics, environment, and nutrition – all contribute to developmental skeletal disease. Of the nutritional components, rate of growth, specific nutrients, food amounts consumed, and feeding methods influence skeletal disease. Excess energy and calcium are known risk factors; your vet will confirm diagnosis (Bone, Joint, Trauma or Neurological) by palpating (examination by touch) the hip joints/ legs and taking x-rays. Hip dysplasia is treated with rest, restricted activity, pain medication, and in severe cases, surgery.

Q: Mocha, a five-month-old GSD, keeps sleeping and is also not interested in walks; we have to motivate her to go out. Her diet seems fine. What should I do? – Vishal Kumar, Kolkata

Dr. K. G. Umesh: Weakness can result from many different mechanisms or disorders. Poor socialization or interaction, fear or shyness or even a previous bad experience may de-motivate puppies to play or walk. Your dog may rightfully need some rest after a play or exercise. But serious conditions can also cause weakness in dogs, including joint problems (such as hip dysplasia), muscle disorders, neurological disorders, heart or respiratory disease, fever, low blood sugar levels, abnormal electrolyte levels, kidney or liver disease, hypothyroidism, hypoadrenocorticism or anaemia. Please take him to your vet ASAP.

Q: I had three dogs but have lost one to old age. One of my other two dogs has started sitting very quietly and is also not eating; we have to feed her with our hands. My vet says she is grieving. How can I help her? – Anuradha Kapoor, Guwahati

Dr. K. G. Umesh: Dogs can experience many emotions, just as humans. They may lose interest to eat or play. Some may become sluggish or tired. It may be a good idea to leave some of his belongings (blanket/lease etc) with them to sniff and remember their friend. Take them for longer walks or the park to play. Spend few minutes grooming them or play games together. Some people may want another dog, but it may not be necessary in your case.

Ask the expert | Sep Oct 2009

My Lab takes homemade food, please, do let me know, is this diet right and how can I train him?
– Ayush Bissa, Jodhpur

Our research indicated that most home made diets/baby foods fed to dogs in our country are inadequate and do not meet recommended nutritional requirements. Prepared pet foods from reputable pet food manufacturers like Pedigree come with a guarantee of nutritional adequacy, quality and safety. Remember that it is not possible to feed your dog a consistent and adequate home-prepared diet without considerable time, effort, and expertise. It is difficult even for an experienced breeder to prepare balanced diet for dogs. There is no need to feed any supplements like calcium or home diet while he is feeding on balanced food like Pedigree except clean fresh water. Therefore, continue feeding only recommended quantity of the prepared pet food.

Effective training 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. Therefore, the most important thing in dog training is to reward good behaviour and ignore unwanted behaviour.

I have an eleven-year-old Labrador – Max, who does not respond to his name or commands. We think he is becoming hard of hearing. What tests can we get done to confirm, if he is going deaf or is there some other problem?
– Suman Arora, Jhansi

Dogs health problems related to advancing years are similar to our own. This might involve deficits in brain functioning, total or partial loss of hearing, eyesight, or sense of smell. Due to these changes, a senior dog may begin to appear to be ignoring commands, appear disorientated or have a reduced appetite. Early detection can help in disease prevention and can minimize suffering. If left undetected, many diseases can put your pet’s health at risk. The best approach to caring for your senior pet includes preventive diagnostics such as establishing baseline blood work, identifying existing health problems and monitoring progress during treatment. Visit your vet who will advise suitable tests for impaired hearing (BAER) and schedule regular health check-ups. Meanwhile, make sure that he is fed on suitable balanced diet that matches his age, dentition and energy requirement.

My 3-year-old dog, Tipsy (Spitz) mated around the first week of June. She had three puppies on the 9th of August at home. All the three puppies did not survive. Could you tell us what possible reasons this could have happened?
– Bijoy, Noida

The failure to thrive in newborn puppies or neonates, known as fading puppy syndrome, can occur from birth to nine weeks of age. The causes of fading puppy syndrome can be broadly put into genetic, environmental or infectious agents groups. Hypothermia, herpes virus infection and maternal neglect resulting in poor nutrition are frequently reported causes. Affected neonates can decline quickly and die, so immediate detection and treatment are keys to survival. Therefore, always observe all the neonates’ behaviour and be on the lookout for key signs. Neonates or puppies that lie away from the group, cry constantly, are restless, or fail to nurse should be examined at once. Timely veterinary attention provides the best chances for saving these neonates’ lives. Because the exact causes of fading puppy syndrome are often not immediately apparent, your veterinarian will initially focus on supportive care and diagnostic evaluation. Your veterinarian will also ask about the dam’s ease of delivery, appetite, diet, vaccinations, mothering skills, and medications, etc that may help to prevent such problems next time.

I have a Doberman who is one year old with an undescented testicle. Please, advise.
– Kumaran, Mangalore

Generally testes in dogs descent to final scrotal position by 2-4 months of age and may occur later in some dogs. The incomplete descent of one or both testes into the scrotum is called Cryptorchidism. This condition is believed to be inherited and is rarely associated with signs of illness. However, the risk of testicular cancer is thought to be approximately 10 times greater in affected dogs than in normal dogs. Castration is recommended practice before four years of age. Breeding of such dogs should be discouraged.

Ask the expert.. | July Aug 09

Q:Blacky, my seven-year-old mixed breed, weighs around 30-32 kg. She has become fat; her stomach is big and soft even though her food intake is less. She also drinks less water and her urine is yellowish in colour. Her periods are quite irregular and she has never been mated. Her liver tests are as follows: S.G.P.T: 112.0 U/L, Serum Creatinine: 0.60MG/DL and B. U. N.: 9.30 MG/DL. Please advise.
– Preeti, Indore

A:Neoplastic or Non-neoplastic disorders may cause abdominal enlargement in senior dogs. The information and lab report provided is inadequate to make specific suggestions on either diagnosis or treatment. Therefore I would suggest complete investigations to identify the underlying cause of her problem.

Q:My three-year-old Neo Mastiff, Sheeba has developed nail growth on her paw pad. I am sure it wasn’t there until three weeks ago. Is this common in dogs? What are the causes & remedies?
– Prakash Chomini, Bangalore

A:There are many causes of claw and claw fold disease in dogs. Numerous diagnostic techniques can be employed to narrow the list of differentials. Because many of these diseases have similar symptoms, biopsy of the claw is often necessary to obtain a definitive diagnosis. I am not sure you are referring to extra claw or abnormal overgrowth of claw. There are dogs whose initial symptom is abnormal growth (onychodystrophy) of the claw. Once the diagnosis is established, an accurate prognosis can be given and a treatment plan is executed. A careful history is necessary to make a diagnosis of idiopathic onychodystrophy. Geriatric dogs with onychodystrophy may respond to gelatin or biotin supplementation.

Q:My Dachshund puppy is four months old. What kind of care should I take so that she does not develop any back problems?
– Gunjan Joshi, Nashik

A:The backbone of dogs is made up of bones called vertebrae. These bones protect the spinal cord, which extends from the brain to your pet’s tail. A pad of tough, fibrous tissue called disc is located between each vertebra. These intervertebral discs function as shock absorbers and stabilizers of the spine. In chondrodystrophic breeds like yours, the disc undergoes degeneration over time but many changes are present early in life. Disc degeneration is the main cause of the back problem but trauma is also a common cause. Dachshunds have the highest prevalence of slipped discs or disc diseases. Limiting running and jumping has been suggested to prevent occurrence, but the value of this has not been proven. Feeding balanced food and regular exercise will keep her fit and healthy. Make sure that she is not overweight or obese.

Q:My dog has motion sickness; each time I take him out in the car he throws up. Please advice how do I take care of this problem.
– Divya, Palampur

A:Travelling by car is easier for dogs; the safest way is in a crate. Many owners have discovered that an empty stomach is the best anti-illness prevention and they don’t feed their pets for up to five hours before a long car ride. It might also help to travel with your dog in his crate, if it can be securely fastened on the car’s seat or floor. The crate generally comforts your dog and gives him a place to lie down, which can reduce motion sickness. If your pet’s car sickness is truly motion related, your vet can also prescribe medications to fight travel illness. Be sure to stop frequently for potty breaks. Always keep something with your scent on it in your dog’s carrier. A piece of your clothing can be a reassuring reminder of home sweet home.

Q: I have two mixed breeds dogs, both males aged three and five years. I want to adopt a female dog. Please let me know:

  1. Will there be any dominance issues between my old dogs and new dog?
  2. When my female dog comes on heat, what should I do?
    Should I also neuter my male dogs?

– R Rao, Hubli

A:It’s important to realize that this is a huge change for other dogs—and unless you go about it the right way, it could create a lot of stress. Here are a few tips:

  1. Introduce her to other dogs gradually over period of few days with each dog on a leash. If all goes well up to this point, take the dogs for a walk, allowing them to sniff and investigate each other from time to time. Never talk to them in a way that is threatening. Reward good behaviour with treats/compliments of ‘good dog!’ and monitor their body language.
  2. If you don’t intend to breed your female dog, then you should seriously consider neutering. The most common methods of contraception are ovariohysterectomy (spaying) in female dogs and vasectomy or castration in males. Such procedures eliminate heat periods, objectionable behaviour, including spotting of blood in dogs, and the attraction of male animals. Spaying and neutering can reduce the risk of several different conditions later in life.

Ask the Expert.. May-June 09

Q: My cat Krishna, who is two years old, ate a cockroach recently and had some digestive problem thereafter. Please advice if the problem was due to the cockroach or any other factor. How should I prevent my cat from doing the same in the future? z – Ajesh. V, Malappuram


A: Dr. K. G. Umesh:
Cats are true carnivores (meat eaters) and their diet consisting of small preys such as rodents, birds, fish, reptiles and insects. They generally prey items which are rich in water, protein & fat and low in carbohydrate & ash (minerals) and they have no requirement for plant materials. Hunting is entirely natural for cats and takes place even when they are well fed at home.

There is really no point in trying to punish/correct your cat for hunting as it is part of his nature that is so deeply rooted that to try and eliminate it may cause him a lot of confusion. Playing ‘catching games’ with your cat using toys may help to relieve some of his urge to hunt. It is important to worm your cat regularly, particularly if he hunts. Consult your veterinary surgeon for more advice on worming. As cat’s nutritional needs are different to that of a dog or man, and feeding a high quality, well-balanced commercial cat food (Whiskas) help maintain optimum body weight and condition.

Ask the expert..| May-june 09

I took out almost 70 ticks from my two dogs – Zack, a Golden Retriever and Cody, a Spaniel, who are 4 months old. Please do advice me a safe method. Is a tick bath safe at their age? Do we have spot on for puppies? Is there a vaccine for ticks- is it safe and what age can it be administered? What can I do to prevent those ticks on my puppies?
– Shaynaya Doyle, Gurgaon

To control ticks or fleas on a dog, all animals in the household must be part of the flea/ticks control programme. There are two basic categories of flea/ticks control products: Adulticides (these products kill adults fleas) and Insect growth regulators (IGRs)/insect development inhibitors (IDIs) (these products prevent fleas/ticks from hatching or maturing). Flea and tick control products for dogs include a variety of drugs and chemicals available as collars, shampoos, sprays, dips, powders, long lasting topicals, and oral medications. There are no vaccines available at present to control ticks. Thorough cleaning of the house and yard should precede any application of insecticides. Places where dogs spend most of their time will have the greatest numbers of deposited eggs and newly emerged adult fleas and ticks. It is always best to treat the dog and the environment on the same day. Make sure that other pets/dogs he frequently contact/visit are free from fleas and ticks. The veterinarian will choose a product or products that combine safety, efficacy, and ease of use for the client. Often a combination of adulticide and an IGR or IDI is used.

My dog’s fur has a lot of dandruff-like thing in it and there has been a lot of hairfall. Now I don’t find new fur growing. Please help.
– Ramdev R, Mangalore

Photoperiod (light intensity) is main factor besides nutrition, genetics and health that can cause dogs to shed hair excessively during some seasons and therefore, can be physiological. Dogs may also shed excessive hair because of stress, worms, harsh climate and general illness. Therefore, my approach would be to find underlying cause/s (like fleas, ticks, mange or allergy, hormonal imbalance, bacterial or yeast infection, etc) and then your vet will be able to recommend suitable medications that will eliminate the cause and therefore hair fall. Evening Primrose oil capsules (1 cap per day) or Sunflower oil/saffola oil/corn oil (2-4 tsp) and Zinc capsules everyday in the feed may also help him improve his hair coat in the short term when no underlying cause is identified.

I have a Lab puppy (male) around three months old. What all precautions should be taken in terms of his good health?
– Saurabh Shrivastava, Ghaziabad

The first few months of your puppy’s life show a very rapid development, and most Labradors become adult by 12-14 months of age. Feeding your dog a well-balanced puppy diet is clearly necessary to keep him fit and healthy, and there is a whole variety of different types of products to choose in Pedigree designed for puppy and Special food like Pedigree large breed which deliver additional health benefits. Other activities such as exercise, training, grooming and regular visits to the veterinarian (vaccination and worms treatment) are equally important to keep your dog happy and healthy.

My Lab pair are somewhat related. Do you think it is alright to breed them?
– Mala, Bhuwaneshwar

If a dog suffers from a disease that is suspected, but not proven, to be inherited, the dog should not be used for breeding. If close relatives of such a dog are used for breeding, they should be mated to dogs from bloodlines with low or no occurrence of the same disease. Breeding of siblings or continued line breeding results in increased mortality rates.

My two-year-old female Lab is very shy. She doesn’t bark back at street dogs when she goes for a walk. Some days back she was attacked by a street dog, luckily she did not get hurt but after the incident she is even more scared of the dogs and doesn’t like to go for a walk where there are dogs. What can I do to make her more confident?
– Amit Jhingran, Hisar

The best advice we can give is to pinpoint whom it is that might induce fear in your dog. This will help you avoid any unpleasant situations. Non-confident canines require very gentle training and lots of patience from their owners. One of the most common causes of shyness is the lack of exposure to new people and places at a young age. Dogs look to their owners to be the ‘alpha dog’ of their ‘pack’, and to guide them safely into new and stimulating situations. Without these experiences, the dog may become timid and skittish when introduced to things outside their immediate familiarity. She looks to you for guidance and protection, and therefore you must exhibit the level of confidence and firmness you would like your dog to follow. When your dog is frightened, it’s human to want to comfort your dog and say “it’s OK”. However, your dog assumes that you are praising her for being scared – which reinforces skittish behaviour.

Shy dogs need to have repeated positive experiences with many different people. Most shy dogs can become friendly with positive human interaction. Never force your dog to do anything that makes her nervous. Consider obedience training and introduce her to strangers, dogs or places gradually.

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.