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Ask the Expert/May-June 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 : Honey, my 3-year-old Golden retriever, is on dog food. Recently, she has become very picky and has stopped eating. But she loves her treats. Please suggest what should I do? – Anjali Sharma, Delhi

Dr. Umesh : Your dog’s feeding behaviour is not surprising. There are number of reasons for your dog to behave like this. For e.g., she may have fear for new food, previous bad experience with the food, poor palatability or simply, she may be a fussy eater. Please make sure that you are feeding recommended quantity of the food, as some dogs can self-regulate their intake when fed excessively. Any dietary change should be made slowly to avoid stomach upsets. Gradually introduce the food over a period of 5-7 days period by mixing very small amounts of the new diet with the old diet.

There are also ways of encouraging dogs to eat. For e.g., try heating up food to body temperature before feeding or dry food can be moistened by adding hot (not boiling) water. Offer the food to your pet when it is cool. Hand feed your pet for the first time and praise her when she eats. She has to be trained differently if she is a fussy eater. If your pet stops eating altogether, consult your vet for advise.

Q : What is the best way to take care of a 4-6-weeks-old German Shepherd puppy? Please give information regarding food, nutrition and growth requirements. – Naveen, Darjeeling

Dr. Rana : Diet is extremely important in the growing months of a dog’s life, and there are two important criteria that should be met in selecting food for your puppy. I recommend a branded food, specifically made for puppies. This should be fed until your German Shepherd is about 18 months of age. I also recommend that you only buy food which has the AAFCO certification. Divide the day’s recommended quantity into 4-5 helpings.

Table foods are not advisable because they are generally very tasty, dogs will often begin to hold out for these and not eat their well-balanced dog food affecting their growth and health. We enjoy a variety of things to eat in our diet. However, most dogs actually prefer not to change from one food to another unless they are trained to do so by the way you feed them. Do not feel guilty if your dog is happy to just eat one food day after day, week after week.

Q : Can garlic prevent and control fleas on dog? – K Suresh, Hyderabad

Dr. Umesh : There are no evidence-based scientific reports available on efficacy of garlic (either topical or oral) on fleas. Therefore I cannot predict its efficacy and safety for controlling fleas. It is unlikely to be as effective as currently available approved anti-flea products. However, there are some health benefits to pets reported when fed at recommended level in the food. But, garlic can be toxic and unpalatable to dogs when fed excessively.

Q : My dog is 5 years old. How old is she in respect to human years? Does one year of a dog equal 7 human years? – Rohit Dewan, Delhi

Dr. Rana : Broadly, we say that 1 year of dog’s life is equal to 7 years of human life. However, the size of the breed does matter a lot in dictating the life expectancy since we rarely see a Great Dane over 10 years of age but can see lots of Lhasas who are 13-14 years plus. Hence a 5-year-old Apso would be approximately 36 years in human age while a 5-year-old Dane would be about 42 years!!

Q : I have a 2-year-old grandchild who loves to play with our Spaniel “Goldy”. While playing, Goldy often licks my grandson. Can Goldy transmit any disease/infection to him? What precautions should I take? – D’ Souza, Mumbai

Dr. Umesh : Dogs, like humans, are susceptible to a variety of diseases and conditions that are caused or exacerbated by poor hygiene. Some diseases found in dogs can be transferred to humans, so it is essential to insist on strict hygiene rules for the entire family. Because young children may not fully understand the importance of personal hygiene, a new puppy that has not yet been toilet trained poses a health risk for children crawling around. They can put their hands in dog faeces, and pick up certain skin infections or round worm eggs from the floor or ground. Young children are likely to have less resistance than adults and can pick up a mild or serious type illness. Likewise, saliva from infected dogs might transmit certain infections to susceptible babies. Discourage kissing or excessive licking.

Therefore regular vaccination, deworming and health check-up of Goldy is extremely important and you need to follow strict hygiene rules to prevent your dog from passing on germs and diseases to your child.

Q : I have a 4-year-old male Lhasa Apso. For the past few months, he sometimes wakes up at night and breathes deeply. He does the same thing when he barks loudly. I also feel that his front neck is swollen. His weight has increased suddenly by 3 kgs in the last one year. He has three small meals a day and the quantity is exactly as per the food instructions. He has minimum two walks daily. Kindly guide me. – H K Joshi, Ahmedabad

Dr. Rana : Your 4-year-old Lhasa Apso seems to have gained a lot of weight in the last 1 year and that would worry me as a vet. Is it a case of hypothyroidism or plain obesity? Well, run a test to check his thyroid! A lot would depend on this and the diet/exercise would have to be reviewed too. Regarding his sudden waking up with deep breathing at night is a problem commonly encountered by most of the Brachiocephalic breeds like Apsos, Tibetian Spaniels, Neopolitian Mastiffs etc, wherein there is involvement of enlarged soft palate partially blocking the airway. If the problem is severe, then one would have to surgically reduce the size of the soft palate. But if your pet inhales air really fast through his nose and his whole body gets stiff and the episode is over in less than a minute then it is definitely “reverse sneezing”.