Ask the expert..Nov-Dec 10

Q: My cat Oliver is a two-month-old Persian. Please advice about cat training and flea prevention.
– Asma Nadeem Ahmed, Bangalore


A: Dr KG Umesh: Early socialisation is the process by which a cat learns to relate appropriately to people, other cats and to her environment. The ‘sensitive period’ for socialisation lies between two and seven weeks of age in kittens. Getting the socialisation of your kitten right in the first few months of life ensures your kitten will develop a secure, well-adjusted personality. It also improves the quality of the cat-owner relationship and is very important for preventing behaviour problems. As with all training, it should be kind and based on positive reinforcement, rewarding correct action and ignoring all unwanted behaviours. Effective training should contain a combination of information (what you want the cat to do), motivation (a reason for the cat to do it) and timing (when to give the reward for a good action).

Flea control must be done in her environment before treating infested cat. Your veterinarian will recommend a suitable de-fleaing agent and will advise you on an effective flea-eradication programme that is safe for cats. Always follow the directions carefully, and remember to treat other pets in the household as well. Remove all of your cat’s bedding and wash it well (hot wash cycle), along with the box or basket. Don’t forget to vacuum thoroughly around the carpets and furniture.

Ask the expert..Nov-Dec 09

Q: What are the behaviour changes in cats with respect to climate and food?
Dr Sunil Kumar C, Thalassery, Kerala


Dr KG Umesh: Cats are true carnivores. They generally prey items, which are rich in water, protein & fat and low in carbohydrate and have no requirement for plant materials. Cats can not taste sugars/carbohydrates. It is generally believed that food at body temperature is preferred by cats. Whiskas cat food has been developed considering all these feeding behaviours and enjoyment of feeding. For example, Whiskas has specific design of kibbles size and shape, texture, aroma and variety. Adult cats are grazers, feed 2-5 or more small meals per day. Whether you are feeding wet, dry or semi-moist, water is a vital nutrient. 

The most important part of the environment is climate, which includes humidity, temperature and photoperiod. These climatic factors or seasonal changes influence the behaviour, breeding status and immunity of animals. Animals who live in hot/cold seasons/climates are adapted to their environment. Reduced food and thus nutrient intakes can be a problem in pets in hot environment yet energy requirements may be increased to maintain normal body temperature. Therefore, it seems prudent to feed the diets with a moderately increased energy level during cold or hot climate in cats. A nutritionally balanced diet with a continuous source of fresh clean drinking water appears to confer some protection from the detrimental effects of heat stress.

Ask the Expert:Nov-Dec 2005

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 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?:?Jackie, my two-year-old male German Dachshund dog has developed fungal infection on his ears. The itch is so strong and irresistible that he keeps shaking his ears very violently. This causes blood to ooze from his ears’ corner. At present, I am applying “Wokazole lotion” after cleaning the ears with hydrogen peroxide solution.  But it is not helping. Please advise what to do?
–?A.K. Prasad, Bina Project

Dr. Umesh?:?Otitis externa or inflammation of outer ear canal is common in dogs. Many factors can cause or contribute to the development of this ear problem in dogs. Parasites, foreign bodies, allergies, etc can be a cause. Likewise ear structure (for e.g., floppy ears), errors in cleaning ears/medications predispose dog to develop this ear problem. Recognition of underlying cause and treatment of all the factors contributing to the ear infection are the key to successful clinical management. Hydrogen peroxide may not be suitable for cleaning all types of ear infections and sometimes can aggravate the problem. Do not use cotton tipped applicators to clean ears! Depending on severity and duration of ear infection, your vet may perform variety of tests from examination of discharge to radiography. Therefore, I suggest taking him to your vet as early as possible to find underlying cause and appropriate cleaning and medication protocol.

Q?:?I have a five-year-old Pomeranian Jimmy who has suddenly lost appetite after my 10-year-old German Shepherd – Hero, died. Jimmy refuses to eat anything and has lost 2 kg weight. What should I do?
–?Sonakshi Verma, Lucknow

Dr. Umesh?:?What he requires immediately is your company to replace Hero, keeping him occupied, may help to overcome this problem. Physical activity like walking or exercise will also help him become more relaxed and comfortable in his surroundings. Identify situations and environments that Jimmy will need to be comfortable with and help him gradually to live without his lost friend. Acquiring another companion puppy/dog is not a bad idea if it is suitable to your home. Jimmy will require visit to the vet if he continues to refuse food and lose body weight.

Q?:?My pet’s name is Tin Tin. We will soon become parents. What precautions should the “would be parents” take during pregnancy period and after the birth of the baby? Also, Tin Tin is losing a lot of hair and salivates profusely? Apart from this, we are also very concerned about the difference the birth of the baby will make to Tin Tin as our attention would be divided. How should we handle this?
–?Hitarth, Baroda

Dr. Umesh?:?Hair do not grow continuously in dogs but rather in cycles (Mosaic pattern). Photo period is main factor besides nutrition, genetics, health that can cause dogs to shed hair excessively during some seasons and can be physiological. Dog hair can be a problem only to those who have developed allergy to it. 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/baby may not fully understand the importance of personal hygiene, the pet 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 roundworm 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 Tin Tin is extremely important and you need to follow strict hygiene rules to prevent your dog from passing on germs and diseases to children.

When baby arrives: With the baby in your lap and your pet on a leash held by someone else, let Tin Tin sniff, lick and explore the baby. A couple of minutes are more than enough time for this initial introduction, then lavish Tin Tin with attention and praise. On the second or third meeting, if all seems safe, 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 baby alone. Monitor Tin Tin’s body language! Reward good behaviour with treats and compliments of “good dog!” And 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 Dalmatian Spotty, who is four-year-old, jogs with me for 45 minutes every day. Recently I noticed he has started panting more than he used to. What is a safe amount of time to jog with my dog?
–?R Subramanian, Chennai

Dr. Umesh?:?Dogs, too, can become complacen­­t and lazy when it comes to fitness. Before you start your dog on any new exercise routine, make sure you get the ‘all clear’ from your veterinarian first (joint, lungs, heart etc). Not all dogs are built for speed or endurance. Also note that dogs with short snouts like Pugs and Bulldogs aren’t able to breathe as efficiently as dogs with longer snouts, so you’ll have to count them out of too vigorous activities. Since your dog is only too eager to please you, he’ll try and keep up with you even if he’s too tired or in pain. You’ll need to keep a close watch for any signs of fatigue or discomfort like heavy panting or limping. If you see that your dog is struggling, stop and take a break. If you think he’s okay to continue, proceed at a slower pace. Otherwise, head back home and give your dog a break for a couple of days before you work out again. Exercising your dog in extreme heat puts your dog at risk for dehydration or heat exhaustion. In the summer time, opt for an early morning or evening workout when the sun and heat are less intense.

Dogs are a lot more vulnerable to heat exhaustion since they are only able to sweat through panting and the pads of their feet. Be sure to schedule regular stops every 20 minutes or so and give your dog a chance to top up his fluids. Give him some fresh, cool water again once you get back home.

by, Pedigree

Ask the Expert/Nov-Dec 2004

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: Why do dogs sleep so much? What is the maximum number of hours should a dog sleep in a day? Do they sleep because they are bored?
– Sheetal Desai, Mumbai

Dr. Rana: The amount of sleep that an animal needs depends upon its age, size, activity level and breed of dog. Some very large breeds of dogs, like Saint Bernards, Mastiffs, often spend a great deal of their lives sleeping,perhaps up to sixteen or even eighteen hours a day. For this reason, they were often referred to as “mat dogs”. Great Danes probably only dream about sleeping! Comparatively smaller breeds like Apsos, Dachshunds , Jack Russel Terriers etc need less sleep .

Q: My 1.5 yrs GSD Sam eats his stool everyday. Please advice how to get rid of this habit?
-Shashidhar K, Bangalore

Dr. Umesh: Coprophagia, or eating of faeces, is very common in dogs, and is often seen in puppies. It is not dangerous to the dog’s health, but can be unpleasant habit to live with. Treating the problem can be simple and involves thinking ahead.

Any faeces deposited in the garden should be removed as quickly as possible. A dietary imbalance or parasites can on occasions cause coprophagy. Make sure that your dog is receiving complete and balanced food and dewormed regularly. Coprophagy can transmit parasites also.

One method of training is to walk your dog on an extending leash and purposely direct him towards some stools. As soon as he stoops to try to eat faeces, pull away the dog gently and effectively and at the same time, unpleasant distracting noise such as “NO” should be sounded and immediately after this, make him sit and praise for compliance with kind words and physical contact. The dog should not be punished as he will not associate the punishment with the action. This type of exposure should be repeated several times.

I suggest Professional training if it is associated with behavioural problem. Some advise products containing (or spraying) pepper or mustard on faeces are ethically questionable and feeding a slice of pineapple or peppermint oil may work in some dogs.

Q: I have a Golden Labrador male of age 5 years named Duke. He has frequent ear problems. Once you pick his ears, a foul smell comes. How do I take care of his ears on a regular basis?
– Nidhi Malhotra, Delhi

Dr. Rana: Duke appears to be suffering from an ear condition called Otitis Externa and he needs to be taken care of seriously before it gets chronic and make him very uncomfortable. Otitis Externa may be caused by organisms, foreign substances, or neoplasia entering the external ear canal, the middle ear and the eustachian tube. Water in the ear canal during bathing or swimming may be an important cause. Proliferation of bacterial organisms in the external ear canal can cause the animal great discomfort and predispose to Otitis media and Otitis Externa. Please consult your vet who will examine the ear and probably do a culture of the ear swab so as to find the causative organism. Daily or periodic cleaning of ear canals with normal saline or ceruminolytics in my opinion would be quiet helpful in the longer run.

Q: My 7 year doggie, a spitz – Joomki, has put on weight. I feed her twice a day. She has a bowl full of chicken stock with vegetables either with rice or roti in the morning and the evening. She also has her treats- biscuits and chew sticks. Her vet tells me that she is much over weight. How do I make her loose weight? Please help.
-Mrs Mukherjee, Kolkata

Dr. Umesh: What you have to remember is that the diet you feed your dog should be complete and balanced. This means, the balanced diet will meet all her required nutrients and energy demand, regardless of her life stage or life style. Home made diets, depending on the sources, vary with respect to quality, digestibility, nutrient content and therefore is not balanced and complete.

If your dog is overweight, it will affect her life in many ways. She will be less likely to want to go out for a walk and exercise. Obese dogs are also prone to develop health problems like arthritis, heart problems, diabetes, etc.

As with people, any diet should ensure that any weight loss is in a steady manner, ensuring that dog does not become deficient in any nutrients and is not hungry. The best person to speak to is your vet, who will advise appropriate food and amount. A target weight should be set for your dog and in order for your dog to reach her ultimate target weight, she must be initially targeted to lose 15% of her current body weight. If more weight needs to be lost, then next target should be further 15% reduction and so on until his ideal weight has been achieved.

Your dog will also need to increase her exercise. Please contact your vet for further details including correct diet.

Q: My dog has wet streaks under his eyes. Are those tears?
-Jhanvi, Delhi
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Dr. Umesh: Epiphora is the term used to describe the overflow of tears, which is normal in some breeds of dogs but can be due to blocked tear ducts. The tear duct can become blocked for a number of reasons, such as infection, a foreign body or a hereditary defect. Your vet will be able to perform a simple test to determine if there is a tear drainage problem with the eye.

Tears are produced to lubricate the eyeball and keep it clean, and then are drained through the tear duct. If this is blocked, the tears build up and will tend to run down the cheeks of the dog, and this can result in rust coloured tear streak. The colour occurs from an antibacterial enzyme called lysozyme, which is normally present in body fluids such as tears and saliva.