Ask the expert… Mar-Apr 2014


Q: I have a St Bernard pup who is five months old and refuses to go for a walk. Please advice the exercise, food and supplement needs for a St Bernard.
– Balraj, Jabalpur
Dr KG Umesh: A nutritionally balanced diet is crucial for the healthy growth and development of a dog in order to prepare him for an active, long and healthy life. Giant breeds like St Bernard take longer time to mature and generally become adult by age of 20-24 months. It is necessary to keep a puppy from gaining weight too quickly and becoming fat to avoid bone and joint problems. Puppies are fed 2-4 small meals per day to accommodate in their tiny stomachs. There is no need to add home food while he is feeding on a balanced pet food and clean fresh water. Overfeeding and excess calcium may result in skeletal or joint problems in the later part of the growing puppy’s life. I would suggest feeding ‘large breed puppy’ diets specifically designed for giant breeds, that are available in veterinary clinics and pet shops. In their first few months, puppies will get all the exercise they need from their naturally energetic play in the house, so you don’t need to give them any extra exercise. Limiting formal walks and training in the first 10 to 12 months of life will also help. They may need a 20 to 30 minutes jog every morning or a shorter walk combined with controlled training games. Repeat the workout later in the day.
Q: Rustam, my five-year-old Labrador, keeps wagging and knocking off objects. The tail area is swollen–the area also seems to hurt him, please help.
– Rohini Kapur, Meerut
Dr KG Umesh: Swelling in tail may result from injury, inflammation or infections of skin or bones. Get him examined by your vet before it worsens with movement of tail. You can try bandaging the swollen area to keep the tail immobile and until you take him to the vet.
Q: My 10 years old GSD is overweight, how do I reduce the weight?
– Rajat Singh, Patiala
Dr KG Umesh: Obesity is the most common canine nutritional disease in dogs. If you feed your dog a prepared pet food, the label on the package will provide a guideline as to how much to feed daily. These recommendations are a guideline only and you should make adjustments according to your dog’s individual needs. Senior dogs need approximately 20 percent less energy than adult dogs. Don’t forget to take into account the calories in treats and other tidbits he eats—they shouldn’t make up more than 10 percent of his daily calorie intake. Try to exercise your dog as much as he is able. The more muscle he maintains, the more calories he’ll burn and less fat he’ll carry. Not only that, when you fill his time with fun activities, he’ll spend less time hanging around the food bowl. This increased activity won’t just benefit your dog; it will benefit you as well. Instruct family members and visitors not to give your dog any treats or table scraps. Don’t give your dog one heaping bowl of food that he can eat whenever he wants. Instead, give him 2-4 small measured meals a day so you can regulate his portions. Start keeping a record of your dog’s weight. If possible, weigh him once a week. Keep lots of clean, fresh water available. Finally, be sure to take your dog to your veterinarian for a checkup and expert advice. Your vet may give you guidelines on exercise appropriate for your dog’s age and health as well as specific advice on how much he should be eating. He can also check for, and treat, any weight-related problems.
Q: Chulbul is a two years old Lhasa who has dark tear stains. We clean his eyes with cotton – but the stains don’t go. Do advice if we can apply eye drops and how do we clean the tear stains?
– K Malik, Nasik
Dr KG Umesh: Chronic tearing (causing streak and staining of hairs) in dogs is often the result of breed related conformational abnormalities. Shallow orbits and prominent globes with tight-fitting lids and small lacrimal lakes, inflammation of lacrimal apparatus, obstruction of nasolacrimal duct (drain tears to nostrils), any irritation or pain due to eye or eyelid diseases can cause an overflow of tears from the conjunctival sac. Conditions that lead to excessive lacrimation should be ruled out before congenital or acquired dysfunction of the lacrimal drainage system is diagnosed. Your vet runs tests to evaluate nasolacrimal drainage system patency. Determination of the cause is essential before treatment can be instituted and requires a mechanistic approach at first. Treatment is aimed at correcting the primary problem such as lubricant therapy for dry eye, or canthoplasty surgery for lagophthalmos and exposure, allowing more effective distribution of tears.
Q: I have two children (aged seven and ten years) and Pumkin is our seven months old Labrador who keeps jumping over them. How do I teach Pumkin not to jump on my children?
– Mrinalini, Chattarpur
Dr KG Umesh: Pumpkin has a very friendly behaviour of wanting to greet people when he sees them. The tricky part is teaching him that it is good to greet people, but not by jumping up. He may have been rewarded for jumping up as a puppy, whether this was intentional or not, he has learnt that this is an acceptable way to greet. Shouting at him after he has already jumped will just confuse him as he has already performed the action. The best method to try and stop the dog from jumping is to try and retrain him, and it is always easier to start at home. If he jumps up to greet kids when they enter the house, just ignore him and give him no attention. Wait until he has all four paws on the ground. Wait for him to sit. If he doesn’t sit, tempt him with a small treat to sit and then praise him. Crouching to greet the dog should automatically stop him from jumping as kids are at his level, but wait until he is sitting and before kids do this. Teach the children to fold their arms, stand still and shout ‘off’ whilst showing the dog no eye contact. The dog will soon get bored as the child is not interested enough. Once you have established a good routine at home, you can start introducing him to other people. Some advise squeezing the paws (until it is uncomfortable for the dog) every time he jumps. Lastly, obedience classes will also be beneficial to him, as there will be general advice for all types of training and modification.