Ask the Expert… l May-June 2014


Dr KG 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 currently working for WALTHAM as Regional Associate for South Asia.
Q: I have a one and a half years old Maltese female and we have just moved to Pune from France. How can I ensure she stays healthy and doesn’t get affected by ticks and fleas? She has a flea collar and we got frontline too. Is it safe to use both the collar and frontline? Also how do I protect her from the harsh heat?
–Siddhi, Chandigarh
Dr KG Umesh: Successful control of ticks and fleas depends on eliminating these pests from the dog and the environment. To control ticks or
Dr. KG Umesh
fleas on a dog, all animals in the household must be part of the flea/tick control programme. Flea and tick control products for adult dogs are available in different formats including oral medications. There are two basic categories of flea/tick control products: Adulticides (these products kill adult fleas) and Insect growth regulators (IGRs)/Insect development inhibitors (IDIs) (these products prevent fleas/ticks from hatching or maturing). 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. Thorough cleaning of the house and yard should precede any application of insecticides. It is always best to treat the dog and the environment on the same day. The use of these insecticides must be preceded by a thorough vacuuming; special attention should be paid to the areas under furniture, carpets, near pet bedding, and along moldings. Heat and heat stress affect skin and digestive health and in addition to heat stroke, the susceptible pets are prone to develop number of heat related diseases. Therefore, a well-balanced nutritionally complete diet confers some protection against the effects of heat stress. Feed during cooler part of the day, if possible, or increase frequency of feeding to pets as they tend to eat less in summer. Remember to give them plenty of water and avoid exercising your pet in the mid-day heat.
Q: My parents do not want to adopt a female dog and flatly refused. Please tell me which gender of dog to adopt?
–Yagya Sharma, Navi Mumbai
Dr KG Umesh: Males (particularly unneutered) can be more dominant, territorial and easily distracted than female dogs. On the other hand, males can also be more playful, active and independent. Female dogs tend to be easier to housebreak, easier to train and more connected with their pet parents but in certain circumstances they can be more demanding of attention. Aggression can be a problem in any dog of any breed, however it is usually more apparent in males and in intact males in particular. Male dogs tend to be larger than females of the same breed and may be a little more extrovert. Remember, female dogs come into season twice a year as part of their reproductive cycle and unless you are prepared to have her neutered, or use some other form of oestrous control, this could be an inconvenience. However, most dogs who are properly socialised as puppies and given the proper training and care can grow up to be wonderful companions – whether they are male or female.
Q: My German Shepherd, who is 10 years old, has been diagnosed with joint pain in the front legs and shoulder blade. He does not like going for his walks. How can I take care of him in terms of treatment and food?
–Vaishali Rawat, Jaisalmer
Dr KG Umesh: Osteoarthritis (OA) can be a progressive problem in which pain and disuse lead to further deterioration of joint movement and function. Physical rehabilitation can play an important role in the management of osteoarthritis. Therapeutic exercise and physical modalities (cryotherapy, thermotherapy, therapeutic ultrasound, and electrical stimulation) may be indicated to enhance motion or reduce pain, allowing improved function. Massage may be beneficial in reducing muscle spasms. Lifestyle changes, such as the use of ramps may also be considered. A physical therapy involves suitable exercise, avoiding obesity and, least important, medication. They are strongly recommended to prevent progression of joint disease. Low impact exercise is preferable, such as swimming or leashed walks. An optimal balanced nutrition helps to reduce the health risks associated with feeding excess nutrients such as calcium and phosphorus, which could aggravate skeletal problems, and also excess calories, which could lead to obesity and cause complications in joints. Many nutraceuticals and diets are promoted for management of joint problems, for example, use of Royal Canin ‘Mobility Support’ diet may benefit your pet. Please consult your vet before you make any change in the management.
Q: We have recently adopted two Chihuahuas (four months). Please give some tips for their dietary and exercise needs.
–Poonam Singh, Amritsar
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 puppy diets designed for specific stages of life and foods which deliver additional health benefits (puppy small breed). Other activities such as regular exercise (if not, will tend to gain weight), training, grooming and regular visits to the veterinarian are equally important to keep your dog happy and healthy. Maybe one of the most important aspects to ensure a happy relationship between you, your family and your dog is to ensure that your dog’s requirements can be matched by your lifestyle and environment. Remember, puppies grow almost 12 times faster than babies. Baby food or homemade food will not meet puppy’s dietary requirements. Prepared pet foods from reputable pet food manufacturers come with a guarantee of nutritional adequacy, quality and safety. Please remember that it is not possible to feed your dog a consistent and adequate home-prepared diet without considerable time, effort and expertise.
Q: Heera, my eight-month-old Lab, each time we want to take him for a walk he holds his leash in his mouth and makes us run after him for 15-20 minutes. Only after this game, he is happy and we can take him out. This happens both in the morning and evening. Why does he do it and how can we train him not to do it?
–H Joshi, Faridabad
Dr KG Umesh: It is not uncommon for pets do exhibit this behaviour and most of the pet parents enjoy this moment before they take their pets for walk. To train a dog most effectively, we need to understand how dogs learn. Learning in the ‘doggy world’ consists of trying out new behaviours and seeing what happens as a consequence of this behaviour. If the behaviour (action) is followed by a good consequence, this behaviour will be repeated. One example could be begging at the table which is rewarded by getting food. If the behaviour (for example, the begging) is, however, followed by a negative consequence (in this case, no food given), the behaviour will eventually be stopped. Effective training should work on the same principle and 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). Some of the remedies include teaching your dog to sit, even when excited. You’ll start this training in unexciting situations and gradually build to more and more exciting situations until the dog is totally steady. Always praise and reward during the desired behaviour, the sit. Keep your dog under leash or other control for about 15 minutes until he is settled. The best correction for this behaviour is to withhold attention. Ignore and turn your back on the dog, or leave the room, until your pet has progressed to the point of being able to ‘sit’ on cue. If you are unsure, seek professional trainer’s help.