The Animal Doctor

DEAR READERS: On Feb. 3, The New York Times reported, the “Agriculture Department has removed animal welfare inspection reports, enforcement records and other information about the treatment of animals from its website, citing privacy and other laws. ... A spokeswoman for USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service would not say if the removal was temporary or permanent in the new Trump administration. The information is used by advocacy groups and other members of the public to look up information on commercial dog and horse breeders, some of whom have had a history of abuse. The reports included lists of animal welfare violations at those facilities and also at animal testing labs, and whether those violations have been corrected.”

This unconscionable action by the Trump administration to protect vested interests, regardless of animal suffering, which parallels the dismembering of the Environmental Protection Agency, is an assault on civil society. It is yet another regrettable affirmation of my book "Inhumane Society: The American Way of Exploiting Animals."

I just signed the petition, “Tell the USDA to stop hiding animal cruelty from American taxpayers.” I think this is important. Will you sign it, too?

Here’s the link:

DEAR DR. FOX: I just got an 8-week-old golden retriever, and I have a couple of questions. I would really like to make his food but am not sure of the following:

-- Should the recipe be changed at all for puppies? I thought large-breed puppies should maybe have a different formula.

-- How often and how much should I feed my puppy?

My sister makes your dog food recipe for her senior lab, and it works great. -- M.B., Miami

DEAR M.B.: After a puppy has been weaned and is eating solid food, I advise giving the pup a variety of different kinds of food with different ingredients. Every three to four days, offer him a different main protein such as eggs, then chicken, then cottage cheese, along with various fruits, vegetables and a small quantity of whole grains such as brown rice, amaranth and quinoa. My home-prepared diet includes this consideration. It is not so much that variety is the spice of life as food variety early in life can help reduce the chances of food allergies and intolerance later in life, possibly by increasing the diversity of beneficial bacteria in the digestive system -- the "microbiome."

I would also advise feeding your dog various manufactured dog foods high in protein that are either frozen or freeze-dried. Your pup should be fed four times daily, essentially giving him as much as he will eat to the point of satiation, then measuring out the approximate amount for each serving, increasing the amount as the pup grows. Weigh the pup every week to be sure there is weight gain. It is important for some breeds such as Labrador pups to eat a lower-calorie diet because of the breed's genetic propensity for obesity and subsequent joint and other related health problems later in life.

After 4 months of age, feed your dog three meals a day, and between 6 months and 1 year -- or when the dog is fully grown, based on his breed -- lower it to two meals daily. Large dogs and those with deep chests should be fed three smaller meals daily and never exercised after eating. Older dogs with poorer digestion do better on three small meals a day or 2 1/2 plus digestive enzymes.

DEAR DR. FOX: I just read the letter about the poodle who sneaks into the carpeted bedroom to urinate.

My rescued border collie mix has had this problem in two different homes. Each time, I solved the issue by feeding her next several meals in the area where she had urinated. Feeding her in that part of the house helped her understand that it was part of her living space and not an area where she could relieve herself.

I highly recommend giving this a try. -- B.K., Takoma Park, Maryland

DEAR B.K.: Your suggestion makes eminent sense to me. Getting into a dog's mind calls for close observation before trying some behavior modification strategy.

Many dogs have the cognitive abilities of a relatively mature human but the emotional intelligence of a 3- to 5-year-old child (with some exceptions with highly attentive and empathetic dogs that surpass many adult humans), and a much more variable verbal comprehension. Also, their motivation and attentiveness can vary greatly. So what may work in modifying the behavior of one dog may not succeed with another.

Especially important is remembering that what we say when we talk to our dogs is not always as important as how we say it -- I call this the emotional tone. Yet it is amazing how dogs do keep attuned to our conversations and can pick up specific words and short sentences. Example: If I use the words “go out” or “ready” in general conversation with other people, our attentive, newly adopted dog Kota jumps up, ready to go for a walk; she has learned that it is walk time when I say, “Kota, are you ready to go out?”

(Send all mail to or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

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