Pet Connection by Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker

DOGGED PURSUIT OF THE TRUTH

Last week, I offered a short quiz for cat lovers. In the interest of fairness, I've pulled out a few questions for dog lovers. How well do you know our canine companions?

1. Which of these dogs is "made in America"?

(a) The toy fox terrier

(b) The Australian shepherd

(c) Chesapeake Bay retriever

(d) All of them

2. What were Labradoodles first bred for?

(a) Service dogs

(b) Circus dogs

(c) Their funny-sounding name

(d) As a source of curly fur for yarn

3. Which of these statements is true:

(a) A dog wagging his tail will not bite.

(b) A barking dog will not bite.

(c) A dog who's afraid of you will not bite

(d) Any dog is capable of biting.

4. The earliest a puppy can be spayed or neutered is:

(a) 9 months

(b) 8 weeks

(c) 6 months

(d) 5 months

5. The Labrador retriever has been the most popular American Kennel Club breed of dog for more than a decade. Which breed was the Labrador's predecessor at the top of the list?

(a) Golden retriever

(b) Cocker spaniel

(c) Poodle

(d) Boxer

6. Define "dewclaws":

(a) Special pads that help detect moisture on the grass

(b) Vestigial toes found on the legs of some dogs

(c) An operation to remove claws

(d) A type of nail-trimmer

7. Which of these is not a "sighthound"?

(a) Bloodhound

(b) Whippet

(c) Irish wolfhound

(d) Greyhound

8. How many teeth does a dog normally have?

(a) 36

(b) 42

(c) 28

(d) 46

9. If a dog has a cold, wet nose, his temperature is normal. True or false?

10. "Terriers" got their names from:

(a) Their delight in tearing things to bits

(b) Their ability to dig after prey or follow their prey underground

(c) Their tenacious nature

(d) Their small size

ANSWERS

1. (d) According to the American Kennel Club, breeds developed in the United States include: The Alaskan malamute, American Eskimo dog, American foxhound, American water spaniel, American Staffordshire terrier, Australian shepherd, black and tan coonhound, Boston terrier, Chesapeake Bay retriever, Plott hound and toy fox terrier. There are other American breeds not recognized by the AKC, including the Boykin spaniel, various coonhounds and the Catahoula leopard dog. (You read that right: The Australian shepherd in an American dog.)

2. (a) Labradoodles, a cross between a poodle (usually a standard) and a Labrador retriever, were originally bred in Australia in hopes of developing a service dog with the low-allergy coat of the poodle. The Labradoodle kicked off the current fashion of creatively named mixed-breed dogs, the most currently "hot" of which is the puggle, a mix of beagle and pug.

3. (d) Animal experts warn that any dog is capable of biting. Stiff, upright posture and an erect, wagging tail can be signs of aggression. Other dogs may bite if in pain or frightened.

4. (b) Although most dogs are neutered just before sexual maturity, puppies can safely altered as early as 8 weeks of age. Neutering before sexual maturity can help with behavior problems in male dogs and health problems in females. (And help reduce pet overpopulation, of course!)

5. (c) The poodle -- toy, miniature and standard combined -- was once America's top dog. Cockers have also enjoyed a long run at the top.

6. (b) Dewclaws are vestigial toes found up the inside of a dog's leg. Not all dogs have them, and some who are born with them have them removed. Some dogs, like the Great Pyrenees, have double dewclaws on their hind legs. Special care must be taken to keep the nails on dewclaws trimmed, because they don't touch the ground so do not get ground down at all.

7. (a) The bloodhound is a "scenthound" -- a dog who hunts by following a scent trail. Sighthounds follow movement with their eyes and run down their quarry with their speed.

8. (b) Around 3 months of age, the 28 puppy teeth will start falling out, to be replaced with 42 permanent teeth. Puppy teeth come in at 8 weeks and are usually gone by the age of 6 months to 8 months.

9. False. A dog's temperature is normal when it's 101 degrees Fahrenheit to 102.5 F, as determined by a rectal thermometer.

10. (b) The name "terrier" is derived from "terra," or "earth," and reflects these dogs' ability to follow their prey underground.

How'd you do? If you got them all right, you really know your dogs. If you got fewer than half right, don't despair. You know your dog still loves you.

Q&A

Cheap option on heartworm?

Q: I agree with you that drugs to prevent heartworm are essential for any dog living in the South. But I am surprised you didn't offer people on limited incomes the obvious solution. Ivermectin, the ingredient in dog heartworm pills, is a common over-the-counter livestock medicine. Pennies a dose! -- M.Y., via e-mail

A: While it's true that Ivermectin is given to livestock as well as dogs, I don't recommend that anyone give medication of any kind to pets before checking with a veterinarian.

If you wish to ensure the safe use of any form of Ivermectin in your pet, ask your veterinarian for advice. Although the safety record on Ivermectin is good, the drug could be deadly if given to a dog already infested with heartworms. Testing for heartworms is a must before preventive medication is started. An additional concern: Some breeds -- notably collies -- have problems with the drug.

Incidentally, heartworm disease is not just a problem in the Southern United States -- it's been found in all states. No matter where you live, it's a pretty good bet your dog should be on heartworm prevention. Cats, too, can become infested with heartworms.

Talk to your veterinarian about how to prevent heartworm disease in your pets.

Key to a problem

Q: My 85-pound Labrador retriever swallowed a key that is part of the remote to lock the car. He has shown no problems, and we have not found anything in his feces. I called the emergency vet when it happened on Christmas Day, and she said just to keep an eye on him. What are your thoughts? -- M.A., via e-mail

A: If your dog is eating, drinking and eliminating normally, there's probably nothing to worry about. In fact, you may have already missed the key's re-emergence, despite checking for it. Follow up with your regular veterinarian, though. If the key is still in there, it may be possible to remove it without surgery through the use of endoscopy.

Labradors are well-known in veterinary offices for their eagerness to consume just about anything that's not nailed down -- and even some things that are. Socks, underwear, rocks, keys, toys, cell phones -- if it can fit in the mouth, there's a Labrador who will swallow it. The best cure for this is preventive, especially with young dogs. Keep anything that can be swallowed picked up and put out of reach of your dog.

While many swallowed objects will pass through without causing problems, others can be deadly. If a pet vomits, loses interest in eating or drinking or otherwise seems "off" after ingesting a foreign body, you'll need your veterinarian's help.

Checking for fat

Q: I have a Lab-shepherd mix. He weighs in at 86 pounds to 90 pounds, but I wouldn't say he's fat. A German shepherd by nature is a big dog, so depending on which characteristics a mixed breed ends up with will mean a lot. I think if the dog's height and length are more in line with a German shepherd than a Lab, then expect more weight. What do you think? -- T.B., via e-mail

A: It doesn't really matter what the mix is. It's pretty easy to tell when a dog's at the right weight, and it's determined by physical attributes, not by a scale.

Although ribs should not be visible, they should be able to be easily felt under the skin, with a small -- repeat, small! -- padding of flesh over them. The dog should also have a definite tuck-up of a waist when viewed from the side or a tuck-in from above. If you're not sure, ask your veterinarian. Once the healthy weight for a dog is determined, you can check his weight every so often, along with his physical appearance, to see how he is doing.

(Do you have a pet question? Send it to petconnection@gmail.com.)

PET Rx

Cat tails can and do break

Image: fluffy tail (Universal/Richard Schmidt)

Caption: A tail is more than beautiful: It's one of the ways cats communicate.

Cats get their tails broken in many ways. A child might pull a tail, or a tail might get caught in a closing door. A tail can get bitten during a cat fight and, of course, automobile accidents can easily lead to dislocated or broken tails. One might think a tail break would involve an obvious external wound, but usually this is not the case. Instead, nerve damage is the usual tip-off.

Cats with broken tails might show such symptoms as:

-- A tail that drags or is never held high.

-- Involuntary dribbling of urine, or litter box problems.

-- Lack of coordination of the rear legs.

An X-ray will often confirm a break in the tail or a dislocation, although in some cases the tail bones are intact. How permanent the problems are depends largely on whether the nerves have been overstretched or actually torn. In many cases, if a trauma is severe enough to break the tail, there may be additional injuries as well.

Your veterinarian will evaluate the severity of your cat's condition and discuss treatment options.

(Pet Rx is provided by the Veterinary Information Network (VIN.com), an online service for veterinary professionals. More information can be found at www.veterinarypartner.com.)

PET TIP

Indoor cats can enjoy a stroll

Indoor cats can be trained to enjoy an outing outdoors on leash, and for this treat, you need a harness. (Because cat collars are made to enable cats to slip out of them, don't use a collar with a leash.)

Choose a harness designed for cats, not for dogs, in a figure-eight design. As collars do, harnesses come in many colors, with lightweight leashes to match.

Don't expect your cat to heel like a dog. Walking a cat really consists of encouraging your pet to explore, with you following, offering plenty of praise and maybe a treat or two.

Never leave your cat tethered and unattended, which leaves him vulnerable to attack or to a terrifying time of hanging suspended from his harness should he try to get over a fence.

THE SCOOP

Good groomer a necessity for many dogs

For dogs such as poodles, bichons and many terriers, finding a good groomer is almost a necessity, because the coat-maintenance involved with these breeds is beyond the ability or interest of most pet lovers.

For many other dogs, such as collies, spaniels and the like, regular attention from a professional groomer can make at-home coat maintenance such as combing and brushing more manageable, and can keep dogs looking and smelling better.

About the only dogs who don't benefit much from a groomer's touch are shorthaired pets, whose coats are easy enough for the average person to maintain.

Start your groomer search by asking friends, neighbors and co-workers for recommendations. Your dog's veterinarian or trainer may also be able to refer you to one.

Avoid groomers who hold your pet for much longer than the time it takes to groom him. A good groomer should need only two to four hours, at most, for a routine wash and clip, unless your dog is matted and tangled. If the groomer wants your dog dropped off in the morning and can't say when he'll be done, find another groomer. There's no reason for your dog to hang out all day when he's not being worked on.

You have a role to play, too. Don't wait so long between appointments that your dog is full of mats and then expect the groomer to be able to work them out. Listen to your groomer: If she says clipping the coat away is the best way to go, you're better off following her advice than subjecting your dog to hours of fur-pulling.

Make sure, too, that the groomer is clear on what you expect your dog to look like when she's done if clipping is involved. And if you don't want bows, nail polish and perfume, don't forget to speak up beforehand.

BY THE NUMBERS

Top dogs for 2005

America loves retrievers, with Labradors and goldens coming in at the top spots in just-released ranking of American Kennel Club registrations for 2005. Small dogs continue to rise in popularity, with more than half of the dogs in the top 10 of the diminutive variety.

1. Labrador retriever

2. Golden retriever

3. Yorkshire terrier

4. German shepherd

5. Beagle

6. Dachshund

7. Boxer

8. Poodle

9. Shih tzu

10. Miniature schnauzer

PETS ON THE WEB

Behavior advice on problem birds

Not that long ago most pet parrots were wild-caught, and these frightened, confused birds were often poor companions. The parrot earned a reputation as a pet who would just as soon bite you as look at you.

From a parrot's point of view, the biting made sense. They were reacting in the only way they knew how to protect themselves in an environment they found unfamiliar and often frightening.

Today's pet parrots are mostly hand-raised and socialized to understand that people won't hurt them. But biting can still be a problem, only now it's often the sign of a relationship that has gotten off-track.

Parrot behavior expert Liz Wilson knows a lot about what makes parrots bite, and shares information on how to stop the behavior as part of an excellent series of articles on the Up at Six Web site (www.upatsix.com/liz).

Gina Spadafori is the award-winning author of "Dogs for Dummies," "Cats for Dummies" and "Birds for Dummies." She is also affiliated with the Veterinary Information Network Inc., an international online service for veterinary professionals. Write to her in care of this newspaper, or send e-mail to petconnection@gmail.com. You can also read her frequently updated Web log or view her column archives at www.spadafori.com.

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