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

Paris Pup

It’s a dog’s life in the French capital of art and style

By Kim Campbell Thornton

Andrews McMeel Syndication

The French don’t push pets in strollers. Stares, pointing, odd expressions and sometimes even laughter followed us as we rolled our Top Paw over cobblestoned walkways in Paris and Versailles, our cavalier King Charles spaniel Harper riding in stately splendor.

Harper was in a stroller because she was recuperating from heart surgery, but of course onlookers didn’t know that. They just thought we were crazy Americans with a spoiled dog.

Cultural contrasts between American and European pet owners touch all areas, including acceptance in public places, health care and even potty rules. As a traveler, especially one accompanied by a dog, it’s fascinating to experience the differences firsthand -- even when someone stops to tell me that people are laughing at my dog in a stroller.

On the plus side, Harper enjoyed dining with us at Chez Michel, one of our favorite Paris restaurants. Even though I had emailed in advance to ensure that she would be welcome there, I was a little hesitant as I walked in to claim our reservation. But the hostess showed us right to our table and brought a bowl of water for Harper. To other diners, she was obviously nothing out of the ordinary; they paid her no attention. At home, when we’re seated outdoors at restaurants, passersby can’t resist stopping to pet her as she mugs for attention. In Paris, she adopted Gallic savoir faire and refrained from trying to visit people at other tables.

Some things are the same in France and the U.S. Dogs aren’t allowed in grocery stores or bakeries, for instance. Usually farmers markets are a "non non," as well. But Harper has ridden public transportation in both San Francisco and Paris. In both cities, well-behaved dogs are permitted on subways, although there is sometimes a requirement for the dog to be in a carrier or to be muzzled. Department stores, boutiques and businesses in both countries may or may not allow dogs, depending on the typical clientele and the attitudes of owners.

Parks are a different matter entirely. In the U.S., dogs frequent most grassy, open spaces, or even have parks devoted solely to them. Not so in France. Park areas are strictly for humans, with signs at entrances reading “chiens interdit” (“no dogs allowed”). Rare exceptions include Parc Montsouris in the 14th arrondissement, the north end of the Tuileries and the south end of the Luxembourg Gardens.

Dogs are expected to do their business in the street, not in park grass. You may have heard that French sidewalks are a minefield of dog poop, but that is less the case these days, thanks to hefty fines for people who don’t pick up.

Dogs must wear a leash in most public places. Identification is required as well, in the form of a tattoo or microchip.

French veterinary hospitals -- at least the one we went to -- are much the same as those in the U.S. Pet owners sit with their German shepherds, Labs, Brittanys or cats in the lobby, waiting to be seen. On the walls are posters about parasites, and shelves are filled with bags and cans of name-brand pet foods. Interestingly, some pet food brands are sold in shops that carry nothing else -- no toys, treats or other pet paraphernalia. Pet boutiques in Paris include BHV La Niche, Moustaches and one known simply as Dog Store.

Regardless of differences in laws, culture or philosophy of pet lovers at home and abroad, French and American animal aficionados share one thing in common: Their humans love and dote on them, even if it’s expressed in different ways.

Vive la difference!


Altitude can

affect pets

Q: Can pets get altitude sickness? What are the signs?

A: Yes, they can. It’s not especially common, but it does occur.

For more details, I asked an expert for more information: Karen Sanderson, DVM, a veterinary cardiologist at Rocky Mountain Veterinary Cardiology in Boulder, Colorado. She says the pets she sees who typically have a problem are those who experience severe rises in pulmonary artery pressures. Problems may be seen at elevations of 6,000 feet and higher.

“The decrease in oxygen tension here causes the pulmonary arteries to constrict,” Dr. Sanderson says. “If the pet already has some pulmonary hypertension, the additional constriction may push them into the severe category and cause clinical symptoms.”

Not surprisingly, the breeds at highest risk are brachycephalic dogs such as boxers, bulldogs and pugs. Dr. Sanderson also sees cases in small-breed dogs such as Chihuahuas. Pets who may have mild pulmonary hypertension at sea level can become worse at altitude. Senior dogs may be at risk as well. It’s not a seasonal problem, but many of the cases Dr. Sanderson sees are in summer because people are on vacation during that time.

Signs include labored breathing and fainting. Pets may also vomit or have diarrhea or lose their appetite. If you are moving or you take your pet on vacation to an area at high altitude, such as certain parts of Colorado or New Mexico, your pet will likely be fine, but if you notice those signs, take him to the nearest emergency clinic for oxygen and medical support. Most animals recover well after treatment and returning to their normal altitude.

“Pets without known heart disease should do fine,” Dr. Sanderson says. “The rare times they experience problems would be difficult to anticipate.” -- Dr. Marty Becker

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Why do we say

“dog days of summer”?

-- The sweltering heat of August brings what’s known as the “dog days” of summer. It harks back to ancient Rome, when the Latin phrase “caniculares dies,” or “days of the dogs,” was used to refer to the period between the first week in July and the second week in August. The reference is to Sirius, known as the Dog Star because of its association with Canis Major, part of the constellation known as Orion the Hunter. Although Sirius isn’t visible in the summer night sky, it was so bright at other times that Roman astronomers believed it contributed to the heat of the sun during those hot midsummer days. We know today that Sirius is too far away to affect temperatures on Earth, but the phrase remains as a colorful part of our language.

-- Age and progression of myxomatous mitral valve disease and heart failure in dogs brings changes in circulating exosome microRNA. That discovery, published in the Journal of Extracellular Vesicles by researchers at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, may improve the monitoring of dogs and humans with heart disease. Veterinary cardiologist Vicky Yang, the study’s lead author, believes the finding “could open doors to novel molecular targets to slow or halt the progression of mitral valve disease to heart failure.”

-- Journalists, authors, bloggers, poets, photographers and illustrators still have time to enter the annual writing contest of the Dog Writers Association of America. Beyond the Maxwell Medallion, awarded to winners in such categories as health, behavior or training articles, graphics, poetry, short fiction and more, entrants can compete for a total of $14,000 in special awards. The largest are two $2,000 awards sponsored by Fear Free LLC. The deadline for entries is Sept. 8. For more information and entry forms, go to -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker


Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.