DEAR DR. FOX: My sister adopted a female German shepherd, Cassidy, from a rescue organization about two years ago, at which time the vet believed she was a little more than 4 years old.
Monday through Thursday, Cassidy is in contact with her owner and her regular dog walker (me). On the weekends, Friday afternoon through Sunday evening, she is cared for by two other family members at a different location, approximately 25 minutes away by car.
Is it harmful for Cassidy, either emotionally or physically, to be shuttled back and forth between her owner and the other family members? Is it confusing or upsetting for her to maintain this schedule on a weekly basis? All parties involved would like to continue with the current arrangement, but only if it is not detrimental to Cassidy in any way. -- S.M.P., Gaithersburg, Md.
DEAR S.M.P.: I appreciate your concern. Most dogs would enjoy this kind of extended pack and two-den lifestyle, since it provides more varied stimulation and environmental enrichment, rather than seeing the same people and places day in and day out.
I am happy to see dog owners linking up on the Internet and community bulletin boards for dog play groups. It's even good for a person with a dog to take in others while their owners are away at work -- yes, a doggie day care business.
Boredom, loneliness and separation anxiety are modern dog burdens. Having more than one dog and a dog walker to get your pet outside for stimulation and physical activity during the workweek are responsible decisions. A happy dog is a healthy dog.
DEAR DR. FOX: How often should a dog be bathed? My sister insists that her Chihuahua needs to be bathed every week or so, and I say it dries out his coat and he doesn't need it. What is your opinion? -- P.O., Cumberland, Md.
DEAR P.O.: There are no set rules beyond those of common sense. You could be right about drying out the dog's coat. Too-frequent shampooing can also encourage skin infections when the protective oils and healthy skin bacteria are washed away. Some dogs never need bathing, just a daily brushing. Older dogs often need to be bathed as soon as they get stinky -- for their own comfort and for those living with them. This may be every two weeks or so, especially for those with naturally oily skin. There are spritzes and dry shampoos on the market that can help deodorize dogs' coats, like Bath Eaze from PetzLife. You can try to make up your own spray using an emulsion of 100 parts water, 100 parts aloe vera liquid or coconut milk and 1 part lavender essential oil.
I would advise bathing any dog who has been swimming in the ocean, where salt residues can be irritating to the skin, or in a lake or pond, where harmful bacteria, algae and parasites can flourish during warm summer months. Remember: Do not let your pet quench his thirst from these potentially harmful natural sources. Some kinds of blue-green algae can kill dogs within hours, and fecal (human and animal) contaminants such as cryptosporidium, salmonella, shigella, E. coli and norovirus can put all bathers at risk, especially those with compromised immune systems.
49 PEOPLE SICKENED BY CONTAMINATED PET FOOD
Salmonella-contaminated dry dog food from Diamond Pet Food Processors' plant in Gaston, S.C., sickened 47 people in the U.S. and two in Canada, the Centers for Disease Control reported. This figure is probably low because victims may have become mildly ill or attributed their condition to food poisoning that doctors and other health authorities failed to connect with this contaminated pet food. People can become ill by direct exposure to the food or by contact with animals who consumed it. No fatalities were reported.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 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.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.com.)