DEAR DR. FOX: I bought a Maltese puppy for my great-granddaughter. The dog is about 3 years old.
He was very difficult to train, as I've heard this breed is. He has now started to pee and poop in the house.
We take him out, but he still pees in the house. We keep him confined to the kitchen now because he has peed on the TV stand, recliner, coffee table, etc. I can't get rid of him because my great-granddaughter is so attached.
Any advice you can give us will be appreciated. -- P.S., Chesapeake, Va.
DEAR P.S.: Maltese terriers and other small breeds do seem to have a higher incidence of cognitive impairment when it comes to toilet training, especially compared to other breeds.
This urination activity in your home calls for some analysis. If he is straining and having difficulty or pain while urinating, your dog may have a urinary tract or bladder infection or stones. A veterinary checkup is then urgently needed.
If he is raising his leg and marking, this could be hormone-related territorial behavior. There's also the probability that it could be anxiety-driven if there is some cause for emotional stress in his environment. Ask yourself if he is anxious for some reason, and address that problem. Is he taken out frequently enough? Does he need more attention and physical activities?
It could also be a habit triggered by the residual scent where he has urinated before. Use an enzyme cleaner on all soiled areas. Let him out of his kitchen confinement on a long leash and harness for control. Pull him up short as soon as he sniffs and readies to urinate. Carry him outside and put him on a pee-pee pad already marked with his urine (or placed in the kitchen). Be sure to give lots of praise and a treat after he urinates.
Many small breeds are amenable to pee-pee pad training (which is a blessing for apartment living). Check out thepetloo.com for an indoor toilet system for small dogs.
DEAR DR. FOX: I have a 5-year-old domestic shorthair spayed female cat who started to compulsively lick her stomach and the backs of her legs. It got to the point where she had licked off most of her hair.
The vet said there was no way to figure out why she was doing this and wanted to put her on a behavioral medication. Before going this route, I tried changing her food from one with chicken as the main ingredient to one with no chicken at all. Within a week of the diet change, my cat had stopped the obsessive licking.
It has been about six months since the diet change. I have been observing her closely and have not seen any obsessive licking, but her fur is still very thin. It grew back a little, but not much.
Do you have any suggestions for anything I might add to her diet to help with fur growth, or is this how she is going to look from now on? -- J.K., Mount Rainier, Md.
DEAR J.K: I applaud your initiative and regret the limited scope of possible causes and treatments your veterinarian offered.
Hypersensitivity or allergic reaction to certain ingredients in the cat's diet and hyperthyroidism are two considerations to be ruled out before making a behavioral, anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder treatment decision.
It is quite possible that there is some ingredient other than chicken underlying your cat's malady. It could also be compounded by the beginnings of thyroid disease -- hyperthyroidism is very prevalent in cats who groom themselves excessively.
Fish oil, wild salmon and mackerel, or sardines rich in omega-3 fatty acids can do wonders for cats' dermal health, helping make for thick, lustrous coats. Always introduce any new supplement or food ingredient gradually, beginning with a minute amount mixed in with regular food. Also note that some cats are allergic to fish, so organic, free-range, grass-fed beef and butter can be good omega-3 sources.
(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.)