DEAR DR. FOX: I have a 3 1/2-year-old Akita mix who has been with us for the last two years. At first he was very aggressive with other dogs. It's getting better, but he has a way to go. Any suggestions?
Also, he has a strange habit: My daughter has a pair of plush leopard-print slippers that drive him crazy. He will drag my daughter around trying to remove them and starts to bite until we take them away. What do you think? -- B.H., Bethesda, Maryland
DEAR B.H.: I would get your daughter a plain pair of slippers and let your dog have the old pair for himself to fetch and "kill" while you engage in interactive play with him; otherwise, he may not respect physical boundaries. He could play too roughly and injure your daughter.
This breed can be assertive toward other dogs, which can become a problem when they are in their young adult stage (1 1/2-2 years old), and neutering is no guarantee of subduing dominance aggression. So your dog needs to be educated to develop self-control and internal inhibition, beginning with basic sit and stay training.
Spending time with a dog he likes in an off-leash enclosed park would be a big step toward dog-dog socialization.
DEAR DR. FOX: When my daughter moved into her ground-floor apartment, she discovered her cat, Reese. According to the custodian, Reese had been abandoned by her owners and for about three years had been living with a cat colony that took shelter in a nearby sewer. My daughter was able to gain her trust and take care of her with plenty of patience. They are both living with us for a while, and Reese has warmed up to all of us, even Lucy, our labradoodle.
However, Reese's rhinitis was out of control. Our vet assured us that she was contagious only to other felines. After a round of antibiotics, our vet suggested we try lysine drops in her food, as the condition is most likely herpes based. It has worked beautifully. She still sneezes and wakes up with drainage from her nose, but her breathing has improved and the condition lessened. My daughter also uses a steam humidifier on the occasion of a more intense flare-up.
Reese is a contented indoor cat who is still wary of strangers and refuses to be picked up. However, she cuddles with my daughter and looks to be petted by the rest of the family. -- J.M., Brick, New Jersey
DEAR J.M.: Thanks for confirming the evident benefits of giving lysine supplements to cats with compromised immune systems due to chronic herpes virus. A few drops of fish oil in the food can also help because of the oil's anti-inflammatory properties. And never discount the benefit of a biologically appropriate diet.
Chronic nasal discharge in cats is a common malady, and in some cases, the underlying issue is gingivitis, stomatitis or other dental problems, which can lead to sinus infection, tooth root and surrounding bone infection and erosion.
PET FOOD INGREDIENT MISLABELING INVESTIGATION
Pet food testing in Europe has found that 14 of 17 pet foods included meats not identified on product labels. Lack of pet food transparency is a worldwide concern.
Susan Thixton at truthaboutpetfood.com reports:
"In this study, researchers tested 17 popular brands of pet food sold in Europe. The study looked for animal protein sourced from cow, horse, pig and chicken. Of significant concern, 'there was detection at substantial levels of unspecified animal species in most products tested.'
"Unspecified animal species could be any animal other than cow, horse, pig and chicken."
Let us hope these researchers will do further DNA analysis to determine the exact animal that was dubbed "unspecified."
This problem has been noted in pet foods in the United States, too, and it is a grave issue in feeding dogs who are allergic to or intolerant of certain animal proteins, such as beef or chicken. It is also an ethical issue for purchasers who may wish to avoid feeding their dogs pig or horse meat. The questions of where the pet foods were manufactured and country of origin of ingredients include ethical and health concerns that have yet to be answered.
(Send all mail to email@example.com 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.)