DEAR DR. FOX: In one of your columns, you mentioned that to control fleas, there are several safe alternatives to potentially lethal pesticides. Would you please elaborate? -- N.B.-R., Key West, Florida
DEAR N.B.-R.: There are no simple solutions for keeping fleas at bay. Several steps need to be taken that include treating animals' environments as well as the animals themselves.
The constant use of drugs on cats and dogs to prevent fleas in those states where there is a flea season (not year-round infestation, as in Florida) should be questioned. When it comes to using the new-generation anti-flea and anti-tick drugs, potential health risks and adverse environmental consequences call for caution.
A flea comb for daily checkups is a must. Also, thoroughly vacuum the floors, carpets and furniture every week. Giving brewer's yeast with your pet's food (about 1/2 teaspoon per 20 pounds of body weight) also helps repel fleas. Food-grade diatomaceous earth rubbed into the animals' coat will kill the fleas, as will FleaBuster's borate powder, which you sprinkle on carpets, sides of furniture and cracks in the floor. Visit PetzLife.com for some other effective anti-flea and anti-tick products.
Most importantly, electronic anti-flea collars are a scam!
DEAR DR. FOX: Please tell me how to stop submissive urination by my 1-year-old female Chihuahua.
I've read at least eight books on Chihuahuas and found no reference to this problem, with the exception of one short sentence saying they'll outgrow it. Well, this one didn't.
We bought this dog at 12 weeks. She was easy to train, and all was well for about a month, then she began to slightly urinate when anyone petted her. By then we had fallen in love with her and tried everything to stop this problem: We approached her quietly, after she had time to settle down, and even got down to her level. No change. We hoped she'd outgrow this, especially after she was mature and spayed at 11 months -- still no change.
She seems shy, and we can't figure this out. She came form a loving home-breeder to our calm and quiet adult-only home; she's never been scolded.
She is ruining our carpets and upsetting anyone who visits us. This is frustrating beyond belief. Please help. -- G.C., Pompano Beach, Florida
DEAR G.C.: It is true that most dogs outgrow urination as a display of submission. Those who don't are either extremely submissive by nature or have developed a conditioned fear reaction to their caretakers, who either punish them or rush to clean up and thus frighten the dog.
Try ignoring your dog every time she piddles, and encourage her to play with you -- the rougher the better (I especially recommend tug of war with a knotted rope). As she develops more self-confidence and you stay calm whenever she piddles, you may well see increasing continence. If this fails, discuss hormone-replacement medication with your veterinarian to help improve urine retention and sphincter control.
"ORGANIC" BUT NOT NECESSARILY HUMANE
Many people who consume animal products and feed them to their cats and dogs have been relying on the United States Department of Agriculture's "Certified Organic" label as an indicator of humane treatment of farmed animals.
When I was an adviser during the time that the National Organic Standards for farmed animals were being drafted, it was agreed that in order to qualify for USDA organic certification, operations producing milk, meat and eggs must allow the animals access to the outdoors.
Now corporate agribusiness interests across the country are operating industrial-scale confinement facilities, providing no legitimate grazing, or even access to the outdoors, as required by federal regulations. Video documentation by Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute (cornucopia.org/organic-factory-farm-investigation) exposes this atrocity that needs to be addressed by state and federal lawmakers and regulators.
Voice your concerns to your state and congressional lawmakers, and call for a full investigation.
(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.)