DEAR DR. FOX: I volunteer with a local animal rescue, and as you can well imagine, with all the different volunteers who come and go, there are always treats being given to the dogs. In the course of a day, people give all different kinds of dog treats, as well as people food like cheese, chicken, hot dogs, liverwurst -- the list goes on. I asked a volunteer about it, and she got very defensive and said that she asked if she could give treats and was told she could. While we are not prohibited from giving the dogs treats, we should be wary of all the stuff they get over the course of the day. I pointed out obesity and loose stools they have because of all the different crud they're eating. I suggested putting a list on each dog's cage where volunteers have to write down what they give on that day. Then we really will know how much the dogs are getting. The problem is that volunteers would have to be honest.
Treats should be used for rewarding, not to calm a growling or barking dog, which reinforces that behavior. Yet people give treats thinking they will shut the dog up. They give treats because they like giving treats, and they also give treats because they feel sorry for the dogs being in a kennel, even though these dogs get an amazing amount of human socialization. Maybe you can enlighten us to your experience on this issue. -- V.B., Howell, New Jersey
DEAR V.B.: I agree with you absolutely, but volunteers can be difficult to deal with diplomatically; many become defensive when their intentions and affections are questioned. But you can show affection in other ways than giving treats. It might be best to prohibit all treat-giving except for those provided by the shelter in set amounts.
Giving treats can help establish trust and reward desired behaviors, but all things in moderation!
You are correct that giving treats to barking dogs can reward them for barking, as I have mentioned earlier in my column. Some dogs may need to be on a fat- or grain-free diet, and some treats, notably those imported from China, have made dogs ill and even killed them.
The recipe for my home-prepared dog treats, made primarily with buckwheat, is posted on my website, DrFoxVet.net. A volunteer could make batches for the shelter to be given appropriately and in moderation.
DRINKING WATER CONCERNS
As a veterinarian, I am concerned about the quality and safety of drinking water people provide for their animal companions. Older animals -- who drink more water because of kidney and other health issues -- and cats -- who may be finicky drinkers and not maintain adequate hydration, especially when fed only dry food -- are of special concern. Water purification is needed to remove pollutants in most water supplies anywhere in the world. For details, see my article on DrFoxVet.net.
The most effective water-purification methods (such as reverse osmosis and distillation) and filter systems (Zero Water) remove not only contaminants but also minerals from water, including essential minerals such as calcium and magnesium, which are normally present in drinking water in electrolyte form. These mineral electrolytes are needed for optimal hydration. This is not necessarily achieved when these essential minerals are only present in food. It is for these reasons that I put a few drops of EMDROPS in our filtered, demineralized drinking water for my family, including our animals. For more details, visit watermins.com
(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.net.)