DEAR DR. FOX: My wife and I are now in our mid-70s. We live comfortably in a beautiful home and neighborhood on the New Jersey shore.
Except for my time away in college and the Army, I’ve always had a dog. The last three lived over 16 years since puppyhood. Living close to the beach and having a good-sized backyard, the dogs got lots of healthy exercise, health care and love.
Our last dog, a wonderful mixed-breed Lab, died two years ago. We really miss having a dog like her with us.
Dilemma: We want another dog, but are concerned that because of our age, even though we’re in relatively good health, the dog may outlive us. We don’t want to leave the dog without a fine home. The last three dogs were adopted from rescue organizations. We would do the same again.
Any words of wisdom? -- S.C., Ocean Township, New Jersey
DEAR S.C.: You raise a valid question indeed, because many people at your age and missing a dog in their lives go out and adopt one that is young, energetic and often too much to handle -- in addition to possibly outliving them. I would look for a middle-aged dog, at least 5-6 years old, who is house- and leash-trained and easygoing.
Contact your local shelter. I hesitate going on the internet to find a suitable dog because there are scammers out there, and you should see the dog first, anyway, before considering adoption. The shelter should provide you with a full background history, why the dog was surrendered, a behavioral evaluation and possibly also past veterinary health records and a clean bill of health.
Most shelters have an experienced staffer to help with proper placement, fitting the temperament and age of the dog with the person/family/lifestyle where the dog may be going. They should also request an in-home follow-up visit after the adoption.
Let them know what kind of dog you are looking for, and they should call you when a suitable dog comes in, such as an older one whose owner has died or has moved to a no-pets retirement home. Old dogs generally adapt very well to new homes, destroying the myth that they get too set in their ways. But all dogs may show signs of separation anxiety until they feel they are in a forever-home and settle down in their new pack.
Keep me posted!
DEAR DR. FOX: Our 5-year-old female Shih Tzu was once house-trained, but a few months ago she began urinating in our dining room. Initially she was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection, which was treated. She lets us know when she wants to play or eat, but not always when she wants to go out. X-rays show there are no bladder stones. Why has she stopped letting us know she needs to go out? What should we do? -- L.O., Neptune, New Jersey
DEAR L.O., You are fortunate that your dog is small, so the quantity of urine being voided is also small. It is important to know if she is simply involuntarily dripping urine because she is incontinent or if she is actually squatting and urinating. If the latter, encourage her to use a disposable pee-pad you place on the floor where she is most likely to urinate. If you suspect incontinence due to weak control of the bladder sphincter -- common in neutered female dogs -- consult with your veterinarian, who will prescribe medication. I am of the old school of hormone replacement medication (with diethylstilbestrol), with many dogs requiring only periodic medication twice daily.
It is also possible that there has been a recurrence of the cystitis. Reducing the grain content of her diet and giving her a 250 mg capsule of cranberry concentrate may help reduce bladder inflammation and make the urine more naturally acidic.
GREYHOUND DOG RACING IN FLORIDA
From Christine A. Dorchak, Esq., president and general counsel of greyhound advocacy group GREY2K USA Worldwide:
“Earlier this month, (Florida State) Senator Tom Lee filed a Constitutional amendment to phase out greyhound racing in Florida. This historic proposal is the first official attempt to end greyhound racing in the Sunshine State.
“It will gradually phase out dog racing over three years, and importantly, repeal the state mandate for greyhound racing. In order to pass, the amendment will first have to be approved by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission. If the CRC gives it a green light, the humane proposal will then appear on the 2018 statewide ballot.
“This is a common-sense proposal that will have broad support from the humane and business community.
“Greyhound racing is cruel and inhumane. According to state records, a racing dog dies every three days at a Florida dog track. Greyhounds endure lives of severe confinement, and are given dangerous drugs including anabolic steroids. Recent news stories have also revealed the use of cocaine in a likely attempt to fix races.
“If approved by voters, Senator Lee’s proposal will end this terrible treatment for good and send a message around the world that the state which first legalized dog racing has now seen the light.”
For more on this issue, visit grey2kusa.org.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 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.)