DEAR READERS: I am posting this warning to all dog owners. When being walked outside on a leash, most dogs can be spooked by loud, sudden noises or by an off-leash dog rushing at them. If they pull backwards while the leash is being held, their collars can quickly slip over their heads, putting them at risk of getting lost or running into traffic.
I strongly advise that all dogs be walked wearing their regular collars with ID and rabies vaccination tags, but with the leash attached to a well-fitting harness around the dog's chest and shoulders. This will prevent any panic-triggered escape and possible tragic loss of a beloved canine companion. It will also prevent injury to the trachea, which can be damaged when dogs pull hard on the leash and the collar puts pressure on the windpipe. And remember: Never use a choke-chain collar.
DEAR DR. FOX: I have befriended a stray cat who is probably an abandoned pet. I believe this cat would be happy to come inside and stay there. Unfortunately, I have two dogs who are not cat-friendly.
I got them as puppies and had cats at the time, but I was never able to leave them alone with the cats. I had a system where the cats had the run of the house at night, and the dogs during the day. But I don't currently have a house where this system is possible.
All the shelters in my area are full, winter is coming and no one in my circle wants this cat. Do you have any suggestions about curbing my dogs' aggression? -- B.K., Central Point, Oregon
DEAR B.K.: Good for you for rescuing this cat! But you do have a problem, especially if you have terrier-type dogs. After all, a cat is something fun to chase! But a nearby cat who does not run will not trigger their chase response. If the cat is very calm and will come to your lap, simply sit down with the cat -- while wearing a protective scarf and thick, long-sleeved jacket -- and call the dogs to you. Have them sit and stay and then receive treats while you are petting the cat and letting the dogs sniff your hands.
Alternatively, your best hope to rescue and socialize this poor cat is to place her in a large crate or cage in the room where you spend the most time with the dogs. Feed the dogs where the cat can see them, and feed the cat at the same time. Your veterinarian might prescribe some gabapentin to help reduce the cat's stress.
Several times a day, have the dogs come beside the cage and make them sit, stay and then give them a treat to associate being close to the cat with receiving a reward. After doing this for a week, open the cat's cage soon after feeding time. Have the dogs on leashes, and if they get ready to rush the cat, give the command to sit and stay. Give them treats. Be sure to have all doors closed, so the cat will not run off and hide somewhere else. Good luck!
STOPPING NON-VETERINARIANS FROM OPERATING ON PUPPIES
A bill in Ohio would ban commercial dog breeders from performing surgical procedures on dogs -- including docking tails, bobbing ears and cutting vocal cords -- without a veterinarian present and without anesthesia and pain medication. (Full story: The Toledo Blade, Sept. 21)
Sadly, Ohio is not the only state where such legislation is sorely needed.
DOG FOOD RECALL
Pet food company Spot & Tango is recalling its Chicken and Brown Rice UnKibble Dog Food, distributed directly to consumers nationwide, which might be contaminated with salmonella. For details and lot numbers, see truthaboutpetfood.com/spot-and-tango-recall.
(Send all mail to email@example.com 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 DrFoxOneHealth.com.)