CATS AND DOGS CAN GET ALONG -- IF YOU HANDLE THE INTRODUCTIONS PROPERLY
Can cats and dogs get along? While cats and dogs scheming against each other is a comedic staple, millions of real-life cats and dogs live in harmony, and millions of people feel no family would be complete without at least one of each pet.
Getting a dog and cat to accept one another can be difficult, though, as anyone who's tried to introduce them knows. There are some basic steps to getting both pets to at least call an interspecies truce.
Under no circumstances should cat-dog introductions be handled by throwing the animals together and letting them work things out on their own. That method is far too stressful even in the best of circumstances. It's also important to keep in mind that introductions can be dangerous, usually for the cat. Some dogs see cats as prey, and even those dogs who are generally easygoing may react instinctively to a cat on the run, and attack the smaller animal.
Introductions must be supervised and handled with planning, care and patience.
If you have a cat and intend to bring in a dog, try to find an animal who is known to be accepting of cats. Shelters, rescue groups or private parties looking to place puppies and dogs often know if an animal has successfully lived with a cat, or they will test to see how the pet behaves in the presence of one.
If you have a dog and are planning to bring in a cat, start working on your pet's obedience before you add the new animal. Your dog should be comfortable on a leash and be trained well enough to mind your requests for him to stay in either a "sit" or "down" position while on that leash.
For the cat's comfort, he should be confined during the early stages of an introduction to a small area (such as a second bathroom or guest bedroom) where he can feel safe while becoming acclimated to the sounds and smells of the dog. Be sure the room has everything he needs, and make sure he has frequent one-on-one visits with human family members.
After a couple of days with the cat sequestered, put the dog on leash and open the door to the cat's room. Allow the animals to see one another, and do not allow the dog to chase the cat, even in play. Use "sit-stay" or "down-stay" to keep the dog in place while the cat gets used to his calm presence. Don't force the cat to interact with the dog; if the cat wishes to view the dog from the darkest recesses underneath the bed, so be it. Reward the good behavior of both animals with treats and praise.
Keep the dog on leash for a couple of weeks in the cat's presence, and always make sure the cat has a way to escape from the dog, such as access to a safe area with a baby gate across the door. Build up the time the animals spend together, and continue to make the introductions rewarding, with more treats and praise.
When the dog isn't interested in bothering the cat, and the cat feels secure enough to come out from under the bed, you can take off the leash and let them get on with their new lives together. How long it will take to get to this step will depend on the animals involved, and you must work at their pace.
It's not uncommon for dogs and cats to become friends and to enjoy each other's company. Take the time to manage your cat-dog introduction properly, and you could be setting up a friendship that will last for the rest of your pets' lives.
Small dog, big
Q: Why do so many little dogs want to pick fights with big dogs? Don't they know they can be killed? -- via email
A: Small dogs are still dogs, and they still act like dogs, even if they're spending a lot of time living in someone's purse. There are some possibilities as to why small dogs seem to have more bluster than is sensible, given their size:
Terrier 'tude: Many small dogs are terriers, smaller versions of terriers or other breeds and mixes of breeds similar to terriers. These dogs were developed to keep homes and barns free of rodents, and that's a job that requires some serious prey drive. The saying, "It's not the size of the dog in the fight; it's size of the fight in the dog" perfectly captures the temperament of these dogs. Other small dogs may be figuring it's better to bite first, reacting out of fear.
The owner factor: Small dogs tend to be a little -- how should I say this? -- overly indulged. They're so cute, so tiny, and if they're obnoxious, it's not exactly the same as dealing with 80 pounds of poor manners. People tend to let little dogs get away with a lot of misbehavior; others think it's funny when their little dog goes after a bigger one. (Though, the amusement ends where the veterinary bill begins.) And sometimes because they're so tiny as puppies, people never properly socialize small dogs.
As a veterinarian, I've patched up my share of small dogs. People at the ends of both leashes need to show some common sense and not let little dogs and big dogs escalate snarls and growls into fighting. When that happens, it's almost a certainty that the little dog will take the worst of it, and almost as certain that the big dog will be blamed. Don't take chances, either way. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
With two drops a day
the itch goes away
-- Dogs with skin allergies may be helped by a new technique to build up immunity, using drops instead of shots. In a study presented at the world conference for veterinary dermatologists, Dr. Douglas DeBoer, a professor at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Wisconsin, noted significant improvement in 60 percent of the animals treated twice daily with drops under the tongue. Currently, standard treatment requires shots every two weeks. DeBoer said the new method of delivery even helped those pets who saw no improvement with traditional allergy injections.
-- Dog sports such as agility and dock-diving have become more popular, with a result that injuries to canine weekend warriors are more common as well. The AKC Canine Health Foundation has launched an initiative to develop a better understanding of the proper conditioning, nutrition, training and rehabilitation of canine athletes. An upcoming series of free podcasts presents an expert lineup of veterinarians. More information is at www.akcchf.org/canineathlete.
-- Veterinary behaviorists say products with pheromones -- synthetic versions of calming chemicals that animals themselves produce -- can help with many pet-behavior problems, especially those caused by stress or anxiety. The American College of Veterinary Behaviorists and the company that produces Feliway for cats and Adaptil for dogs are co-sponsoring a national tour in August and September to help pet owners resolve behavior problems. Pet fairs in the six cities on the tour will feature board-certified veterinary behaviorists available to answer pet owner questions, educational booths staffed by local veterinarians, shelter booths with adoptable pets and free giveaways. Tour information is at keepthelovealivetour.com. -- Dr. Marty Becker and Gina Spadafori
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts headed by "Good Morning America" and "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and also the authors of many best-selling pet care books. Dr. Becker can also be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker.