Give Your Ageing Pet a Break

Ask Dog Lady:
Overcome Fear of
Outliving Pet
By Monica Collins - GateHouse News Service

Dear Dog Lady,

I want to get a dog but I don’t think I could stand the heartbreak. I watched helplessly as a friend recently put down her 11-year-old dog Truffle. Truffle was in the advanced stages of bone cancer. My friend was inconsolable after Truffle died. A month later, she’s still a mess whenever she sees a dog.

Before the Truffle tragedy, I had been seriously considering getting a dog. I had decided to adopt from a shelter. After I saw my friend’s extreme grief after Truffle died, I am reconsidering the whole thing. How do I reconcile getting an older dog while knowing I may outlive my pet?


Dear Harry, don’t be wary of letting a dog into your life. Your instinct to adopt a shelter dog is marvelous and affirming. You can’t shy away from it just because you fear the natural course of time. No matter whether you outlast your animal or vice versa, both you and your dog will have a better quality of life.

Your friend who lost Truffle has been through an ordeal that we pet lovers know is the greatest sadness of dog guardians – bidding farewell forever.

But, as Woody Allen once observed in his classic film “Annie Hall”: “The heart is a very resilient muscle.” Your friend will eventually recover. Her pet-loving spirit will be elastic enough to allow another animal into her life. The love she had for Truffle will make that possible. Over time, she will learn how to put her late dog’s memory into a special chamber of her resilient heart and move on.

Don’t be paralyzed by “what if?” Go to that shelter, adopt a dog, and exhale.

Dear Dog Lady,

I've found more than a dozen local dog trainers though the Web and phone book. How can I determine if I've selected the right one? Are there any local reviews, articles, blogs, etc. that I can review?


Dear Stacy, start your research on the Web site of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers – You will read their mission statement: “The APDT offers individual pet dog trainers a respected and concerted voice in the dog world. We continue to promote professional trainers to the veterinary profession and to increase public awareness of dog friendly training techniques.” The site has many articles to read and a search tool so you find trainers in your area by entering a Zip code.

You should also understand the alphabet soup of credentials trailing behind a trainer’s name: CDBC means “certified dog behavior consultant,” CPDT translates as “certified pet dog trainer,” and CAAB is “certified applied animal behaviorist.” (This is the Ph.D. equivalent for dog-training professionals)

There’s also a book, “The Ethical Dog Trainer: A Practical Guide for Canine Professionals” by Jim Barry ($19.95) that you can order from Ostensibly a wonky manual for other trainers, this features lots of good information for the ordinary person who wants to understand the principled, effective approach a trainer should take with the owner and the dog.

Monica Collins offers advice on dogs, life and love. Her Web site is Contact her at

Gary Bogue:
Smart Birds, Blind Dogs,
Smelly Bulldogs, Wet Cats
By Gary Bogue - Contra Costa Times

November chill

the manzanita meets me

with blooms

— Anastasia Hobbet, Walnut Creek

Bird intelligence

Last chance to enter my survey on bird intelligence. Send me your lists of what you think are the five MOST and five LEAST intelligent birds. I'm on vacation next week. I'll publish the results here during the week of Nov. 30-Dec. 4 when I get back.

To date, parrots, ravens and crows lead the list of MOST intelligent birds "... and mourning doves and pigeons top the LEAST intelligent list.

Blind dogs

In Wednesday's column, Betty Bailey in cyberspace wrote about her Dachshund that had suddenly lost its eyesight to an eye disease called SARDS. Betty asked if she could speak to anyone who knew anything about SARDS, or who lived with a blind dog.

As usual, my wonderful readers (that's you!) immediately responded with 10 e-mails full of valuable information and phone numbers so Betty could call and talk with them. I've forwarded the information to Betty.

Here's a sample:

I'd like to recommend the book "Living With Blind Dogs: A Resource Book and Training Guide for the Owners of Blind & Low Vision Dogs" by Caroline D. Levin, R.N. My wife had a dog who went blind at age 9 from SARDS, and with the help of the book the
dog happily lived out the rest of his life.

Along with medical explanations of causes of blindness, the book has very useful sections on pack issues, training concepts, learning new skills, negotiating the house and yard and community, and playing. It helps the dog owner through his or her own, and the dog's, feelings of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance of the dog's blindness, and gives advice for working with any children in the household.

If your letter writer would like, please have her call us. She is also more than welcome to have our copy of the book. (Hank Hansen, Pleasanton)

Stinky bulldogs

In my Nov. 10 column, Aldo in San Mateo wrote asking, "How do you clean a stinky bulldog?" Aldo has a 21-month-old bulldog that smells and he's tried everything he can think of to resolve the problem.

Bulldogs are naturally smelly and here's one response to Aldo's plea for help. You can find the other helpful reader responses in my blog at

Our 4-year-old Old English bulldog has a very tight corkscrew tail and it is a breeding ground for all kinds of stinky stuff to grow, and I mean stinky. I have to clean it every other day along with his face folds with a bath once a week. Aldo may want to ask the vet to check the dog's anal glands; they can sometimes get clogged but are easily expressed. Bulldogs are a very high-maintenance breed. They are prone to skin infections and eye problems, and setting up and sticking to a hygiene schedule is a must.

My dog's name is Slim and he is the official mascot for the Tracy High Bulldogs! (Lora Perez, Tracy)

Cats & water

I lost the water bowl battle with my Calvin. Like the South San Francisco couple, I tried every bowl/dish/mat I could find. He seemed to take it as a personal challenge. He'd drag the nonskid bowls across the kitchen, making an even bigger mess.

After many years and dollars, I put the darn bowl in my shower. End of mess. (Desi, cyberspace)

My large orange tabby prefers a small bucket filled with about 6 inches of water, placed in the bath tub. (TaiRho, Richmond)

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Go for the Gold by
Adopting a Senior Pet
By Humane Society of Harrison County

When thinking about a new pet, consider two things: the pet you would like for your home and the pet that would most appreciate your hospitality. Those cute kittens and puppies will scratch, dig, chew, and wet their way into the house! An older cat or dog will probably start their life with you in a much more respectful manner. Elder pets become homeless in a variety of ways. Sometimes their guardian becomes ill or passes away, and the extended family doesn't want the animal. Other times, frankly, people discard pets as the animals age. Age doesn't necessarily mean that there is anything at all wrong with the pet.

Cats often live nearly two decades. Dogs, depending upon breed, have expected life spans of 10 to 15 or more years. Older pets can have health problems, it's true, but those issues vary with the breed as well. Adopting a senior pet does mean that you should make sure you can commit to the veterinary care they may need to remain comfortable. Just because their vision may be a little blurred or they take a few minutes getting up and down doesn't mean the senior pet won't bring years of contented joy to your heart and hearth.

The seniors won't require quite as much of your time and energy as young pets, as they are often happy with a stroll outside, a warm bed, good food, and a rub under the neck. They often come already trained. Contrary to what many people think, senior pets adjust quickly and well to a secure new home. In fact, they can be extremely grateful. So think about it — is it how many years you have with an animal, or is it how good the years you do have can be?

Senior cats and dogs can do well in new homes, but they suffer in shelters. Stressed, confused, and uncomfortable, with no relief from the noise and turmoil, older dogs and cats may sink into depression, be susceptible to illness, or have health problems worsen. Pretty quickly, a homeless animal can appear even older than it is. The best cure for these wise old owls is a comfy bed and perhaps some warm sunlight at homes where they are loved.

Humane Society volunteer, Jan Reddin, scooped up in her arms a sad, little old poodle and took her home to foster. The abandoned poodle was blind, unable to bark, had no teeth, and had a heart murmur. Everyone was glad that the tiny animal would have a warm and cozy place to spend the last few weeks of her life. This Thanksgiving will mark Tinkerbell's third year in the Reddin home. She needs to be carried down steps, but navigates her way around yard and house and comes up the steps quite well. Tinkerbell stands her own with the other dogs at her home, and enjoys affection and treats as much as any of them. She would like you to know that "reports of my imminent demise were greatly exaggerated." Without her new home, though, Tinkerbell would not be enjoying life.

November is Adopt-A-Senior Pet Month, and The Humane Society of Harrison County has several older animals waiting for adoption at The Pet Place, 1901 Jefferson Ave. in Marshall. Think about "going for the gold," the gold of the wisdom of age, the gold at the end of the rainbow, the golden heart of a pet who needs to give and receive your affection.

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Ways To Help Make Your
Ageing Dog’s Life Easier
Submitted by Jennifer White -

The number of ways you can give your oldster a break is limited only by your imagination. Here are a few tips to get you thinking:

1. Clothes: Canine clothing isn’t just for poodles anymore. Older dogs, like older people, have a harder time maintaining their body temperature. This problem is even more pronounced in slender, short-coated breeds like the greyhound or whippet. So check out the sweater selection at your local pet-supply store, or consider altering one of your own for the task.

2. Beds: Think soft. Think cushioned. Think low. Think heated. Your dog will thank you for all of these thoughts, especially in cold weather.

3. Dishes: Raised food and water dishes are a kindness to tall dogs of any age, but they are especially easy on the back of an old doggie. You can find them at pet-supply stores or you can make your own.

4. Ramps and Steps: If your dogs are allowed on the couch and the bed, you should be able to find or build something to help out the dog who can no longer make it in one jump. You wouldn’t want to watch TV without your dog at your side, would you?

Dog Training Tricks –
How to Get Your Dog to
“Come” Every Time You Call

You are trying to tell your dog to come here. It ignores you. You try again getting a bit more frustrated. No matter how much you shout at your dog it does not seem to react. There are simple dog training tricks that can make this work so that your dog will come to you immediately, every time.

First, it is important to understand that you dog is ignoring your commands because it doesn't understand you. You may have tried to teach your dog this command already, and it may now be that what it is thinking you want is different from what you actually want.

Your dog desire is to please it's owner and the easiest way to teach your dog is to do it for a few minutes each day in the form of play. Make it fun and your dog will learn faster. Also, this is a great way to bond with your dog. Spend those few minutes a day to teach your dog to "come" as soon as you command it.

Use food as a motivator as one of the dog training tricks. Use small one-bite treats as a reward when your dog does something correct, and make sure that you praise with a positive voice at the same time. When you are watching TV, or anywhere in the house, tell your dog to "come" and give him a treat when he does. Only one treat, though! And don't do it all the time or the training trick will no longer be effective. Make sure that you use a calm, happy voice.

Make sure that you are consistent in the way you train your dog to come, and be patient. Do this technique throughout the day, changing the rewards, and soon your dog will be happily obeying your command everytime

Sounds easy, doesn't it? It is! That's really all there is to dog training tricks to get your dog to come to you.

Many people often come to me for advice on dog training, dog training tricks and I find that the best advice that you can give them is by sharing my experiences with them.

I want to share with you dog training tricks and how to train a dog by inviting you to click on and find out what dog training tricks I have done that are effective.

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Keep Tinsel Away from Pet Cats

However much they might want to, cats should not be allowed to play with festive decorations, pet owners have been advised.

While cats in particular are likely to be attracted to all things shiny over the Christmas period, including tinsel and fairy lights, experts have warned that chewing on them can have serious pet healthcare consequences.

Dr Jeff Smith, a vet based in the US, explained to ABC 13 news: "All the tinsel and the ornaments and they can get into the tree and electro-chords are really dangerous and they can play with them and chew through them and cause themselves injury."

He added that pets may also be wary of crowds, advising those who plan on inviting others to their homes for Christmas to consider finding a "quiet room" for their animals, as they may not be so keen on the company.

At the same time, owners have been once again urged to refrain from giving their pet cats chocolate as even small amounts can cause pet healthcare issues due to its toxicity to animals.

Ask a Vet:
Is 4 Months Too Young to
Have My Pet Spayed or Neutered?
LA Times

L.A.'s recent spay/neuter law mandates that pet dogs and cats be sterilized by the time they’re 4 months old. Is that an appropriate age for my pet to have surgery?

Heather Oxford, DVM: This is an incredibly complex issue. My opinion is that the city took the right step in creating a spay/neuter law that is enforceable; however, 4 months might be too young according to new scientific studies.

The first problem is that animals that are neutered (gender-neutral term) before their growth plates close grow significantly taller than those who are neutered after their growth plates close. The extra growth can be unevenly distributed through the different bones of the body since the age of each growth plate closure is different for each bone, which can be up to 14 months for larger breeds. For example, this means that the tibia (shin bone) could grow longer than the femur (thigh bone) and cause an abnormal angle of the knee which could cause ligament tears. Therefore, we may see an increase in orthopedic diseases in the future.

There also seems to be an increased risk of bone cancer developing in dogs that were neutered before 1 year of age. However, the benefits of neutering early far outweigh the risks of neutering later when it comes to cancers of the testicle, prostate, and area around the anus. Early neutering shows a very protective effect in mammary cancer, which accounts for 50% of all tumors of female dogs and 20% of all tumors of female cats.

Neutering before the first heat cycle reduces the risk of mammary cancer to 0.05%, whereas waiting until after the first heat cycle increases the risk to 8%. The first heat cycle occurs between 6 months and 18 months, depending on breed.

Increased noise phobias and undesired sexual behaviors have been associated with neutering before 5 1/2 months of age, and there has been a link between early spaying and urinary incontinence in female dogs.

Infectious diseases were found to be more common in dogs neutered at or before 6 months of age compared with those neutered after 6 months in another study. Studies also suggest that increased behavioral issues like fear and aggression may be due to earlier ages at time of neutering.

I assess each pet individually, as most veterinarians do. For an animal whose breeding lines have higher incidence of orthopedic disease, waiting until the animal’s growth plates close to neuter may be the best decision.

Likewise, a female might be neutered earlier than a male of the same breed. I have concerns with this law and would like for the age to be reassessed, however, the benefits of a spay/neuter law such as this include less homeless animals and less animals having to be euthanized at shelters. I am glad that L.A. has started the ball rolling in the right direction.

Oxford received her bachelor of science degree at Bowling Green State University, Ohio. She also received a master's of public health degree in epidemiology from Emory University and went on to work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. She then went to the University of Tennessee, College of Veterinary Medicine, where she received her doctor of veterinary medicine degree. She practices at California Animal Rehabilitation and is also certified in veterinary rehabilitation and acupuncture. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Wade, and German shepherd, Tess.

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