Is Your Dog a 'Drama Queen'?

Fur Everywhere:
Tips for Keeping Pet Shedding Under Control

Shedding fur is a natural process for dogs (and cats). Breeds kept indoors may shed year-round, while those living outdoors shed primarily in the spring, reducing their winter coat. Although the cycle of losing fur is just part of being a dog, there are ways to help control the amount of shedding, keeping the home cleaner and the dog more comfortable. A schedule of regular grooming, vet visits and a healthy diet can help reduce the amount of shedding from your pet.


Plan a regular grooming schedule for the dog. Brush him daily to control the release of fur. Go outside, and smooth the brush over his back, tummy and legs. Allow the loose hairs to fall outside and collect in a dog brush. This will reduce the amount of loose fur on the dog's body, keep the interior of the home cleaner and provide daily attention for the dog.

Pets lose more fur during shedding periods such as the end of winter. This will decrease the amount that falls off in the house. If your dog has thicker fur, you might want to use a combination of types of brushes, including the rake type that gets to the under-coat. Some breeds shed in clumps. There’s a product called Furminator that has gotten good reviews. Check with your groomer or vet about what might be best for your pet!

Invest in a good strong vacuum with a Hepa-filter. Change the filter often and vacuum daily. Also, look for one with an upholstery attachment. Some companies make vacuums that are specifically for households with pets. I recommend a Dyson vacuum that only needs the filter cleaned and no bags are required. It will last you years, although it is pricey.

Bathe the dog regularly. This also helps with shedding. Once every two weeks should be helpful. There are shedding specific shampoos out there to try as well.

Animals shed to get rid of old, damaged, or extra hair. Animals grow a heavy coat in the winter to help insulate themselves and then shed the extra hair in the summer.

Dogs will also shed broken or damaged hair, and if their skin is irritated from conditions such as allergies, they will also shed excessively. This article will give tips for keeping your dog’s skin and hair healthy to reduce shedding as well as effectively removing the hair.

More suggestions:

1. Feed an appropriate pet food. A pet’s coat is often a reflection of what they eat. Feed a high quality food with good digestible protein sources.

2. Cover your furniture and car seats. Upholstery is a magnet for pet hair, and removing pet hair from furniture or car seats can be tedious. If you allow pets on your furniture or bed, you would be wise to invest in a few furniture throws. Throws will keep your furniture looking (and smelling) better and make your home more inviting to guests. Car seat covers are also an excellent investment and are highly recommended.

3. Control allergies and fleas. If your pet is scratching because of allergies, supplement with Vitacaps® and Biotin to control inhalant allergies that irritate the skin. You should also see your veterinarian to make sure your pet is getting proper allergy relief. To prevent itching and scratching from fleas, use a flea repellent that your vet recommends to prevent and control infestations.

4. Have regular checkups. Many diseases can affect the skin and haircoat. Regular visits to your veterinarian will help identify problems early and provide more effective treatment.

5. To control shedding, use the right brush. Slicker brushes, shedding blades, matbreakers and Love Gloves have specific functions and work best on the type of coat they are designed for. Most pets need more than one type of brush to remove all of the dead hair.

6. Remove hair from upholstery and your dog’s bed as soon as possible. Newly shed hair is easier to remove before it works its way into upholstery fabric. A tape roller is one of the best tools for removing hair.

Good luck with the shedding issue. Personally, I invested in the Dyson vacuum for pets and the Furminator. They have been great tools in the ongoing battle of the fur and debris of sharing my home with dogs and cats. Of course, I don’t bathe my cats, but I do use the Furminator on them, and all my pets like it. I also use an air cleaner which collects particles in the air.

Mary Reid volunteers at the Cowley County Humane Society. Her specialty is fostering dogs. The humane society is located at 7648 222nd Road, at the intersection with U.S. 77. The phone number is 221-1698. Their Web site is

Hints From Heloise

Walking the Shelter Dogs

Dear Heloise: Here's a great way to get out, get more exercise and help out some four-legged friends who need it. Head to your local animal shelter and offer to be a DOG WALKER. Even the very best shelters have to keep their dogs in kennels, and the staff and volunteers are often so busy that sometimes a brief bathroom break is all they can manage.

Walking shelter dogs not only gives them fresh air and exercise, it also helps them learn leash manners, which can make them more adoptable. You may have to take an orientation class, but it will be worth it in the end.

Go to the shelter or get friends together and form a dog-walking club. The dogs will be happy, you'll get healthy, and who knows -- you just might find a friend! -- S.C. in Rapid City, S.D.

"Woof, woof!" Our furry (and some not-so-furry) friends say, "Come on over for a fun and helpful stroll with a four-footed friend!" -- Heloise


Dear Readers: Gary and Carole Olson sent in a photo of Willie, their miniature schnauzer, lying on the lower open shelf of the breakfast counter. Carole says, "Willie is 6 months old, and he normally lies on my foot. This night he climbed up on the counter, which is only about 5 inches above the kitchen floor in our multilevel home. I couldn't believe my eyes when he got up on the counter and curled up. Guess that is a good spot to keep an eye on me." To see Willie on the shelf, visit -- Heloise

Dear Heloise: Here's a great way to get out, get more exercise and help out some four-legged friends who need it.

Dear Heloise: My sister has been struggling to get her geriatric cat to eat her prescription cat food. One does not need to be a cat to know that it isn't very tasty. A recent visit to a vet brought a solution -- baby food! No preservatives, no added salts and 100 percent meat. The cat loves her food now that chicken or turkey baby food is mixed in. She has put on much-needed weight and appears more vibrant than her 20 years. But please remember that cats are carnivores. It must be an all-meat variety. I hope this helps any struggling pet owner whose animal is on a prescription diet. -- L. Geske, Denton, Texas

Cats can be finicky, and an old cat even more so! Always check with the vet before adding anything to your pet's diet. -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: My cat loves to dig in freshly turned dirt, which makes him a menace to seeds and seedlings. After I plant, I set broken wire tomato cages on top of the soil and around the plants. I leave them in place until the plants are growing well and the soil has settled. They let air and water in and don't hamper the plants. -- Jackie in California

Leash Training Your Pit Bull Terrier

As a loving and caring Pit Bull owner, you will undoubtedly spend a lot of your time in training your dog. You will probably do some crate training, obedience training, maybe even agility training. But, one of the most enjoyable things you can do for your Pit Bull is leash training. He may not think very highly of it at first, but once he has the hang of it, your outside time with him will be much more enjoyable for you both. Leash training is also an important step in training your Pit Bull for shows, if that is your ultimate goal.

Most experts recommend that you begin leash training your Pit Bull when he is around six or seven weeks old. Usually at this age, he will have a better attention span, and will be up for walks with you.

When you first start walking with your Pit Bull puppy, you may want to allow the puppy some freedom at first, so that he can explore his area and play. The training at this time will be teaching your Pit Bull puppy to stay with you during your walk, and come when you call him. By letting the puppy explore, and then calling his name, he will learn that you want him to come back to you. It is important to praise and reward your Pit Bull puppy when he does come when you call him. Some trainers will use treats to get the puppy to follow them at first. Due to his short attention span, you shouldn?t expect this to work for long. You should give the puppy a treat, and let him go play, then try again a little later. By using treats and rewards, and being patient, your Pit Bull puppy will catch on fairly quickly.

When your Pit Bull puppy has mastered the walk without a leash, and coming to you when you call him, you can probably begin training him on a lead. Most veterinarians will recommend starting with a nylon collar before trying a choker collar. Most of the time, the choker collar isn?t needed, unless you have a very strong willed Pit Bull.

Usually the best place to start leash training is your own backyard. The Pit Bull puppy is probably already very familiar with this area now, so he will be less focused on exploring, and more on training. You also don?t have to worry about other animals on the scene, as you would at a park or local walking track.

Again, when you have the collar on and are ready to begin, bend down and offer a treat to get your Pit Bull puppy to come to you. After successfully doing this a few times, start to walk a little with the puppy on the leash. If your Pit Bull puppy follows you, praise him and give him a treat. In the event he doesn?t follow, which often is the case the first time around, start all over again. Once he starts to follow you without resistance, try walking a little bit further each time. Your Pit Bull puppy will soon learn to be lead, without him even noticing he is doing something he may not want to do.

Continue working with your Pit Bull often, as any training should be ongoing. The more training and practice your Pit Bull gets, the more accustomed to the leash he will become.

Cathy M. Rosenthal:
Pet Urination Issues Can Be Solved
Cathy Rosenthal -

When I offered to select six people to receive a free cleaning product for pet odors and stains, I was overwhelmed with your show of hands saying "help!" and "pick me, pick me!" From your descriptions, I imagined puddles and piddles, discolored carpets and stained tile and drywall, all with that musky ammonia odor that comes from urine stains that are not properly cleaned.

Denise M. has a dog named Davis who does not like to get her bottom near wet grass so she relieves herself indoors on the tile floor.

A.F. has eight cats — all former strays and neutered — who urinate on the walls and carpets instead of the litter box.

Debbie S.'s dog Rayna suffers from submissive urination, pees whenever anyone greets her. Of course, they have a busy household.

D.C. says her daughter moved back home with three dogs and one cat who all have accidents in the house, leaving her mopping floors several times a day.

Margo has a female ferret with a "distinctive odor" that could be tamed.

And Becky says her two chows often tangle with skunks and then won't sit still for their de-skunking bath.

"Help!" is right. That's why each of these people are receiving a free Clean + Green cleaning product to address their specific issue with the expectation that they will report back on how the product works. Thanks for your many letters. After reading them all, I feel like there needs to be a support group formed.

Before I sign off on this topic, however, I want to offer a few tips about indiscriminate urination — when pets don't pee outside. First, pets, especially cats, have territorial issues in multipet households and urinate to mark their territory. It's less prevalent when all the pets are sterilized, but still very much possible. With cats, always have one more litter box than you do cats. That would mean A.F. would need nine litter boxes. Not realistic, but my guess is that A.F. may not even have three or four litter boxes in the home. Cats do not like sharing litter boxes. Get more.

Second, small dogs piddle a lot because they have small bladders. My large dog can go hours before she needs to relieve herself, but my neighbor's Chihuahua cannot, so he pees in the house all day while they are at work. Learn your dog's bladder capacity and accommodate him. My dog can go six hours, so if I am gone for longer, one of the neighbor kids is coming over to let her out to relieve herself. She knows she can count on relief — so no accidents. Hire a neighbor kid or professional pet sitter to walk your dog while you are at work.

Third, train your dog — again. You may have given up on house training your dog too soon. Some dogs house train in two days; some may take a year. Rule No. 1: Train them until they are trained.

Finally, several letters were about pets that suddenly changed their bladder habits. Young or old, dog or cat, any sudden change in bladder control can be a health problem. Take your pet to the vet to be sure.

Check out today's entry on my blog, Animals Matter at, for a list of pet cleaning tips.

Send your pet stories and questions to Cathy M. Rosenthal, c/o Features Department, San Antonio Express-News, P.O. Box 2171, San Antonio, TX 78297-2171, or Cathy's advice column runs Sundays.

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Hairballs Aren't Only Reason Cat May Vomit
By Jeff Kahler, D.V.M. - McClatchy Newspapers

When a cat grooms itself, a certain amount of hair is taken into the digestive tract and can ball up in the stomach.

Most of the time, the hair passes through the digestive tract and is expelled in the stool. If enough is left in the stomach, a hairball forms and a cat vomits it up. This vomiting is normal, but if the frequency is high, there may be an underlying problem.

Marla treats her 10-year-old feline, Rotunda, periodically with an oral paste to prevent hairballs. Recently, the frequency of Rotunda's vomiting has increased to once or even twice a day; it's not always associated with hairball production.

There are many causes for vomiting in cats. Hairballs can be a cause, but more often than not, hairballs are a result of the vomiting and not the cause. Remember, there is almost always some hair in the digestive tract of a cat so when they vomit, it is common to find hair and sometimes even a hairball or two. Do not always assume the hairball is the cause.

An abdominal radiograph might reveal the cause of Rotunda's vomiting.

For instance, a cat that over-grooms because of fleas will have increased hairball production and increased vomiting. I do not suspect such a scenario in Rotunda's case, but a trip to the veterinarian will certainly shed light on the underlying cause of the problem.

Jeff Kahler is a veterinarian in Modesto, Calif.

7 Tips for Optimal Pet Health

Being either a cat owner or a dog owner you will most likely know these 7 tips. But study shows that you are probably not aware of the importance of each them so in order for your pet to have the best possible health condition I am here to remind you.

* Exercise amount: Whether you have a cat or a dog it is vitally important that you make sure that it gets the right about of physical activity. Larger pets will require more exercise than smaller pets.

* Way to exercise: If your cat is a stay at home cat you will need to take it out into nature. If you live in a big city you must take it for daily walks. All dogs (even the smaller ones) will need at least one daily walk and for larger breeds you need two or three walks a day of at least 30 minutes.

* Nutrition amount: I know you want to do what best for your pet and spoiling them by giving them all they can eat will not benefit them at all. They will get fat and the excess fat will harm their health condition.

* Proper nutrition: Make sure to provide your pet with healthy organic foods. If youre in doubt what would be right for your particular pet be sure to ask your VET. Dont guess and end up making vital mistakes.

* Love: Just like humans a pet will need love from you and from anyone else in your family. Without love a pet will lose the will to live just like a human would. Talk to your pet daily using happy words and make sure to keep a physical contact as well.

* Get pet insurance: Accidents do happen and if you have had a pet for a while you probably know that paying for medical bills, surgery and even the regular VET visits will cost you a small fortune. Pet insurance will in most cases take care of a larger part of that expenditure.

* Keep a schedule: To make things easy on yourself be sure to use some kind of schedule. Feeding your pet should be obvious but things like medical checks and vaccinations might not be. For an optimal health condition of your pet youll need to remember these things as well.

About the author: J. Sommer is amongst the top experts on pet health and will assist you in finding cheap pet insurance for your pet. For more information and free advice visit his website at

If Your Dog Crosses Paths with a Skunk,
Here's What to Do
Mariana Greene, Garden Editor -

It is not outside the realm of possibility that your dog will cross paths with a skunk. Even if you live in an urban neighborhood, skunks can be sighted there, just as opossums and raccoons show up at night in your backyard to eat cat food, birdseed or your pond's fish.

Skunks breed through March, and the babies are born in May and June. Female skunks take to a den during this period, but are otherwise nomadic. Suitable locations are in brush piles, hollow logs and under buildings.

Bonnie Bradshaw, president of 911Wildlife in Plano, is accustomed to fielding frantic phone calls from homeowners who smell a skunk.

"Here's the typical scenario," she writes in an e-mail. "A homeowner is awakened at 2 a.m. by skunk odor filling the house because a female skunk is denning under the foundation. The male pursued her into the burrow, and if she's not ready, she sprays him.

"We solve the problem by installing a device that works like a one-way door at the entrance to the burrow," Bradshaw writes. "The skunk comes out at night to get food, and the one-way door prevents it from re-entering. It works quickly, and it's much more humane than using a live trap. One of the best ways to get sprayed is to catch a skunk in a trap!"

Skunks send clear warnings to a dog that is getting too close for comfort. But dogs usually ignore the signals and get sprayed. That's where the recipe for deskunking a dog comes in handy.

Mariana Greene, Garden Editor

How to de-skunk a dog

Mix 1 quart of hydrogen peroxide with ¼ cup of baking soda and 1 teaspoon of liquid dish soap. Wipe down the dog's fur with this solution, then rinse and shampoo.

Source: Humane Society of the United States

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Is Your Dog a Drama Queen?
By Pete Wedderburn -

If you think that acting is a skill beyond the ability of animals, think again. One of the problems that cropped up in my Pet Subjects column this week provided a good example of a dog who’s learned that a little acting can bring valuable rewards. A reader had emailed a simple question to me: Why does their miniature black and tan short haired Dachshund shiver so much? Could the dog be cold? Could the shivering be due to nervous excitement? Or could there be another cause?

The question reminded me of a story told by a colleague whose Dachshund shivered in a similar way when outside on the patio, wanting to come inside. After initially feeling sorry for the dog, and allowing it to come inside each time, she decided to do a simple experiment. When she next saw the dog shivering outside, she stepped away from the window where he could see her, and instead she observed the animal from a hidden viewpoint. She discovered that when the dog thought that he was not been observed, he behaved normally, with no shivering. As soon as his owner stepped back into his vision, he stood in a miserable, hunched position, shivering. He’d learned that if he acted as if he was cold, he was immediately allowed back into the home, which was where he wanted to be.

I’ve since heard stories of other small dogs that deliberately shiver to get attention from their owners. And dogs can act out other behaviours to get what they want. I’ve seen many dogs turning their nose up at their normal dog food, manipulating their owners into getting down on all fours, hand-feeding them tasty morsels of food that were prepared for the human dinner table.

Of course, there are occasions when dogs shiver because they’re genuinely cold, and when dogs refuse food because they’re unwell. You can’t ignore these behaviours, but it’s worth using a little human ingenuity to find out if they’re genuine.

It’s one thing to be fooled by Meryl Streep when you’re being entertained at the movies, but quite another to be manipulated by a potential Oscar winner in your own home.

Why Your Cat Won’t Eat
By Kim Boatman -

Cats have a reputation for being particular about their diets, because they like their favorite foods served at just the right time and place.

If your cat quits eating, however, your swift action is critical, says Dr. Marla J. McGeorge, a veterinarian who runs a feline-only practice in Portland, Ore. "If your cat doesn't eat for more than a day, it should go to the veterinarian," she advises. "It doesn't take very long for cats to develop a liver disease from not eating." Liver failure occurs when fat accumulates in the liver due to a lack of protein.

Common Problems

Recognizing the typical reasons cats stop eating is a first step in protecting and helping your kitty. Your cat's loss of appetite could be caused by one of these issues:

•Respiratory infection The ability to smell is a trigger for your cat to eat, says McGeorge. If your kitty sneezes, suffers from watery eyes and sounds congested, it probably won't show enthusiasm for its dinner.

•Nausea If your cat frequently licks its lips, approaches the food dish, then backs away, it's likely nauseated, says McGeorge. It's difficult to tell if your cat has eaten something that upset its stomach or if it suffers from liver disease or other illnesses that cause nausea. Your veterinarian might order laboratory tests that will help clear the mystery, says McGeorge.

•Pain or trauma It's a good idea to examine your cat for wounds or injuries, says Dr. Josie Thompson, a veterinarian who runs a cats-only clinic in Walnut Creek, Calif. The resulting pain or underlying infection could understandably decrease your cat's hunger.

•Ingestion of foreign objects or poison Plants, string, ribbon and pieces of toys can become obstructions, possibly even poisoning your kitty.

•Age-related issues "Older cats are more at risk due to kidney problems, bowel disorders, heart disease and cancer," explains Thompson. Older cats might suffer from arthritis, limiting their ability to bend to food bowls located on the ground. As cats age, such dental problems as abscessed teeth and bleeding gums can make eating painful.

•Change in food or location Changing your kitty's food abruptly can lead to a loss of appetite, says Pam Johnson-Bennett, a Nashville-based cat behaviorist. Moving the location of your kitty's food dish may also cause problems. For example, cats won't eat if their dish is too close to their litter box. Your cat will also avoid meals if it feels threatened by another animal in a multi-pet household.

•Household changes The addition of a new pet, the departure of your son or daughter for college, or a move can all affect your cat's appetite. Pay special attention to your kitty's food intake during such times of transition.

What You Can Do:

If your cat isn't eating, try to entice it with these four steps:

1. Heat the food. The aroma of warm canned cat food just might tempt your kitty. However, make sure you just add warm water instead of microwaving, cautions McGeorge. Microwaves can heat unevenly, and you risk scalding your cat's mouth.

2. Offer food by hand. The attention you pay to your cat while you feed a few morsels by hand can make a difference.

3. Adjust for age. Consider soft food if your elderly cat has tooth issues. Elevate the food bowl if your kitty is arthritic.

4. Provide a safe, quiet location. Make sure your kitty is comfortable with the location of its food dish. Set up several feeding stations in a multi-cat household.

Your veterinarian remains your best resource when your cat quits eating. Some owners hesitate making the call, figuring their cat's appetite might return or worrying they'll make a veterinary visit for no reason. "The big message from me is to bring your cat in," says McGeorge. "The best thing you can hear is your cat is fine."

Kim Boatman is a Northern California-based journalist whose work has appeared in such publications as The Miami Herald, Detroit Free Press and San Jose Mercury News. She is a lifetime lover of animals and shares her home with three cats.

Dear Dr. Aarff: My Pet Has Dog Breath
Posted in Dr.

Dear Dr.

My dog is starting to develop bad breath. He only eats dry food because I was told this is a good way to keep the teeth healthy. I checked his mouth and gums, and there is no plaque (yet) and everything is healthy. I give him the doggy mints. (I try not to do these too often) but they don’t seem to help much as he just bites once or twice and then swallows. Help please!

Deinier Salmon

Ms. Salmon:

This is an excellent question and I’m so glad that you brought up this topic. You make a great point by saying that his teeth LOOK healthy but that he still has bad breath. The actual cause of periodontal disease is not what you can see on the outside of the teeth, but the bacterial buildup that lies UNDER the gumline. Teeth can look healthy, but there can be serious disease under the gums that you’ll never see. This is why when we, as humans, go to the dentist, our hygienist uses the little metal probe to see if we have any pocketing of our gums where more sinister disease can hide. In veterinary medicine, we do the same thing when doing a full sedated dental exam and cleaning. We also do x-rays of the teeth to make sure the roots of the teeth are healthy. Then we proceed to ultrasonic scaling and polishing of the teeth to try and make a surface that is more difficult for tartar to adhere to.

My advice would be to have your pup’s oral cavity checked out by your veterinarian to ensure that there is nothing in his mouth or throat that could be causing the bad breath you’re noting. After he receives a clean bill of health, the very best thing that you can do at home to prevent bad breath, and the more severe complication of dental disease being tooth decay, is to learn to brush your pup’s teeth. There are great toothpastes out there that are flavored so that your pet might actually learn to enjoy the process. I know in our extremely busy lives it’s so tough to imagine adding one more thing to your day, but making dental hygiene a priority for your pet could potentially add a couple of healthy years to your pet’s life.

Best of luck!

Dr. Katy J. Nelson

a.k.a Dr.

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Top 10 Paw Care Tips For Dogs

Your dog’s feet sure are made for walking, but did you know they are also made for protecting? Pads provide extra cushioning to help protect bones and joints from shock, provide insulation against extreme weather, aid walking on rough ground and help protect tissue deep within the paw. With all that work to do, it’s no wonder your pooch’s paws often take a bit of a beating. Keep a spring in your pet’s step with our top 10 paw care tips:

•Pamper With Pedicures: Your dog's nails should just about touch the ground when she walks. If her nails are clicking or getting snagged on the floor, it's time for a pedicure. Ask your veterinarian or a groomer for advice about what types of nail trimmers are best for your dog and how to use them properly.

•Snip and Trim: Trim paw hair regularly to avoid painful matting. Simply comb hair out, especially from between the toes, and trim even with the pads.

•Clean In Between: Foreign objects can become lodged in your dog’s pads. Check regularly between toes for foxtails, pebbles, small bits of broken glass and other debris. These pesky items can usually be removed with a pair of tweezers.

•Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize: A dog’s pads can become cracked and dry. Ask your veterinarian for a good pad moisturizer and use as directed. Avoid human hand moisturizer, as this can soften the pads and lead to injury.

•Deep Paw Massage: Similar to giving a human hand massage, a paw massage will relax your dog and promote better circulation. Start by rubbing between the pads on the bottom of the paw, and then rub between each toe. Your dog will be forever grateful for the extra TLC!

•Slow and Steady: If you’re about to begin a new exercise program with your dog, start off slow. Paws may become sensitive, chaffed or cracked, particularly when starting your dog out on hikes and runs.

•Apply First Aid: It's not unusual for dogs to suffer cuts or other wounds from accidentally stepping on glass, debris or other objects. Wounds that are smaller than a half inch in diameter can be cleaned with an antibacterial wash and wrapped with a light bandage. For deeper paw cuts, see the vet for treatment.

•Summertime Sores: Imagine stepping barefoot onto hot pavement. Ouch! It is important to remember your dog’s paws feel heat extremes, too. To prevent burns and blisters, avoid walking your dog on hot pavement or sand. Signs include blisters, loose flaps of skin and red, ulcerated patches. For minor burns, apply antibacterial wash and cover the paw with a loose bandage. For serious burns, visit your vet immediately.

•Wintertime Blues: Winter is hard on everyone’s skin, even your dog’s! Bitter cold can cause chapping and cracking. Rock salt and chemical ice melters can cause sores, infection and blistering. Toxic chemicals can also be ingested by your dog when he licks his paws. After outdoor walks, wash your dog’s paws in warm water to rinse away salt and chemicals. You may wish to apply Vaseline, a great salt barrier, to the foot pads before each walk—or make sure your dog wears doggie booties.

•Practice Prevention: To reduce the risk of injury, keep your home and yard clear of pointy bits and pieces. Be conscious to avoid hazards such as broken glass and other debris when walking your dog. And keep this simple tip in mind—if you wouldn’t like to walk on it barefoot, neither will your dog!

Top 10 Pet Cockatiel
Vet Questions & Answers
By Margaret A. Wissman, DVM, DABVP, Avian Practice

Have a vet question about your pet cockatiel? Check out the top 10 cockatiel vet answers.

#1 - My pet cockatiel sneezes more than my other birds; should I be concerned?
Pet cockatiel feathers make an excessive amount of powder, produced by the powder down feathers. This powder can make its way into the nares and upper respiratory tract of pet birds, including the dusty pet cockatiels that produce them. This can result in a bird sneezing to expel the excess dust, powder and dander.

As long as the sneezing is not continuous, and the sneeze is dry (it produces no moisture or mucus), it is normal. If you notice that the sneezing increases in frequency or intensity or if begins to produce mucus, then it will be time to have your pet cockatiel evaluated by your avian vet.

Consider running a good quality air filter with HEPA filtration in the bird room to clean the air of dust, debris, pollen, spores and powder down.

#2 - My pet cockatiel has a bald spot on the back of his head behind his crest; is this normal?
Many pet cockatiels – especially the color and pattern mutation cockatiels such as lutino, albino, fallow, cinnamon, pearl and pied, to name some – have an area behind the crest devoid of feathers.

This is not dangerous or a sign of skin disease, but it is considered a fault if showing pet cockatiels. Many responsible aviculturists attempt to produce pet cockatiels with a full head of feathers by selectively breeding their stock. Some cockatiels in the pet trade have this bald spot, however, and it may vary in size from small to a quarter-sized patch. There is no pet bird Rogaine to help them regrow feathers, so simply enjoy your pet cockatiel, bald spot and all.

#3 - My pet cockatiel poops in his water bowl; can this make him sick?
Many pet birds tend to poop in their water bowls, and many also dunk food, including pellets, vegetables and seeds, into their water. All of these activities will cause excessive bacteria to grow in the water. Bacteria will multiply exponentially by the hour in room temperature drinking water.

For this reason, I always recommend offering pet birds water via a water bottle, a much safer way to provide a pet bird with constant clean, fresh water. Many owners worry that a pet bird won’t drink out of a bottle, but pet birds are so smart that most figure it out the first time they stick their beak in the tube and water comes out!

Until you know your pet bird drinks out of the bottle, provide a water bowl beneath it. Some water bottles are made especially for pet birds, including the large birds, so the sipper tubes are made of a strong enough metal to not bend or distort with their tremendous beak pressure.

Even though a bottle holds a lot of water, provide fresh water daily. Stale water isn’t very palatable. Some pet birds will find a way to plug up the end of the tube (pet cockatoos are particularly adept at using corn cob to obstruct the flow of water), so tap the end of the tube once in a while to ensure that the end is open. Apply a piece of tape on the outside of the bottle to mark a line in the morning to make sure that the water level drops during the day.

Factually, birds with water bowls tend to have higher levels of background bacteria in their systems than birds that drink from water bottles. Please consider converting your pet cockatiel to a water bottle and perhaps take your pet bird in for a check-up to make sure that it isn’t suffering from a subclinical bacterial infection.

#4 - Is a flaky beak normal?
Adult pet cockatiels often have a bit of flaking on the sides of the upper beak and also a small amount on the lower beak, especially in the front portion. The beak grows continually and if your pet bird doesn’t chew up items to wear it down properly, then it may show excess flakiness from time to time.

Malnutrition and a lack of full-spectrum sunlight might contribute to beak abnormalities, including excessive flakiness. Also, slight malocclusion or trauma to the beak can result in a beak that grows abnormally, which will require professional trimming. Your avian veterinarian can properly trim away any excess beak tissue using a grinding tool, if necessary, and can instruct you regarding dietary or husbandry changes that you should make for your pet bird.

#5 - How do I tell if my pet cockatiel is overweight or underweight?
Whether a pet cockatiel is overweight or underweight is subjective. A normal pet cockatiel might weigh 70 grams, if it is a small-boned, short-stature bird; a long-bodied, well-muscled bird might weigh 125 grams. As a rule, if you can feel your bird’s keel bone with a good layer of muscling on either side, it is probably a good weight.

To confirm that your pet bird is of a healthy weight, ask your avian veterinarian to assess it. Write down that weight, buy a good quality gram scale and begin weighing your bird weekly. This way you will know if your pet bird is gaining weight, which can be detrimental, or losing weight, which can be a sign of illness.

#6 - How do I tell if my female pet cockatiel is about to lay an egg?
A female cockatiel might lay eggs even when caged without a male pet cockatiel. Several signs show whether a female cockatiel is becoming reproductively active. First, a sudden weight gain of 5 to 10 grams is often a clear sign that a hen is preparing to lay an egg. Weigh your pet bird on a weekly basis to tell whether it rapidly gains weight.

A female cockatiel that is getting ready to lay an egg will often become very cage-territorial, hissing and trying to keep hands away. She will often drink considerably more water to supply the water-rich egg albumen. Hens will often hold droppings all night and pass a large, malodorous dropping first thing in the morning. As the abdominal muscles relax from hormonal influence, the abdomen will appear a bit more rounded and soft. All of these signs will indicate that your hen is ready to lay an egg.

If you notice a firm bulge near your hen’s cloaca and she is no longer passing droppings, or if she is sitting on the bottom of the cage, this is now a medical emergency. Seek veterinary attention as soon as possible as this might mean that she has a retained egg.

#7 - My pet cockatiel laid an egg. Should I leave the egg with her, or take it away? Should I take her to the vet?
If your female has successfully laid an egg, congratulations! Chances are that she will be fine.

Pet cockatiel hens are indeterminate layers; they will continue laying eggs until they have completed a clutch of eggs. It is always best to leave the egg(s) with the hen so that she thinks she has completed her cycle. If she has oviposited in a food dish, or on the bottom of the cage, leave the eggs right there.

She will usually attempt to incubate them, so if she is interested in her eggs, leave them with her. If an egg has broken, you can dispose of it. If you can acquire a similar size egg, made of alabaster, marble or ceramic, paint it white with nontoxic acrylic paint and see if your hen accepts that egg and begins sitting on it.

If she appears interested, let her sit on the egg(s) for about 20 to 21 days, the length of time for fertile cockatiel eggs to hatch successfully. I know this is inconvenient, as your hen will probably fuss at you for trying to clean her cage or feed her, but it is important.

If you remove any eggs, the female cockatiel might continue to lay them in an attempt to complete her clutch. The record in my practice is 27 eggs, and is not one that you should attempt to beat. With every egg, the female cockatiel becomes more depleted of nutrients, especially protein and calcium.

If your female cockatiel has suddenly become depressed, if she is sitting on the bottom of the cage, if her abdomen appears swollen or if you notice droppings stuck to her vent, she should be examined by your avian veterinarian in case she is having a problem with her cycle.

#8 - There is stuff in my pet bird’s nares. Do I need to clean it out?
When in doubt, have your avian veterinarian examine your pet cockatiel. He or she can tell you if there is a problem.

You can do the following at home to help: take your pet bird into a steamy bathroom while you or a family member showers, so that the bird’s respiratory system is kept moist. Try misting your bird with warm water several times per day.

All cockatiels have an operculum inside the nares, which is a keratinized flap. Sometimes the powder down may accumulate inside the nares, over the operculum. That’s why increased humidity will help dislodge and remove any debris.

Never stick a sharp object into pet bird nares to dislodge debris. If that is necessary, your avian veterinarian should do it.

#9 - Can I catch any diseases from my pet cockatiel?
The most significant disease that is often associated with the cockatiel is chlamydiosis. Chlamydophila sp. is a primitive bacterium that some pet cockatiels can carry without showing overt signs of illness. Many pet cockatiels with chlamydiosis show respiratory signs or systemic signs of illness. In some cases, chlamydiosis causes slow liver damage.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to accurately diagnose Chlamydophila in 100 percent of live bird cases. Several accurate tests exist, but pet cockatiels can keep this bacterium under the radar and veterinarians won’t always get a positive test result in an infected bird.

For families with immunocompromised members in the home, for nursing homes or for anyone with HIV or AIDS, test the pet bird and place it on a 45-day course of the antibiotic doxycycline either orally or in drinking water. This minimizes the risk of an infected bird shedding the organism into the environment, even if the bird tests negative for Chlamydophila.

Rarely, pet cockatiels carry the bacterium, Staphylococcus that can cause MRSA (methicillin resistant Staph. aureus), a potentially dangerous disease in humans and other animals. Other bacteria, such as the Salmonella group, can transmit to humans.

Pet birds, especially those with abundant powder-down like the pet cockatiel, can afflict people with a condition known as bird keeper’s lung disease (hypersensitivity pneumonitis or allergic alveolitis). This very dangerous allergic reaction in humans results from exposure to bird dust and dander. The only way to stop ongoing lung damage is by preventing exposure to birds entirely. This is often heartbreaking as it is most likely to occur in people with pet birds.

#10 - Should I have the wing feathers trimmed on my pet cockatiel or should I let him fly?
While I love letting birds fly for exercise and mental well-being, this is impractical in many cases. Pet birds that fly are more likely to be of a healthy weight and have fewer problems with egg-binding, but there are definite downsides.

Pet cockatiels that have regained the ability to fly often become more surly, aggressive, independent and detached, making it difficult for owners to catch a loose bird to place it back in the cage.

Flighted pet birds always risk escaping from home by mistake. An owner might answer the door with a pet bird on his or her shoulder, and the pet bird might make a break for it. Others might become frightened and fly out an open door or window.

A bird can become injured if it flies into a mirror or window. I have actually had a client’s bird fly into a window screen, punch the screen out of the frame and then fly away.

Pet birds outdoors can be prey to hawks, osprey or other hunting raptors. They may be captured by neighborhood cats or dogs. It is possible that they could fly into a body of water and drown.

Pet cockatiels are powerful fliers so you must have your pet cockatiel's wing feathers trimmed by a person familiar with cockatiels. With most pet parrots, I clip the last five primary wing feathers all the way at the base of the feather, leaving the coverts intact. But with pet cockatiels, I often trim six or seven, test-flying the bird after removing five on each side, then removing another on each side, and test-flying again, until the bird can drift gently to the ground, not gaining any lift or traveling any distance horizontally.

The decision of whether or not to trim your pet cockatiel's wing feathers is a personal one and should be made after discussing your home situation with your avian vet. When in doubt, have the feathers trimmed, as they will grow back within about six months.

Check your bird’s wings frequently, as once two feathers have grown in on each wing; your pet cockatiel will most likely regain flight. Many birds fly away because their owners didn’t realize that the feathers had grown back in and the bird had regained flight.

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