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My cat is not affectionate. Why?

Q: My cat seems cold, and not very friendly or affectionate. Is there something I did wrong in raising her? My other cat is just the opposite, and is what people consider a lap cat.

A: Cats, like people, have personalities that are derived from hereditary factors as well as life experiences. You can modify them slightly, by addressing problems that may be inducing unwanted behaviors. Your cold cat may be jealous of the other cat, or may need a little coaxing at the right time to bring out affection. It's not as much wrong or right, as it is mood and personality.


Is it normal for my dog to lick his testicles so much?

Q: We have an eight month old chocolate lab that has been constantly licking himself (his testicles). We noticed today that his testicles are very red and raw looking. Is there something we can apply to them that will help them heal and at the same time discourage him from licking them?

A: Dogs clean themselves by licking. Licking is a normal and natural behavior. Excessive licking is not. Sometimes a behavioral licking can irritate the skin, and create a reason to lick more. This is a self perpetuating, viscous cycle. A human licking chapped lips is a similar situation. Continued licking provides temporary relief to the itch sensation, but dries and irritates the skin, causing the overall condition to worsen.

If your dog licks his testicles, and the testicles look normal, no problem. However if the testicles are red and raw, you do need to investigate the cause and stop the cycle. A veterinarian's examination may be helpful in determining if the scrotum and testicles are normal or not. Your dog could have epididymitis or another disease of that area, and is licking because it hurts. Once the underlying problem is identified and eliminated, you can direct your attention to breaking the licking cycle.

Behavioral over-licking can be addressed by blocking the access to the area, and stopping the desire to lick. Elizabethan collars and bitter flavored sprays may act as deterrents to licking the area. Anti-itch and anti-inflammatory oral medications can help block the itching sensation. Topical ointments can also provide relief. Sometimes, topical ointments meant to help actually exacerbate the problem by giving the dog something to lick off. A few cases are deeply habitual, and require anti-anxiety or mood alerting medications.


My boy dog doesn't lift his legs to urinate. A problem?

Q: My one year old dog was neutered four days ago. This evening when I took him out he urinated four times without lifting a leg or any of the other doggy behaviors. He even peed on my shoe, not in a possessive way. It is almost as if he lacks control. Is this an emergency? Will it go away? Can I give him a bath (he needs it) or should I give his incision more time to heal?

A: It is not uncommon for male dogs not to lift their legs to urinate shortly after being neutered. Lifting the leg puts tension on certain lower abdominal muscles which may be uncomfortable after surgery. If the incision looks fine, and he acts normal otherwise, no worries.


My dog eats feces. What can I do?

Q: I have a 14 year old Cocker Spaniel that is on medication for incontinence, heart problems, thyroid problems and most recently an antibiotic for a vaginal infection. She has lost four pounds over the past month so I now add enzyme to her food. She has become a pooping machine. Being 14 years old, she has started urinating one or two times during the day, and I am up with her every two to three hours throughout the night. I can deal with all of this, but over the past two weeks she has begun eating poop out of the yard. It is difficult to clean up after her during the middle of the night. The next morning when I let her out she goes out and urinates and defecates, but then right to eating the poop in the yard. This is VERY disgusting, it makes me gag. She often then comes in and pukes within two hours. Any suggestions? I would appreciate any help.

A: I am happy to see you are taking good care of your senior spaniel with so many problems. Coprophagy, the eating of feces, can be purely behavioral or it may indicate a dietary deficiency. In addition to cleaning up the feces as often as possible, there are several more things to do. Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is sold in the market as a food additive, under different brands such as Accent(r). Put a pinch of MSG on her food every feeding. This will cause a very bad flavor to her feces. Supplement her diet with an iron fortified mineral product, such as VAL syrup. They will address any possible cravings for deficient minerals. B vitamin injections by your veterinarian may also help.


How do I train my puppy not to mess in the house?

Q: I just got a puppy and want to keep him indoors. Can you give me some pointers in house training?

A: Keeping your pup in a confined space, such as a large box, and letting him out to urinate and defecate every few hours is the essence of crate training. This simulates a wild wolf den where the pups never soil the space they live in. It is important to time the frequency of trips outside with the needs of the pup. The object is to give praise and reward for good behavior (not soiling the box) rather than punishment for mistakes. You want the pup to learn outside is OK, inside is not. If you are away for long periods, you cannot blame your pup for accidents if he is left inside. Doggy doors, leaving him outside, or establishing newspaper on the floor as a legitimate target may help is these situations


Why does my cat howl at night?

Q: My cat, 18 human years of age, a domestic short haired female, lets loose with various strange howling noises, which seem to be increasing. There does not seem to be any reason for the howl ( ie. pain, threat, fear). Is there a cat equivalent to senility that she is suffering? Is she seeing things? Can I help her?

A: Some cats, especially older cats, howl at night for no apparent reason. Often they are communicating with other cats. Other times it may indicate pain or discomfort. In non-neutered and non-spayed younger cats howling is part of the mating ritual. Your best plan is to have her examined by her veterinarian. If she has not been spayed, then have her spayed as soon as possible. A complete blood panel will be very helpful. If she is healthy and spayed, then try to determine when she howls and what it is associated with. A new cat in the neighborhood may be the cause. Such howling is often blamed on senility, although this is usually the result of not finding any other cause. If you keeping in mind feline howling is derived from long distance communication, you may be able to determine the cause.


Tell me about Personality Disorders in Cats

The Top 16 Signs Your Cat has a Personality Disorder

16. Couldn't muster up sufficient disdain if all nine lives depended on it!

15. You've repeatedly found him in the closed garage, hunched over the wheel of your running Buick.

14. Sits for hours in fascination while listening to Bob Dole.

13. Teeth and claw marks all over your now-empty bottles of Prozac.

12. No longer licks paws clean, but washes them at the sink again and again and again...

11. Continually scratches on the door to get in... the OVEN door.

10. Doesn't get Garfield, but laughs like hell at Marmaduke.

9. Rides in your car with its head out the window.

8. She's a dues-paid, card-carrying member of the Reform Party.

7. You realize one day that the urine stains on the carpet actually form the letters

N-E-E-D T-H-E-R-A-P-Y.

6. Has built a shrine to Andrew Lloyd Webber entirely out of empty 9 Lives cans.

5> Spends all day in litter box separating the green chlorophyll granules from the plain white ones.

4. After years of NPR, Tabby is suddenly a Ditto-Puss.

3. Sullen and overweight, your sunglass-wearing cat shoots the TV with a .45 Magnum when it sees cartoon depictions of stupid or lazy felines.

2. Your stereo is missing, and in the corner you find a pawn ticket and 2 kilos of catnip.

And the Number 1 Sign Your Cat has a Personality Disorder: Makes an attempt on First Cat Sock's life in a pathetic attempt to impress Jodie Foster


Why does my dog pee all over the place when we go for walks?

Q: Every time I walk my dog, she eliminates herself various times on the sidewalk or on people's lawns. Why does she do this and how can I correct her?

A: Normal dog behavior includes marking territory with urine. Dogs communicate by smelling and urinating. An unspayed female is far more likely to do this than a spayed female. Proper leash commands and control will help guide her to proper locations to urinate and improper. Although urinary tract problems should be considered, if she only does this when being walked, it is behavioral.


How can I make my cats get along better?

Q: My cat Max seems to want to be the only cat in the household. He wants all the attention. How do I break him of these habits? This morning I put him on a leash and let him out in the house so he wouldn't attack Ivar, my boyfriend's cat. It calmed Max down a bit. Is this the best approach? Should I keep him on a leash until he learns not to chase and attack Ivar?

A: Cats, by nature, are territorial. The cats must be assigned and taught their own territories, with no overlapping zones.

Try keeping them separate for several weeks, and allowing them to meet only on neutral ground after this time. They should have individual cat boxes and food dishes. Leashes and sedatives are not recommended


How can I stop my cat from urinating on the stove?

Q: My three year old spayed female cat has been urinating in the electric stove burner repeatedly for as long as we have had her. It took us a long time to determine the source of the noxious and lingering odor produced when the burner is turned on. And since we never catch her in the act, disciplinary action other than tossing her outside seems pointless. It is not related to the cleanliness of the litter or other obvious signs. She was neglected and had produced several litters of kittens within a short time when we adopted and spayed her. But her tenure is in danger in this house with three other spayed/neutered cats and two young sons unless we find a reasonable solution.

A: Inappropriate urination has plagued cat owners for centuries. Your cat may not understand that the stove is not a cat box. She may not want to use the designated places for a variety of reasons: bad smell, other cat's smell, wrong type of cat litter for her, out in the open or intimidation by the other cats. You should get her own cat box, with different litter. Place it close to the stove, for you can move it later. Block her use of the stove. You may need the help of behavioral modification drugs from your veterinarian. You may need to keep her locked in a separate room with a cat box for a week or more to help her learn what a proper bathroom looks like.


How can I stop my Samoyed from peeing in our bed?

Q: Our three year old female Samoyed is allowed to sleep on the foot of our bed, but has started to have semi-regular accidents during the night. She does not just dribble a little, rather she empties her entire bladder. Usually, she doesn't even wake up and the puddle goes undiscovered until morning. We have forced her to sleep on the floor lately, for obvious reasons, and she doesn't have any accidents. We want to be able to allow her on the bed again, so we have pursued medication. Our vet first recommended Estrogen supplements, but we were afraid of cancerous side effects. We have decided to try Phenylpropanolamine. We are not familiar with this drug and would like to know if there are harmful side effects and also if this is the most effective way to deal with our problem?

A: Incontinence is most common in older, spayed dogs. It is unusual for a three year old to be incontinent, so you may wish to pursue the problem diagnostically with you veterinarian, before trying sphincter control medications. Phenylpropanolamine is a common, over the counter medication, found in diet pills, and decongestant tablets. Prolonged or high dose usage can cause dry sinuses, leading to nose bleeds, and weight loss. Otherwise it is a very safe medicine, and much preferred over the Estrogen for urinary control problems.


What should I do to make my pets comfortable in their new home?

Q: I will be moving with my cats and dogs soon. What should I do to make them accept their new home?

A: Take as many of their toys, litter boxes, food dishes, blankets, etc. with you to help them recognize their new home. Dogs adapt faster than cats, but give all your pets as much personal attention as possible to let them know everything is OK. Cats should be kept indoors, not even allowed brief supervised periods outside, until they clearly accept their new home, which could take several weeks. Confused pets often run away if given the chance.


Hyperactive Spaniel

Q: We have a nine year old, 35 pound female Brittany Spaniel who is relatively hyper. She has sporadic vomiting that has been checked out by our vet. He says it's her breed and there is no physical reason. We'd like to take her on a car/boat trip with the family, but we're concerned about her comfort. Any suggestions on how to keep her calm would be greatly appreciated!

A: Conditioning to the car ride experience is your best plan. Begin by merely taking her into the car, then out again, without even starting the engine. Then, take her on a very short car ride, gradually increasing the length. You can also use motion sickness medications, such as diphenhydrinate, available for children in your pharmacy. Tranquilizers are not appropriate for frequent travel.

Various calming medications are available for nervous dogs. These medications, such as Clomicalm, are for constantly nervous dogs to help curb destructive behavior or excessive barking.


My cat doesn't use the litter box since we got a new kitten

Q: We have a six year old female cat. About a year ago we adopted a male kitten, now one year old. The new cat is very friendly toward the old cat but the old cat wants nothing to do with the new cat. It took at least four months or so before the old cat would even begin to tolerate the new one. Lately we have noticed that on occasion there is cat defecation and urination in one of our three children's bedrooms. We are certain it is the doing of the older cat, although we have never caught her in the act. She seems not to ever use her litter box any more, preferring to go outside (it seems to us) almost exclusively. In this warmer weather the older cat spends as much of the day outside as she wants to. We let her out quite a bit. Even in the winter time most of her potty duty is spent outside. We read with great interest the letter and your response to the three year old cat urinating in the electric stove. We see many similarities in our situations. Is there anything specific that we can do? Both of our cats are regularly seen by a local veterinarian. Is there a specific medication we should ask for? Prior to getting the new kitty the old cat never ever messed in the house. Do you think this is related to the two cat household we now have?

A: This does sound like a classic territorial behavioral problem. In addition to separation and additional cat boxes, you may need behavioral modification medications. Specific medications found useful in other similar situations include Buspirone, Megestrol acetate and Doxepin. None are without side effects, so be sure to follow the guidance of your veterinarian. I personally find Buspirone to be the easiest, safest, and most effective oral medication for helping cats in a multi-cat household relax.


Why doesn't my dog lift his leg to urinate?

Q: My seven month old male mixed breed doesn't lift his leg at all when he urinates, and he hasn't been neutered (he seems to want to go a lot but we are in the process of training). Why is this?

A: Male dogs learn to lift their legs to mark their territories on vertical surfaces, such as trees. Testosterone induces marking behavior and other male dog qualities. Most male dogs learn to lift their legs to urinate sometime from six to 12 months of age. Some male dogs never learn this behavior. Neutered dogs are more likely to squat to urinate than intact males.

This is nothing to worry about. There is no need for you to try to train your dog to do this behavior. He'll learn it on his own.


Biting Dachshund

Q: I adopted a six year old Dachshund from a lady that was moving and could not take her dog. The problem is that he never wants to go outside to go to the bathroom, and when I pick him up he growls at me. The previous owner said she always took him out for walks; I however have a back yard I'd like him to use, so I trick him by putting the lease on and putting him in yard. He growls at me when I go take the leash off, and today he bit me on my hand and drew blood. Just last week he nipped me. What should I do? Is there any help for us?

A: Your Dachshund may have had a previous bad experience outdoors or when leashed, or he may have pain. His biting response is his way of communicating to you to stop what you are doing. You should first have your veterinarian perform a physical examination to make sure he does not have a slipped disk, sore neck or other ailment. If he's healthy, start slowly with the desired activities, careful not to rush him into anxious situations. You can wear protective gloves or use a towel as a shield if you fear his bite. Try just putting the leash over his neck, as you pet him. Then wrap it around his neck as you continue to pet. When he becomes tense, move slowly. You may also benefit from a housecall trainer who could help you with the early steps of accommodation.

Biting should never be tolerated. The first step in controlling this undesirable behavior is finding the stimuli that trigger the dog to bite. Then, work through training and accommodation to remove these triggers. You should use a combination of punishment and reward. Punishment should never produce injury, and should not stimulate confrontation. I prefer indirect punishment, such as electric collars that can give a remote mild shock. Don't worry, these collars do not electrocute your dog. Be sure to reward with praise and perhaps food when he performs a task that used to cause the biting response, and he doesn't bite. Once the punishment/reward system produces a non-biting situation, be sure to repeat it often, rewarding each time. This will accommodate the dog to the behavior and make it a good thing instead of bad. Do not repeat behaviors rapidly if he responds with a bite attempt each time, for all this will do is to reinforce the biting reflex. Only repeat it often once he does not bite in the situation.

Some medications, such as Clomicalm and acepromazine can be used in conjunction with training a biting a dog. I prefer to try without medication first.


How should I introduce my new cat to my other cats?

Q: I'll inherit a four year old spayed, front declawed female. I already have three neutered males, ages seven and three years. She's used to being the only cat in a one person household. I need to know the best way to keep everyone happy and how to introduce her.

A: Whenever you introduce a new cat into a multi-cat household, you can expect territorial displays. The cats may fight, urinate inappropriately or hiss at and chase each other. Our goal is to minimize all of these undesirable features as much as possible.

The new cat should be confined to a room, so the others will know she is there, but not have access to her. This will enable her to have her own territory. The separating door should be opened after a few days, allowing the cats to meet in neutral territory. You should have plenty of cat boxes, water dishes and food trays around, so competition is minimized.

The punishment for aggression is confinement. You should tolerate some initial hissing and conflicts, for the cats will need to work out the pecking order.

Medications can help cats become more accepting, but should only be used as a last resort.


My rabbit is in love with and mounts my cat

Q: I have a cat that has been spayed and declawed and of course she stays inside. Here is the problem: I recently acquired a male rabbit...the cat and rabbit are in love! The rabbit mounts the cat and tries to mate with the cat. The cat does not seem to mind, even licking the rabbit's head and body. When I separate them, the cat cries out until she is allowed near the rabbit. I keep the rabbit in a cage and the cat will lay next to the cage as long as I let her. Is this normal? Will the rabbit hurt the cat? Should I get a female rabbit? I know this sounds strange, but you should be in my shoes when my family comes over to see the two lovebirds!

A: It is not unusual for two different species to love, to mate and to enjoy each other's company. Sometimes the animals are truly in love with their friend, and sometimes they mount as a demonstration of dominance. Dogs may jump on a human leg as if to mate, or a bird may rub on a toy in the cage. In captivity, especially when the same species in unavailable, sexual feelings are often displayed in a distorted manner. In the wild, it is extremely unlikely to find felines and rabbits mounting one another.

Rabbits are notoriously sexually active. When another rabbit is unavailable, they turn to a toy or another animal for sexual tension release. Intact male rabbits are much more likely to do this than females. The genetics of cats and rabbits are too different to result in any fertility, so you don't have to worry about any unwanted pregnancies here. Also, the rabbit is unlikely to hurt the cat in their fun. You might be best off just letting them continue as is.

Having the rabbit castrated may help diminish the behavior, by lowering his testosterone. I do not recommend getting another rabbit, for two males would fight, and a pair would multiply quickly.


Tell me about corprophagy because my dog eats feces

Q: We have a three month old female Yorkshire Terrier that is not yet house broken and still goes on newspaper in the kitchen more often than not. We take her out about every three hours; sometimes she goes and sometimes not. The latest problem we are having is that she just started to eat her own feces off of the paper right after she goes. She did not do this before. We're wondering if she is doing this because she knows it's bad to go the bathroom in the house and she is just trying to hide it from us before we see it, or if there is another reason. She also eats her own feces in her crate that we keep her in at night.

A: Corprophagy is the act of eating feces. Most dogs choose to eat other animal's feces. Most of the time it does not result in disease. It is questionable whether this practice actually caused your pup's stomach upset, or was it merely a coincidence. To stop coprophagy, you should clean up the feces as often as possible. Adding Monosodium Glutamate, a meat tenderizer sold as Accent® in the grocery store, to the other dog's food will make his feces taste worse. You would think feces would taste bad anyway, but MSG makes it taste bad to dogs that like to eat feces. Adding a general mineral supplement to a dog's food sometimes decreases the desire to eat strange foods. We use VAL syrup, a vitamin/amino acid supplement to help fulfill the nutritional requirements in attempt to decrease the desire to eat strange foods and feces.

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