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B Vitamins for relaxation

Q: I have a six month old male Bullmastiff. He seems to be somewhat high strung and I read in a book that vitamin B supplements can help settle him down. What do you think?

A: The B vitamins are healthy for all dogs, and aid in many body functions. Your dog is just a puppy, so being high strung is most likely just normal for the breed. You are best off feeding a balanced diet, supplementing with a balanced, multiple vitamin product. A top name brand puppy chow for the entire first year of his life is best. You are very unlikely to see a significant change in personality and activity by giving just B vitamins, and could cause problems with an unbalanced diet. Castration, obedience training, separation and exercise periods are more likely to help.


Is chocolate toxic to my pets?

Q: My seven pound Yorkie ate an unknown amount of chocolate. Could this be a problem?

A: Chocolate is neither toxic nor harmful in small amounts. In large amounts, it can cause digestive upset, resulting in vomiting and diarrhea. It has no long term harmful effects. If your dog acts fine for 12 hours, then all is okay. Chocolate is commonly the source of myths in human and veterinary medicine; I often read it is the cure for this or that, or it's toxic, or people who eat chocolate live longer, etc. The scientific and medical community believe chocolate is fine in normal consumption.


What is a good diet for turtles?

Q: A few months ago I found 11 baby desert tortoises that had hatched in my backyard. I've been caring for them since, but I'm not really sure what their optimum diet should be in captivity. They have been eating green leafy vegetables (lettuces and kale, endive, and chard), other veggies (I've tried just about everything I can find), and some fruits such as apples, bananas and melons. They don't seem to be eating much lately, leaving nearly all the foods untouched. Is there something else I should be feeding them?

A: Congratulations on your successful brood. Now, we must make sure they grow to be as big as their mother. They should be kept at temperatures above 70 degrees for the next two years. When it is warm, you can keep them in outdoor enclosures, otherwise indoors. They have a special need for sunlight. Try to put them outside with direct sunlight exposure as much as possible. Inside, you should provide them with a Vitelite, made by Durotest, to give them the necessary wavelengths they require to metabolize their food. If they choose the shade, that's fine, provide sun availability anyway. Be sure the outside pen is secure from dogs and predators. Their cages should be very dry and barren. They often climb and fall over onto their backs if too many objects are in the pen. Technically, you should register the adults and the babies with the California Department of Fish and Game. They can never be sold, nor released into the wild.

Now to the nutrition question. Feed a variety of vegetables, focusing on the dark greens. Avoid all forms of lettuce, for they don't have the vitamins required. Broccoli, kale, collards, mustard, dandelion, carrots, squash, and spinach are wonderful. They like fruits, but generally fruit is mostly water, and not as nutritious as the vegetables. Do not feed fruit more than once per weeks to avoid their bloating with water. Do not feed meat, dog food or water turtle food. If you feed the variety of fresh vegetables, you do not need to supplement with vitamins or minerals. A sub-optimum diet may need powdered calcium added in very minute amounts on a weekly basis. They usually get all the water they need from the food they eat, but a small jar lid of water is nice to insure they have enough water. They often use the water dish as a toilet.


Should I give my dog fruit and vegetables?

Q: Our Yorkshire Terrier is becoming overweight. She absolutely adores some vegetables like carrots; is it healthy to feed her vegetables if she still gets the protein from her dog food? Are fruits and vegetables a good healthy habit for dogs just like for people?

A: Fruits and vegetables are just as healthy for pets as they are for people. I encourage people to supplement a dog's diet wisely. Many people turn to unhealthy pet snacks, when much more nutritious foods are right in the refrigerator.

Many dogs are reluctant to try fruits or vegetables, so mixing them with VitaGravy, familiar foods or warming them may help the transition. Some acidic fruits can cause nausea, especially if overeaten. Too much fruit can soften the stool to the point of diarrhea. It is best to introduce new foods in small quantities to note your dog's reaction before feeding larger amounts.


What do you feed baby fox squirrels?

Q: I am trying to raise orphaned fox squirrels using half multi-milk and half Esbolac® as formula. I am concerned about mange in fox squirrels. How do you detect it and treat it, and what housing hygiene should we follow for affected critters. For example, tossing out the uneaten nut shavings; will it pollute the environment? Washing bedding and my clothes; is a regular wash enough? Does it spread only through touch/contact?

A: All squirrels are susceptible to mange, as are dogs and cats. Mange makes them itch severely, and causes a rash on their skin. They lose hair over affected areas, due to the scratching. Mites spread over short distances, by crawling from one host to another, and by direct contact. Mite infestations are easily treated with topical anti-mange shampoos and dips, available for puppies and kittens, such as lime sulfur. Soiled litter should be placed in the trash daily, and replaced with new. I do not consider this as environmental contamination. Cleanliness, including hand washing after handling, and cleaning the cage daily is usually sufficient. Your veterinarian can perform a fecal analysis on a submitted stool sample to identify common parasites squirrels carry. If you suspect mites, your veterinarian can provide you with the special shampoo you will need.


What's the best food to feed my spaniel?

Q: My question is do I feed a premium puppy growth food to a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy? A good many of the breeders are against a growth food because they say it has too much protein, and this will escalate the problems of hip dysplasia that seem to be all too common in this breed. My vet thought puppies need the extra ingredients in a puppy formula, but she was not very familiar with this breed of dog and its particular problem. I also am struggling with which brand is best.

A: The nutritional requirements of different breeds vary tremendously. Small, high energy breeds have certain needs which differ from calm, large breed dogs. Also, within one breed, dogs have different personalities with considering differing nutritional needs. This creates a marketing nightmare for the dog food companies. They cannot make a different food for every type of dog, so they compromise, and try to suit the needs of the average dog. This is why so many different brands are available. What works well for one pet owner, may not be good for another.

Growing puppies, in all breeds, have different requirements than adults. Puppies need more protein, more energy, and more calcium for proper growth and development. In some cases, puppy foods can be over-fortified with vitamins, minerals and proteins, causing leg bone deformities. Over-fortification is very rare in the top name brand dog foods. Maintenance dog food is definitely insufficient for a growing puppy. Therefore, you should feed a puppy food of a top name brand dog food. For the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppies, their bones grow until they reach ten or eleven months of age. They should eat puppy food until their skeleton is fully developed. As a faster growing, smaller breed, with strong, shorter legs, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are much less likely than Shepherds and larger breeds to have developmental problems like hip dysplasia.

In general, the top name brands, made by the older, larger companies are much better and more reliable than the newer brands. The large pet food companies, such as Purina, Carnation, Hills, Wysong, Waltham, APD and Iams, have done extensive research in attempt to create the perfect dog food. Any of these brands would be an excellent choice for the Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.


What is a good diet for a pet with liver disease?

Q: My dog was diagnosed as having a liver problem (he is 12 or 13). The vet told me to put him on a low cholesterol diet; could you please advise as to whether chicken or fish is out as well as normal dog food, and if so what is the best food to feed him?

A: Low fat, low cholesterol diets are necessary for many types of liver problems to lower the strain on the bile system. Commercial and prescription diets are available to address the problem, and insure the necessary balance of nutrients and vitamins. Balanced nutrition is difficult to achieve with homemade diets, however supplementing a commercial product is fine. Boneless fish, skinless chicken, and lamb are good, low-fat meat protein sources. Regular dog food is out. Prescription low-fat diets from your veterinarian are best.


What should I feed my puppies as they wean?

Q: I have a friend that has a puppy, six weeks, that will not eat solid food. The other puppies in the litter are but she is not. She has tried different dog foods but no luck. What can she do to get her to eat? She is getting skinny.

A: First, the puppy should be checked by a veterinarian, for she may have dental or digestive problems. She will need to begin her vaccinations and be checked for parasites at this time anyway. If healthy, begin by mixing a small amount of puppy chow with warm milk formula. Gradually increase the amount of the food. VitaGravy is a good vitamin supplement which also makes food more palatable. Use only a growth or puppy food, canned or kibble.


African Grey Diet

Q: Hi Doc. I have an African Grey that is three years old. I've had him since he was three months old. I'm concerned about his eating. No matter what I buy him, he wants nothing to do with anything but sunflower seeds. He will eat grapes and apples if I hand feed it to him. How do I get him to eat a more varied diet, short of starving him?

A: It is wise to be concerned about his diet. Sunflower seeds are very non-nutritious, and full of fat in the form of oil. African Greys eat fruits, leaves, insects, bark and flowers in the wild. In captivity, they should eat a varied diet of fruits, vegetables supplemented with some seeds and nuts. Rice, beans, corn, tortillas, pasta, potatoes, bread and cooked chicken are healthy foods for Greys. They also need extra calcium supplementation, so add bones, oyster shell, and cuttle bones to the diet. Now, the difficult task of getting him to eat his new diet. It is not appropriate to starve birds into eating what you desire. Instead, you need to appeal to their playfulness and curiosity. Texture and presentation are often more important than taste. Try cutting carrots and broccoli stems into silver dollar sized slices, then stringing together and hanging the string in the bird's cage. Try stuffing rice and beans into rolled cardboard and taping them to the cage. Make the bird want to destroy things. Food is fun. Mix the desired foods with the seeds, making him have to dig through to find what he wants. Gradually decrease the percentage of sunflower seeds over several weeks. Some people have had luck with the pelleted bird diets; worth a try.

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