Your questions on dogs & cats answered

Your questions answered on cats, dogs and other pets' health and behavior

Our Answer Desk phones rang non-stop on Monday evening, with your questions on cat and dog behavior and health. Here are some comments from our panel:

A big health problem for cats is obesity. Dr. Bob Upholt, Veterinarian at the Cats Only Veterinary Hospital in Fayetteville ,says a diet of one 5 and a half ounce can of cat food daily will provide the protein most cats need, without the extra, often fat-producing carbohydrates found in dry cat food. When asked about protein problems in older cats, Upholt says the condition can lead to kidney failure, and a special prescription diet can help.

Dogs are out a lot more, as owners are walking outside more, but the change in exercise patterns can also bring behavior changes. Some dogs get excited about seeing others out. Some dogs withdraw out of fear of an encounter. Danielle Basciano, with CNY Pet Training and Behavior, says you have to 'read' your dog's behavior to understand the reaction, and then plan how to change the behavior. That does NOT mean using a choke chain to curb the dog! Basciano says most respond better to rewards, and learn to enjoy going out on a loose leash. If you need help, she recommends getting it from a CERTIFIED dog behavior consultant.

It's not only people who get excited when a family grows. Pets are also affected, and need to be included as changes come to a home. Christine McNeely, shelter director at HumaneCNY in Liverpool, says the main reason people surrender pets is concerns when a baby is on the way. McNeely says the animals in a family have to learn that some areas and items (like baby toys) will now be out of bounds. She says some dogs become protective of the new arrival and/or its possessions, and that growling or other signs or territoriality are not necessarily aggressive. However, she says they need to be dealt with, for the safety of all humans involved, and recommends getting help as soon as there are concerning behaviors.

Another question we heard a lot at our Answer Desk call in, how to deal with animals, especially dogs, that consume their feces. McNeely says there are additives you can put on pet food that give a bitter taste, which discourages the eating--check with a vet.

Answer Desk returns next Monday, with our panel bringing you infomation on mosquito- and tick-borne diseases, and how to avoid them.

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