Ask the Vet

posted April 15th, 2007 by
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Story by Chris Adolph

Q: I know this is disgusting, but I have a dog who is a poop-eater.   She won’t eat her own but can’t wait to eat the poop of my other two dogs.   I have tried everything from getting that stuff to feed the other two to make their poop “undesirable,” to pouring Tabasco on the other’s poop,    Nothing works.   Now the only thing I can do is run out and scoop every time there’s more poop, but I can’t always do that with the weather.   What can I do?

A: Eating feces is an instinct in dogs.  This behavior is very common.  It seems to be more common in females than males because mothers clean their puppies and the environment by eating the feces.  Males will also do this. You can begin to break this habit by constantly picking up the feces.  This will be easier when the weather warms up. Don’t scold or make a big deal about it. 

Routinely eliminating parasites and feeding twice daily help develop regular outdoor pooping habits and will assist you with regular clean-up to further change the habit.

Use a word for “outside” at the door and another word for “go potty” when she is in the right place. When she relieves herself in the right spot, praise her by saying something like “good girl to go potty outside.” You can also give her a treat as you say this, but don’t let her see it beforehand. This habit will eventually fade.  

You can sprinkle meat tenderizer on food or there is a product called “Forbid” to discourage the habit, but neither of these is a magic bullet.

Q: I have a mutt puppy about a year old who has a beautiful brown coat except for these weird scars on the tops of his ears.   Somebody mentioned that he was probably left outside all one summer and the scars are from fly bites. Would you know what these are, and is there anything I can put on them to make them go away?    He also has scars with no hair on his front feet where his dew claws were removed.

A: The skin needs to be checked by a veterinarian to determine the cause.  In general terms, this is usually called fly strike dermatitis. It can be treated by applying an ointment with insecticides and limiting exposure.  There are other causes and your veterinarian can direct you on appropriate testing and treatment.  Proper diagnosis, treatment and environmental conditions can help minimize the ear scars.  The hairless areas where dew claws were removed are scar tissue and hair does not grow in scar tissue.

Q: My husband and I have a 15-year-old lab female who has lost the use of her back right leg.  She’s not in pain, but I feel it’s time to let her go. My husband says a firm “no.”    How do we know when that time is here?

A: We should not always assume that health problems in older animals are always related to old age. The loss of use of one rear limb can have several causes, most of which are treatable.  Osteoarthritis of the hip and/or knee joints is the most common cause that I see.  There are very safe and effective treatments for this condition.  The other common causes are neurological disorders, ruptured ligaments and trauma.  The key lies in working with your veterinarian to get a true diagnosis.  This will most likely include a complete exam to localize the problem.  Additionally, blood and urine testing determine organ function.  X-rays are critical to determining the cause and sometimes mild sedation is needed to do this.  With this information, your veterinarian can guide and direct your decision-making process. 

Q: I’ve noticed that my 10-year-old kitty is drinking more water, more often every day and he’s in the litter box more than usual. What’s going on?

A: These are common symptoms is older felines and there are many causes.  The most common are diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and kidney failure.  There are many other causes, but this is what I see the most, and each one is treated differently.  The cornerstone is getting a true diagnosis.  This will include blood and urine testing to start with.  This will most likely lead to other tests, but the initial tests will get your veterinarian pointed in the right direction. 

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