A: The test you're referring to is a blood test which can identify adult heartworm. Your question is, how can my dog have heartworm if I've been religiously using the preventative? It's a reasonable question.
Still, why have veterinarians become so adamant about the heartworm test?
Rubin says it turns out it's possible that if a heartworm preventative is given to a dog with heartworm disease, there could be a serious reaction due to the rapid killing of circulating baby heartworms in the bloodstream. Also, a dog with heartworm must be treated, and early identification makes it easier to treat (with fewer side effects), less expensive to treat, and there's less suffering for the dog.
Rubin, based in Chicago, also notes that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has requested that the American Heartworm Society recommend veterinarians conduct annual heartworm testing.
Rubin says it's not about the customer being right. Veterinarians should be first the best advocates for pets. He suggests owners sign a waiver to indicate that they're aware of the risks of not testing, not so much for legal reasons but really as an educational tool. The fact is, you may owe your first veterinarian an apology.
The definitive resource for all things heartworm is http://www.heartwormsociety.org.
Q: I have a 13-year-old blind and deaf Lhasa Apso. He gets into things all the time. Can you suggest special toys for our dog? Also, when he lies down, he whines. What's wrong? Is he just "talking," or is he is pain? -- B.A., La Mesa, CA
A: See your veterinarian promptly to determine if your dog is in pain or not. Since your pet is unlikely to reproduce the specific "whine" you describe at the vet office, videotape it.
For dogs, smell is the most important sense. Dr. Valli Parthasarathy, of Portland, OR, president of the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, says you can teach your dog to find hidden treats. At first, leave the treats in obvious places, but over time you can make the game more challenging by hiding biscuits around the house.
One game is to use a muffin tin, placing treats in some holes, golf balls in others. Your dog will easily find the treats. Nina Ottosson, a Swedish pet game developer, has created several "brain games" for dogs, all involving scent work (http://www.nina-ottosson.com/). You might even contact local dog trainers about a nose work class (where dogs use their snouts to find things), which might be lots of fun for your older dog.
As for your dog "getting into things," consider crate training. Even an older dog can learn to be crated, so when there's no adult supervision the pet can't get into trouble.
Q: My daughter planned to take in a stray kitten, but her two cats weren't friendly toward the newcomer and she ended up giving the kitten to me. At first, he spent most of his time under the bed, but now he's very loving toward me. If I sit down, he's in my lap. However, if a stranger comes in the house, the kitten disappears under the bed. He hides even when people he knows visit. Any advice? -- J.P., Goldsboro, NC
A: "Probably this kitten was never appropriately socialized. Besides, some cats are just shy, as some people are," says certified cat behavior consultant Darlene Arden, author of "The Complete Cat's Meow" (Wiley, New York, NY, 2011; $19.99).
Don't force your kitty out from under the bed. Visitors (starting with those she knows) might be able to coax her out with bits of tuna or salmon. If your kitten is playful, and your guests like cats, they might be able to draw her out using an interactive cat toy (fishing pole toy feathers or fabric, or a Cat Dancer toy).
Arden, of Framingham, MA, also suggests clicker-training your cat. First, offer treats each time you use the clicker (available online and at most pet stores). Your kitty will soon associate the clicker with something positive. Once you have her trained to the clicker, whenever she acts more outgoing, playful or demonstrative -- even just a tiny bit -- click the clicker and offer a treat. (Don't overdo the treats or you'll have a chubby cat.) Once your kitty gets the idea, have someone else use the clicker, such as your daughter or a visitor.
As for the hiding, if you place some empty boxes around the house, your kitten may jump in these and not feel a need to hide under the bed.
"It would be nice if the cat learns to accept at least one other person, in case something happens to you," says Arden. "However, it sounds like your kitten is perfectly loving toward you, and that's what matters most."
(Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is http://www.stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.)