COMMENT: "My kitties are perfect in every way. Thanks so much for sharing your love and knowledge of animals. Today, the subject of declawing came up. I agree 100 percent with your advice (against declaw), but you might also mention that it's not that difficult to trim a cat's nails with a device made for that purpose. I always do this in a calm way and give my cats lots of love afterward." -- C.C., St. Paul, MN
Associating nail-cutting with food -- especially a favorite treat -- is a great way to start. Also, don't clip all the nails at once; go slowly at first, snipping only a few at a time.
When its nails are kept short, a cat doesn't have a need to scratch as often. Still, all cats will scratch; it's just a matter of teaching them where to do it.
Declaw is akin to amputation. A cat's toe has three bones; the claw grows from the end of the last bone. In a declaw, the veterinarian literally amputates the end of the last bone, which contains the growth plate along the nail. In my opinion, we need to stop amputating our cats' toes for our convenience.
COMMENT: "I have a suggestion for the person who wants her dog to bark to go out. Get a small cow bell, hang it by the door, and each time you let the dog out, ring the bell. After about a week, the dog will ring the bell to go out. We tried this and it really works, saves on scratching and barking. Our dog has done this for seven years." -- M.K., Oldsmar, FL
MY REPLY: What you do is smear low-fat peanut butter or cream cheese on the bell at a time when you know your dog's gotta go. The pet will ring the bell (while licking the yummy). Soon, the dog will just ring the bell to go out. There is one drawback: Because most dogs love going outside, some learn to ring the bell -- even at 3 a.m. -- just because they want to go outdoors, not because they need "to go."
COMMENT: "I read your response regarding a Labrador Retriever allergy problem. Our poor Lab was scratching himself crazy. He developed staph infections and had hair loss from all the scratching. We eliminated food as a cause.
Eventually, we took him to a veterinary dermatologist. It turns out the most common breeds the dermatologist sees are Labrador and Golden Retrievers. We did allergy testing and found out the dog was allergic to certain grasses and pollens, as well as black ants and other allergens to varying degrees.
We've been treating our dog for about nine months now and he's doing great. We started with a low dose of modified Cyclosporine to suppress his T-cells and Hydroxyzine. While on the medications, we began incremental doses of allergy shots to build up his tolerance to the allergens. Soon we'll be tapering him off the medications and only continue with allergy shots. from reading (online) message boards, I've found that there are a lot of frustrated retriever owners looking for an answer." -- M.P., Boca Raton, FL
MY REPLY: Indeed, you offer hope to other owners of dogs with allergies. When a general practitioner can't figure out what to do, seeing a specialist makes perfect sense.
COMMENT: "I read your response about the cat who woke up yowling during the night. My 17-year-old Norwegian Forest cat does this, and I thought she was lonely since our other cat passed away, or she merely wanted attention. The veterinarian discovered she's suffering from arthritis. After three acupuncture treatments, the cat acts 10 years younger. It's worked wonders." -- J.F., Cyberspace
MY REPLY: I sound like a broken record (or these days a broken MP3) when I say, anytime you note a sudden change in a pet's behavior, first see your veterinarian. Acupuncture doesn't always work so quickly and effectively, but I'm glad it did in your case.
COMMENT: "I was shocked to read your story saying that the VA (Veteran's Administration) no longer supports service dogs for veterans with PTSD. You're right about what animals can do for us. I'm a veteran diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder syndrome (PTSD). I've tried many medications, but you know what's worked best? My Rottweilers have been indispensable. I've had three dogs over the years. Thank you for speaking up for service dogs and for veterans." -- T.R., Marysville, WA
MY REPLY: Eliminating support for service dogs for veterans is reprehensible, in my opinion. I'm grateful for your service, and that you're apparently doing well.
(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.)
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