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Sniffing Dog Pee; Cat Heart Disease; Biting Kitty; lst Dog Book: Reader Questions Answered


Q: I must thank you for your informative radio show and your Facebook page. You mentioned once on the radio the information dogs gather from smelling pee. I’m wondering what that is! — J.N., via Cyberspace

A: No one knows for sure what dogs can learn by sniffing one another’s urine because none of us are dogs. But we do have some idea. It’s sometimes referred to as “pee-mail,” because even a trickle delivers a message.

If urine is familiar, dogs may recognize individual deposits, just as we recognize a familiar name among a dozen emails. With just a few sniffs, it’s thought that dogs can learn if the urine belongs to a male or female dog, the reproductive status and even general health and mood of the piddler. In other words, without seeing the pet who peed, the dog who sniffs may determine if the dog who left the message behind was terrified or generally contented.

It’s been said that dogs deliver more information through their pee than we can fit on a business card. However, for us, I think business cards are still the best way to go.


Q: Sparky, one of my cats, has been diagnosed with HCM heart disease (feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy). I found these cats in my garage and raised them. I love them very much. I live alone now, and am on Social Security. You wrote some time ago about a Winn Feline Foundation symposium at which heart disease was discussed, but I can’t find this information online. Is there anything I can do for Sparky, such as an herbal or homeopathic treatment, perhaps? My heart is breaking for him. — N.C., Chicago, IL.

A: I understand how you feel. I once had a cat diagnosed with this common heart disease. HCM is the most frequent cause of sudden death in cats. Our cat, Ricky, was stricken in 2002.

Sometimes cats with HCM “throw clots,” repeatedly suffering stroke-like events. This is painful for cats, and emotionally draining on families (never mind the expense of veterinary treatment). Having said this, it’s important for you to know that many cats diagnosed with HCM never seem to know they have heart disease, and live long lives, ultimately succumbing to something unrelated. HCM is not always a death sentence.

In 2002, I initiated the Ricky Fund with the Winn Feline Foundation to raise money to help researchers better understand HCM, with the goal of ultimately finding an effective treatment. The good news is that through the Ricky Fund gene defects responsible for HCM have been identified in Ragdoll and Maine Coon cats. With a simple and inexpensive cheek swab, breeders are in the process of lowering the odds of HCM occurring in these breeds.

Unfortunately, however, drugs are no more effective today than they were when Ricky was diagnosed.

If Sparky is having symptoms, this is a bad sign, and you should seek advice from a veterinary cardiologist. If your veterinarian picked up on a murmur or irregular heartbeat, the future is not certain one way or the other for your pet.

So far, no documented reports have confirmed an herbal or homeopathic effective treatment for HCM. Concerning costa, sometimes no medications are suggested for cats with heart disease. When recommended, heart drugs for cats are generally inexpensive. However, if the disease progresses to actual heart failure, treatment can be costly.

Using this link, you can hear for yourself, as veterinary cardiologist Dr. John Rush, associate department chair at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, spoke at the Winn Feline Foundation symposium last year:


Q: I took in a 3-week-old kitten I found under a viaduct. The kitten licks my arms, then bites down hard and won’t let go. How can I stop this behavior? — J.E., Zephyr Hills, FL

A: This kitten might be hungry and seeking a nipple, and when it receives no milk (from your arm), bites down even harder. You can certainly say, “Ouch!” but don’t punish the kitten. Remove her and give her a bottle or something (else) to suck on.

Orphaned kitties do sometimes have “bite” issues because we’re not as adept at teaching them to inhibit bites as a mother cat or littermates. Be consistent and insist that no biting is allowed.

Congratulations on saving this kitty!


Q: I’ll soon be getting my first dog. Can you recommend a good book for a beginner? — C.K., Nashville, TN

A: I hate to sound self-promoting, but my ebook “Good Dog: Practical Answers to Behavior Questions” ($2.99 wherever ebooks are sold, with messages by dog trainer Victoria Stilwell, Dr. Sheldon Rubin and actress Betty White) offers a good start.

In the most recent crop of dog training books, my favorites are “Train Your Dog Positively,” by Victoria Stilwell (Ten Speed Press, New York, NY, 2013; $14.99) and “Puppy Savvy: The Complete Guide to Raising Your Dog with Going Bonkers (with Tips for Bold and Bashful Puppies),” by Barbara Shumannfang (Very Fetching Publishing, 2012; $16).


Q: My dog jumps up and down — vertically — like a jumping bean when I come home from work. I’ve had dogs who wiggled their rear ends. Is this a Jack Russell version of the same thing? — B.G., Buffalo, NY

A: It sure is. I don’t know why, but some Jack Russells literally will jump for joy like pogo sticks.

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Steve Dale is a certified animal behavior specialist who has been a trusted voice in the world of pet health for over 20 years. You have likely heard him on the radio, read him in print and online, and seen him speaking at events all over the world. His contributions to advancing pet wellness have earned him many an award and recognition around the globe.

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