All About Marie

Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Vaccinating your Dogs

Dear Marie:
My sister just got a new puppy and I am overly worried about him, I am sure, but I want to make certain he stays healthy.  He has had all his shots but I am scared that he might still get sick because I've heard about some vaccinated puppies getting the same sicknesses they've been vaccinated for.  How effective are the shots?  Should I be so worried?

Dear Worried:
Pet vaccinations are highly effective...however on extremely rare occasions, vaccines will fail.  I stress that these occurrences are EXTREMELY rare.  Furthermore, if your sister's pet gets all of his boosters on the recommended time schedule for puppies, the chance of their failing is almost non-existent. 

Nevertheless, as a puppy, his immune system is not fully developed. Generally, you should avoid taking him out and around other dogs until he is at least 4 months old.  This age is also coincidental with the time he should be receiving his first rabies vaccination. 

Of particular concern for young dogs is the potential for being exposed to a virus which causes the disease parvo.  This is a highly infectious disease that is often fatal for very young or very old dogs.  It is shed through the feces, therefore if you are out walking and come across the fecal remains of an infected dog, your pet may be infected. 

Most likely, your pet has already received several parvo vaccinations.  But, until the series of shots is completed, he is not fully protected.  This also holds true for other puppy shots that must be given in intervals.

I recommend that you refrain from taking your puppy to off leash dog parks, especially if you are concerned for his health and safety.  Though most dog owners that use these facilities are conscientious, there are a few that do not vaccinate their pets; hence there is a potential risk for contagious diseases to be spread.   Further, you should be sure to neuter your puppy before going into areas where other dogs are present.  This will prevent unexpected mating as well as a certain amount of offensive posturing which could lead to a fight.

Be sure and get your puppy an ID collar.  If he ever gets lost, this will be his voice to get back home.  Finally, don’t feel like you are worrying too much...between you and your sister, it sounds like this is one lucky puppy.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Puppy Problems

Dear Marie:
Well, we did it!  We got a puppy.  Frankly, I wanted an older dog that had gotten past that “puppy period”, but I was outnumbered in my family so we got a three month old shepherd mix two weeks ago, and now, I am at my wits’ end!  He is a sweetheart...but if you leave him alone for five minutes, he is a one dog wrecking crew.  Not to mention, I can’t stop him from play-biting.  The kids think he’s a lot of fun.  My husband says the pup will outgrow these problems.  But I say if one more shoe gets chewed, the puppy is going back to the animal shelter.  I feel like a big meanie for saying that, but what else can I do?  Please help.


Dear Fran,
Puppies are a lot of work.  They demand patience and time.  They also need a definite regimen of discipline.  I am not talking about physical punishment.  I am describing a strict routine that everyone in the family must follow.  Puppy training requires people training too, in equal measures.  Often the humans in a household are partially responsible for a puppy’s bad behavior.

First, I’d like to address the play biting problem.  You obviously want this to stop immediately.  A full grown Shepherd mix that is still play biting can actually cause some serious injuries so begin behavior training in this area now!

Everyone in your family needs to follow this procedure.  When playing with your puppy, encourage gentleness.  Anytime the pup mouths at your hands or ankles, give him an appropriate toy to bite instead and praise him if he does.  If he continues to go after hands, (or other body parts!), tell him “No!” in a loud and firm voice.  If your pet won't stop biting even when offered alternatives, he should be placed in a room by himself...preferably a room that has been puppy proofed so that he can do no damage and have a chance to calm down.  After five or ten minutes, bring him back out and pet him softly.  DO not resume play until you are sure he has calmed down.  Put toys all around the house that he can chew on and play tug of war with.  Praise him when he uses his toys or has a gentle game of tug with you. I say this again because praise for positive behavior is so very important.

Your puppy will not learn what you want immediately.  It may take a couple weeks, or more.  But you must be consistent.  The moment one of your family members encourages him to play rough, all the training you will have completed to that point will be for not.

Chewing shoes is associated with the mouthing behavior.  Puppies need to teethe for several months leading to maturity.  Give him actual chew toys that are suitable for teething.  It is recommended that you stay away from rawhide, as these traditional chew toys do cause serious veterinary problems in some dogs.  However, there are many great chew toys available at most pet supply stores.  Do not buy chew toys in the shape of shoes!  In fact, keep all of your shoes out of reach during your puppy’s developmental months. 

You did not describe the other “wrecking crew” behavior.  I assume they too are probably related to chewing and biting.  Again, keep all items that can fit in your dog’s mouth out of reach or off limits.  Closing doors to rooms with delicate items is always a smart idea during the puppy months.  If you have furniture that has been targeted, a product called “bitter apple”, which is available in a spray bottle, can be applied to many surfaces.  The taste is very unpleasant and most dogs will keep away from items that have been so treated.

Do not give up on your puppy.  He wants nothing more than to please you and receive your love...but you have to let him know what the rules are.  He’ll learn in time.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Raisins and Dogs - A deadly Combination

My good friend, Judy, who is also an active Labrador retriever rescuer, lives with Murphy, Cosmo, Addie, and Buck: four big Labs who, on most days, are trustworthy, well-behaved dogs.  The problem is Buck, the oldest of the pack at eight years, is very food motivated.  Even after he has had a hearty dog-meal (which is always specially prepared from healthy, fresh ingredients), his nose is constantly searching for an additional treat.  Last week, his remarkable sense of smell led him and his “siblings” to a deadly delicacy.

While his “pet parents” were out, Buck discovered a stash of raisins in the pantry and let his buddies know about his delicious find.  In very short order, at least a dozen boxes were chewed open and their contents ingested.  When Judy returned home, she saw the “evidence” of what had transpired and was wise enough to take immediate action.  Her regular veterinarian was already closed for the night, but she was familiar with an emergency veterinary hospital just three blocks from her house.  (I highly recommend keeping the phone numbers of a local emergency veterinarian AND the veterinary poison control hotline handy—either programmed into your phone, or physically posted on your refrigerator or another obvious location. Time is critical when emergencies occur and hunting for a number uses up valuable minutes.) 

All four dogs were rushed in for treatment.  To Judy’s horror, she was advised that the dogs had a 50/50 chance of having permanent kidney damage due to raisins being nearly as toxic as rat poison to pets.   Judy worried whether her four-legged “kids” would all survive and dwelled upon how awful it would be if she lost them all.  It would not be known if they would pull through for 48 more hours.

Regrettably, there is no known antidote for raisin and grape poisoning.  In fact, veterinary researchers are not even able to determine what it is in these fruits that cause the kidneys of companion animals to shut down.  Consequently, all that could be done for Murphy, Cosmo, Addie, and Buck was supportive care. The four dogs were given drugs to induce vomiting as well as charcoal to help soak up toxins.  They were placed on IV Fluid therapy, and kept calm and quiet. 

The hours ticked by slowly. Compounding the worry was the fact that Judy did not know when the dogs actually consumed the raisins, which was a critical piece of information.  The sooner treatment can begin post ingestion, the better the chances are for survival.  Judy could only hope that treatment was begun in enough time.

Blood samples were drawn at specified time intervals to monitor kidney function.  When it was considered safe, the dogs were allowed to be moved to their regular veterinarian’s office for further tests and IV fluids.

Finally, on the third day, blood tests revealed that Murphy, Cosmo, Addie, and Buck were going to be OK.  Judy’s prompt response and her veterinarian’s knowledge about raisin toxicity saved these dogs’ lives.  It was a happy (and very expensive) ending.    

I asked Judy what she would recommend to other pet parents out there so that they won’t ever have to go through such an ordeal.  She said, “Make sure to keep raisins, chocolate, onions, and anything else that is toxic to pets completely out of reach.  Do a thorough search of your home to make sure things are high up enough so they can’t get a hold of it.”  And to that, I would only add this – think of your pets as “toddlers.”  Baby-proof cabinets and doors so that they cannot be opened and don’t leave food on tables or counters.  If you have visitors, be extra vigilant because outside family members and friends may not know all the safety rules.

I know Judy is feeling very lucky knowing that her beloved dogs are around to share the days with her.  She knows all too well that this story could have ended tragically and it is Judy’s hope that readers will share her experience with others to keep pets safe and healthy.  

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Pets and Pools

Dear Marie,
My mother-in-law has a pool in her back yard and there is no safety fence around it.  She recently adopted a small terrier mix (Sam) from the animal shelter and frequently leaves him unattended in the back yard.  She seems to think that this is fine because the dog doesn’t go into the pool and shows no interest in going into the pool.  But the way I see it is that her dog is potentially in danger back there and can end up drowning. 

I know my mother-in-law really loves this dog a lot and would never intentionally allow it to be in a life-threatening situation, but I don’t think she realizes the potential for a problem.  I’ve said just about all I can say to her on the subject without crossing the daughter-in-law/mother-in-law line.  I know she reads your column and thinks a lot of your opinion.  Maybe you can settle this for us.

Anne, Garden Grove

Dear Anne,
Your concern is justified.  Even though most dogs can swim, not many can get out of pools once they have fallen in.  Eventually, the very best dog swimmers will become exhausted and drown because they have no way of exiting the water.  Animal control agencies routinely respond to calls from pet owners whose animals have accidentally drowned under these exact circumstances.

Most cities require safety fencing around pools.  This is a good idea even if your mother-in-law is exempt from this type of regulation because you can never be too safe when it comes to swimming pools.  I would strongly urge her to consider this option.

Second to installing safety fencing, she should show her little terrier how to successfully get in and out of the pool without assistance.  Have her take him in the water and then lead him over to the steps repeatedly so that he can become familiar with their location and how to use them.  It is extremely important that she practice this training on a daily basis so that finding the steps becomes second nature to her dog.  This will also help your mother-in-law determine how well Sam can swim.  There are a few dogs who cannot swim for various reasons.  She should find out if he falls into this category.

Some dogs cannot manage using pool steps.  If this is the case with Sam, you should suggest adding a ramp to the step area.  Ramps are easy to make, but are also available through pet supply companies for those individuals who are a little less handy with tools and such.

I have seen some water safety alarms on the market that use sensors which are attached to a dog’s collar.  If a dog falls into a pool, a corresponding receiver will sound a loud alarm in the house.  However, these devices seem to break easily during normal dog activities and haven’t received high marks in consumer reports.  Further, if you are not home to hear the alarm go off, there’s not much of a benefit. 

Essentially, the best advice is this – if you can’t be outside with the dog in a backyard that has an accessible pool, then the dog needs to be indoors.  Pets are like children and all the same common sense safety rules that apply for kids should be applied for animals as well.

Finally, if after implementing a pool safety regimen at you in-law’s home you discover that Sam truly loves water, remember that he will need a little extra care for his ears and skin.  Lots of dogs develop ear infections after swimming.  The simplest method for combating these problems is to clean out your dog’s ears after every swimming session.  An inexpensive ear wash can be made at home using a solution of 50% water and 50% vinegar.  Also, be sure to dry his ears thoroughly following this treatment. With regards to skin – remember, dogs can get sunburn just like people.  Apply sunscreen to your dog’s nose, especially in areas that have no pigment and appear pink.

By following these simple water safety rules, your mother-in-law will be ensuring that Sam has a safe and fun home in which to live the rest of his life.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Napping Cockatiel a concern to Senior Citizen Owner

Dear Marie,
I adopted an adult cockatiel from the Irvine Animal Care Center in the summer of 2006.  I am a senior citizen (80 years old) and live alone, so he is my constant companion.  Recently, he started taking more naps than usual and I am concerned.  I cover him up with a sheet at night from the time I go to bed until I wake up in the morning, so I think he is getting plenty of rest. He has always been very energetic so his napping worries me.  How long do cockatiels live?  Is this a bad sign?  What should I do?

Dear Claire,
It sounds like you have a wonderful little friend and I can certainly understand your concern.  Cockatiels live anywhere from 15-25 years and you have had him for almost 8 years.  You’ll need to check your original adoption papers to see if the shelter knew his exact age when you adopted him, but don’t fret over any of these numbers.  I’m sure he still has a long life ahead to share with you.

Aside from the napping, is your cockatiel showing any other unusual behavior or symptoms?  For example, is he eating and drinking normally?  Are his feathers puffed out?  Has he stopped vocalizing? Is he cranky? If you see a combination of changes, then you should get your bird to an avian veterinarian as soon as possible.

Birds can mask poor health to such a degree, that most of their caregivers never know they are ill until it is too late.  If your little guy hasn’t been in to see the vet in over a year, you should take him in for a checkup.

I know that a trip to the veterinarian can be very expensive, and if you are on a fixed income, you may feel as though you can’t afford a veterinary bill.  But there are financial assistance programs available that can help you if needed.  For more information on this topic, please visit the following websites:

If napping is the only symptom your bird is exhibiting, then you probably have nothing to worry about.  As the days get longer, cockatiels tend to take afternoon naps.  Perhaps you just never noticed in the past or were out of the house more often.  Most people who live with cockatiels can attest to this seasonal behavior.

Birds need 10-12 hours of solid, uninterrupted sleep time which might be more than what he gets currently if you cover him up when you go to bed and wake him up when you get up.  He needs to be in the dark AND in a place where he feels safe and able to snooze.  If his cage is near a window, even if you cover it with a sheet, the headlights of passing cars will penetrate and wake him up.  The less he sleeps at night, the more he will nap in the day.  Try putting his cage in a corner of the room far from the window and use a denser, darker blanket to cover him.

Another point to consider is that during a molt (period of feather loss and growth), all birds get a little sleepy.  This is completely normal.  If you’ve noticed some feathers dropping in conjunction with napping, that may be the key to this mystery.  To ensure he has all the nutrients he needs during molting season, include plenty of healthy foods in his daily meals.  Fresh fruits and vegetables are essential, along with a high quality pellet mix designed for cockatiels.  Avoid giving him just “seeds” even if they are labeled “cockatiel diet.”  Seeds do not provide the vitamins and minerals that a diet of fresh fruits and vegetables do.  It’s OK to give him a few seeds, but think of them more as “junk food” rather than a true meal.

It’s good to pay attention to changes in a pet’s behavior.  Get that vet check, but try not to be too anxious about the napping.  I suspect everything is A-OK and your little friend will be around for many more years.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Follow-up to my last blog post on cat relinquishment at shelter...

Dear Readers,In my last blogpost, I wrote about the plight of a ten-year-old kitty who was left at an animal shelter by its very apathetic owner and her friend who were more concerned about the latest shopping center fashions than the welfare of the terrified cat.  I received more letters about this story than I have for anything else I have ever written.   I would like to share some of these very intense sentiments sent in by readers. 

“…my blood was boiling just reading about this...the only thing that I would do different is put both of those woman in a cold cage and let them do some thinking instead of shopping” – Sharon

 “As a member of several rescue groups, I realize that as despicable and heartless as it is, leaving a pet at a shelter beats leaving the pet in an abandoned house or dropping it on the side of the freeway.  But I still fervently hope that one day, when this lady becomes old and dependent, her children, having learned from her example, decide to leave her behind because she has become an inconvenience.” – Marlin

 “I volunteered for an animal care center (shelter). The most heartbreaking times were when people abandoned their pet companions and walked away.   My wish for all of these heartless people ... Your children drop you off at an old folks home and never come back to visit.” – Annelle

 “I am frustrated and appalled at people's irresponsibility concerning their pets. Your story about the two well-heeled women sickened me. I'm lucky to be in a group of Bichon Pet owners, who would rather cut off their own arm, than be cruel to their pet.  If you have any ideas on what can be done to change people's attitudes, please let me know. I would like to see legislation requiring mandatory sterilization, among other things. I don't know what's happened to our society, but, I guess it's time to make owning a pet a privilege, not a right.” -  Sarah

 “…Animals ask nothing of us but love, food and shelter.  When you come home from a long day and everything else has gone wrong, the one thing you can count on is coming home to a loving pet.  They greet you as if you are the best thing in the world.  No matter how bad my day has been…when I come home I know all will be forgotten because of the unconditional love. You can be upset and they will cheer you.  You can be mad and one touch of their paw and you are happy.  There is no emotion that a pet cannot make better. The idea of just tossing an animal away when you are through is so inconceivable to me that I cannot even comprehend doing something like that.  Someone that you have spent 10 years of your life with and when you are through just disposing of it and then laughing and spending the day shopping.” - Barbara

“I hope that your comments in the article about responsible treatment of pets will help with public awareness about the care of pets. I'm dismayed to see that some people seem to regard their pets as animate decor, to be given minimal food, water, and attention but not treated as fellow beings with personality and emotions. This is an attitude which needs to change, and perhaps your writing can help. But until people's perception of pets changes, I think some pets will be better off in shelters rather than suffering with their self-centered owners." – anonymous

I wish I had room for more comments and I thank all who have written for sharing their thoughts.  As a follow-up, the kitty who was the subject of my last post has not yet been adopted.  Sadly the stress of being in a shelter has caused her to begin pulling out her own fur and she is not doing well.  She needs to be placed in a home as quickly as possible, but finding a home for a 10-year-old cat is never easy.

It’s time to change how society views pets under the law.  Many of you have great ideas.  Share your thoughts with your elected officials and perhaps we can make a difference by working together.

Monday, July 13, 2015


For people actively involved in the humane world, we always hear a lot of stories about the daily happenings at animal shelters. 
Unfortunately last week, a story one shelter worker recounted made her blood pressure rise as she explained to me the turn of events.  She had been working with the cats at the facility when she received a call on her walkie-talkie. There was a cat in the front office that needed to be taken back to the kennels. 
When she arrived at the customer service desk,
she encountered two women who were laughing and discussing the cutest dresses that were at a particular store in South Coast Plaza.  Beside one of the women was a cat carrier containing a very frightened and distressed kitty.
The shelter employee interrupted the two women and asked if the cat was a stray that they had found.  One of the women replied, “Oh no.  This is my cat. I’m moving so I am bringing it here.” Then, without skipping a  beat, the woman got back to her conversation about the latest sale on women’s apparel. 
Looking at the paperwork that had been left on top of the cat carrier, the shelter employee noticed that this scared little pet had lived with its owner for TEN years.  And now, through no fault of its own, it was being dumped like last season’s fashions, so that its owner could move on with the next phase of her life.  
Pulling together all the self-control she could muster, the shelter employee held her tongue (as is required in her role as public servant) and took the poor kitty back into the kennels where she placed it into a cold and solitary cage.  She heard the cat’s owner say in a cheerful voice as she walked away, “Bye Peewee.”  And then the two women were off to the mall, seemingly without even a second thought for the terrified cat.
Angry cannot even describe how the shelter employee was feeling at that point in time. Yet she recognized that she needed to pull herself together quickly because the animals needed her and if she let these almost daily  occurrences get the best of her, she wouldn’t be able to do much good.  But still, it was clear to her that a ten-year-old cat in a shelter didn’t have the greatest odds of being adopted and she could not understand how someone could care for a pet for so long and then simply wash one’s hands of it. She was disgusted, as am I.
Public animal shelters do charge an owner relinquishment fee to people who give up their pets. However it is nominal, and in reality doesn’t even cover the costs of the initial veterinary exam.  
Even for people who don’t have any particular affection for animals, this should raise some red flags.  What we are essentially doing is allowing irresponsible pet owners to place the financial burden of taking care of their  discarded pets via expenditure of tax dollars.  That should not be OK with anyone. But that’s what we do.
My concern, however, isn’t for the fiscal consequences; but rather for the innocent living beings who don’t understand why they are losing their familiar homes and being put into scary, lonely cages, with unfamiliar scents and sounds all around them.  
Nevertheless, if I can convince Joe Taxpayer that this is a problem – then perhaps we can solve both predicaments.
Here is what needs to be done.  First, all pets including cats should be licensed and microchipped.  
Next, there should be a waiting period and counseling for those individuals who wish to give up their pets.  Alternatives to abandoning a companion animal at a shelter should be discussed, i.e., finding a friend, family    member or co-worker who may be able to take in a pet. 
Finally, if a shelter does ultimately take custody of an animal, its owner should be responsible for all costs relating to its care and maintenance until the pet is adopted.  There is no reason for the rest of society to pay for the cavalier irresponsibility of so many pet owners.  And there is certainly no reason for a pet to pay, with suffering, fear, and potentially its life.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Plastic-Licking Cat

Dear Marie,
My cat is weird!  He likes to lick and/or eat plastic.  When I go shopping and bring the groceries in, he can’t wait to lick the plastic bags.  He wakes me up in the night or early in the morning with his constant licking of the plastic liner over hanging my bedroom trash basket.  He chews on plastic wrappers, plastic ribbon, and anything else plastic he finds.  I’m not talking about food wrappers either – although if those are plastic, he likes them equally well.  But it’s not the food scent that’s getting him all worked up.  It’s the plastic!  Occasionally, he gets his paws on my photographs and licks and chews them.  This is especially upsetting because he has ruined some of my favorite photos. Sometimes his plastic licking goes on for hours.  Is my cat just a freak or do other cats do this too?

Dear Tracy,
You are not at all alone.  Many cat owners report the exact behavior exhibited by your cat in their own pets and they are just as baffled.  Though the attraction to plastic varies in degree from individual to individual, it is not at all uncommon for cats to lick, chew, and even eat plastic. 

Cats who seem to be most obsessed with plastic are often the type of feline who may still try to “nurse” as an adult (sucking on blankets, or their people’s clothes, etc.) or are otherwise orally fixated.  These are cats who were most likely taken or weaned from their mothers at too early of an age.

One major concern relating to this behavior is that when cats consume plastic, especially the decorative plastic grasses that line Easter baskets and gifts, or plastic tinsel, they can become seriously ill from resulting intestinal blockages.  Consequently, you should try to the best of your ability to keep your cat from ingesting plastic.

Many plastic products today are made with a number of biodegradable components, including cornstarch.  These ingredients along with various petroleum products emanate an odor, undetected by people, but irresistible to certain felines. 

The texture of plastic also seems to be a factor in this bizarre activity.  It is speculated that many cats just enjoy the smooth, cool feeling on their tongues. They also enjoy the sound that plastic makes.  (A cat's tongue on a plastic bag can be VERY noisy.  I have been awakened by my own cats licking plastic bags more times than I can count!)  This combined with the aroma, may give cats a very pleasurable sensation akin to enjoying a lollipop that never gets any smaller no matter how many times it gets licked. 

I do caution you to keep all photographs safely stored away in photo albums or behind glass frames.  Some photographic processes use chemicals that can potentially cause liver and kidney damage if consumed.  So please be very careful with these items.

Licking or eating non-food items may also be a sign of a serious illness such as feline leukemia or other immunodeficiency diseases.  Just to be on the safe side, you should have your cat tested.  Most likely however, this behavior is nothing to worry about as long as you restrict it to licking and not consuming.

If you feel you must stop your cat from continuing in his plastic quest, you should first eliminate the type of plastic he targets from your household environment.  Next, increase his fiber intake with specially formulated high fiber content pet foods.  You can also grow “kitty grass” indoors so that your little friend has something more natural to chew on or lick.

Finally, some cats become addicted to plastic licking simply because they are bored and don’t get enough stimulation.  I would strongly recommend getting some new toys for your cat and adding some extended playtime to his daily routine.  Give him a lot of extra affection or brush him more frequently.  If he is alone during the day and you work, perhaps you should consider getting him a little feline buddy with whom to pass the hours while you are away or busy.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Male Sun Conure Laid Egg?

Dear Marie,
My 8-year-old “male” Sun Conure just laid an egg a couple of days ago!  That was a surprise!  Fortunately, “his” name works for a “her” too.  But that’s not why I am writing.  Since she laid the egg, she seems very irritable and lethargic.  She is also just staying in a corner of her cage where the egg is instead of coming out during the day and sitting with me, or playing with her different toys.  The egg is not fertile since I don’t have any other birds so there is no reason for her to stay with it but she won’t let me take it away and because she seems so tired, I’m concerned about her health.  She’s just not her old self and she has absolutely no interest in me right now which makes me sad.  He’s…she’s my best friend.

Dear Billy,
Many, many bird “parents” who think they have “boy” birds find out they have girls in a sequence of events that occur exactly as you have described!  It’s especially surprising when a bird has been in the family for almost a decade.  However, in a number of species, it might take a several years before a female lays her first set of eggs—and yes, you should probably expect at least one or two more eggs.  If she doesn't lay another egg in the next day or two, and continues to appear lethargic, she may be egg-bound and this can be very serious.  A trip to the veterinarian would be your next move.  The vet can determine if there are any more eggs inside your bird that are not passing.  If necessary, your bird can be anesthetized and a procedure can be done to remove an egg(s) that is/are “stuck.”  Hopefully, everything is working the way it should be and this is not the case for your bird.

Laying eggs is not easy and your little bird will need to have an extra good diet of calcium rich food right now.  Cut up some broccoli, kale, and spinach and mix it with a little grated cheese.  You can toss that with some calcium fortified orange juice to make a yummy “salad.”  Almonds and walnuts also have a lot of calcium, and if left in their shells will provide some fun, interactive feeding activity for her.  Of course, give her a variety of fruits and other veggies, along with some high quality pellets too so that she has a well-balanced food offering. 

Even though her eggs are not fertilized, her mothering instincts will be present.  She is not going to want anyone to “mess” with her babies.  It’s not that she doesn’t love you anymore; she’s just assuming the role of “mom” and takes it very seriously. Give her a nesting box and try to move (without getting bitten) her egg into the box.  She’ll lay her other eggs there when she is ready and this will make her feel far more secure and happy. 

As time passes, she will eventually decide she has had enough and will leave the eggs.  This is a good time to take the entire nesting box away.  Don’t remove the eggs before she is leaves them or she will lay more and you don’t want that to happen.  Egg-laying takes a lot out of birds and the more you can limit her cycles, the healthier she will be.

Generally, parrot parents should ensure their female birds get plenty of sleep.  Try to get your bird “to bed” by 6:00 PM each evening.  It helps if you have a room with light-blocking shades on the window.  Cover your bird’s cage as well.  During the day, expose your bird to plenty of natural sunlight and let her get lots of exercise and playtime.  By having a routine like this, you may be able to reduce the frequency of her egg-laying cycles.

Keep a watchful eye out for the signs that another cycle is beginning.  Female birds tend to be noisier and a little bit cranky or “bitey” when an egg-laying cycle is getting started.  That’s the time to put her nesting box back into her cage and to begin giving her the super charged diet I outlined above.

The good news here is that once she is done with her eggs, you will be the object of her affection again and she will be the same old bird that you know and love…aside from the fact that she is not a boy!  Good luck.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Shelter Seems Anxious to Euthanize

Dear Marie,
I purchased a beautiful 1.5-year-old Male Border Collie mix from the local animal shelter.  His previous owner had given him up for adoption, but I was never informed of the reason why. He was a wonderful, fun-loving, incredibly intelligent dog.  He also adored me, showering me with love and affection. I own a modeling agency and kept him with me in the office.  We were together 24 hours a day.  Unfortunately, he had some bad behavioral traits.  Among them, he was destructive, would defecate to punish me and on three occasions nipped at my clients when they would intervene.  He simply didn't want strangers telling him what to do. 

Obviously, I could discipline him, but he wouldn't tolerate anyone else doing the same.  He never broke the skin, but it was indeed a problem.  I might have been able to solve the other behavioral problems, but I couldn't have a dog at my business that might hurt someone.  

Reluctantly, I decided to take him back to the animal shelter and put him back up for adoption.  I got there and explained the situation and was told that they could not accept him for adoption since he was being brought there for the second time, but more important, because he had nipped at people.  They were willing to take him back, but they told me he would be put down.  

I anguished for hours.  I had to go back east to be with an ailing relative.  Animal Control spent a lot of time trying to explain to me the danger of putting him up for adoption.  I was told of the risk and the liability if someone were to get hurt.  

I eventually relented because I was so pressed to go to the hospital to see my relative.  To this day, I regret the decision.  Had he not nipped at clients, I would have never considered giving him up.  So my question after this long-winded email is why is animal control so anxious to euthanize such a wonderful animal?  Is there really that much risk that a dog that nips will turn on someone and genuinely injure them? Thanks for whatever comments you might have.

Dear Alan,
I am going to answer your question but what I have to say is probably not what you want to hear.  Let me start with your basic question first.

Technically, public animal shelters have no legal obligation to place owner-relinquished pets up for adoption; however in practice, many do make an effort to re-home the majority of these animals.  Still, shelters have their hands full with stray pets; owners who add to this almost overwhelming load by giving up their own animals are not afforded much credibility.

Everyone who drops off his or her own dog or cat has "a story."  Sometimes the explanations are maddening – the new boyfriend or girlfriend doesn't like the cat or dog; or new carpet is being installed; or it sheds too much; etc.  Needless to say, shelter staff members become pretty hardened to owners with “stories” about why it’s just not feasible to keep a pet any longer.  

However, a shelter’s concerns with liability are well-founded.  We live in a society where lawsuits are the norm.  A shelter that adopts out a dog or cat that is known to be a biter/nipper leaves itself wide open to substantial financial liability, and with the small budgets shelters have to work with as it is, this is not something they can take lightly.  As a result, they generally choose to euthanize owner-relinquished pets that have a history of biting.

Prior to living with you, your dog had been in a home and subsequently given up.  For all you know, he may have had several homes prior to entering your household.  His emotional state was fragile at best.  At a year and a half old, the most important, formative months of his life were spent in a state of flux, which led to the behavioral problems that you observed.   Contrary to the old saying that "you can’t teach an old dog new tricks," all of his behavioral issues could have been addressed and eliminated with training, patience, love, and stability.

I get the impression you did not have this dog too long prior to your family emergency and I understand that you felt you had no alternative but to give him up.  I am surprised that the animal shelter you dealt with did not offer you the names and phone numbers of rescue organizations and support groups, as well as advice regarding what you could have done, including boarding your dog while you tended to your family matters, and then working with a trainer upon your return.  

Still, I believe that all too often, even with good advice from staff members, pet owners look at shelters as a quick solution to eliminating "their problems."  This is not what shelters are for and we can’t blame them for the unpleasant consequences that arise from public irresponsibility.        

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Cats and Hairballs

Dear Marie,
We have a fairly new cat that constantly hacks up hairballs.  We inherited her from a friend who had to move away.  At first we thought the cat wasn't using her litter box because the hairballs we found looked like cat droppings.  But one day, I saw her throwing up, and sure enough, the thing that came out was exactly what I have been finding all over the house.  I talked to one of my neighbors about it and she said it was definitely a hairball and that her cats do that too sometimes.  I can handle “sometimes”.  But this is an everyday event.  What can I do?  Our cat has long hair and a very thick coat.  I’m sure that has something to do with it.  Thanks for any advice you have to offer.

Dear Jennifer,
Many cats suffer from problems associated with hairballs and there are many different opinions as to how to deal with the situation.  The simplest method for controlling the ingestion of too much hair is daily brushing. 

Most cats enjoy being groomed by their owners.  Generally, I brush my cats while I catch the evening news.  My kitties love the attention and frankly, I think they would prefer the news to last all night long.  They stretch out and roll around on my lap to ensure I don’t miss a single spot.  They enjoy grooming time so much, that when they hear the closing soundtrack of the evening news, they usually grab a hold of my arm to try and keep me from leaving!

Usually, this type of grooming is enough to keep hairballs from forming.  But cats who are under stress tend to shed more than well adjusted, happy cats.  Given that your feline buddy just came into your home and left her familiar surroundings, she is probably experiencing quite a bit of anxiety and hence shedding significantly more than she normally would.

Your best bet is to make her feel as comfortable as possible.  You may need to groom her several times a day during this adjustment period, just to keep on top of her nervous shedding.  If you notice that she is licking her fur excessively, try and interrupt her by introducing another activity.  Playtime is always a good distraction.  In addition to keeping your kitty’s mind off losing her previous home, it also keeps her body fit.  Sedentary and obese cats tend to have more problems with hairballs than active, svelte felines.

Aside from hairballs being a hassle for people – especially while walking barefoot at night – they can be a health hazard for cats.  If enough hair accumulates in the esophagus, it can get stuck and create a blockage.  In the stomach, a hard matted hairball may need to be surgically removed.  This can also occur anywhere in the intestinal tract and could potentially be fatal.

Some experts believe that feeding only dry cat foods compounds this problem and suggest providing canned cat foods with dry for a healthy, balanced diet.  Furthermore, cats that seem to have a propensity for hairballs should be given special lubricants with their food such as Petromalt, Laxatone, CatLax, or any other brand that your cat will take without a fight.  Many cats like the flavor given to these products and will lick the appropriate portion straight out of the tube.

Finally, check your cat for fleas.  External parasites cause a lot of discomfort and itchiness that leads to licking and biting the fur.  If you do notice fleas, I would urge you to use a once-a-month flea control product such as Advantage or Frontline to eliminate these pests and make your cat very happy.  The less time she spends licking her fur, the less likely she is to develop hairballs.

If after trying all of these suggestions and giving your cat time to settle in to her new surroundings, you still find that she is expelling excessive amount hairballs, you should check with your veterinarian. But for now, enjoy your new friend and welcome her whole-heartedly.  Your love and attention is the best medicine she can receive.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Dogs eat Poop

Dear Marie,
I am the proud grandmother of two Basset Hounds (4 and 2) who I am babysitting while my son and his wife are in the Peace Corp.  Have had them about a year now - another year to go.  They have always been poop-eaters.  Recently I started giving them a little variety and, hopefully better health, by adding some olive oil at breakfast and non-fat, plain yogurt at dinner to their lamb/rice dry food.  AND, I am giving them pills from PetSmart that are supposed to make the poop taste horrible so they'll quit eating it.  Well instead, it hardly hits the ground and they are both at it!  So, I follow them into the yard and grab it before they can eat it!

Help!!!  It's disgusting!

Dear Sheri,
Thanks for the interesting question!  I have answered this one a few times over the years – but your “grand-dogs” have added an unusual twist. Generally, when dogs eat feces, it is because they are missing various nutrients that seem to get processed out of commercial dog food.  Cat feces are frequently a big attraction for dogs because there tends to be a lot of protein remaining in these droppings.  But – it sounds like the Basset Hounds are getting plenty of good food.  You might want to add a vitamin supplement to their diet to see if it helps; however, I suspect dietary issues may not be the only triggers involved in this situation.

Usually, when dog owners add the type of product that you have used – one that makes feces have an intolerable taste - that puts an end to the behavior.  Yet, you say it is even worse now.  I am assuming you've already made a trip to the vet to make sure that the dogs don’t have intestinal parasites.  If not, please do.  Dogs with parasites have an insatiable appetite and as a result, almost always eat feces.   

If you have ruled that out, then the last idea I have is that this is somewhat behavioral.  Do you get upset when the dogs eat the poop?  Do you yell or act in a way that may make the dogs feel like they are doing something bad?  I have a feeling that initially, this all began just as a normal behavior that many dogs do from time to time.  However, if you possibly reacted in a way that made them feel “in trouble”, they may have decided that doing their business is what makes you upset rather than their eating of their own excrement.  This is further compounded by the fact that you immediately scoop everything up.

In a nutshell, they see a huge reaction from you each time they have a bowel movement.  They hear a tone in your voice that means “no” or “bad” and that’s very stressful for them.  They also see you rush to get rid of their droppings.  So, in spite of the horrible taste that they now have to endure, they are compelled to “get rid of the evidence” so that you won’t be upset.  Remember, dogs will do almost anything to please their people.  So even though they are misunderstanding why you do what you do, they think they are helping and being good dogs when they do what they do! 

Here’s what needs to be done now.  First, the cycle needs to be broken.  You can accomplish this by letting only one dog out at a time – on a leash.  When he’s finished going potty, walk him away from the area, give him lots of affection, and pay no attention to what he’s left on your lawn.  Put him back in the house.  THEN clean up the mess, and repeat the process with the second dog. 

Eventually, this habit will be broken and you’ll be sending back to your son and his wife two perfectly behaved Basset Hounds.  

Hang in there!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Difficulty in House-training a Dog

Dear  Marie:
I am having a problem house breaking my 13-month-old male Doxie.  I got him at 6 months of age and tried to housebreak him for several weeks, but without success.  I live in a condo and am gone about 8 hours every day.  As soon as I get home, I open the patio door and he goes out and does his job.  However, he still wets on the carpet so I got a 2’ X 4’ cage that I keep him in during the day.  He does well most of the time; however, this morning, after I fed him and before I put him in his cage, he wet on my bed even though the patio door was open for him to go out.

Do you have any suggestions that may help, or will he grow out of it as he gets older?

Dear Jean:
House breaking puppies is one of the most difficult and often times frustrating tasks pet owners face.  Your puppy is now 13 months old and you feel, very understandably, that your pet should already know where the “right” place is to do his “business.”   It seems as though you’re doing all the right things yet your little guy is still having “accidents.”

You gave me a few hints about some possible problem areas in your letter.  The first big clue was the fact that you allow your dog on your bed.  This is a huge “no no!”  At least for the time being..Bear with me now, because we’re going to have to think like dogs for a second or two! 

You and your family must always hold the position of “Top Dog” in your puppy’s mind.  As “Top Dog”  (or parent) you must never allow your dog on your bed because if you do, you are sending the message to your puppy that he is an equal to you.  As an equal, he will not feel as inclined to follow your rules; thus, he might decide that going to the bathroom outside is one rule he will ignore!  On the other hand, he may feel confused by being allowed on your bed.  He probably knows deep down that you are the “Alpha” in his life, and therefore he knows your bed should be off limits.   So, to show you respect and gratitude, he urinates and turns belly up in your presence.  If you were a dog, you would appreciate this act of submission and respect!   However, I expect that your sentiments at the time were far from appreciation and your resulting behavior would have further confused your little guy. 

Using a crate to house break your dog is an excellent training method.  A crate simulates a “den.”  Generally, dogs will not urinate and defecate in their sleeping/den area.  (Provided they are given the opportunity to go outside on a regular basis to relieve themselves.)  The big job is demonstrating to your pet that your entire house is “THE DEN.”  

One way to accomplish this goal is to move the crate into a different room every day.  In addition to this, you must immediately take your pet outside to relieve himself when he is released.  Use a phrase or one word consistently to let him know the reason for going outside...for example, “potty time” or some other phrase that you will always use that does not sound like any other command.  When your dog completes his “function,” be sure and praise him with similar consistent phrases such as, “Good potty.”  (And lots of pats!)  Furthermore, even if you leave a door open for your dog to go outside, you should still frequently escort him outside yourself and use your “potty command.”

Always take your puppy outside after his meals.  Wait for him to urinate and defecate before bringing him back in.  If it seems as though he doesn't need “to go” and you allow him back into the house, you are setting him up for failure...he WILL need  “to go” soon after a meal.

You did not mention if your dog is neutered.  If he is not, I strongly recommend that you make an appointment with your veterinarian immediately!!!  Not only will this help with indoor urination problems, but it will  also lead to your dog leading a longer, healthier life, and you will be doing your part as a responsible pet owner to curb pet over-population!

Above all, keep your patience.  Eventually, your little angel will learn what behavior is expected from him.  At 13 months old, he is still just a baby!  He needs all the praise and encouragement you can give him.  Hang in there!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Child Developed Allergy to Pet Cat

Dear Marie:
My five-year-old daughter has developed an allergy to our cat.  Our pediatrician has told us to either keep the cat outside or get rid of it.  I have had this cat for 8 years and he is part of our family.  We never put him outside and I am not about to start now.  He’d become a coyote dinner before the first night ended.   I also can’t just get rid of him.  My daughter loves him.  She would be devastated.  Not to mention, our whole family would be devastated.  Have you heard of any other alternatives to these drastic measures?

Toni, Rancho Santa Margarita

Dear Toni,
Ask your pediatrician to refer you to an allergist, preferably one who is sensitive to your concerns about your pet and your daughter’s feelings.  Pet allergies are one of the most common allergies in the world, ranking second to dust mite allergies.  The easiest and thus quickest recommended method for coping made by doctors is to avoid or get rid of pets.  However, this recommendation does not take into consideration the emotional issues connected with pet allergies.

If you get rid of your cat because your daughter has allergies, she will feel like it is her fault and possibly experience guilt and grief - especially if the whole family feels bad about having to get rid of the kitty.   If she has siblings who also love your cat, they may blame her and harbor long-term resentment toward her.  This is certainly not an ideal situation for a young child. 

The first thing you should do is to learn as much as you can about allergies to cats.  I can give you a little information, and you can use this as a jumping off point for more.  Knowledge is going to be your major tool for creating an environment and lifestyle that will allow you to keep your cat.  Giving your cat up for adoption should only be a last resort if everything else has failed.

Felines create more allergic reactions in humans than do dogs.  These allergic reactions can be very serious and thus should not be taken lightly.  Allergies are triggered by allergens.  In the house cat, this allergen is produced in the sebaceous glands of the cat’s skin and in its saliva.  Therefore, these allergens will accumulate on your pet’s
fur.  Experts used to think that a cat’s constant cleaning by licking itself was the major cause of allergen deposits.  However, it has now been shown that the sebaceous
glands are the bigger culprits.  Nevertheless, the two sources produce an allergen that is extremely small, thus allowing it to penetrate deep into the lungs after being inhaled.

There are products currently available that can eliminate these allergens.   They can be applied to your cat’s fur with a sponge on a weekly basis.  These products cause no adverse reactions to pets.  They are non-oily and there is no noticeable residue that is left after application. There are also no perfumes or fragrances added.  Eighty to eighty-five percent of allergy sufferers who have applied these products to their pets have enjoyed marked improvement in their ability to tolerate cats. There are many scientific papers that discuss these results as well as other related tests.  The bottom line is that if you are able to remove the allergens from your cat before they become airborne, you will reduce the chances of your daughter experiencing allergic reactions to these allergens.

Further, your daughter may be allergic to other allergens in the environment – not just your cat’s.  In fact, many individuals who are allergic to felines are sensitive to a number of different allergens.  All of the allergens together create a threshold point for allergy sufferers, which causes reactions to occur.  Consequently, you should try to make your home as allergen free as possible.  Take steps to eliminate dust, mold, mildew, pollen, paint, perfume, soaps, cosmetics, and other household items which may potentially combine to trigger allergic reactions in your daughter.

A recent study at John Hopkins University has reached some exciting conclusions.  In the near future, synthetic vaccines may become available that will alleviate allergic reactions to felines.  Talk to your allergist about these and other new treatment regimens.  Chances are, your feline companion and your daughter will not have to be separated.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Pet Expo - THIS WEEKEND - April 10-11-12

Hi Everyone.
I'll be at Pet Expo this weekend in booth 1143 at the Orange County Fair Grounds.  I've been participating in Pet Expo since it first started about 20 years ago!  Here's an old photo of the late Fred Bergendorff and myself from about 10 years ago in our Pet Expo booth.  We always had a great time meeting Pet Place fans.

Hope you will come on over and see me and say hello.  Pet Expo opens at 10AM and closes at 6PM on Friday and Sunday, and 7PM on Saturday.  Honestly, that’s barely enough time to see everything.  It is THE world’s largest pet and pet products exposition with fabulous pet-related entertainment, educational seminars, and shopping for toys and treats for your four-legged and furry, or feathery, or even scaly family members!  They pretty much have everything under the sun at Pet Expo and  I always enjoy meeting the faithful Pet Place Radio Show listeners and my column-readers who stop by the Pet Place Booth.  For more information, visit 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Giving Living Easter Gifts

The House Rabbit Society wanted me to remind everyone NOT to buy bunnies and other pets for gifts at Easter. I couldn't agree more so I would like to share a poem I wrote about the subject.

Mr. M. Paul Sivv was thinking one fine day,
“It’s Springtime now, so Easter’s on the way.
I should go and buy some gifts for Betty, Bill and Joe.
Some chicks, some bunnies, and a duck are perfect; this I know.”

So off he went to Pets For Less,
a pet store that was quite a mess.
Amazement struck him when he saw,
pastel colored ducklings (which is against the law).

The pet store dyed them purple, pink and blue.
He bought a pink one, and a purple one too.
Then he spied the bunny cage.
How cute they looked at this young age.
He bought a dozen; then he said,
“I forgot the chicks, where is my head?”

The baby chickens were crammed in a pen.
Each one was guaranteed to be a hen.
Mr. Sivv bought 12 that date.
He thought of fresh eggs on everyone’s plate.

When he had paid and left the store,
he carted the gifts to each friend’s door.
He felt so good to have given a gift,
to his three friends for a holiday lift.

But soon Betty called him
and told him as she cried,
“My pastel ducklings...both of them died.
I took them to my vet; and this is what he said,
‘That nasty pastel poison is what made your ducklings dead!’”

 It wasn't one month later, when Bill was on the phone.
“I can’t keep these bunnies!” he said in an angry tone.
“They eat and eat and eat and eat, and when they’re finally done,
the mess they make is far too much for a cleaning crew of one!

Four months passed when Joe did call.
“Those dozen hens you got me,
are ROOSTERS, one and all!
City Zoning’s at my door;
they aren't very glad.
My neighbors are complaining,
those roosters made them mad.
They crow each morning, noon and night.
They’re mean and cranky, and they fight.
I cannot keep them, and that’s a fact.
You have to come and take them all back.”

Mr. Sivv was extremely sad.
He didn't mean to do anything bad.
He learned his lesson a very hard way:
to give living Easter gifts is NOT OK.

It is far better to talk things out;
and to ask some questions when in doubt.
Any one of his "gifts" would have made a fine pet;
but research and preparation are necessary, you can bet.

So if you plan to buy a chick, duck or bunny,
remember Mr. M. Paul Sivv,
BEFORE you spend your money!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Old Dog - New Bad Habit

Dear Marie,
 I have a 16-year-old poodle who always was perfectly housebroken. Recently, she began urinating on the carpet and I don't know why. I took her to the vet, and he said there is nothing wrong. I can't understand why she is doing this. It's almost like she is doing it on purpose because I will open the door for her and she won't go outside – she'll just look at me and then start "going" while I'm holding the door wide open and calling her. This is not an accident. She is very deliberate and looks right at me the whole time she is going potty. I can't get her to stop – and at this point, my carpet is ruined. Why is she doing this and what can I do?

Dear Frannie,
As dogs get older, they tend to start having problems like these. Sometimes it's simply because it is cold and damp outside and their poor, old, arthritic bodies and minds aren't up for taking a walk in the elements (from their perspective) just to go potty.

You have a few options. The first is quite simple. Get her into a warm doggie sweater, throw on a jacket yourself, and physically take her outside. Give her lots of praise because even at her age, she needs positive reinforcement.

Don't expect her to go out on her own, because at this point in her life, she's made it clear that she has no intention of doing that. I'm sure the recent rainy weather has a lot to do with her behavior. And yes – this means extra work or hassle for you; or you can look at it as some quality time.

Attitude is everything for people with senior pets. There are so many changes that go on during this phase of a pet's life, and you need to find a way to make it pleasant for you and for her. Changing the way you look at this situation is probably going to be your best bet because your frustration may possibly aggravate the problem. Stay calm and in control. That's what your pet needs more than anything.

Here's another idea – there are several manufacturers of indoor doggie grass. They are raised squares of a special deodorizing, artificial grass that is made specifically for dogs to use for bathroom purposes (somewhat like a doggie litter box). The idea originated from the need of big-city, high-rise-dwelling pet owners to have easy access to a potty location for their pets. But owners of senior pets, or people who live in cold, wet climates, quickly found the advantage to such an item. You can see some of these products at I first saw these demonstrated at the Pet Expo a few years back and was quite impressed.

Some dog owners resort to using specially designed diapers for animals who are aging and becoming incontinent, though I don't believe this is the right solution for you since your dog seems to still have control. However, you could use a diaper as a preventive tool. Have her wear it, and when it seems like she needs to urinate, bring her over to the door, remove the diaper, then go outside with her.

The last option would be to take out your now-ruined carpet and replace it with tile flooring. If your dog continues to have "incidents," it's much easier to clean up messes on hard flooring. You can even go back to using newspaper or potty pads if there is a specific area that your dog has designated her "bathroom."

Still, I feel very confident that if you go outside with your pet, rain or shine, and wait out there until she goes, you'll begin to retrain the good manners that she exhibited in her younger years. She won't be happy about going out in the cold or the rain, but if you are out there too, she'll feel a little better about it. Be patient with her; she deserves that from you – and be patient with yourself.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Obese Dog

Dear Marie,
I have what is supposed to be a small breed dog. He’s a Lhasa Apso named Kirby and he weighs 31 pounds. He looks like a giant throw pillow for my couch. My roommate and everyone who comes over thinks he is cute being so fat and they keep giving him treats, even when I tell them they shouldn't. I try to minimize what he eats, but it doesn’t seem like it is doing any good. He’s only 4 years old and he never plays. The only time he gets excited at all is if there is food available. My grandmother is the worst. When she comes to visit me at my apartment, she likes to cook dinner. Then she gives him all the leftovers. I try to explain that this isn’t good for him; but she tells me that he won’t eat more than he needs and I feel like I just can’t argue with her because she’s my grandmother and you don’t argue with grandmothers. Kirby has gained 3 pounds this year alone. At this rate, he’s going to pass 50 pounds before he’s 10 years old. I need to get him back to a healthy weight but I can’t do it alone. If you answer this letter, I’ll put it up on my fridge so everyone can read it. With you on my side, I think I can take on all my dog’s “enablers.”

Dear Stephanie,
First of all, let me just say that you and only you are responsible for your dog’s health and welfare. If people are doing things that endanger Kirby, you need to tell them in no uncertain terms that it is not OK and that’s all there is to it. Even if one of those people is your grandmother, you must be firm. Kirby’s life may depend on it.

Obesity leads to poor health and potentially death, especially morbid obesity, as is the case with your dog. A Lhasa Apso should weigh 12-15 pounds at the most. Beyond that, he may develop diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, liver problems, increased risk of cancer, and all the same problems you hear about with regards to human obesity. There is nothing “cute” about this.

Though it appears that your dog is getting fat as a result of eating too much, you should schedule a visit with your veterinarian to make sure there are no underlying causes for the weight gain. If he gets a clean bill of health from the doctor, then you must immediately start him on a special diet and exercise program. Your veterinarian will probably recommend various dog food products along with a maximum daily calorie intake recommendation. Do not stray from this regimen.

It is important that your dog lose weight slowly. Don’t expect results over night. I would suggest targeting nine months to a year to reach your goal.

In the meantime, Kirby will whine for food. He will look at you with big, begging, sad eyes. He will do what he does best to get you and your friends and relatives to sneak him little snacks. You must stay in control of the situation and not give in to Kirby’s or anyone else’s begging – because there will be a lot, and mostly from Kirby’s human allies.

Keep reminding yourself that every extra pound on your little dog’s body is causing him joint pain, discomfort from the heat, breathing difficulties, and all the potential health problems I’ve already discussed.

With that as your motivation, begin taking Kirby out for morning, afternoon and evening walks. Increase the distance of these walks by just a little bit each day. You will notice that as Kirby exercises more, he will have more energy. He will even begin to enjoy playing again.

Buy him a few new toys. Balls are great for getting dogs to run around and have a good time. But be creative – find some toys that both of you like playing with together. When the two of you are enjoying activity time, you will notice that Kirby enjoys his “workout” even more.

Once your dog is back to a healthy weight, don’t stop the good diet and exercise program that you will have developed. You can gradually switch him over to a maintenance diet, but keep the extra snacks and goodies out of the picture. Many dogs do not know when to stop eating so it’s your job to regulate Kirby’s intake. By taking these steps, as hard as they may be, you will be giving Kirby a much more comfortable and healthy life and I’m sure your family and friends will agree that this is best.

Good Luck.