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Friday, 21 December 2012


In the evenings, just before bed I like to give my dog a little biscuit treat. I have done so for the whole of her life and she is now 14 years old. The problem is this now makes her thirsty and she disturbs us at night.

Is there a treat I can give her that will not make her thirsty?

Thank you very much,

Sheila Thompson, by phone

Almitey itch

Hello there,

I think two-and-a-half-year-old Chow Chow may have a dust mite allergy.

She has itchy feet and legs, and seems itchy on her tummy area. She is chewing in those areas especially her front legs. I am sure it is not fleas, as I have not found any flea dirt, and I believe they are itchy on the back and the base of the tail with a flea allergy.

I changed her food to Burns Fish and Rice two weeks ago to see if it was diet related and I think this has helped a little. My previous Chows have all done very well on Burns, as they seem to be unable to tolerate most grains.

Her ears seem quite hot which I understand is associated with a dust mite allergy?
She is wearing a rubber ring most of the time to stop her chewing her feet.

Does any one know the best treatment, and any helpful advice for me?

Many thanks,

Lesley Noke, by email

Thursday, 20 December 2012

The not-so-great outdoors

Please can you help? I rehomed a miniature Jack Russell, Patch, in August this year from a local rescue centre. I was told he was four and a half years old and had been rehomed because his previous owners had moved to a property where they are not allowed pets. He is a super, very intelligent little dog who had obviously been well-loved as he came with a lovely bed and bedding and a good supply of quality food. Although I don't know for sure, I think his previous owners must have been quite elderly as, every time we pass a park bench he wants to climb up onto it, and doesn't want to walk. He is also very affectionate.

My problem is that Patch seems to be getting more and more nervous when outdoors - in the garden, or when walking, if he hears any noise, he either runs back into the house or won't walk and has to be carried home. Initially, his main interest was retrieving his ball, whether in the garden or out in the park, and this seemed to distract him from any sudden noise. However, recently even this activity isn't enough to distract him from a noise which I myself have barely registered, and the only way I can get him to walk is if my husband takes us in the car and leaves us somewhere from where Patch then leads us home - he has a highly developed sense of direction! I don't know if  'forcing'  him to walk in this way is the right thing to do, as he rarely exhibits 'normal' traits when walking - sniffing etc - and usually heads straight home, head down, looking totally unhappy. Although he travels happily in the car, he is very frightened of traffic, so I try to take him where there is little or no traffic, but he still appears very nervous.

Do you think a pheronome collar, or 'thunder' jacket would help, or can you offer any other ideas so that we can make his life less stressed? We just want to take that frightened look from his eyes.

Thanks for any help you can offer,

Ellen Barker, by email

Karen Wild, behaviourist, advises...

Hi Ellen

I think you are reading the signs correctly, and Patch is clearly not enjoying the experience at the moment. Forcing is not the fairest thing to do and can make things worse. Firstly make sure your Vet has checked his health with this problem in mind just to rule out any medical causes, and it is probably worth asking them if they can refer you to an APBC behaviourist for specialist help. It might be that he did not get used to certain sounds and experiences in his earlier life, and so will need a very gradual and enjoyable introduction. Start by making a very clear list of the things that are causing him to behave in this way. It might be that he can tolerate certain sounds as long as they are not loud, or sudden perhaps. Alternatively it might be that there are other triggers when he is out, so note down as many things as you can to really start to get to grips with this problem. Keep a diary too as it might help to establish a pattern. You are right that dragging him through experiences on walks is not going to improve if he is feeling unhappy and will more than likely make him feel more anxious as time goes along.

You also need to make a list of things he loves to do and start to gradually pair the most enjoyable thing with the least ‘scary’ to build a nice link between the two. This is where expert help really does make a difference. It has to be done gradually and thoroughly and at each stage he needs to stay calm and happy, not become stressed or worried.

By all means use a pheromone collar or calming jacket, and consider approaching a TTouch practitioner as well, but these would be best used as support for the above behaviour modification work rather than relying on them alone.

Above all if you work on this gradually as I have suggested, he will learn to trust you to look out for him and this bond means that if he is ever in doubt, he knows you will be able to get him out of what he sees as a panic situation.  He is lucky to have found such a caring owner.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Exercise regime


Can anyone recommend how much exercise I should begin with my 13-week-old Siberian Husky bitch and how I should build this up over time to full long walks and runs?

Thank you,

Dianne Evans, by email

Skinny Labbie


I know this is unusual considering the breed, but one of my Labradors struggles to maintain her weight, even if I feed her larger meals than my other girl. My vet is keeping an eye on her and says he doesn’t think there’s anything physically wrong with her.

Please could you advise what it could be and how I can help to keep her healthy?

E. Hall, by email

Please note: veterinary advice should always be sought if you are worried about your dog’s health

Friday, 7 December 2012

Start from scratch

Hopefully the Think Tank can help as to why both my collie and Tibetan Terrier puppy scratch at their mouths and under their chins? The Tibetan seems to have more itchy skin usually at the back near the tail and went through the frantic paw chewing on the pads but that has eased right off, thank goodness.

I just hate to see him so itchy and have tried changing food. I have them both on Advocate so certain its not fleas, and I’ve added Evening Primrose Oil to try to help. They are both wormed with Drontal and the poor puppy even had the vet clear his anal glands as they thought that may be the reason for the back gnawing. I can only think some sort of allergy, but help!!!

Thank you for your time, very grateful,

Kim, by email

In memoriam

Please help,

My dog has been diagnosed with a left brain neuro focal lymphoma.

The vet has given him just a month or two to live. I want so badly to make this time special and to create memories and memorials of him but I am too overwhelmed with sadness to know where to begin.

What have others done to commemorate their dogs and what things should I be doing with him?

Allison, by email

Pam Burne-Jones, Blue Cross Pet Bereavement Support Service (PBSS), advises…

First of all, Allison, we’re sorry to hear about your beloved dog. Receiving a terminal prognosis is always a shock and you will naturally be feeling overwhelmed at present. 

Do you have any special places you both like to visit? Perhaps go there, if you are able and take lots of photos and make the visit special – do the things he likes to do. Remember, he doesn’t know what’s ahead. Animals live in the present so what happens ‘now’ is what’s important to him. Someone facing a similar situation bought a heart shaped box and cards and wrote messages on them to her pet and aims to keep other special things in there too when her pet has passed; favourite toys, collar etc. This will be painful for you to do right now but in time you will have much to look back on. Blue Cross has a memorial site on which you can post a favourite photo and poem ( 

It’s important at this time to do what’s right for you, Allison. Everyone is individual in how they react, but we hope these suggestions will help get you started.

The Pet Bereavement Support Service is run by pet charity Blue Cross. Call the support line on 0800 096 6606 (open seven days a week, 8.30am to 8.30pm) or email

Dear Allison,

I am so sorry to hear your news and wish you and your boy the very best at this horrible time.

You clearly care very much for your boy and I'm sure however you choose to spend his last days will be special for you both.

Dogs Today has a tributes page which runs every issue. You would be very welcome to send us a tribute to him which you would be able to keep forever. Readers often like to include a photo and a few words about their dog, and some include a poem, but it is up to you, it is your tribute.

If you would like to send one, please do email or write to us at Dogs Today, The Dog House, 4 Bonseys Lane, Chobham, Surrey GU24 8JJ

Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can help at all.

Very best wishes to you both,

Rachael Millar
Assistant editor, Dogs Today

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Casing the joint

I’ve been doing local agility classes with my 7 year old Lab x for the last three years and he loves it. However I’ve noticed that he’s started showing signs of stiffening up, especially in this cold weather. It’s not severe enough for medication but I’m looking into supplements...

What would you advise to help keep him supple, we’d both love to be able to carry on with the classes?

Thank you,

Jill, by email

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Winter weather activities

Can any of your readers suggest some activities for my family and our dog? Our husky is called Blaze and he’s 20 months old and needs lots of exercise. We take him for lots of walks but would like some other activities to do with him, especially now its winter and sometimes my wife and I need a bit of an incentive to take him for a walk! My kids are 12 and 14 and we’re an active family – enjoy biking etc.


Greg, by email

All aboard?


I was wondering if anyone had any experience of long train journeys with dogs in tow? I'm planning on taking my dog up north over Christmas to see friends, we'll have an hour journey into London, then go on the tube, then on a three hour trip to our destination.

I'll take her for a long walk beforehand to ensure she's totally tired and will try to give her toilet breaks wherever possible. My concern is that she is a Labrador-Collie cross so I can't exactly place her on my lap during the journey, how easy is it to take dogs on public transport like this?

Mary Scott, Kent

Karen Wild, behaviourist, advises...

Hi Mary,

It might be worth calling ahead to make sure that you know dogs are welcome on the trains you plan to use. They will have a policy on what is permitted so I think it is a wise move. They may advise you on other aspects of travel too such as quieter times of day to travel particularly on the tube, as a crowd will probably be very difficult for you both to manage.

Take a comfortable blanket for your dog to lie on - this will not only help her to feel more secure with a homely smelling place, but it may also stop her rolling on the floor with the inevitable train movements.

Take something she loves to chew, and have a few of these ready as you have a long journey. It will help her to de-stress and enjoy herself a little more.

Trains are very noisy, and in the tube especially it can be hot with huge gusts of air down the tunnels. I'd start teaching a good sit stay as soon as possible, so that if there is anything likely to spook her you can replace this with a predictable and easy behaviour that will also help her to settle.
You may attract a lot of attention with a lovely dog in tow, so be prepared for polite ways to ask people not to disturb her. Even if she is very friendly, she will find the journey tiring so I would not ask my dog to put up with attention under these circumstances unless I was confident that she was still relaxed. Use a high-vis lead and jacket, perhaps, to make sure people see her and don't trip over her. My own dogs always wear these when out like this if they are on the ground (I am lucky that I can pick up my dogs!).

As with any new experience your dog needs to build up to it gradually, so practising your sit and down stay training around the local train station is something I would make a priority, even with short journeys to accustom her. Take plenty of high-value food rewards (chicken, or ham for example) with you and offer them whenever the train is nearby, to form a happy association.

There are so many aspects to this that it is hard to do it justice in an answer of this nature. The noise from the train, the bustle of the platform, the people moving about, the attention, the sway of the train and the unfamiliarity of the journey all have elements that need consideration and it might be worth making a huge list of these. At each point of the list, you know your dog best of all, so mark what you think needs doing against each point. You will be able to identify the things that can be solved and those that are unlikely to be a problem, and this will in turn build your confidence and sense of control. And a confident you means a happier travelling dog!

Have a terrific trip!


Searching for a homeopathic vet


Can anybody recommend a homeopathic vet in Spain? We are in Malaga on the Costa Del Sol but I have a Spanish client who would like to use a homeopathic vet so even one not close by may be useful if they speak Spanish.

Many thanks,


Mysterious callers


Just thought I’d let you know about an odd incident which happened yesterday in case this has happened to anyone else or is part of a bigger picture.

Three young girls knocked on our door and asked if they could take our dog for a walk. We know many families in the neighbourhood but these three were unknown to us. The eldest looked about 12.

Either this was a genuine enquiry (though you wonder why a responsible parent would allow their children responsibility for a very large boisterous retriever which they probably couldn’t control and didn’t know) or it was an attempt at dognapping. Was there a man in a van waiting round the corner?

Naturally we declined but this has made us uncomfortable.

Has anyone else had a similar experience?

Kind Regards

Pam Camilleri, Cambs

A square meal

I am looking for a quality feed which has a low level of high quality protein, for my 12-year-old active in mind and body Beardie cross. His current food is 38% protein (from meat) and I am concerned this may be too much for the kidneys to deal with.

Thank you.

Sally, by email

Monday, 3 December 2012

Trick or treat?

Do you know of any hypoallergenic treats I can give my girl?

Sasha, my Cocker Spaniel, cannot eat beef, veal, turkey, fish or diary.

She is fed on Burns kibble with fresh chicken, which suits her very well, but I am struggling to find any treats that don't upset her. I feel awful for her on walks when kind dog walkers offer her treats and I have to say 'sorry Sasha but you can't have one'.

Any ideas would be welcomed.

Mrs Knox, Aberdeen

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Keep dancing!

My 13-year-old daughter has really enjoyed teaching our collie, Rose, the Singin’ in the Rain routine you’ve had in your recent magazines and is really keen to find a Heelwork to Music class.
Please can you tell me the things I should look out for in a class? Rose is very bright (she’s a collie!) and she’s done well with the routines, but I want to ensure her legs aren’t put under too much strain. Is there a children’s club or something similar my daughter could join?
Mrs Dunn, by email

Chewing it over. And Over. And Over.

Please can you help?
I’m at my wits’ end trying to combat my four-month-old puppy from chewing everything in sight, including my hands! We puppy-proofed our house before bringing him home – everything that needs to be is up high, and electric cables have extra cabling around them – it’s like having a toddler in the house again!
I’d prefer it if he stopped chewing my furniture! I’m around all day, so it’s not an anxiety thing I don’t think as I only leave him to go to the supermarket etc and he chews when I’m there. I do remember past pups chewing, but not this much!
Hope you can help!
Mrs Baker, by email

Gentle help for Degenerative Myelopathy

Dear Sir/Madam,
I have a Dobermann cross, who has been my best friend for 13 years. She has just recovered from a stroke, and has now been diagnosed with Degenerative Myelopathy, which is so heartbreaking.
I have read about three biological therapies – Coenzyme Compositum, Psorinoheel, and Galium Heel. Could any of these help with this awful condition?
Also, would hydrotherapy help?
I will do anything to help my dog, to make it easier for her to cope with this debilitating disease.
Any advice at all would be very much appreciated.
Miss M. Huggins, Sunderland

Richard Allport, vet, advises...

Degenerative Myelopathy, known as DM for short, is a slowly progressive degenerative disease of the nerves in the spinal cord which is generally believed to be caused by an auto immune condition. The affected dog becomes weak and wobbly in the hind legs and as the disease progresses can also lose control of bowels. Dogs with DM usually appear perfectly fit and well in other respects, which is why it is indeed so heartbreaking. Eventually more or less complete loss of use of the hindquarters occurs and the affected dog can no longer stand or walk. DM is painless, but is naturally distressing for dogs that have the condition.

There are no drugs that help this problem, but natural medicines and therapies can often help slow down progression, sometimes give periods of stability, and occasionally give short term improvement.

I find acupuncture very beneficial, and high doses of Vitamin E seem to help (1000 iu per day for large dogs). Supplements of Zinc and Selenium can be of benefit for some patients, and the amino acid Dimethylglycine (DMG) can be helpful too.

Homoeopathic medicines often give good results. Of the ones you mention, Psorinoheel is more useful for skin disease and liver problems, Coenzyme Compositum is more effective for chronic fatigue type illnesses where total energy levels are low, as opposed to DM, where general energy is normal, and only one small part of the body is physically affected. Galium Heel may give some benefit – it is used for auto immune and other immune system diseases, but I find Dimethylglycine more effective. The two homoeopathic medicines I have found most useful are Conium maculatum and Lathyrus, and these will work particularly well if given alongside the dog’s personal constitutional homoeopathic medicine (which you would need a qualified ho0moeopathic vet to prescribe).

A good diet is also important – good quality ingredients, no preservatives or additives, and as much fresh food as possible.

And finally support therapies such as hydrotherapy, massage and physiotherapy can be of benefit too.

Good luck with your canine best friend, I hope she still has a long and happy time with you.

For more information on any of the treatments detailed above do contact the Natural Medicine Centre on 01707 662058 or e mail (giving a phone number we can call you on if possible)

Year-round risk

Is there the same risk of my dog getting fleas in the winter as there is in the summer? I didn’t think there was but a friend said I should be giving my Bulldog a flea treatment all year round.

Thank you,

Linda Small, by email

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Knitting needle in a haystack

Does anyone know of any knitting patterns to make German Shepherd toys? I am involved with GSD rescue and would love to make some Shepherd toys to sell to raise funds.

I know Alan Dart has patterns for lots of breeds but I can’t find one for the German Shepherd. It would need to be at least 10 inches or more, ideally.

Thanks very much,

Michelle Bingham, by phone

Monday, 19 November 2012

Surviving bed rest

How do I keep my Lab cross puppy from going crazy in the time after she has been spayed?

She's awful without a good walk!

Loralys, via Twitter

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Dread-ful locks

Can anyone recommend a shampoo/conditioner which will help stop my Lurcher's fur matting?

Bella's got a mixture of soft/course hair and gets brushed three times a day, yet I'm having huge problems with dreadlocks. I don't want to have her shaved if at all possible.


Elspeth Winter Rose, via Facebook

Loud and clear

Please can anyone help?

I have two dogs who, while not being the most well trained dogs on the block, will come back when called and are fine around other dogs.

However I have recently gained a second hand Ray - too male to be a Rose - who was 18 months when I got him. He had never been allowed off a lead and had never been socialised with any other dog or many humans either. The excuse I was given was that his previous owners had taken him to a puppy socialisation class but he had been attacked by another dog so they never went back, and their answer was to not let him near other dogs, so now he thinks that all other dogs are frightening creatures that he must bark at to make them go away.

When I said I would be prepared to take him on I stressed it was subject to him getting on with my original two, and I agreed to meet on neutral territory and walk them all together to make sure they got on. However when the dog turned up - who has now been renamed Buddy - I was informed that this was the first time he had been in a car, this was all his stuff, good luck on the walk and they had to go.

It took us about three days before he stopped barking at the other two dogs indoors. Thank heavens for understanding neighbours. I called in a behaviourist who got us to join her class by at first walking him round the outside of the field that she was holding her training classes in and gradually moving him nearer until we were able to join the group, and he did calm down considerably but then she lost her training ground and gradually all Buddy’s old habits started creeping in.

After about three months I contacted another behaviourist who came out and walked Buddy with me and gave his recommendations, which were to take him to a park and let him 'bark it out' until he stops of his own accord and looks back at me and then to praise him. This trainer thought he would be bored of barking within two weeks. Unfortunately he never gets bored. I even enrolled him in a six week growl class which really doesn't seem to have done him much good back in the real world.

I now even have to take him out on his lead to go into the back garden as he barks out there. I still cannot walk him with my other two dogs and am at my wits end as to what I can do now with him.

Can anyone offer any help/suggestions?

Rebecca and Buddy, by email

Monday, 12 November 2012

Neighbourhood watch

Hi, can someone suggest a solution to this problem, please.

Someone down my back alley has a young dog that they seem to put out in the back yard an awful lot. When they do this, he barks and yelps, sometimes for hours. It is absolutely heart-rending to hear. I've worked out which house it is and would like to call round and tell them. However, I would like to turn up with some kind of solution, not just a complaint. I was thinking maybe if they put him (her) out with a stuffed Kong? I live in a rough area and have no idea if this family will be a drug-dealing, gun-toting family, but if I call the RSPCA I know they'll do nothing at all because there have been worse cases of cruelty round here and they haven't bothered.

Ideally if someone could point me to a website where I could print out a list of suggestions about separation anxiety that the family could follow. Maybe I could chicken out and just shove it through their letterbox and run!

Tracy Neil, via Facebook

Dave Griffiths, Senior Policy Adviser, National Dog Warden Association, advises...

Dear Tracey,

I think every organisation or individual involved with dogs would agree that this is not an ideal scenario. However, unless the dog is left out without any water or shelter, this is not strictly a matter for the RSPCA. Remember that their officers are inundated with cases of cruelty and mistreatment so they can’t often deal with calls that are outside their remit.

Your local District/Borough/City Councils have Environmental Health departments that contain both Dog Wardens and officers who investigate noise complaints. If the noise is unreasonable, excessive and is adversely affecting your enjoyment of your own home, it can be investigated by that department for you under sections 79 to 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Although this does not directly benefit the welfare of the dog, the dog owners will be informed that a complaint has been made and will be offered help and advice if they ask for it. Why not give your local Council a ring and chat through the options with them?

However, you are quite right in that it is always better if neighbours communicate and try to resolve problems amicably before bringing in the authorities. The dog owners may be a little defensive at first but usually come to appreciate that you haven’t reported them and will value the help you are offering.

Separation anxiety is a difficult problem to solve and there isn’t usually a quick fix solution. There is a lot of advice out there but the RSPCA and Dogs Trust both have sections on their website that may help and that I have used myself in the past;

However, working through these problems take a lot of time and patience and, even then, there are times when the solution is a recognised dog behaviourist or trainer.

Dave Griffiths

(Senior Policy Adviser, National Dog Warden Association)

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Gift of charity

I'm hoping to find a nice T-shirt or hoodie as a Christmas gift which supports a doggy charity, any ideas anyone?


Amy Skilton, via Facebook

Back in the harness

I wonder if any of your readers have any good recommendations for harnesses for a Greyhound and a little Whippet-sized Lurcher?

I've used a few harnesses, but I have found none of them are long enough from the front to belly, meaning they rub under the front legs.

I want a decent quality one, something comfy for them both, because they have to stick with harnesses as they are experts at getting out of collars!

Sarah Bell, via Facebook

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

When is it best to spay?

My vet is advising I spay my eight-week-old pup at six months old before her first season, as it reduces the risk of mammary cancer by up to 85%.

With my previous dogs I have always allowed a number of seasons before spaying but does it matter whether a bitch has come in season or not before spaying? Are there any psychological issues with spaying a bitch who hasn't had a season?

This is causing me a real dilemma because I want to do what's best for the health of the dog.

Thanks for your guidance.

Dianne Evans, by email

Afraid of the dark

Does anyone have any tips for a dog who is now scared of the dark after being spooked by fireworks?

Bruno is a 19-month-old Bichon, and this is his second fireworks season. He's normally such a toughy.

Delyth and Bruno, via Twitter

Monday, 5 November 2012

Brushing up on grooming


I hope you can help. We’re new to the dog world but hoping I’ve come to the right place as we’ve just had a homecheck and been approved to adopt a rescue dog from a Greyhound charity.

I’m emailing for a few tips on grooming and what the best products are as we’d like to do the majority at home, but will take our new dog to a professional when he or she needs it.

Mr and Mrs Porter, by email

Homeward bound

Hi Dogs Today,

Can you help?

Now the weather is becoming foul, I’m remembering just how long the smell of wet dog stays in the car after a walk and how much more cleaning is required. 
We strap Snoopy in so he travels inside the car. I do take a towel with me to dry off muddy paws and fur after my crossbreed has had a swim, but I’m wondering if there are any products that might limit the wet dog smell so human passengers aren’t subjected to such a stink and the seats don't get quite so muddy? 

Hopeful thanks,

Mrs D’Souza, by email

Foxed by an odour problem

Like many, many other dog owners, I have an odour problem!
Madi, my five-year-old crossbreed, likes a good roll in fox poo when she comes across it in the woods where we live. Worse, Ruby, the Golden Retriever we often look after, is an expert at hunting it out. She can find fox scat anywhere within a three-mile radius! She's had four baths in as many days - and still smells.
I’ve tried using tomato sauce, which has often been recommended to me. It helps, and the residual vinegar smell masks the stench a little, but it doesn’t take long for the waft of eau de fox to win through after a few hours.
Any suggestions?
Claire Horton-Bussey, Dogs Today

The Eco Dog Company sent me its special Fox Poo Kit (£17.99), which includes two wash pads (one for the dog and one for cleaning the dog’s mucky collar and the bath afterwards!), fox poo shampoo, and a baby-powder fragrance spray.
The shampoo is described as being “For dogs that don’t want to smell like something the fox left behind!” It smells delicious – and is eco-friendly, containing no SLS (sodium lauryl sulphate), parabens or artificial fragrances.
To be honest, I didn’t need the fragrance spray afterwards – the shampoo did what it promised – but I did find that the spray was useful for the times when I couldn’t immediately bath the dogs after a walk. It was a good stop-gap until I was free to get them in the tub!
A great gift for dog lovers – and to yourself – this kit is a must-have. Highly effective and leaves your dog smelling fragrant and clean. And it smells a lot better than ketchup!
For more info, visit

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Can dogs have autism?

I am interested in people's thoughts on autism in dogs.

I have a 14-year-old collie bitch who over her lifetime has exhibited some very autistic type tendencies.

Julie Smith, via Facebook

Quiet as a mouse

Can anyone give some advice on barking, not excessive but lack of.

I have just acquired a Staffie, aged about four to five years, from the dog warden in Hampshire. She was found as a stray, and not much is known about her background, probably ill treatment. She has a wonderful disposition, clean, completely non-aggressive to people or other dogs, very affectionate and loving, walks well on lead; cannot fault her at all.

She was in the kennels probably for about a month and they never heard her bark. They thought maybe she had been ill treated. Perhaps she had been punished for barking. We have only had her for one week. She is quite relaxed and wagging her tail all the time but still not a sound comes from her. I recently heard about another Staffie, quite young who also couldn’t bark and made sort of grunting noises. they said it was probably a collapsed larynx. I spoke to someone else about it who has recently adopted a Labrador aged 13-14 who also doesn’t bark. I asked her, “what do you think is the reason”. She said often ageing or a paralysis of the larynx. Maybe it was caused by retrieving sticks or something stuck in the throat. So now I am thinking, in my dog’s case cannot be ageing so must be something else. My vet doesn’t think it is anything to worry about, not a health problem fit and healthy in every other way, but it would be nice to hear just a “woof” now and again.

Does anyone have any ideas or experience of this? Is there any remedy and could barking return?

Mrs V. J. Denton, by email

Avoiding lipomas


Our blue roan Cocker Spaniel, Tosca, is nine years old, and has started to develop fatty lumps. One, on the side of her chest, is growing, so she’s going to have it removed next week.

Internet info says that lipomas are most common in overweight dogs, but Tosca weighs just 12.5 kilos and is very active – most people who see her in action think she’s a puppy, and can’t believe how old she is. We feed her on raw meat and lightly-cooked vegetables, about 220g of each per day, divided into two meals. For treats, we give nuggets of Burns or James Wellbeloved dried food, about 15g per day. If we reduce this quantity of food, she loses weight.

Our previous cocker, Corran, also slim, had the same problem and, at 13 years old, the front of her chest was a mass of fatty tissue. Before that I had a Springer, who lived to be 14 and didn’t have any fatty lumps at all.

I was wondering whether there’s any way to reduce the formation of these lumps? We prefer natural remedies whenever possible.


Ellie Judson, by email

Richard Allport, vet, advises

Yes, if you scan the ‘infernalnet’ you will find that lipomas are supposed to be most common in older dogs, in overweight female dogs, and in certain breeds (Dobermans, Miniature Schnauzers, Labradors). This may well be true, but I do see lipomas in many other breeds; in males and in females; and in dogs that are under, normal or over weight. Lipomas are, essentially, fatty lumps, and are almost always benign. However, very rarely, malignant lipomas, (known as liposarcomas) do occur, so fatty lumps should always be checked regularly and be examined by a vet if growing very rapidly.

It seems that some dogs are prone to lipomas and some are not, and many dogs that are predisposed to them will keep producing new ones. Surgery to remove lipomas is therefore not undertaken routinely; otherwise the affected dog would have to undergo multiple anaesthetics and operations. However, rapidly growing lipomas are often removed to prevent them becoming extremely large, and lipomas in places that could interfere with movement might also be removed.

Lipomas are usually soft, pliable and mobile, and commonly just under the skin without strong attachment to the flesh beneath. Some are more ‘infiltrative’ and are found in muscle or other tissue under the skin.

It is difficult to control lipomas. I have had reasonable success using natural medicines and supplements, although more in limiting size, growth rate and number of new lipomas rather than eliminating them entirely.

Supplements such as Vitamin E and Selenium can help, as can Kelp (especially for dogs that are overweight). One supplement I am finding useful is a combination of minerals and trace elements known as ‘Volcanic Elements’. Although this is intended as a general strengthening and energising supplement, it does seem to help in reducing size and numbers of warts, cysts and lipomas.

Homoeopathic medicines such as Thuja, Baryta carb, Calc carb and others can also help, and one client appeared to have success with rubbing Sage extract on the lipomas directly.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Weak at the knees


Just wondering if anyone has an experience of Patella Luxation in dogs? My Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Lady, is suffering from it, she's on painkillers until she sees orthopaedic surgeon next week and will most likely need surgery. She's only one.

Would love to hear some successful treatment stories at the moment, I feel so sorry for her and she was doing so well with her training and now can hardly walk!

Siobhan Campbell, via Facebook

Alison Logan, vet, advises...

Patellar luxation is also called a slipping kneecap. My children have been adept at diagnosing this from a young age because I am prone to saying out loud ‘Oh, look, that dog has a luxating patella’ whenever I see a dog skipping for a few strides.

There is a mismatch between the kneecap and the groove within which it sits, which may be exacerbated by the pull of muscles acting on the knee. When the knee or stifle is bent, the kneecap may slip out of the groove, preventing straightening of the knee so the dog hops for a few steps until the kneecap returns to its correct position, allowing the knee to extend and bear weight once more.

As a vet, the position of the kneecaps is checked during routine examination. If a dog has a luxating patella, it can be possible to slip the kneecap out of position with quite a thunk, and then return it, usually without much of a response from the dog (but it always makes me shudder!). In Lady’s case, you say that she is in pain and can barely walk so there may well be active inflammation and other issues going on so I am glad she is receiving pain relief and will be seeing an orthopaedic surgeon next week. At her young age, it is important to have this investigated at as early a stage as possible if long term adverse effects are to be avoided. After all, being able to move about freely without pain is paramount, and especially if you are a young Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

I hope that the orthopaedic surgeon is able to help Lady. Please let us know how she does.

Expanding the family


Could you please advise me on what to do, I am thinking of getting a German Shepherd puppy but I have a dog already.

My dog is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel he is very timid, not at all dominant and is not social with others (people and dogs), he sleeps most of the day and does not play games/or with toys. He never shows aggression but always backs away and is submissive. As he is nervous I am wondering whether getting a puppy would scare him more or whether it would be a good idea to get another dog?

Thank you,

Nikki Cooper, by email

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Behavioural change

Hi all,

Advice will be greatly appreciated here as I am feeling quite desperate.

We are fostering a little dog, a female Lab/terrier mix. Although it’s hard to know, we estimate she is about two years old.

She was spayed recently by our local SPCA branch who is now offering her for adoption. We have had her since September 5 and she has been a really well behaved little dog to date. Only in the last few days have some problems presented. On Saturday evening, we discovered she had soiled on our bed. She managed to get back into the bedroom unnoticed the following evening and soiled again, with poo this time. Aside from the major clean up situation, this has never happened before and she has been very clean in the house. No accidents or anything. Nor has she shown the slightest sign of anxiety to date. She was a bit nervous at first but she soon settled in.

Also, when potential adopters came to see her on Sunday evening last, she growled and snapped and refused to walk with them on the lead. Again, this caught us completely by surprise as she has always been very placid around visitors who have called to the house. Another fosterer took care of her for a weekend a few weeks ago when we were away and this fosterer has young children and found that she was very good with the children. However, now she is also reacting to any dog she meets outside on walks. She gets on very well with our schnauzer Isaac and our boxer Barney but when walking her, it is as if she is going frantic to get at the other dog.

This is escalating is the space of a few days. By this morning, she was hysterical, pulling on the lead when she was approaching areas where she knew there were dogs in the yard or behind the fence, literally spinning and jumping on the end of the lead as if charged with electricity. If not on the lead, she would have ran straight out under traffic. I was almost in tears by the time I arrived home. Nothing distracted her, not even pieces of sausage meat I was carrying as treats.

The puzzling thing is that these bad behaviours have only presented themselves in the matter of a few days. The vet checked her out on Friday and she is in perfect health. My local SPCA branch have been very supportive but there are no behaviourists in our area.

No-one will adopt her if this is not sorted. A potential adopter is coming to see her this week, an elderly lady who is looking for a companion and best friend. Sounds like the home of dreams for this little dog but not if she keeps this up.

Thanks in advance,

Fiona Robbins, Ireland

Karen Wild, behaviourist, advises...

The fact that you describe a sudden onset of problems leads me to think that this needs urgent professional involvement rather than speculation and you did the right thing getting a vet check straightaway. It might be that there has been a traumatic event to set this off or something else underlying that could need further medical investigation, and more indepth behaviour screening. As we know dogs have especially clear memories especially if it is of something unpleasant happening in the past. Equally they often have not had a great deal of 'real-life' experience which can cause them to be fearful (they may toilet inappropriately) or defensive through aggressive display. It might even be that the recent trauma of moving between foster homes (no matter how nice the homes are as they sound very caring), could be causing the dog distress?

Can the vet or rescue centre suggest someone professionally qualified to help? Most vets have a behaviour referral service that they rely on locally and most good rescue centres provide behavioural support for the dogs they rehome in one way or another. A dog's best chance of success when rehoming goes along with a professional behaviour assessment that is thorough - Wood Green sends out excellent, accurate and thorough reports with every dog they rehome, for example. The SPCA or vet should be able to suggest someone with a kind approach who can really work through this to give this little girl the very best chance of success.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Unpleasant discovery

This morning I found a small, white moving maggot in my dog's poo. He had only just gone and I went to clear it up straight away so it was not laying for more than five minutes.

What could it be?

Carol Davies, by email

Steve Leonard, TV vet, advises...

From the sounds of things it seems that what she has found is a worm - if it was short fat and ribbed (looking like a maggot) it's most likely it was a tapeworm.

Tapeworm are picked up from accidentally ingesting fleas or scavenging on dead carcasses that they come across on a walk. Once inside the dog they develop into the adult form of the worm feeding in the dog's gut and laying eggs wrapped up in segments. These segments are visible to the naked eye and look like grains of rice. Whole worms or longer sections of worms can also be passed out and it may be this is what you have seen. Because of the relationship with fleas it is very important to check for them by looking for flea dirt (black specs in the coat that turn pink or red when brushed out onto wet paper). By eliminating the fleas you will reduce the chance of re-infection.

However, there is no tablet or injection that will prevent dogs picking up tapeworms from scavenging so we have to concentrate on regular treatment. If your dog regularly picks up stuff you should worm your pet more frequently. Once monthly should be sufficient in most cases as it stops the worms completing their full lifecycle and seeding the environment with more eggs. For more information, visit

Monday, 15 October 2012

Going down a treat


I’m hoping you or your readers can advise. I am switching my dog to a BARF diet but am wondering what to feed her for treats? She is so food-orientated (which made her quite a dream to train!) and I like to carry something smelly on walks in case I ever need to tempt her away from a discarded mouldy sandwich or similar.

Can you recommend something free from nasty additives?

Thank you.

Mrs Reid, by email

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Border Collie Collapse syndrome

My blue eyed collie boy who you photographed as a pup has just been diagnosed with assumed Border Collie Collapse. Which means no more agility or full on play with the others. He started on some suggested supplements but it doesn't seem much is known about the condition & there isn't a genetic test. If any of your readers have dogs with this condition I would be interested in speaking to them
Please post here or/and email 
Gina Stokes
Border Collie collapse is similar to the exercise-induced collapse syndrome in retrievers. Alternative names include ‘the wobbles’, exercise-induced hyperthermia and stress seizures. It is episodic because it is triggered by vigorous exercise, excitement or high environmental temperature or a combination of two or more factors. An exact explanation is the subject of ongoing research, as is the search for a genetic factor.

The problem manifests within five to fifteen minutes of starting to exercise or after stopping exercise, with disorientation and vacancy, swaying and staggering to one side, and a bizarre, altered gait. The legs may even cross over when the dog turns. This lasts for a variable length of time and then the dog is normal once more without any apparent side-effects from the episode.

This is why you have been advised your dog can do no more agility or ‘full on play’ with other dogs. As the Border Collie is an inherently active and willing worker, this must have come as a real blow to you.

Alison Logan, Vet