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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