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Monday, 24 March 2014

Off his food

I have always had German Shepherd Dogs, and always two together.

Two weeks ago we lost Amber, our elder dog, and six-year-old Max is bereft. Amber was always the leader and Max the follower. Max has never been a big eater, but now it's hard to tempt him to eat very much at all. He will not eat his normal dry food, he'll eat very small amounts of canned but nowhere near enough. I have tried cooked chicken breasts but he won't even eat much of that. He had a vet check recently, though before Amber died, and he is physically fine, so it seems that he is grieving for his companion.

If he continues this way he will obviously lose condition. We feel it is unlikely we shall have another dog, as we are not getting any younger! Please does anyone have any suggestions for helping Max come to terms with his loss?

Dogs Today reader, by phone

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Neighbourhood watch


My neighbours have complained to the council about my 12-year-old Lurcher dog barking in the morning. It is immediately prior to his walk and also just before he gets fed. I think it is just excitement as I follow a very strict routine as this time of the day and he knows exactly what is going to happen when. I will find it very hard to alter the routine as I have limited time available before I have to leave for work.

I have written to my neighbour to apologise and also contacted the council to explain my situation and I am trying to keep my dog quiet with limited success at the moment.

Please could anybody advise any ideas on how to prevent the barks?

Kind regards,

Sarah, Cheshire

Adding up

Dear Dogs Today,

I am seeking information about adders as I understand a bite from an adder could potentially kill a dog.

Please advise how I can avoid adders when walking my collie and what I must do in case of an adder bite. A friend mentioned I could carry Piriton on dog walks just in case. Is this a good idea?

Kind regards,

Mr M. Thompson, Surrey

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Help for hormones

I have a 9 year old Spanish Water Dog bitch who has not been spayed.

I was wondering if anyone has had a similar problem to deal with. Her hair is thinning over her body and she is itchy, itching her feet and tummy. Not all the time but 15% of the day. 

She is in good health with a normal appetite and drinking. She does like to mount my 1 year old male dog with gusto.

The vet has checked her for everything and nothing is showing up even her thyroid blood test came back as normal.

I have bathed her in gentle soothing solutions and she has been on an allergy free diet for a few weeks.

The vet thinks that it must be hormonally related and is suggesting getting her spayed.
I have heard of dogs being spayed and it disrupt hormones. She is 9 and I am concerned about the the risk, although she is healthy and well apart from her hair loss and itchiness
I was also thinking of trying alternative therapies but not sure what?

Any suggestions would be welcome.


Dogs Today reader, by email

My own view is that spaying ‘just in case it helps’ is not a very logical way to approach such a case. There is no proof that this problem is hormone related – though it could possibly be – and spaying can certainly cause undesirable side effects.

Although your vet has ‘checked for everything’ (is that humanly possible?!) I would question particularly the thyroid test being ‘normal’. Thyroid testing in the UK is notoriously inaccurate. In fact the only lab I would trust to carry out totally accurate thyroid testing is in the States, run by a fantastic vet, Jean Dodds, who really knows all there is to know about thyroid problems in dogs. I often advise clients to ask their vets to get a blood sample sent to Jean’s lab (details at then click on hemolife diagnostics) and find that patients who have ‘normal’ results after testing in the UK do actually have thyroid imbalances.

I’m interested in the ‘allergy free diet’ as well. A diet can only be allergy free if an allergen has been isolated and then a diet without that allergen is formulated. I

guess she is on a so called hypoallergenic diet which is just free of some common allergens – but as a dog can be allergic to almost anything, it cannot be allergy free.

My advice is as follows. Change on to a raw meaty bone based, cereal free diet – for ease of use try Honey’s Real Food for Dogs – -   
or Natural Instinct or any of the other ready prepared ‘BARF’ diets now available. If this is a step too far try a high quality cold pressed natural diet such as Gentle  - .

As a general supplement to help improve hair growth and reduce itching, I find the herbal supplement ‘Itchy skin and allergy relief’ – – is excellent.

If despite the change of diet and the herbal supplement the problem persists I would definitely advise getting a full thyroid test from Hemopet, and if this does prove normal I’d ask your vet to refer you to a vet experienced in natural therapies for pets. Good luck!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Diabetes dilemma

I have a 14-year-old Westie who needs medication for diabetes - he is currently on Caninsulin. I buy 10ml at a time, which lasts ten days. This costs £22 at my local vet, and I buy it on a Wednesday, when they offer a 15% discount to us senior citizens. So I have been paying £18.50 every ten days, and as I am disabled and on benefits it has been a struggle, especially as my dog now needs pain relief for arthritis as well.

Today I got a terrible shock when I found the price had suddenly increased to £28.50! My vet is willing to write me a prescription, but at a cost of £10, so I don't think getting it by post is going to help much, especially as it has to be sent in insulated packaging to keep it cool.

I used to take him to the PDSA but they insist on seeing a diabetic dog every week, and it is quite a journey, too much on the buses for either of us now, and a £50 taxi ride away. I will pay it somehow, because my dog means the world to me, and of course I have no idea how much time he has left, but I am having trouble paying my own basic bills.

Does anyone have any advice, please?

Dogs Today reader, by phone

Diagnosing a deadly disease

What is this disease that has been killing dogs in the New Forest area? Is it Alabama Rot, and if so, what is Alabama Rot?

I have booked a short family break to the New Forest during May half term and am now very worried about taking my dog to the area.

Please can you give me some more information?

Kayleigh Banner, by email

Friday, 7 March 2014

Divided we fall?

If the Scottish independence vote goes ahead, will my dog’s insurance be invalid?

Trevor Hughes, Scotland, via Twitter

Car palava

My puppy barks at cars. I think he is scared of them. How can I stop it?

Vikki, by email

A polite word


I am hoping for some advice from fellow Dogs Today readers.

I have a Cocker Spaniel, Mandy, who is 11 years but still very active. We walk the same route every morning and very often come across a chap and his terrier type. The terrier type is a bit bigger than my Mandy, and is quite boisterous. He is friendly and not aggressive, but he does play roughly and does bowl Mandy over on occasion.

His owner is very pleasant and chatty, but doesn’t seem to understand that his dog’s boisterous play can be a bit much for my old girl. I have tried to say things like, “Oh, you’re a bit old for young dogs now, Mandy, aren’t you?”, before walking on quickly, in an attempt to help the terrier’s owner to call his dog away, but it doesn’t seem to be working. How can I politely ask him to jump in and stop when his dog has a bit too tight a hold on Mandy’s ears?

Any advice would be very much appreciated.


Sheila, by email

Watch the crotch

My Labrador is now 9 months old and he insists on sniffing the crotch of every person we pass when on walks. He also does it when guests visit our home.

I know this is quite a common doggie habit, but it is very embarrassing. How do I stop it?

Kind regards,

Mr S. Stewart, Leicester

I was once at a very select dinner party and the family’s Golden retriever raced into the room and shoved his nose into the crotch of the honoured guest, so I can imagine how this must be for you!

I think we know why dogs find this area so interesting, as they always learn such a lot from sniffing at each other, too. Nevertheless a bit of training will probably help you. For greeting guests, train your dog to sit for a ‘hello’ instead of a crotch-sniff-welcome. You may need to keep him on a lead at first so that he learns to keep his distance whilst you build up gradually, but keep it a fun and rewarding exercise. Use food to motivate him but eventually the greeting itself from the human can be sufficient motivation.

When on walks, teach him the heel command, which is a stay on the move. As you approach a person and walk past them, ask your dog to heel by holding a treat in your hand close to your leg. Your dog will sniff at the treat and ignore the distraction. If he does not, give him more distance between you and the passer-by, but keep training through each level of difficulty. Eventually you will have a very peaceful, if still vigilant, walk.

Green with envy

Hi Dogs Today,

I would like to know if dogs can experience jealousy, and if so, how do I train my dog to stop it?

My dog is a Lab-sized Heinz 57, aged 5 years, and we’ve had her for 4 years. She’s always done this and has never hurt anyone, but I imagine the situation causes her stress, as it does me. Everytime one of our family members hugs someone, and this could be another family member or non-family member, she appears to get anxious and she jumps up. Sometimes she just crouches as if she is about to jump up, but doesn’t actually do so, and sometimes she launches herself completely off the ground and up to head height.

Most people think its amusing, but I don't think it is a good thing really as it does seem to stress her out a bit.

Please could you advise?

Thank you.

Sue Beale, by email

Hi Sue

You are the expert about your dog’s behaviour and it looks like you are right in saying she may be anxious. It is nice that you want to help her, and I agree with you. Let’s try and help her to relax. I have not seen the behaviour and I don’t know if dogs experience envy in the same way that we do, but it is safe to say that something is clearly unsettling her.

How about teaching her to sit whilst people pretend to hug, but reward her for sitting calmly as you do so? This will take a little bit of planning and preparation. Ask her to sit whilst you do other things, first, and make sure she understands that all she needs to do is stay there happily waiting for her treat. After this, start to approach as if to hug the other person, but again, ask her to sit and reward her each time she stays calm. If she begins to jump, you have pushed it too far.

Keep it short and fun, so that she learns, when people hug, she sits for something nice. She will hopefully soon look forward to hugging events as a means of earning a few food wages!