On a personal note, one of our two dogs, Lucy, passed away last week, just before her 16th birthday. For half her life, Lucy worked as a therapy dog, helping patients at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago who had suffered strokes, spinal cord injuries and severe burns.
A miniature Australian Shepherd, Lucy had a particular affinity for making people laugh. She worked with hundreds of children and adults, many of whom probably still remember the funny little dog who helped them feel better.
The American Humane Association has created the Lucy Fund to provide assistance and recognition to therapy dogs across the United States. American Humane also will name an award in Lucy’s honor at the Hero Dog Awards on Oct. 11 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles. Please consider contributing to American Humane to help all dogs who do this important work and to honor Lucy: http://blog.herodogawards.org/2011/05/03/lucy-animal-assisted-therapy-dog/ or www.americanhumane.org.
Q: Help! I have two indoor cats and both are urinating on my carpets. I got the cats several years ago, and they’ve done this from the beginning. I provide two litter boxes and keep them clean. I bought an expensive rug shampooer to rid my house of the smell, but no luck. Any advice? — J.A., Richmond, Va.
A: Wow! Although you say both cats are leaving their mark, there may be a physical explanation for their behavior. For example, one cat could have cystitis, a urinary tract infection, or another physical problem, and the second cat is merely tempted by the scent. A physical exam for both cats is a good idea.
If both cats pass the exam, cat behavior consultant Marilyn Kriege of Redwood City, Calif., says the rule for litter boxes, in general, is the number of cats plus one. Therefore, you should have three boxes. However, since you have a long-term problem, Krieger suggests adding as many boxes as you have space for. You should have at least two boxes for each level of your home. If you have an upstairs and a downstairs, that’s four boxes.
Krieger, author of “Cat Fancy Naughty No More: Change Unwanted Behaviors Through Positive Reinforcement” (Bow Tie Press, Irvine, Calif., 2010; $12.95), says some of those boxes should be large plastic ones, like the kind you might use to store sweaters under the bed.
“While many cats don’t care if the litter box is covered, most cats prefer uncovered boxes,” Kreiger adds. Most cats also prefer unscented litter. You might gradually add a special litter called Dr. Elsey’s Cat Attract (available where cat litters are sold) to some of those boxes.”
If your cats don’t get along, that might explain why they’re “hitting and running.” If this is the case, you should bring in professional hands-on help to readjust those kitty attitudes.
Krieger says shampooing your rugs will clean them, but to really eliminate (and not merely mask) odor, you need a heavy-duty enzymatic cleaner, available from pet supply shops and some hardware stores.
Q: I read your column faithfully to better educate myself on dog care. We give our dog, Sammy the Schnoodle, a heartworm preventative, squeezing the product from a vial onto his back each month. Yet, our veterinarian says we also must pay $60 twice a year to insure that Sammy tests negative for heartworm disease. How does this sound to you? — M.A.C., Buffalo, N.Y.
A: The recommendation from the American Heartworm Society (AHS) is annual testing for heartworm disease. AHS past president Dr. Sheldon Rubi, of Chicago, Ill., explains: “It’s possible some clients forget to give the preventative; if it’s added to food that the pet throws it up or just doesn’t eat it; or that with a squeezed-on product (such as you use) it may be applied incorrectly, and in very rare cases, that a product may not work. After all, nothing in this world is perfect. So, we do want to make sure the pet doesn’t have heartworm disease.”
However, that doesn’t explain your vet’s demand for twice-annual testing. Rubin says the only variance from the annual testing protocol is when a dog is newly adopted with an unknown background, when two or even three tests are suggested.
Learn more at www.heartwormsociety.org.
Q: My neighbor told me that my dog, Charlie, will no longer have separation anxiety if we leave him with a Kong toy. I purchased two Kong toys and stuffed them with peanut butter, but Charlie didn’t seem to care about the Kongs until I returned home. Meanwhile, he tore up a sheet (which he’d pulled from the laundry basket) and scratched at the wall while we were gone. Any advice? — N.U., Cyberspace
A: I believe serious behavior disorders are like diabetes or heart disease; they require a professional diagnosis. Still, based on your description, separation distress is likely the problem.
Kong toys are wonderful for dogs who are simply bored being home alone, or who have mild separation issues. In fact, I believe all dogs should have Kong toys and other enrichment toys. However, it seems as if Charlie is too anxious to think about anything else in your absence. I believe he needs hands-on help from a professional — a veterinary behaviorist (www.dacvb.org), veterinarian with a special interest in behavior (www.absabonline.org), or dog behavior consultant (www.iaabc.org).
Steve Dale welcomes questions and comments from readers, and will answer those of general interest in his column. Write to Steve at Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, N.Y. 14207. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your name, city and state.