ASK DR. CHIP - SEPTEMBER EDITION

Want to be featured in next month’s newsletter? Email our very own Dr. Chip at info@petsplusus.com and make sure you reference ‘Ask Dr. Chip’ in the subject line.

*Please note, that this is page is not intended to address pet emergencies, but rather general pet questions. If your pet is currently experiencing symptoms of an illness or has had an accident, please visit your regular veterinary practice if open, or your nearest veterinary emergency clinic for assistance. 

About Dr. Chip

Dr. Chip Coombs is Pets Plus Us’ Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO), and has practiced veterinary medicine since 1976, initially in the United Kingdom, then in Western Canada and, finally, in Toronto, where he owned a multi-veterinarian practice for 33 years.


Question:

Hello Dr. Chip,

Q: 10 year old Yellow Lab/Retrievers

He loves people and interacts well. However, he does not like skate boarders, tends to lunge at them if they are travelling on it.

Why could this be?

~S

Answer:

Hi S,

I'll assume you have had this fellow since he was a puppy and hence you are not aware of any incidents with a skateboarder, when he was in his formative years, that could have frightened him and led to this reaction. It would also be helpful to know whether or not he chases anything else, e.g. cars, joggers, squirrels, etc.. Most dogs have an innate desire to chase, as in predator -prey, even though we have domesticated them for centuries. Some breeds we have actually fine tuned this desire to chase for our purposes, eg. hunting.

A simple solution would be to avoid boarders at all costs and in situations which cannot be avoided, make him sit and stay on a very short leash until the skateboarder is well away. If he has been good, reward him with a treat. Presumably the sound of the skateboard and the fact that it is moving is more than he, as an individual, can handle. You can train him out of this lunging, if avoidance is not a solution. The principle is to slowly expose him to skateboarders from a long way away and reward him for good behaviour as the distance is shortened over numerous weeks. The details of Successive Approximation as a behavioural modification technique has been outlined in previous replies in this column.

Hope this helps,

Cheers,

Dr. Chip


Question:

Dear Dr. Chip,

My yorkie-poo barks and goes crazy every time we pass another dog on a walk. I can’t take him to off leash trails or he’ll chase and bark at other dogs and nip at their heels.

He even barks at dogs on tv.

What can I do to stop this behaviour?  Is it too late? He’s 7.

Sue

Answer:

Hi Sue,

It's always interesting, and in some ways humorous, how the little dogs of this world act as though they are the most ferocious! It's not too late to stop it, although it will be more challenging at 7 years, than at 7 months. A few suggestions and you will likely want to follow-up with your veterinarian to fill in the gaps, as the options and how to carry them out can become extensive. It is imperative that he responds to your basic commands of "come, sit, stay, heal and no" 100% of the time; not 90%, but 100%. Once this has been achieved, you then start to expose him to "other dogs" and the easiest way to start this process, in his case, is to watch taped programs on TV. Initially, the volume is off and then slowly increase it, if he behaves himself and responds to your commands. He is rewarded with a treat and a pat every time he obeys and remains neutral to the dogs on TV. You then take the situation outside into the real world, using Successive Approximation, to introduce him to the visual image of a dog from a long way away. NOT close enough to trigger his normal response initially, rather far enough away that his reaction is either neutral or very mild and he still responds to your commands and rewards. As time goes on, close the gap.

While this training is ongoing, do your best to avoid any contact with dogs that are close enough to trigger a response. If need be, pick him up and cover his eyes, as you head off in a different direction with a firm, deep voiced, verbal reprimand. As part of the training, you can also try an anti-barking collar ( eg. citronella spray ) which, although not helpful with every dog, can be very effective with others.

Hope this helps,

Cheers,

Dr. Chip


Question:

Dear Dr. Chip,

We adopted a rescue when he was 5 months old. When we first started feeding him, he had problems with the dog food we were giving him. Then our vet suggested we feed him Kangaroo Dog food. He wouldn't eat the dry no matter what we tried, even mixing it with wet. So we tried everything we could and he'd snack on everything but never really eat it. So we've tried every food out there. We finally started giving him meat from our meals that I cook separately just for him, but even that he just picks at so it can't be the same food everyday or he won't eat. He drinks fine, but we don't know what to do about getting him to eat one food. We've even tried raw diets, but he'll sniff them maybe take a taste then walk away. We're at our wits end, what should we do? We have managed to get him to eat a vitamin every morning, so at least we know he's hopefully getting his required vitamins. One other thing I've noticed cuz I'm with him everyday, he's 3, a mini schnauzer mix, not overweight but almost everytime he goes out to relieve himself he eats grass and at times will vomit after. Please help what should we do or try?

Sincerely,

Kim

Answer:

Hi Kim,

My first thought when reading your question was that this fellow was simply another picky eater. However, perhaps there is a medical issue behind this. I am suggesting this based on the fact that he vomits. Presumably there is no diarrhea. Dogs eat grass for many reasons and one of them is believed to be "settle" their stomach in some circumstances. I would suggest that you ask your veterinarian to rule out any disease process and about the merits of trying, as an "experiment", oral drugs that are designed to reduce the stomach acid production and to coat his stomach lining. There is even the possibility that he has a bacterial overgrowth of Heliobacter bacteria ( a normal inhabitant of the stomach ). It was this bacteria that was found in humans to be the cause of chronic stomach issues in a number of cases.

The fact that he turns down raw meat food is most unusual and so it would be worthwhile to rule out an underlying medical cause.

Cheers,

Dr. Chip