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Q: I have a 13-year-old blind and deaf Lhasa Apso. He gets into things all the time. Can you suggest special toys for our dog? Also, when he lies down, he whines. What’s wrong? Is he just “talking,” or is he is pain? – B.A., La Mesa, Calif.

A: See your veterinarian promptly to determine if your dog is in pain or not. Since your pet is unlikely to reproduce the specific “whine” you describe at the vet office, videotape it.

For dogs, smell is the most important sense. Dr. Valli Parthasarathy, of Portland, Ore., president of the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, says you can teach your dog to find hidden treats. At first, leave the treats in obvious places, but over time you can make the game more challenging by hiding biscuits around the house.

One game is to use a muffin tin, placing treats in some holes, golf balls in others. Your dog will easily find the treats. Nina Ottosson, a Swedish pet game developer, has created several “brain games” for dogs, all involving scent work (www.nina-ottosson.com/). You might even contact local dog trainers about a nose work class (where dogs use their snouts to find things), which might be lots of fun for your older dog.

As for your dog “getting into things,” consider crate training. Even an older dog can learn to be crated, so when there’s no adult supervision the pet can’t get into trouble.

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Q: Our dog, Gimble, has been on heartworm preventative year-round since we adopted him as a puppy. He’s now 6 years old. Recently, my veterinarian refused to give us more heartworm preventative unless we did the testing. She said, “What if we missed a month?” Well, we didn’t. I checked on the Internet, and even if we had, there would be no real problem. We went down the street to another veterinarian, who said the first veterinarian was right, but we’re the customers – and she’d do what we wanted. Are we wrong? – S.C., Nashville, Tenn.

A: The test you’re referring to is a blood test which can identify adult heartworm. Your question is, how can my dog have heartworm if I’ve been religiously using the preventative? It’s a reasonable question.

Dr. Sheldon Rubin, past president of the American Heartworm Society, explains that while the preventatives are excellent and extremely effective (nearly 100 percent), they’re not perfect. More likely than product failure is human error. People may forget to give the product (even if you don’t). Or the chewable may not be swallowed, but instead dropped behind the sofa. Also, people don’t always apply the topical product correctly.

Still, why have veterinarians become so adamant about the heartworm test?

Rubin says it turns out it’s possible that if a heartworm preventative is given to a dog with heartworm disease, there could be a serious reaction due to the rapid killing of circulating baby heartworms in the bloodstream. Also, a dog with heartworm must be treated, and early identification makes it easier to treat (with fewer side effects), less expensive to treat, and there’s less suffering for the dog.

Rubin, based in Chicago, also notes that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has requested that the American Heartworm Society recommend veterinarians conduct annual heartworm testing.

Rubin says it’s not about the customer being right. Veterinarians should be first the best advocates for pets. He suggests owners sign a waiver to indicate that they’re aware of the risks of not testing, not so much for legal reasons but really as an educational tool. The fact is, you may owe your first veterinarian an apology.

The definitive resource for all things heartworm is www.heartwormsociety.org.

Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can’t answer all of them individually, he’ll answer those of general interest in his column Send email to petworld@steve dale.tv. Include your name, city and state.