Q: I know when you walk your dog, the dog is supposed to be on the left. I have a bike hookup so my dog can run along with me, but I think it’s better if she runs on my right so she can run on grass and not pavement. Will running on my right (when I ride a bike) and walking on my left confuse her? Also, I’m worried about her getting bloat if I run too soon after she eats. Any suggestions? – S.J., Montreal, Canada
A: New York City dog trainer Andrea Arden, host of Animal Planet’s “Underdog to Wonderdog,” says, “There’s no law about walking a dog on your left side. The idea began years ago with obedience competition. Of course, a dog can be taught to run and/or walk on both sides; that’s not a problem.”
Bloat actually refers to two conditions. The first is gastric dilatation, when the stomach distends with gas and fluid. The second is volvulus, which means the distended stomach rotates on its long axis. The spleen is attached to the wall of the stomach, and therefore rotates with the stomach. Bottom line, without immediate treatment, bloat is deadly.
Larger breeds with deep chests may be more predisposed, but no one knows the specific set of circumstances that cause bloat. It’s thought by some that one factor may be vigorous exercise immediately following a meal. Knowing this, it’s a good idea not to take a chance and wait an hour or so after a meal before you go running with your pup.
Q: I have a pair of 10-year-old cats who were adopted together as kittens. In November, one of the cats began to urinate and defecate on the carpet. He was diagnosed and treated for a urinary tract infection. Now, Lucy does urinate in the litter box, but defecates next to it. My vet wants to run a battery of tests which would cost $500. Hopefully, you can confirm that the problem is behavioral. – F.M., Buffalo
A: Anytime a pet displays a new behavior, especially an older animal, I wonder, “why now?” Ruling out a physical explanation is important. Often when a cat defecates outside the box the problem is, indeed, a gastrointestinal issue. In a 10-year-old, arthritis may even be an explanation. I don’t know which tests your veterinarian is referring to, and I can’t comment on cost, but my gut tells me this is likely the correct approach.
Having said that, there’s no harm in trying a little trick. For reasons only known to felines, some cats spontaneously decide they want to piddle in one box and poo in another. One box simply isn’t good enough. They actually may prefer the boxes side-by-side (though I otherwise typically recommend against this). If there’s a cover on the first box, consider an uncovered second litter box.
Also, I wonder if Lucy is, well, a big girl. Even large-size litter boxes may not be big enough for oversized cats.
Depending on the type of litter you’re using, just changing litters may solve the problem.
Another trick is to offer a carpet remnant on a cookie sheet. Place this right over the spot where Lucy is having accidents. If that works, then place a remnant (they should be replaced after being soiled on a few times) inside a litter box, and very gradually cut away at the carpet while simultaneously adding litter.
Q: Somewhere along the way our dog decided she wouldn’t pee in the grass if it was raining outside. How do we deal with this? – P.J., Kansas City, Mo.
A: Dog owners are no more anxious than their pets to stand out in the rain on the other end of the leash, and sometimes we make matters worse by expressing our impatience. To solve this problem, act as if your dog is a puppy all over again, and offer praise and a treat the moment she goes, no matter what the weather.
Simultaneously, learn the lyrics to “Singing in the Rain.” When it pours, take your dog outside and have a party! Convince your pet that jumping in puddles and dancing in the rain is tremendous fun.
Once your dog feels comfortable in the rain, your problem will disappear.