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Q: I’ve read that apple cider vinegar can be used as a supplement to assist with dog health. Is this true? – H.W., Chicago

A: According to some reports, apple cider vinegar is everything except, maybe, the fountain of youth. Some websites proclaim that apple cider vinegar improves digestion, as well as teeth and gums, prevents skin problems, assists infections to heal, wipes away tear stains, can serve as an appetite stimulant in sick dogs, and helps improve immune systems. (Presumably, for skin problems, diluted apple cider vinegar is wiped on the PET’S coat. To remove tear stains, similarly wipe with diluted apple cider vinegar. For all other benefits, add to the dog’s food or water.)

The problem is, there’s no scientific evidence to verify these benefits (except the tear staining, which perhaps apple cider vinegar is effective for, but it may also irritate some dogs).

Dr. Jill Cline, a Ph.D. nutritionist and nutrition insight manager at Royal Canin pet food, says, “I am aware that apple cider vinegar has become an area of keen interest for some holistic-type veterinarians. The good news is that there’s no data to demonstrate that it’s harmful (as long as the product is diluted), but then there’s no data to show that apple cider vinegar is beneficial.”

However, there is data to validate that coconut oil (another current craze) is beneficial to coat health and has shown to benefit dogs with cognitive dysfunction syndrome (an Alzheimer’s-like condition). It remains unclear but seems possible, if not likely, that coconut oil could also help with gastrointestinal issues and support immune health. In fact, not surprisingly, coconut oil offers benefits to human health, as well.

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Q: I don’t have pets. I don’t want pets. Every day, when I open the door to get the newspapers, there’s pet piddle on my front door. Is there anything I can do to prevent this from happening? And why are our neighbors such slobs? – L.D., Las Vegas

A: I can’t explain your neighbors’ behavior, nor can I defend them, but I agree that they are inconsiderate slobs! Having said that, I believe most people want to do the right thing. I also assume your neighbors love their pets.

My hope is that these folks are open to a reasonable conversation about the problem. Odds are, other neighbors feel as you do, and there’s power in numbers. While it’s unfair, of course, that you have to deal with dog or cat pee on your property, your best strategy might be to point out to your neighbors how many animals allowed to run loose are hit by cars. Even for street-savvy dogs and cats, all it takes is one squirrel or mouse on the other side of the street to put them at risk.

You could also mention to them (in a nice way) that animal control might mistake their pet for a stray. And when pets land in shelters without microchips or tags, they can’t be easily located. Also, many communities charge a fee for pet owners to reclaim their animals. Of course, there are leash laws, so allowing a pet to wander is illegal.

You sound angry, and I don’t blame you a bit. However, I hope you understand that the pet has done nothing wrong. The problem is a lack of responsible supervision.

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Q: I’ve always wondered, just as I recognize my friends’ voices on the phone, can dogs recognize one another’s barks? – P.G., Appleton, Wis.

A: We know dogs recognize each other’s barks through observation. Let’s say you’re out in a field, and a familiar dog barks in the distance, but at a place where your dog can’t see the pet. Your dog will go running in the direction of his barking friend. If a strange dog barks, your dog may stop what he’s doing for a moment, but won’t go running with excitement.

And, by the way, dogs recognize our individual voices. However, their ability to do so is limited. Dogs do far better at recognizing hand signals than our voices when it comes to training.

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@stevedale.tv. Include your name, city and state.