Q: My three dogs – two Yorkshire Terriers and a Yorchon (Yorkshire Terrier/Bichon Frise mix) – share my bed. They come in and out at night as they please through a doggy door. Recently, the smallest one started pooping and peeing on the bed. I can’t think of any good reason she would be angry. What’s going on? – R.B., Las Vegas
A: You didn’t mention the dog’s age.
“Instead, of being angry, my guess is that it might hurt for the dog to jump off the bed,” says veterinary behaviorist Dr. Gary Landsberg, a contributing author of “Decoding Your Dog,” written by members of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists and co-edited by myself and veterinary behaviorists Dr. Debra Horwitz and Dr. John Ciribassi.
Definitely visit your veterinarian. Landsberg, of Thornhill, Ont., says primary medical possibilities include arthritis, obesity, diminishing eyesight and canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome (sometimes called “doggy Alzheimer’s”), or any combination of these.
A weight-loss program would be beneficial for many reasons, if indeed your pup needs to slim down. Arthritis doesn’t only occur in elderly or obese animals, and back or knee pain should also be considered. Pain relief could be a good idea, and then physical therapy to further help your pet, depending on the specific issue. Even acupuncture can offer relief. Consider providing a ramp so your dog can simply walk down from the bed instead of jumping, and a night light.
“Dogs suffering from canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome may often forget housetraining,” Landsberg adds. “If this is the diagnosis, there are several products which can help.”
If you recently changed the brand of pet food you give this pup, or have added bedtime treats, the problem might be that simple. Talk to your veterinarian about adjusting what time you feed your pooch.
Q: My 9-year-old Doberman was just diagnosed with heart disease. My veterinarian said, “Don’t worry,” but I am worried. Can you help? – F.L., Bangor, Maine
A: Veterinary cardiologist Dr. Whit Church, of Gilbert, Ariz., notes that there are many types of heart disease, but given that your dog is a Doberman, the pet likely has dilated cardiomyopathy.
“It’s not unusual for dogs to be asymptomatic for years,” Church says. “And as scary as heart disease is, your dog may go on for another couple of years being asymptomatic.”
An ultrasound could show your veterinarian or a veterinary cardiologist the stage of the disease, providing a baseline for any future comparisons. Just as people can wear a 24-hour EKG monitor to help measure and determine the extent of heart disease, so can dogs.
Depending on the results of diagnostics, Church says a drug called Pimobendan (or vetmedin), perhaps in conjunction with a drug from a class called an ACE inhibitor, may be advised to delay the onset of actual heart failure, or at your dog’s age, prevent it all together.
Church says that at age 9, your dog is already getting up there for a Doberman. Realistically, it’s possible your dog could succumb to something totally unrelated to heart disease before you ever see symptoms of the heart problem.
Q: Our cat is apparently a hockey fan, since she loves to push small things around on our wood floors. She’s 9 months old and never seems to stop playing until she’s out of breath. Can a kitten play too much? – S.J., St. Paul, Minn.
A: Your kitten sounds perfectly normal, albeit active. Generally, even active kittens play only in spurts. While some dogs can play fetch forever, cats more easily become winded and bored. If you have a rare marathon-playing kitty, good luck. Try to enjoy her fun-loving nature by creating new games. She sounds like a wonderful prospect for clicker training. Using a small clicking box, you can teach your kitten tricks. In fact, you can teach a kitten do just about anything you can teach a puppy to do (and sometimes the kitten will do it better).
If your kitten is actually wheezing or seems to have difficulty catching her breath, videotape one of her play sessions (using a smart phone will do). Since it’s unlikely she would reproduce the play at the vet’s office, or the symptoms that follow, this way your veterinarian can make the call.