Q. My dog has epilepsy. He has a convulsion every few days and it is frightening to watch him. The doctors say there is no cure. Can anything be done to help him?
Meera Bhatnagar, Erode
A. Epilepsy, characterised by seizures has no known cause but genetics does play a part and some species are more prone to it than others. There is no known cure. Most doctors prescribe Phenobarbitals but this is very harmful for the dog as it causes lethargy, increased appetite and thirst, increased urination and, after a few months, liver toxicity. The best thing is to only give the dog oral bromide treatment. In the dogs on which this has been tested, the seizures have become infrequent and mild and sometimes have disappeared. You can mix it with the food. Do not give both Phenobarbitals and bromide together.
Q. Recently my dog has been keeping his tail tucked under. It used to curl up. What's wrong?
T.M.K. Antony, Nagercoil
A. There are a few reasons dogs will keep their tails tucked between their legs, but most commonly the behavior is a response to pain or discomfort. Many dogs are prone to back or hip pain, for example. Raising the tail can place pressure against these sore areas, so the dog keeps it tucked under. Dogs will also keep their tails tucked because of emotional distress. When they are depressed, frustrated, stressed, or afraid, they may tuck their tails to demonstrate their emotions. Stressful changes in a dog's home environment could cause these emotional responses. Check for physical problems that may be causing your dog discomfort, as well as investigating emotional and other causes.
Q. My dog urinates when he gets excited. When I return home, or when I pet him or when we have guests. Is there any way to stop this?
T. N. Kurup, Thiruvananthapuram
A. This is called submissive wetting. Some dogs are shy and unsure and they urinate when approached by people or other dogs, when picked up, pushed or scolded, stared at or when someone bends over it and pets it. The submissive wetting dog is not deliberately misbehaving but he is responding due to excitement, apprehension or even fear. Submissive wetting can also occur when the dog becomes very excited, when first greeting his owners after a period of separation or when first welcoming guests into the household. Submissive urination is usually small amounts, little squirts. Some breeds are genetically predisposed toward submissive urination, such as Cocker Spaniels. Other develop it when they were not socialized well as young puppies to all different types of experiences, people and other dogs. Some dogs develop it because they were severely or inappropriately punished. Some develop it when the owner unintentionally reinforces it (e.g. owner stops doing something to the dog or comforts/reassures it in response to urination). Puppies often will urinate when excited, but they can grow out of it with proper positive handling and training. First check whether your dog has an infection that can cause him to loosen his bladder easily. If not then you need to correct his confidence. Do not become ANGRY OR PUNISH YOUR DOG FOR WETTING. This will only erode your dog’s confidence and increase the frequency of wetting. Remember that it is an involuntary response to a situation, person or another dog. He is not doing it to annoy you. Be calm and do not yell. Simply ignore your dog for two or three minutes if he piddles; stop all petting, eye contact and verbal contact. Identify ALL SITUATIONS THAT YOUR DOG WETS IN. Is it when you first come home or when a guest comes into the household? Is it when you scold him for something, call him to you, or when you pick him up? SET UP SITUATIONS SO THAT YOUR DOG HAS SUCCESS IN NOT WETTING. For instance, if when you first come home at night and your dog is so excited, that he piddles on the floor, try ignoring your pet the first 20 minutes when you come home until he is calmer. When you go to greet him try squatting down and petting under his chin (rather than the top of head) as you avoid eye contact with him. Have your guests do the same thing when they greet your dog, but only after they have been at your house for 20 minutes. If your dog wets when you approach him, do not approach him. Instead crouch down and turn your side to the dog. Let your dog approach you. If the dog appears calm, pet him lightly under the chin. If petting produces wetting, then stop it but try it again in a few days. Avoid talking to your dog in the situations that produce urination. As your dog’s confidence builds, you can begin to add words spoken in a gentle, soft tone. After a few days of this routine, ask the dog to sit using a food treat and then softly praise him for doing so. If this stimulates wetting, withhold it for a few days and then try it again. Run through situational training at least several times a day. For instance, if your homecoming produces submissive urination, follow the above outline described, then go out and come in immediately again. Then do it again and again. This desensitization should help eliminate the behavior over a period of time. As your dog gains confidence, see if you can approach him in a standing position instead of a crouch. Let the dog’s reactions tell you how to behave. If you see the telltale squat start in the back, than back off a step and start over until you can again proceed. Involve others in the program. Have family members or friends go through the same routine as described above. If backsliding occurs, just start over again at the beginning. Above all, be patient and understanding. Your dog can sense your mood and will react to it accordingly. Another option is to teach your dog to come to you willingly with a food treat. When allowed to approach happily on their own, most dogs switch from fear to happiness thus avoiding the wetting. Don’t baby your dog should he wet. This will only reinforce it. Stay away from striking, swatting, pushing or shaking, throwing things at or jerking him on the leash. These are all outdated, ineffective training methods that will continue to erode his confidence. Always treat him fairly. Develop household rules that the whole family understands and enforces. This will help with the dog’s confidence as he will understand what is expected of him, since it stays the same day by day. Submissive dogs are greatly comforted if decisions are made for them. Put him on a regular schedule of feeding, walking, exercising, playing and sleeping.
Q. I have 2 goldfish and one of them seems to be losing a lot of his scales. Other than that he appears healthy and lively. Is he ok? Is there anything I can do or will they simply grow back?
Josey Pittie, Hyderabad
A. Scale loss is almost always caused by injury, due to fighting with other fish, or from hitting sharp rocks in the tank. Your tank is probably too small or two boringly made to interest the fish. Goldfish do fight, so watch the one that isn't losing scales! Also keep an eye on the one that is losing scales, and make sure he isn't scratching up against the rocks. That could be a sign of a parasite like "Itch" which looks like little grains of salt on the body and fins.
- Maneka Gandhi