Q. Two nights ago our 10-year-old border collie had a sneezing attack that lasted for almost 30 minutes. What would cause this?
-- Julia Paul, Saanichton, B.C.
A. Occasional sneezing can be a normal response to an inhaled irritant, but sneezing over several days should be investigated. In an older dog, chronic sneezing can be caused by bacterial or fungal infections, bad teeth, foreign bodies, polyps or tumours. To determine the cause, your veterinarian can take X-rays, scope or flush the nasal passages and even use CT scans and MRIs. If your dog has had only one sneezing attack, I wouldn't worry, though. Just say bless you.
Q. We put down our older cat two months ago. Our remaining seven-year-old cat had spent his entire life with his buddy. Is he lonely now?
-- Jennifer Hirber, Calgary
A. Cats and dogs do seem to experience grief, but usually adjust with time. Generally I don't recommend getting a new pet right away. The replacement won't fool the grieving pet and may cause even more stress. Since you have waited several months, your cat may be ready. His personality will determine whether he would cope best with a kitten or an adult cat. Ask your vet how to introduce a newcomer; it's important because cats are quite territorial. And take your new pet for a checkup before bringing her home. Remember, if your cat is a loner he may be perfectly happy living a solitary life.
Click here for more information about what to do when a pet dies.
Q. I have two red-eared slider turtles who are 20 years old. How long will they live? They eat chicken and prawn, but no greens. Are they getting enough nutrition?
-- Caroline Galt, Queen Charlotte, B.C.
A. Red-eared sliders do need their veggies; about half their daily ration should be plant matter. They are North American reptiles, so tempt them with fresh dandelions or native mustard. Offer green leafy vegetables, carrots, melon and banana, chopped or grated into bite-size pieces, and vary their protein with turtle pellets or trout chow. Freshly caught crickets, earthworms and slugs are loaded with vegetable matter, which your turtles will get second-hand. Just make sure everything is pesticide- and herbicide-free. Turtles often eat more if they are fed after noon when their metabolism speeds up (for a turtle). On average, red-eared sliders live about 25 years, but some make it into their 40s. For more information on exotic pets, visit centralpets.com.
Q. I have a two-year-old Lab who is very social. How do I stop her from jumping up when people arrive and charging the door when we leave?
-- Carol Arsenault, Pickering, Ont.
A. Your dog is greeting visitors as she would greet another dog. She doesn't instinctively know the proper way to greet people, so you must teach her.
A basic obedience class will help. Once your dog is steady with Sit, Heel and Stay, practise doorway etiquette. While you keep your dog on a leash in a Sit and give her rewards, you need someone else to be the "doorman." Over several sessions, the doorman should ring the bell (or knock) and leave; ring the bell, enter briefly and leave; ring the bell, enter and greet you. Make sure your dog masters each step before moving on. You want to teach calm behaviour, so give praise and rewards in a quiet manner. Keep your lessons less than 10 minutes and end on a positive note. With practice, your dog will sit and stay on command at the door. Oh, and you may need to train yourself to keep your own arrivals and departures low-key. If they're too exciting, no self-respecting Lab will be able to hold back!
Click here for more information about training your dog.
Q. Is it common for cats to get worms? Can this be treated at home without going to a vet?
-- Rose Guido, Woodbridge, Ont.
A. Worms are common in cats who go outside, but indoor cats can also be infected through exposure to fleas or small rodents. Kittens can pick up parasites from their mothers' milk, and, untreated, these worms persist into adulthood. Since there are many different types of worms and smaller parasites, there are a variety of deworming treatments. They are only effective if you use the right product for the right parasite, and dosage information on over-the-counter medications can be inaccurate. It's best to ask your veterinarian to diagnose the type of parasite, then choose the proper medication and correct dose.