Reader’s Query from Rayomand Irani: What are the signs of depression in a senior pet? Romeo is a 10-year-old Grey hound and has had a near-personality change over the past year, from a very jumpy, people-loving and full of excitement pet to one that has become moody and prefers to stay by himself. He is not aggressive at all – just not his usual friendly and happy self. Typically, one supposes that he has slowed down due to age, but many times I think he may be depressed. How do we know to distinguish old age fatigue from depression and what can we do to help him, in either case?
Shirin Answers: Old age in dogs can affect them in multiple ways. Before we look at behavioural reasons for a dull dog, we should first rule out any health issues that could be causing the behavioural change. Just like in people, geriatric dogs can suffer from conditions including arthritis, heart disease, liver disease and kidney disease, etc. It’s advisable to get a full health check done by your vet to look for conditions that could be causing your dog pain or discomfort.
In my opinion, the cause is likely something medical unless there has been a traumatizing event in the dog’s life or a drastic change in routine or the absence or presence of certain people. Do speak to your vet as soon as you see such symptoms and they’ve given your pet a clean chit, contact a behaviourist to guide you.
Reader’s Query from Daisy Vandrewala: Which food is better to feed our dogs – home-made food or the readymade dog food available in the market? Could you kindly share a healthy recipe for a good home-cooked meal? Also kindly guide as to which is the best meat for dogs. If a dog is to be raised in a vegetarian household, then what would be a good substitute for its proteins and meals?
Shirin Answers: The debate between home cooked and packaged pet food has been ongoing, with canine professionals showing contradicting preferences. I suggest – do what is easy for you and what keeps your dog in good health. Many who feed their pets home-cooked meals tend to feed an unbalanced diet and often overfeed as well. And yet, many dogs eating packaged food tend to dislike eating the same food daily.
The best advice on what to feed your dogs would be from a qualified canine nutritionist. I would suggest you look up the book Dog Food Logic by Dr. Linda Case online, which will advise you on the appropriate diet for your dog.
Reader’s Query from Leela Ragina: Can you please share the importance and function of deworming our dogs? Kindly suggest good deworming medicines as well as food practices that will ensure our pets remain worm-free.
Shirin Answers: Sharing your home with a dog has many advantages. Dogs give us unconditional love, attention, provides hours of entertainment, company and joy. Unfortunately, a dog can also give you a nasty infection. There are a large number of bacteria, parasites and fungal organisms out there that can infect people through faecal material from a dog. Regardless of what food your dog eats, your dog can pick up hookworms, tapeworms, round worms, etc from the environment. These can harm not just your dog, but people who come into contact with your dog too, causing illness. Diseases, transmitted from animal to human are known as zoonotic diseases.
Deworming your dog regularly, routine health care with sensible hygiene and sanitation, proper handling of pets and their excretions, combined with a good program of veterinary care will decrease the likelihood of you or your pet acquiring a zoonotic disease. Your veterinarian can prescribe a good dewormer and time schedule for your dog, based on the age and weight.
Reader’s Query from Aashish Bana: Is there any natural remedy for fleas? My dog doesn’t have ticks but I see a lot of fleas and though I bathe her every week with anti-flea shampoos that have been suggested, it’s not working as the fleas are back and she is extremely uncomfortable. I am scared she will fall ill. Please advise.
Shirin Answers: Every dog at some point in its life will probably be plagued by some of the most common vermin known to canines – ticks and fleas. Here are a few natural ways to eliminate the flea problem:
‘Brewers Yeast’ is known to be a very good flea repellent. It is available in a pill or powdered form and a proper dosage is to be administered for the desired result (your vet will help you with this). Brewer’s yeast can be given to them by mixing it in their food or sprinkling their coat with it. However, some grooming experts say the fleas and ticks are becoming increasingly resistant to it and it is known to cause skin irritation and allergies. One must be careful not to over rely on it.
Natural Oils: Eucalyptus oil, neem oil and cedar oil are deterrents for ticks and fleas. Ensure that your dog does not lick his fur and ingest the oils – it could be harmful. Your dog will need to be supervised when any of these oils are applied.
Keep in mind that even natural remedies can cause harm to dogs, so please do be careful when applying anything or feeding anything to your dog. Please do check with your vet before you start any natural remedy. Also with many natural remedies, if it is not effective, you must speak to your vet and start an alternate programme to remove the ticks and fleas. The most important aspect of the flea and tick problem is to identify the real issue and that is the environment. Keep the dogs surrounding clean and the problem will subside.
Reader’s Query from Aloo Panthaky: Is fish good for dogs or should it be avoided? I hear conflicting opinions from different vets and am confused.
Shirin Answers: Fish can be a great source of protein for humans and dogs. However, many vets do not suggest it as fish bones can be detrimental for dogs. Even the smallest fish bone can rupture the dog’s intestinal lining and can be fatal. There is also a new climate of distrust towards seafood these days as some fish may contain chemicals that could pose health risks. So if you choose to feed your dog fish, please be very careful.
Reader’s Query from Zubin R. Elavia: Could you help us understand common dog allergies? What are the causes and symptoms and how should we help?
Shirin Answers: Just like humans, dogs can also suffer from allergies. Allergens can include pollen, food, insects, plants and medication. Allergies in dogs can cause symptoms such as skin inflammation, scratching, sneezing, swelling of tongue, watering in the eyes, rashes, paw chewing and excessive itching among other symptoms. If you suspect your dog has an allergy, please rush him to your vet immediately.