Delaware Humane Association WDEL loves pets! That's why we've partnered with the Delaware Humane Association and Michael Gallagher Jewelers to bring you the Pet Page. Each week, we'll show you a cat and a dog from the Delaware Humane Association who need good homes. You can also get answers to your pet health questions in our new Ask the Vet feature, plus useful information for any animal lover in our Tip of the Month section.

Ask the Vet Archive
Your chance to ask Dr. Mindy Cohan, VMD, our resident pet health expert, what's on your mind!

Please select a topic from the following list:

Topic: Incompatible Cats

Question from Vernay in Wilmington:
I have an older cat, Lucy. I'm not sure how old Lucy is, but she was already an adult when I got her in 2005. She's been the only pet for the past 7 years. Recently I added a kitten, Emjay, who really needed a home. The kitten was 4 weeks when I got him. In hindsight, I see that it was a horrible idea. Lucy seems stressed out by the kitten, who insists on jumping on her, hitting her tail and running, and just being an overall pain in the butt. It's been four months, and while I've seen some progress, I still worry about Lucy. She's lost weight, doesn't play much, and isolates herself more. She's a totally different cat. I feel so guilty and I didn't know it would be this way. I assumed she would want to mother the cat. They fight often and I feel that the kitten is lonely because he has no one to play with. I try to give them both my attention, but I know I show the kitten more. Is there anything I can do for my Lucy. Getting rid of baby Emjay is not an option, but what else
can I do? HELP!!

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
Introducing cats is always a risky endeavor. New feline housemates can become slow or fast friends. At times, however, harmony is never established. If finding a new home for Emjay is not feasible, I have a few suggestions.

First, try keeping Emjay isolated when you are not home. This will allow Lucy to regain confidence and comfort in her original domain. Allow Emjay his freedom while you are home to supervise interactions. You can secure Emjay with a harness and leash to ensure he does not physically hurt Lucy. A spray bottle can also be used to deter Emjay from pouncing on Lucy. Secondly, if you do not have climbing perches, add a few to your home to enable Lucy to have a safe place to escape from Emjay. These products are available in pet stores and through Internet companies.

Lastly, I recommend feeding the cats on separate sides of a closed door. This will help Lucy develop a positive association with Emjay. As less hissing or other stressful reactions are observed, you can slowly open the door to eventually allow the cats to see each other while eating. When the cats are together and Lucy is tolerant of Emjay, offer her treats or pieces of kibble as a reward.
Unfortunately, some cats never develop a compatible relationship. I am concerned about the detrimental effects on Lucy such as weight loss and chronic stress. Although Emjay might become less of a nuisance as he matures, you need to ensure that Lucy stays healthy. If the situation fails to improve, you will need to consider permanent separation of the cats within your home or seeking other living arrangements for Emjay. Good luck!

Posted October 15, 2012

Topic: Severe skin problem

Question from Stephanie in Elkton:
I have a 2 year old jack russell who has a terrible skin condition. He has itched and bitten all of his fur off and has cuts and abrassions all over his body. The cuts bleed and ooze. He has had this problem for over 6 months now and his health is deteriating more and more everyday. I have done everything humanly possible to try and help my poor dog. I have taken him to numerous vets and he has been on steriods, perscription shampoos, lotions, sprays, and he has had different diets. We have changed our shampoos and detergents. We\'ve had exterminators and carpet cleaners come to the house. I\'ve spent over $2,000 on vet visits, tests, and medications and nothing has worked and no vets have had a solution to my dogs problem. I\'m very upset that my dog itches and scratches 24/7 and won\'t eat or play. We\'ve had to put a cone on his head and put socks and shirts on him constantly to try and prevent him from tearing his skin. Can you please help me or recommend a vet or clinic who
specializes in this type of skin condition?

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
I am very sorry to hear that your dog is suffering so badly from his skin condition. It sounds like you have really tried everything to get his problem under control. Based on his breed, allergies are a possible underlying cause. It would also be important to have him tested for skin mites. Microscopic skin mites can sometimes be hard to definitively diagnose, so empiric treatment can be tried. If treatment for allergies and mites fails, skin biopsy samples might be needed to rule out less commonly seen problems.

If you have not sought the help of a veterinary dermatologist, that would be my recommendation. I searched the web for an office within a reasonable distance to Elkton. Here is the contact information. Good luck.

Veterinary Specialty Center of Delaware

290 Churchmans Road
New Castle, DE 19720

Phone: 302-322-6933

Posted January 6, 2012

Topic: Itchy skin

Question from Karen in Newark:
Our dog Gunner is 11 and having skin issues. He has chewed off most of the fur on his paws and is constantly scratching all over his poor body. We have been giving him benedryl for over a month and it is not getting any better. We are assuming it is alergies but the cost to take of of that through the vet is astronomical. He also has been getting sick lately. We have not changed his food or anything. Is there anything else that we can do to make him more comfortable? Thank you for your time.

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
There is a lot of information you did not provide. Without knowing whether Gunner has a previous history of allergies and what you exactly mean by “getting sick lately,” it is impossible for me to know if his itchiness is merely due to an allergy. While allergies can lead to excessive biting and scratching, there are other possible underlying causes for Gunner’s itchiness. Parasitic skin disease (scabies and demodex) needs to be ruled out by a veterinarian. Gunner could also be suffering from a bacterial and/or yeast infection.

If the Benedryl is not helping and Gunner is having other health issues, you need to take him to your veterinarian. Be honest with your vet about your cost concerns and ask for an estimate before tests and medications are billed. In today’s economy, this is a very reasonable request. Waiting too long before seeing your vet can lead to a worsening of Gunner’s condition and might make the solution more costly and difficult.

Posted January 26, 2011

Topic: Kitten's Soft Stool

Question from Karen in Coatesville:
My cat (9 months old) has soft stools. I took him to the vet and lab tests revealed no parasites. My vet put him on a prescription food and metronidazole for 5 days. This helped a little, but he still has mushy/soft/stinky stools.

He seems active and healthy. Will this be the "norm" for his stools? When he was younger, the droppings were more formed.

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
Soft stool in cats and dogs can be a frustrating puzzle to solve. It often is a matter of "trial and error" in finding the solution. Since your cat is young, cancer is fortunately much less likely than other problems. Although the fecal test did not show parasites, a broad spectrum dewormer should be administered.

If you had changed food or treats before the stools became soft, a food intolerance is a possible underlying cause. Even if you had been feeding the same food all along, cats can develop a food intolerance to a diet with which they have been accustomed.

There are many different "prescription foods" available. Some of the varieties that you can try include hypoallergenic, easily digestible, or high fiber food. While you are trying to get your cat's stools back on track, stop all treats in case they are a culprit. If the metronidazole helped, you might need to give it again for a longer course. Probiotics can be used to help with soft stools. Your veterinarian should be consulted before giving either of these medications.

Some cats can develop inflammatory bowel disease and other medications or tests might be needed. If your cat is vomiting, has a poor appetite, or is losing weight, be sure to tell your veterinarian.

Posted December 14, 2010

Topic: Fall Allergies

Question from Tina from Lincoln University:
I have a 12 year old lab and the top of his paws look red and swollen. I think he has the same issue every year around this time. Is it an allergy? What can I do, he is too old to get in a car and visit the vet.

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
While red and swollen paws can be indicative of allergies, these symptoms can also be caused by mites, bacterial skin infections, and other causes. A visit to your vet is needed to rule out other problems and for the most appropriate treatment to be instituted.
If you have noticed this same problem during the autumn months of previous years, allergies are likely. I recommend wiping your dog's paws each time he comes in from the outdoors. If he is itchy elsewhere, biweekly baths with a soothing shampoo can help. If your dog weighs at least 70 pounds, you can give him Benadryl (diphenhydramine). Two adult strength tablets (25mg each) can be given twice daily. If you dog becomes too sleepy or excited, call your veterinarian. Antihistamines such as Benadryl can help some dogs, but for severe allergies stronger medications might be needed.
If your dog's paws have an odor or appear moist, he might have an underlying yeast or bacterial infection. Medications prescribed by your veterinarian are needed to treat these conditions. If are unable to lift your dog into the car, I suggest asking a friend or neighbor to help or you can contact a mobile veterinarian to make a house call.

Posted November 11, 2010

Topic: Fleas

Question from David in New Castle:
What is the best way to get rid of fleas? I have been putting the frontline on every 4 weeks, vacuum a lot, and spraying everything. They are not as bad, but I want to get rid of them.

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
You are certainly not the only pet owner who has struggled with a home flea infestation this year. Patience and persistence are the keys to ridding your house of fleas. It is very important to treat both your pet and the environment. Continue to use the Frontline every month. You mentioned vacuuming and that is very important. Some specialists believe that fleas die when they are sucked into a vacuum cleaner. The environment can also be sprayed with a product that contains an insect growth regulator which will kill the immature stages of the flea.

If your pet is scratching and appears to be showing signs of a flea allergy, contact your veterinarian. Many pets with flea allergies will require medications to help with both itchiness and skink infections.

Posted January 19, 2010

Topic: Feline Spraying

Question from Margarita in Clayton:
Why is my 1 1/2 year old neutered cat spraying all of a sudden?

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
There are a multitude of reasons to cause cats to inappropriately urinate. "Spraying" implies urination on a vertical object. Male cats can also squat and urinate on the floor. Before you assume that your cat is having a behavior problem, have him checked by a veterinarian. It is important to rule out an underlying medical condition.

If you have several cats, you should have one more litter box than cats (e.g. 3 cats requires 4 boxes). Litter boxes must be placed in quiet areas of the house. I am not a fan of boxes in a basement because cats tend to dislike this out of the way location. Litter boxes should be spread throughout the home making access easy.

If you did not recently change the brand of litter, consider switching to "Everclean" litter. If your cat sees or smells other neighborhood cats, this can elicit urine marking. Stress in the household (construction, addition of new baby or pet) can cause inappropriate urinations. It is extremely important to keep the box clean, scooping several times a day.

If your cat is urinating in the same location, place aluminum foil or a food dish in the area. Cats do not like to walk on aluminum foil and they typically will not urinate where their food is located. A litter box can be placed in the preferred marking location.

If a medical problem is ruled out and environmental changes do not help, talk to your veterinarian about medications that might help your cat.

Posted November 4, 2009

Topic: Carpet Digging

Question from Patti in Newark:
I have a 10 year old lab who recently started to dig at our carpet. He does it in various areas of our house; upstairs or downstairs, it does not matter. He will claw at least 8 times and then he lies down at that spot.

He has started to dream in the past few months. He will move and make noises..never did this before..interesting.

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
It does not sound like your lab's digging is due to a medical issue. I suspect he is digging at the carpet before he lays down as part of nesting behavior. My own dog used to dig both the carpet and her dog bed before laying down. She never destroyed the carpet, but made nail tracks that we easily remedied with a run of the vacuum.

I would be concerned if your dog dug at the carpet and then eliminated on it. Carpet fibers can be very dangerous if swallowed, so be sure no loose pieces are likely to be ingested. As long as your dog is not eliminating in the house, ruining your carpet, or eating strands of carpet, I do not see any reason for crating him or confining him elsewhere.

If your dog is making noises while sleeping, it is likely due to a dream. Dogs tend to sleep deeper as they age, so this might account for this new behavior. Seizure activity can manifest with leg paddling and vocalizing. If you have any concerns, consult your veterinarian.

Posted October 4, 2009

Topic: Chewing and Lack of Barking

Question from Charlene in Smyrna:
I have a 2 year lab/pitbull name Rocky. He is the most lovable dog and gets along with everyone and he's very good with the grandchildren. I have two concerns - one he chews up everything and he does not bark.

What can I to stop him from chewing everything and should I be concern that he does not bark?

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
I would not be concerned that Rocky is not vocal. Unless you want him to be a watchdog, I've always considered a quiet dog a blessing. My dog was capable of barking, but she typically only made noise when in the presence of another barking dog. Rocky probably has the capacity to bark, but chooses to remain quiet. I do not think his lack of barking is a sign of an underlying problem.

With regards to Rocky's chewing habit, there is reason for concern. Not only is he likely to destroy valuable objects in your home, he is at risk for ingesting material that can be harmful to him. Chewing is a natural canine behavior, but it can be a sign of boredom. Labradors and pitbulls have a lot of energy. Rocky should have daily time outside for walks or playtime at a park. If he has an opportunity to release his energy outdoors, he will be less likely to be destructive.

Provide Rocky with safe chew toys such as Kongs filled with treats or peanut butter. If he does not have stomach upset from rawhide, you can provide large rawhide toys for him to chew on while being supervised. Be careful to make sure Rocky does not try to swallow a large piece of rawhide. Keeping Rocky in a crate while you are not at home can also help ensure he does not chew household items. With proper mental stimulation and exercise, Rocky's chewing habit should improve.

For more information, visit

Posted May 3, 2009

Topic: Toddler and dog

Question from Amy in Middletown:
I have a 100lb rot/lab mix who we found along the road as a 16 week old puppy and was in terriable condition. We have grown to love him very much.He recently started snapping at my 18mo old if woken.I try to watch out for this but can't always be right there.We are now moving to a much smaller location and am very worried about this behavior.Is there any suggestions to work with him on this behavior.

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
Your situation is unfortunate, but not uncommon. Most people as well as pets become annoyed when disturbed from a restful sleep. Your dog’s reaction to your toddler is of great concern. Although your dog is currently giving a warning, a bite or attack can occur at anytime.

Since your child is too young to learn to leave your dog alone, the only safe measure if to keep them separated and supervised at all times. Even keeping your dog in a crate is not safe because your child can reach arms and legs through the slats of the crate.

There is a chance that your child and dog can grow to be close friends. However, this will not happen until your child is of an age when he/she learns to respect your dog’s boundaries.

For more advice, contact the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine’s behavior department at or (215) 898-3347. In the meantime, do not ever permit your child and dog to be together unsupervised.

Posted March 17, 2009

Topic: Feline Upper Respiratory Problems

Question from Roseann in Wilmington:
We adopted a neighborhood stray cat a while ago that had been abandoned and passed between neighbors for years. He was in good health overall, but has poor dental health. He had a broken tooth removed last year that and the vet does not want to do more surgery due to his age(he should have more removed due to decay). He is actually a spry guy who we think is about 18 years old. We keep having to put him on antibiotics due to sneezing and nasal discharge-about once every month or so, which the vet says is due to the tooth issues. The vet on WDEL last week mentioned a medication that began with the letter \"L\" or \"T\" (I didn\'t catch the name) which is used for older cats in this situation with immune issues since it is not good to repeat antibiotics so frequently. Do you have any idea what this medication or supplement is? Is it dangerous for him to have this discharge(is it considered a sinus infection)? Should we be medicating him every time it comes back? Sorry for the long email-thanks for your time!!

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
There are several causes of upper respiratory problems in cats. The most common include viral, bacterial, and fungal infections, inflammatory polyps, and tumors. Dental problems can also be a cause, but all possibilities must be considered.

The medication to which you refer is possibly L-lysine. This is an amino acid that can be helpful in controlling Herpes virus infection in cats. If your cat's problem is due to anything other than a Herpes infection, the L-lysine will not be of benefit.

If your vet is certain that the problem is due to a diseased tooth, then it is appropriate to treat with antibiotics on an as needed basis. It is a good idea to vary the antibiotic to help avoid resistance. To rule out other problems, nasal endoscopy (the passage of a scope into the nose) can be performed to obtain biopsy samples and to visualize the tissue. Nasal tumors are best diagnosed with this test, but skull x-rays can be helpful too.

Nasal congestion in cats can greatly impact their appetite. If your cat is not eating well during his episodes, try warming some canned cat food to make it extra appealing. Offering soft food will be helpful if he is having tooth pain. Some cats may need supportive care such as fluid therapy. Be sure to keep him eating and well hydrated during his flair ups. Good luck!

Posted February 1, 2009

Topic: Ear Infection

Question from Sally in Wallingford:
I think my dog has an ear ache. She keeps scratching at her ear with her paw. Is there anything I can get at the pet store for my dog?

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
Although a trip to a local pet store might be more convenient and less expensive than scheduling an appointment with your dog's veterinarian, it is not the better option. If your dog keeps scratching at her ear, it is very possible that she is suffering from an ear infection.

Ear infections can be both itchy and painful. If not addressed, your dog could develop inner ear problems or an ear hematoma. Both of these conditions may require surgery and will be much more costly in the long run.

Ear infections can be caused by yeast, bacteria, or mites. Your veterinarian can take a swab of the ear canal and determine the underlying cause of the infection and prescribe the appropriate treatment. An exam of the canal will enable your vet to evaluate the ear drum and to make sure no tumors are visible.

Posted December 13, 2008

Topic: Urine Leakage

Question from Michele in Yardley:
My 5 month old female Dalmatian was diagnosed with an UTI. Her main symptom was urine leakage but she also started having some accidents in the house. She has been on antibiotics for 3 full days and today I noticed some leakage again while she was laying on the family room rug. As she scratched her ear I could actually see urine dripping out. do I nee to call the vet before her follow up in 10 more days or will the antibiotics take a little longer to work? Thank you!

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
Your description of urine leakage from your puppy definitely sounds like incontinence. If she is not improving with the course of antibiotics, further diagnostics will be needed. A few important questions include whether she has been spayed, was her urine cultured for bacteria, and is she having accidents in the house of which she is aware. The way to differentiate deliberate urinations in the house versus incontinence is to watch her closely. If you do not catch her in the act of urinating, then feel her fur around her back end. If she squats, she will not wet her fur with urine. If she is leaking urine and unaware, she will likely be wet or smell of urine.

If you determine that she is in fact leaking urine, she will need to be evaluated for an ectopic ureter. An ectopic ureter is a congenital problem (puppies are born with it). Instead of carrying the urine from the kidney into the bladder where it can be retained, an ectopic ureter carries urine into the urethra, vagina or uterus. If the ureter ends in one of these latter sites, there is no sphincter control and the urine will leak. Your puppy has no control over this, so do not yell or become angry with her.

Fortunately, the University of Pennsylvania has an excellent staff to address this problem. Ectopic ureters are corrected with both surgery and now laser treatment. If you veterinarian suspects an ectopic ureter, contact the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary Hospital at (215) 746-VETS.

Posted December 1, 2008

Topic: Tick Prevention

Question from Carol in Wilmington:
I give my Jack Russell a monthly dose of Frontline Plus. Almost every time I walk her in the neighborhood, she comes in with one or two ticks on her. What does Frontline actually do? Does it stop ticks from biting her? I always brush her right after a walk, but I fear I will not find the Lyme ticks.

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
I understand your frustration with ticks. The recent temperate winters have enabled these annoying and harmful parasites to thrive year round. The Frontline you are using is absorbed into your dog's hair follicles. When a flea or tick comes into contact with the active ingredient, it will die within one to two days.

Frontline is unfortunately not 100% effective in preventing Lyme disease because a tick has a window of opportunity to bite a dog and transmit the agent that causes Lyme disease. There is no currently available product that repels fleas and ticks. Checking yourself and your dog thoroughly after being outside is the best bet for detecting deer ticks as soon as possible. I certainly recommend continuing to use Frontline. Be sure that your dog is not bathed within 2 days of applying Frontline.

You should also ask your veterinarian about a Preventic collar. These collars can be used in combination with Frontline and often kill ticks more quickly. If your dog show any signs of lameness, lethargy, or decreased appetite, have your veterinarian check her for Lyme disease.

Posted September 9, 2008

Topic: Feline Dandruff

Question from Laura in Bridgeville:
I have a 14 year old indoor male cat. He has developed dandruff on his back. I usually only feed him dry food and thought this may be the cause. I started adding wet food to his dry food, but it upsets his stomach. What do you think is causing this flaky skin and what can I do about it?

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
The dandruff you describe could have several underlying causes. If you are feeding your cat a diet that is low in fat, this can affect his natural skin oils and lead to flaky skin. If your cat has gained weight in the past few months, he may have noticeable scale due to the inability to groom his back adequately.
I recommend a check up with a veterinarian. A physical exam can help to rule out a type of skin mite that closely resembles dandruff. Also, a 14 -year old cat should be examined and have blood tests run every 6 months to detect health problems. An underlying disease can cause cats to groom less often and will lead to flaky skin. If no problems are found, your veterinarian can offer advice on supplements containing fatty acids that can help to minimize your cat’s dander.

Posted August 12, 2008

Topic: Chronic Coughing Dog

Question from Ron in Dover:
Our dog has had a constant cough for several years and I haven't been able to find out why from other vets and through internet research. Would you have any ideas? Do dogs have sinus problems? Sometimes our dog sounds like someone clearing their throat.

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
Coughing can be due to various underlying canine problems. You fail to mention the age or breed of your dog. These can play a significant role in the cause for your dog’s cough.

If the cough has been ongoing for several years, it is not likely due to an infection. Infections such as “kennel cough” typically resolve within one to two weeks. Your dog could have an underlying allergy, heart disease, or possibly a tracheal problem. A collapsing trachea typically sounds like a honking goose and can be triggered by excitement and pulling on the dog's collar.

Chest x-rays should be taken to evaluate your dog’s lungs, heart, and trachea. Does someone in the house smoke? Smoke and other environmental pollutants can cause chronic respiratory problems for both dogs and cats.

Allergic airway disease, heart disease and tracheal problems can be managed medically. Antihistamines or low doses of steroids can be used to control allergic airway problems. Consult your veterinarian to discuss these options. If you, or anyone in the house smokes, by all means, stop now for your sake and that of your dog!

Posted June 24, 2008

Topic: Canine Vaccine Schedules

Question from Sharon in Dover:
I know with proof you can get a 3-year rabies shot. Does the same apply to Distemper and Bordatella?

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
The first rabies vaccine given to dogs once they are at least 3 months old is protective for one year. Typically, the subsequent rabies vaccines are protective for 3 years. Some veterinarians administer the 3-year vaccine every other year to ensure there is no lapse in protection.

Bordatella (kennel cough) vaccines typically protect dogs for one year. Some kennels require resident dogs to receive the vaccine every 6 months. Before making arrangements at a kennel, be sure to check their vaccine policy.

Canine distemper vaccines vary in their labeling from one to three years. Check with your veterinarian as to which type of vaccine they administer and the length of its duration.

Posted June 3, 2008

Topic: Solid Gold Dog Food

Question from Nathan in Bear:
I have a 1 year 5 month old 90 pound Rottweiler. We take him for daily walks and currently have him in obedience training. I was doing food research online and ran into a food called "Solid Gold Barking at the Moon." It's a high protein dog food with the main ingredients including salmon meal, beef, and potatoes.

What do you think his maximum weight will be and is this food a good choice? It received a 6 star rating on

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
I have not used Solid Gold food myself, but it is AAFCO approved and appears to be a good choice for your dog. It was not affected by any of the recent dog food recalls. At nearly 18 months of age, your dog should be fully grown. Because Rottweilers are predisposed to joint problems, it is important to avoid overfeeding to keep him slim.

If you plan to switch from his current food to the Solid Gold brand, be sure to do so gradually. Mix the two foods, adding a larger percentage of the Solid Gold over the course of a week. A slow transition will help to prevent upset to your dog's stomach and bowels.

Posted April 3, 2008

Topic: Great Dane Food Choices

Question from Barbara in Wyoming:
My Great Dane needs a dog food toput weight on her. She does not eat wet food. What is the best dry food for an older dog? She is 9 years old and has a clean bill of health from her vet.

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
I have concern that you feel a need to encourage your 9-year-old Great Dane to gain weight. It would be unusual for a geriatric large breed dog to not have some degree of arthritis. A lower body mass is preferable to minimize extra strain on joints at her age.

If you feel your dog needs to gain weight because she is becoming thin, a full medical workup is recommended to rule out an underlying problem. I recommend discussing your concerns with your dog’s veterinarian before making any dietary changes.

Posted March 17, 2008

Topic: Puppy Vaccinations

Question from Lisa in Wilmington:
How often do puppies need vaccines in their first year of life?

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
Vaccines for puppies are usually started at 6 to 7 weeks of age. The first vaccine has been given the general term of "distemper vaccine." After the first immunization, booster vaccines are given every 3 to 4 weeks until the puppy is 4 months old. Puppies should be at least 12 weeks of age before receiving a rabies vaccine. Unlike the distemper vaccine, a rabies booster is not given within a few weeks, but a year later. The second rabies vaccine typically provides immunity for 3 years. Many veterinary hospitals boost the rabies vaccine every 2 years to ensure there is no lapse in protection.

The distemper vaccine protects against several viruses (distemper, parvo, adeno). These viruses can cause life threatening illness, so it is very important to make sure your puppy receives all necessary boosters in a timely manner. Other vaccines may be offered, but are not mandatory. Whether your puppy should receive them depends upon its lifestyle. Your veterinarian may discuss Leptospirosis and Bordatella vaccines. Leptospirosis is a bacterial agent that is primarily found in water. Bordatella is also known as the "kennel cough" vaccine and should be given for puppies that will attend training classes or dogs that are going to stay at a boarding facility.
Be sure to minimize your puppy's exposure to public dog areas until it has been appropriately vaccinated.

Posted February 1, 2008

Topic: Crate Training Puppies

Question from Cathy in Newark:
Our 12 week old puppy hates her crate. We crate her most of the night and she is panting loudly and is restless. I am guessing her behavior is due to anxiety. I am afraid the continuous panting and anxiety could be bad for her health.

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
Excessive panting and anxiety are not a risk for a healthy puppy. However, watching your puppy become stressed in the crate is upsetting and can leave you feeling guilty. Crates are not used for punishment. They provide a safe haven for your dog and promote good house training behavior.

Make sure the crate is comfortable and safe. Don't provide too much free space or your puppy will be inclined to urinate and defecate in the crate. Feed your puppy in the crate to create a positive association. Reward your puppy with a treat and praise every time it enters the crate. Keep favorite toys and treats in the crate. If the crate is not in your bedroom, it is okay to relocate it close to your bed to give your puppy a sense of security.

Posted January 17, 2008

Topic: Small Animal Bedding

Question from Christina in Newark:
Is shredded paper and newspaper okay to use as bedding for small animals?

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
Shredded paper and newspaper are okay to use for lining small animal cages. The current ink used for newspapers is non-toxic, but may stain light colored pet fur. Recycled paper products are also available at pet stores. These pellets and flakes are very absorbent and dust free. They make cage cleaning easy and do not irritate the respiratory tracts of small animals.

Cedar shavings are suspected to cause breathing problems for some small mammals. Commercial pine shavings are available and recommended instead of cedar shavings. Wire bottom cages should also be avoided. Small animals can develop foot sores from the abrasive wire and can get limbs caught in the holes and suffer fractured legs. It is very important to keep the cage very clean and dry in order to ensure your pet's optimal health.

Posted December 28, 2007

Topic: Behavior Problems with New Baby

Question from Michelle in New Castle:
I have a 4 year old westie named Shadow. We have had him since he was 10 weeks old and he has been treated like our baby. I had a child a year ago and we also have a 13 year old daughter. Shadow is now peeing on the baby's toys, messes in the house, and snapped at my husband when he was putting Shadow in his crate at bedtime. Shadow is always crated at bedtime and he was showing his teeth and trying to bite my husband through the door of the crate.

I never leave Shadow and the baby alone. We took Shadow to the vet to have him checked and he was fine. My husband feels he cannot trust Shadow and that we should have him put down. I don't know what to do, please help.

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
It was appropriate for you to have Shadow examined by your veterinarian to rule out an underlying medical problem. If there were no signs of urinary tract or other illnesses, then a board-certified veterinary behaviorist should be consulted. The issues that you describe are of a very serious nature and must be addressed.

I do not suggest a dog “trainer” for your situation. To find a veterinary behavior specialist in your area, go to The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine has a behavior clinic. You can schedule an appointment at the clinic by calling (215) 898-3347.

Shadow deserves a chance and you must be willing to devote the time,energy and finances to resolving his problems. Until you can find help, be certain that you continue to separate your infant from Shadow at all times.

Posted November 6, 2007

Topic: Dog House/Crate Training

Question from Nancy from Linwood:
In July we rescued a terrier puppy mix with a long history of abuse and neglect. He is now a year old and is healthy and playful. He wets his crate almost everyday while we are at work. He is crated from 9:40 am to 4:30 pm. Do you think that is too long or could it be taht he has never had to hold his urine before? It does not seem to bother him that he is laying on a wet bed.

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
You do not mention whether your dog has accidents only during the daytime or if he is is also urinating in his crate overnight. If he in fact does not have accidents overnight, he is physically capable of holding his urine for 7 hours and that is not an unreasonable length of time to expect him to be able to wait.

Crate training usually works on the principle that most dogs do not want to lie in or be near their urine or feces. If your crate is much larger than your dog, try using a divider to limit his space. Take him out before work and be sure he has plenty of opportunity to empty his bladder. Provide some water during the day, but not a huge bowl.

If the accidents persist and they are occurring only during the day, you may also want to try leaving him in a small room without carpet (kitchen, laundry room) and leave out "wee wee pads". If he is having other accidents around the house or seems to have frequent attempts to urinate outside, a urine sample should be examined at your veterinarian.

Posted September 28, 2007

Topic: Excessive Grooming of Housemate

Question from M. Rossi in Milton:
My schnauzer (Junior) has recently started licking our other dog (Casper). We have kept them separated when we're not around and he has completely licked the hair off one spot on Casper's back. Bitter apple has not stopped him. We thought it might be something in Capser's fur or or on his skin. The licking continued after they were both groomed.

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
It is hard to say for sure why Junior is so intent on licking Casper. Licking can be an expression of compulsive behavior in dogs. Self-licking can be due to allergies and boredom. Try using a dog specific outfit or appropriately sized t-shirt on Casper to cover the bald patch created by Junior. Keep it on while you are not able to supervise the dogs together. During this trial, provide Junior with new safe chew toys and toys that can be filled with treats. These items can help to redirect his oral fixation from Casper. After a few weeks of building Junior's interest in the toys, take off Casper's protective clothing and see what happens.

Posted July 30, 2007

Topic: Canine feet licking

Question from Sue in Wilmington:
I have a two year old golden retriever. For the past several weeks, he has has started to lick his paws. He has never done this before. Is he just cleaning himself?

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
Some dogs will lick their paws briefly as a means of cleaning themselves. However, constant feet licking is usually a sign of allergies. Both people and pets have been suffering during the past two months with severe allergy symptoms. The basis of these allergies are the air borne particles common in the spring and early summer months such as pollens and grasses.

Some dogs can have nasal congestion and runny eyes related to allergies, but the most common sign is itchiness. Dogs with allergies typically lick their paws, rub their faces and ears, and scratch or bite at themselves.

Tests can be performed to help pinpoint the specific problematic allergens for your pet. Allergies cannot be cured; they can only be managed. Consult your veterinarian for medications that can help your dog feel more comfortable. Some dogs with food allergies can benefit from a dietary change.

Posted June 18, 2007

Topic: Spaying Dogs

Question from Megan in Kennett Square:
I have a boxer puppy that I am thinking about not getting fixed. What kind of things should I expect if I do not get her fixed?

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
There are many benefits to having your dog spayed. First, spaying a dog before its first estrus (heat) cycle will dramatically reduce the chances of mammary gland tumors (breast cancer). Dogs have vaginal bleeding during their biyearly heat cycles which can be messy. Unspayed females are at risk for unplanned pregnancies and associated complications. Unspayed females are also predisposed to developing uterine infections (pyometra) which can be life-threatening if not diagnosed and treated quickly.

The only reasons to avoid spaying your boxer are (1) you are planning to breed her or (2) she has an underlying problem that would make anesthesia too risky. These are topics you should discuss with your veterinarian. Breeding your dog is a huge responsibility that should not be taken lightly or done without careful planning.

Posted April 23, 2007

Topic: Pet Food Recall

Question from Doug in Wilmington:
My wife and I have two 1 1/2 year old Maine Coon cats. They have been on Iams dry cat food since they were kittens. With the recent pet food scare from rat poison being in the Iams wet food and foil pack food, my wife thinks that they should be on a "safer" brand of dry food (i.e. Purina One).

I tried telling her that the problem is not in the dry food ans she has nothing to worry about. Is there any way you can respond that might ease her concerns?

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
Doug, you are correct. The Iams dry food, and all dry foods, were not included in the recent pet food recall. There is no evidence to suggest that you should worry about your own cats. Iams and many other foods involved in the recall are in fact quality foods. The entire situation is very unfortunate and hopefully will result in more intense screening of the materials used in pet foods.

If a pet owner realizes that recalled food was being fed to their dog or cat, the food should be replaced immediately. The animals which have been sickened show signs of kidney failure (decreased appetite, vomiting, lethargy, increased thirst/urination). To learn which foods have been recalled and for updates, visit

The problematic substance has been recently identified as aminopterin. This cancer drug is also used as a rat poison, but it is not labeled for use in the United States. Small amounts of aminopterin have been shown to be lethal to dogs and cats. If you suspect any problems in your pet related to the food it has been consuming, contact your veterinarian immediately. Blood and urine tests can help to confirm or rule out a problem.

Posted March 26, 2007

Topic: Dog's Inability to Use Hind Legs

Question from Leah in Wilmington:
My friend has a miniature pinscher mix and he is dragging his hind legs, barely walking on them. He is also panting a lot and not eating or drinking very much. I believe he is three years old. What could possibly be wrong with little Taz?

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
Your description of Taz is very concerning. If your friend's dog has not been evaluated by a veterinarian, he needs to be seen as soon as possible. The description of "dragging his hind legs" is suggestive of paresis or paralysis. He may have suffered some type of trauma or could be having a disk problem in his spine. If there is compression on his spine, this needs to be addressed immediately with either medical or surgical intervention. He could also have an infection and require antibiotics.

The panting is possibly an indication that Taz is in pain or running a fever. The fact that he is not eating and drinking confirms that he is not feeling good. If a pet stops eating and drinking, it is usually a sign of illness. There is no way to diagnose Taz's problem without an exam. Taz should be seen by a veterinarian immediately so his illness can be addressed and hopefully cured.

Posted March 4, 2007

Topic: Kitten's Failure to Use Litter Box

Question from Anna from Newark:
I have three kittens and one will not use the litter box. She likes to go on the carpet. It is an automatic litter box that cleans itself, so it is not dirty litter. Please help.

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
Automatic self-cleaning litter boxes are useful for people with busy schedules or for those who travel. However, I have heard several reports that cats are not always pleased with this type of box. My impression is that sometimes the cleaning mechanism can be triggered too early and the cat can become startled. A malfunction of the box can lead to a cat’s reluctance to use the box in the future.

If your other cats are happy with the self-cleaning box, you can continue to make it accessible. For the cat which is urinating or defecating on the carpet, provide at least one other regular litter box. If you have 3 cats, there should be at least 3, but preferably 4 litter boxes in your home. Spread the boxes out in different levels and areas of the house. If the additional boxes do not help, try a different brand of litter. Be sure to keep the litter boxes very clean!

Posted February 19, 2007

Topic: Feline Dermatitis

Question from Stacey in Norristown:
My cat has been licking at this one spot and has pulled out all of her fur there and scratched off what seemed to be a scab. Now it is red and irritated and she is constantly licking at the area. I found a single flea on her a month ago and she has been on Frontline since. She was also on prednisolone and amoxicillin. Is there anything I can do about the wound she has made on her side?

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
Your cat’s itchiness may have started due to an allergy to fleas. If she is currently only scratching and biting at one specific site, the problem now is more likely localized inflammation versus a flea allergy. In any case, you should continue to use Frontline, monitor her for signs of fleas, and be sure your home environment was treated to ensure the fleas are no longer a problem.

The medications prescribed (prednisolone and amoxicillin) should have helped resolve the skin infection and itchiness. If the area is not healing, further tests for mites and ringworm should be done. If no other underlying problem can be found by your veterinarian, the itchy-licking cycle must be broken. Preventing your cat from licking the area can be achieved with either an Elizabethan collar or a bad tasting topical spray. A recheck appointment with your cat’s veterinarian is recommended.

Posted February 4, 2007

Topic: Introducing New and Old Pets

Question from Dina in Newark:
We just got a 9 week old puppy and our current dog (3 years) is having issues. She keeps growling and snapping at the puppy. At the same time she acts like she is afraid of him. Please help!

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
Introducing a new pet to a resident pet can be tricky. There are two key words: GO SLOWLY! Sibling rivalry and jealousy apply to pets as well as children. New puppies or kittens can be viewed as a nuisance by older pets. Many older pets do not tolerate the biting and jumping common to young animals.

Some tips include:
• Separate the pets for all feedings, treats, and games. Food can be a major trigger for aggression and jealousy between otherwise friendly dogs.
• Crate train your new puppy. This will help with house training and provide a safe place for the puppy. A crate will also provide the older pet with some peace and quiet time away from the obnoxious youngster.
• Do not leave the dogs alone together until you are certain that no blood will be shed. The puppy should be at least 4 months of age before being left alone with the older dog.
• Be sure to provide alone time with each pet to give them individual attention.
• Always give out equal treats. Many treats will be rewarded to your puppy during training. Be sure to give your older dog a small piece of a treat at the same time.
• Register your puppy for obedience training classes. This will help to ensure your puppy learns its manners.

Posted January 23, 2007

Topic: Indoor/Outdoor Cats

Question from Joanna in Middletown:
I have a six month old kitten named Sweetie. We got her from the Humane Society three months ago. She's perfect! Our problem is that she desperately wants to go outside.

We were hoping that our other cat, Cisti, would befriend her and show her around the neighborhood. However, Cisti is stubborn and refuses to be a big sister to Sweetie. How can I teach Cisti to be friends with Sweetie, or at least make Sweetie lose interest with the great outdoors?

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
There is no ideal way to turn Cisti into a neighborhood tour guide. Your options are to show Sweetie the area yourselves or to keep her inside. If Sweetie is showing keen interest in the great outdoors, you can take her out on a harness and allow her to become familiar with the area.

Although an outdoor cat typically maintains a healthier weight compared to an indoor cat, many dangers exist outside the home. Sweetie should not go outside if she has been declawed or if she has tested positive for feline immunodeficiency virus or the feline leukemia virus. Outdoor cats are at risk for exposure to both of these deadly viruses. There is also great danger in being hit by motor vehicles and fights with cats, dogs or wild animals.

If you decide to keep Sweetie inside, have her wear a collar with a bell and identification tag attached. The noise she makes will alert you when she is near the door and you can be sure to keep her from darting outside. If she has not been spayed, a microchip can be placed at the time of surgery so that she can be traced to you if she should escape and become lost.

Outdoor cats tend to use up their "nine lives" more quickly than their indoor counterparts. If both cats are to venture outside, be sure they have ID tags or are microchipped, be sure their vaccines are up to date and keep them inside during severe weather conditions.

Posted January 3, 2007

Topic: Canine Inappropriate Defacation

Question from Jenny in Wilmington:
We have had a dog for a little more than 2 months. He is 2 years old and has been housetrained. Recently, he has been relieving himself in our living room and/or family room at least once a day. We have not changed anything and are letting him out quite often. The first time he had diarrhea and we figured that maybe he wasn't feeling good. Then about a week later he started doing it regularly. Is there something we should do to get him to stop doing this?

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
Your mention of diarrhea leads me to believe that your dog is defecating and not urinating in your house. It is not unusual for a pet with diarrhea to have an accident in the house. With intestinal problems, dogs simply may not be able to give owners enough warning to relieve themselves outside. If your dog's bowel movements are formed and normal at this time, his inappropriate pooping will need to be corrected with behavioral modification.

I recommend buying a crate if you do not already have one. He may need a refresher course on housetraining and a crate is a great tool for this purpose. Keep him in the crate when you are out of the house or not able to closely supervise him while at home. Limit the crate size so he cannot relieve himself at one end and lie at the other side. When he has a bowel movement outside, praise him both verbally ("Good boy") and give him a small treat. Do not punish him if he has an accident in the house. If he was previously housetrained, it should not take long to get him back on track. If his bowel movements are abnormal, consult your veterinarian.

Posted December 7, 2006

Topic: Barking Dogs

Question from Shellie in Elkton, MD:
I have a two year old lab who barks all the time! He barks when he wants to play ball, go out, or just looks at us and barks. I have tried a squirt gun, but he loves it! Any suggestions?

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
Constant barking can certainly be an annoying trait of dogs. There are some measures that can be taken to help diminish this behavior. First, never shout "shut up" or "be quiet" as your dog is barking. Your loud voice will only provoke more barking. Instead, whisper "hush" to your dog.

If your dog has not attended obedience training classes, please enroll him. At home, it will be very important to work on the "come" command. Asking your dog to come to you will hold his attention. Repeat this exercise over and over. Each time he obeys the command, praise him with words and treats. When he starts to bark, use the "come" command to divert his attention. When he comes to you, again, give him a treat and say, "Good boy." This will take lots of patience and practice, but should hopefully help.

I am not a fan of shock collars to deter barking. I have had good feedback regarding citronella collars. These collars spay a citronella mist when the dog barks. The aerosol is not harmful to your dog and it is often enough to inhibit barking.

Keep in mind that labs are very active dogs. They require a lot of exercise and play time. Increasing your dog's exercise can also help solve the barking problem. Be sure to provide plenty of toys. The more preoccupied your dog is, the less he will bark.

Posted November 17, 2006

Topic: Kitten Eye Infection/Care

Question from Kia from Wilmington:
I have a kitten that is 2 months old that I just got through an ad in the newspaper. He is all black with yellow eyes. One eye started running and then began to get gunky and weepy. I used a warm compress on it and rinsed it with a mix of eye drops and water. It got all better, but then started again. I don't have money to go to a vet. What should I do? I love my kitty.

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
I wish that I could provide a simple at home remedy for your new kitten, but he should be seen by a veterinarian. Eye infections can become a serious problem and potentially lead to blindness if not treated immediately. Your kitten’s eye may have an ulcer and an antibiotic eye cream will need to be prescribed by a veterinarian.

I recommend that all newly acquired pets be examined by a veterinarian. If your kitten has not received any vaccines or deworming medication, it is extremely important that both be given as soon as possible. Not only should your kitten be receiving his first vaccine now, he will need to have boosters every 3-4 weeks until he is at least 15 to 16 weeks old. If you do not know whether the kitten’s mom was checked for the feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency viruses, your kitten should be tested by a vet. I hope you will find family or friends to help you care for your new companion.

Posted October 30, 2006

Topic: feline aggression

Question from Sharon in Boothwyn:
I have a 3 year old, orange male cat. He is neutered and had his front claws removed. He will bite only me and for no reason. I will be sitting down and he will come over and either bite my foot or my arm and will not stop unless he either draws blood or I spray him with water. I have tried to distract him. I have tried picking him up and holding him. Nothing works. Help! I love my cat (he will let me pet him and sleeps with me) but i can't stand the biting.

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
Cats bite for a variety of reasons. Biting can be a protective mechanism if a cat is scared or in pain. Some cats redirect their aggression towards an owner. An example is a house cat which sees another cat outside and then pounces on your ankle. Over stimulation can also lead to an attack. In this instance, even a cat which seeks attention by climbing onto your lap can abruptly bite. When a cat is overstimulated, it will usually give warning signs. If you notice tail twitching, stiffening of the body, or ears pointed to the side or back, stop petting your cat. Do not fight or hit your cat which could lead to a more serious bite.

Play aggression is the most common cause of cat attacks and may be the basis for your problem. The fact that your cat is declawed suggests that he is kept indoors. Cats which are kept inside the house are safe from outdoor hazards, but they become easily bored. As a result, they often take out their pent up energy on the family. I suggest enriching your cat's life with a variety of games. Cats are by nature predatory, so games involving play mice or those which mimic birds (feathers on a string) are a great source of entertainment. My own cats can be preoccupied for long periods of time by feather toys and a laser pointer. Instead of picking your cat up when he shows aggression, take out an interactive toy and distract him. Spend at least 10-15 minutes each day playing with your cat to help minimize his playful bites.

Posted October 15, 2006

Topic: Puppy's Itchiness and Fur Loss

Question from Megan in Wilmington:
My 13 week old Jack Russel Terrier has been scratching and biting himself a lot recently. I have also noticed some thinning/missing fur. What could this mean and should I take him to a vet?

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
Your puppy's hair loss and itchiness should be evaluated by a veterinarian. Puppies do not have a well developed immune system. As a result, they are susceptible to a mite infection known as Demodectic mange. A small scraping of skin can be evaluated with a microscope to identify these mites which are invisible to the naked eye. Skin infections often occur secondary to Demodectic mange and can worsen your pup's itchiness. An antibiotic can help to resolve the skin infection and there are a variety of treatments to kill the mites.

Ringworm is another type of infection for which your pup should be evaluated. Ringworm is not caused by a worm, but a fungus in the environment. Depending on the severity of the infection, ringworm can appear as either single patches or extensive areas of hair loss.

Fleas are yet another possible cause for itchiness and loss of fur. These pests are quite small, but visible to the naked eye. A flea comb can be used to help find these parasites. Because fleas spend more time in the environment than on a pet, you may not find live fleas. However, you can detect "flea dirt". These little black flecks are literally flea feces and will leave a rust stain on a white tissue or paper towel if moistened with water. Seeing your veterinarian is your best bet for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.

Posted September 19, 2006

Topic: Dog Vomiting Bile

Question from Andrea in Newark:
My yellow lab has been throwing up bile. He was not outside and has not been eating grass. He does it once or twice a week. Should I take him to his vet?

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
Even if your lab is fine in all other respects, I would still recommend an exam by a veterinarian. Your dog's age and his physical exam may indicate blood work or
x-rays to rule out an underlying problem. I recommend that you bring a fresh stool sample to be checked. It will be important for your dog to be weighed and to make sure he is not losing weight.

If you only feed your dog once daily, try feeding him both in the morning and evening. Continue to feed the same total amount of food divided into two meals. Feeding once a day can leave the stomach empty for a long time and acid can accumulate and cause stomach upset. Your veterinarian can prescribe a medication to help decrease stomach acid and he/she may also recommend a new food that is bland and easy for your dog to digest. Sometimes a change in diet or feeding schedule can make a big difference.

Posted September 5, 2006

Topic: Feline Pregnancy

Question from Jo from West Chester:
My cat is going to have kittens, but I am not sure when and do not want to be out at the time. How can I tell when she will deliver?

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
If you know approximately when your cat became pregnant, you can count on a delivery date approximately 63 to 66 days later. An exam by your veterinarian is recommended to help estimate when she is due. An ultrasound or x-rays can be done to confirm pregnancy and to determine how many kittens to expect.

You should be offering your cat food which has a high calorie content such as kitten food. Increasing calorie intake is important prior to delivery and is especially important while the kittens are nursing. No vaccines should be given to your cat during the pregnancy and it is important that you make sure she does not have fleas.

To prepare for the kittens, provide your cat with soft bedding in a quiet location. Prior to giving birth, you will notice your cat becoming restless, pacing, panting and even vocalizing. If you are comfortable to take her temperature with a rectal thermometer, chart her body temperature once these signs begin. It is normal to see a drop in body temperature (below 99 degrees) usually 12 to 36 hours before a dog or cat gives birth. Normal body temperatures range from 100 to 102.5.

Once the kittens have been weaned, I strongly advise having your cat spayed.

Posted August 15, 2006

Topic: Urine Leakage

Question from Gail in Montgomery County:
I have a 7 month old Lab. When he gets excited or nervous, he drips urine. I don't believe he knows what he is doing. He's been on antibiotics two different times. My vet said the last time they checked his urine, his white blood cell count was high. Can you recommend anything else that might help him?

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
Since your dog is still a puppy, the leakage of urine that you describe could be indicative of several issues. First, white blood cells are not normally found in urine and can be due to either infection or inflammation. A urine culture can be done to definitively diagnose or rule out infection.

A second possible problem is the presence of an "ectopic ureter". This is an abnormality of the urine collection system present at birth. This problem requires x-ray dye studies or a special scope to diagnose. With this condition, urine leaks frequently, not just at times of excitement.

The third and most likely cause of your dog's problem is "submissive urination". This is a common problem of puppies and tends to happen when dogs become nervous or excited. When you or your house guests greet your dog, avoid eye contact and speak in a calm voice. Take your dog out to relieve himself as soon as you arrive at the house. Until your dog learns to greet guests calmly, bring him outside for the initial interaction and advise guests to ignore him until he is relaxed. As puppies gain confidence, submissive urination usually resolves.

Posted August 3, 2006

Topic: Adopting a New Dog

Question from Laura in Claymont:
My family would like to adopt a small dog. What kind of dog should I be looking for who would get along with cats and children ages 6 and 3?

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
I always advocate adoption from animal shelters instead of private breeders or pet stores. Since you do not have your mind set on a particular breed of dog, this option may work for you. Adopting from a shelter can afford you the ability to find an adult dog that is known to be good with children and cats.

Based on the ages of your children, a small dog may be the best fit. While some large dogs can have wonderful temperaments, they are very strong and can jump on kids and be very intimidating. Take your family's schedule and activity level into consideration. If you run or hike, an energetic dog will be a good fit. If you and your spouse work all day and do not spend a lot of time outdoors, do not get a spunky dog such a Jack Russell terrier.

Many small dogs require regular grooming. Take this commitment and expense into consideration. If your family should choose a certain breed, gather as much information as possible before making your final decision. Learn about the known traits of the breed and possible inherited illnesses. If a mixed breed dog (mutt) catches your eye, they can make wonderful pets (I have one).

Most importantly, make sure everyone in the family is agreeable to a new dog and that no one has any known allergies. Your best bet is to make an educated choice and do not choose a dog on a whim. Good luck!

Posted July 25, 2006

Topic: Flea infestation

Question from Sue in Wilmington:
I recently noticed fleas on my dog. What should I do?

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
The two most important steps in getting rid of fleas include treatment of all pets in the home and the home itself. Consult your veterinarian regarding safe and effective topical treatments for your pets. If you have strictly indoor cats, they should be treated for at least 2 months. Your dog should be treated monthly until there is a 2 week spell of consistently freezing cold temperatures. During mild winters, treatment all year round is recommended.

Fleas spend most of their life cycle in the environment and only jump onto pets for blood meals. Treating the environment must occur to ensure resolution of the problem. A professional exterminator is a better choice than "do it yourself" products. Since flea infested pets can become infected with tapeworms, consult your veterinarian about deworming medications. Once you have treated the pets and the environment, use a flea comb periodically to make sure the pets do not become re-infested.

Posted July 10, 2006

Topic: Feeding Kittens

Question from Ellen in Wilmington:
I have a little kitten who is around 2 months old. He has yet to start eating kitten/cat food, but does like people food. He is still nursing. When should he start eating cat food? He seems very healthy.

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
Kittens are typically weaned from their mom's milk at 6 or 7 weeks of age. If your kitten is 8 weeks old, it is time to wean him from mom and offer kitten food (not adult cat food). Sometimes it is easier for young kittens to eat canned food rather than dry. You do not mention what type of table food you are offering. I strongly advise against feeding table food. Your kitten is growing quickly and requires a well balanced diet that can only be provided by formulated kitten food.

Sometimes it is necessary to offer a few different brands of food to see which your kitten likes the best. I recommend offering several different varieties at once rather than continuously switching from one brand to another. If the kitten remains finicky about kitten food and has not been seen by a veterinarian, schedule an appointment. There may be an underlying problem to help explain a poor appetite.

Posted June 15, 2006

Topic: Canine Flea and Tick Prevention

Question from Susan in Dover:
What is the best flea/tick repellent to use on an older dog?

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
The safest and most reliable flea and tick preventatives are those sold by your veterinarian. I do not recommend over the counter medications. Frontline and Advantix are effective in controlling both fleas and ticks. Both of these products are applied to dogs on a monthly basis. Never use medications labeled for dogs on a cat! Revolution is a topical heartworm and flea preventative, but it does not offer good tick protection. Revolution is the only topical available which does provide protection against Sarcoptic mites. These mites cause scabies, a very itchy skin condition which is contagious to both dogs and people. Special tick collars can be used in conjunction with Revolution. If your older dog has any specific health concerns, it is best to talk to your own veterinarian.

There are no available "repellents" of fleas and ticks. Even with diligent use of these topical products, you can still find ticks on your dog after visiting wooded areas. Once in contact with your medicated dog, the tick will die. However, Lyme disease can be transmitted to dogs before the products have time to kill the infected tick. When the winter weather is mild, protection against these annoying parasites is recommended all year round.

Posted June 5, 2006

Topic: Vegan Diet for Dogs

Question from Jay in Newark:
I recently read that the oldest living dog is a vegan. Supposedly, "Bramble", a dog from Somerset UK, is 29 years old and has been living on a diet of rice, lentils, and organic vegetables for decades. Is this true, or is it just an urban legend? Can dogs survive without meat?

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
If I was certain that my own dog would live to be nearly 30 on a vegan diet, I'd start feeding her veggie burgers immediately. Humans are naturally omnivores (consume meat and plants), yet some choose to be vegetarians. Dogs are also omnivores, but cats are obligate carnivores and require meat in their diet.

There have been no studies to prove that dogs fed a vegan diet will live longer than those fed meat. One proven factor in canine longevity is lean body mass. Studies indicate that thin dogs will outlive their overweight or obese counterparts. Although dogs can live as vegetarians, they typically love meat and it is in fact a good source of protein for them.

Dogs do need protein to fulfill their essential amino acid requirements. Since there is no single perfect protein source to provide a complete and balanced ratio of amino acids, it is best to provide your dog with a combination of protein sources. The proteins used should be well tolerated and not a cause of allergies to the pet.

Feeding an AAFCO approved dog food in appropriate quantities should be fine. If you should choose to prepare a home cooked diet for your dog, a veterinary nutritionist should be consulted. A listing of accredited veterinary nutritionists can be found at

Posted May 25, 2006

Topic: Allergies and Over the Counter Medications

Question from Pam in Newark:
I have a shepherd/chow mix that is approximately 7 1/2 years old. Each spring/summer his belly breaks out with a rash that he constantly chews. We have seen the vet and determined it was probably an allergy. He has previously been on prescription medication. Is there anything over the counter we can give him to help this problem?

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
The fact that your dog has the same problem at the same time each year is very suggestive of allergies. Allergies and the symptoms they cause cannot be cured, only managed. The main issue faced by allergic pets is severe itchiness. Concurrent skin infections are common. Dogs with allergies seem to be predisposed to spontaneous skin infections and they can develop them secondary to scratching or licking at themselves.

You mention that your dog has previously taken medication prescribed by your veterinarian. The common medications used to combat allergy symptoms in pets are antihistamines and steroids. Antihistamines are a good initial choice as sometimes they are sufficient to control allergy symptoms and they have few to no side effects. Steroids are considered the "magic bullet" since they rarely fail to help alleviate itchy skin, but they are not without side effects.

Your question regarding over the counter medication is something you should discuss with your own veterinarian. He/she is most familiar with your dog and can make the appropriate recommendation based on your dog's weight. If your dog is suffering from a skin infection, an antibiotic is often needed. Antihistamines which are safe to use in dogs are available at a drug store, but steroids and antibiotics must be dispensed by a doctor. Although purchasing medication at a drug store may save you time and money, you may not meet your dog's needs. A visit to the vet will ensure that the most effective treatment plan is administered.

Posted May 15, 2006

Topic: Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease

Question from Theresa in Wilmington:
My cat Gonzo is straining to urinate in the litter box and I have seen blood. He is 5 years old and otherwise in good health. What can this mean?

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
If you have not taken Gonzo to your veterinarian, I suggest you do so. The symptoms you describe can be a sign of a urinary tract infection, bladder stones, or an inflammatory condition called interstitial cystitis. Gonzo's problem requires immediate attention since stones or small sand-like conglomerations in the bladder can block the passage of urine and is potentially life-threatening. Your veterinarian will likely recommend tests including a urinalysis and x-rays and maybe blood work.

If you observe Gonzo attempting to urinate and not being able to pass urine, take him to a veterinarian immediately. A urinary blockage is an emergency situation and needs immediate medical care. If stones are detected, surgery is often required, but sometimes a special diet can help to dissolve small stones. Interstitial cystitis is an inflammatory condition of the bladder for which the cause is not well understood. Some medical therapies can be used, but this condition can be frustrating to treat. If a bladder infection is diagnosed, antibiotics are usually helpful.

If you have other cats in the house, try to isolate Gonzo so you can keep track of his urinations and be certain that he is not "blocked."

Posted May 7, 2006

Topic: Kennel Cough

Question from Sharon in Dover:
Why do dogs have to have an annual Bordetella treatment if they are not kenneled?

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
The requirements for Bordetella (kennel cough) vaccination vary with each veterinary office, boarding facility and grooming shop. The vaccine can be given as an injection into the skin or squirted into the nasal passages. Previously given on an annual basis, the vaccine is now recommended every 6 months to ensure protection. Many facilities will require that dogs receive the vaccine to prevent illness. The recommendation is to keep your pet healthy as well as others with whom he/she may have contact.

Bordetella bronchiseptica is the agent responsible for infectious tracheobronchitis. The term "kennel cough" has been used because the infection is highly contagious and easily passed between dogs in close quarters such as a boarding facility. The infection results in a hacking cough. Although the cough is often harsh, infected dogs have either no other symptoms or mild concurrent problems. Symptoms will become worse depending on secondary viral infections.

Some cases of infectious tracheobronchitis will resolve without treatment, but antibiotics and cough suppressants can help to relieve symptoms and hasten recovery. If your dog is coughing, please consult your veterinarian.

Posted April 25, 2006

Topic: Canine Addison's Disease

Question from Melisa in Claymont:
Recently my dog Mischief was diagnosed with Addison's disease. I was told that he would have to have a shot once a month for the rest of his life as well as a steroid pill on a daily basis to keep him alive. The cost is running about $350.00 per month and I feel like I am being ripped off. Due to the high cost, Mischief has not had a shot in two months, but remains on the steroid pill. Since he is doing okay and not having any of the problems seen at the time when we learned of his disease, is it possible to give the shot every 3 months or so?

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
Addison's disease is caused by a deficiency of the body's natural steroid hormones. The adrenal glands, located just in front of the kidneys, are responsible for the production of the glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid hormones. These hormones enable the body to respond to stress.

The clinical signs of Addison's disease include weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, and decreased appetite. Many dogs will quickly become extremely sick and present to a veterinarian in what is called an "Addisonian crisis". These dogs require treatment for shock which usually includes intravenous fluids and injectable steroids.

Treatment for Addison's is very important to prevent future crises. The injection your vet has recommended is unfortunately very costly, but the right therapy for Mischief. The larger the dog, the more expensive the treatment. The injection will ensure that your dog's sodium and potassium (electrolytes) levels remain normal. Your veterinarian's treatment recommendations are appropriate, but if you have concerns about the cost, you should get a second opinion. If the injections are not given as recommended every 25-28 days, Mischief is at risk for becoming very sick and could possibly die.

Posted April 16, 2006

Topic: Ringworm

Question from Pam in Wilmington:
What causes ringworm? Why is it so hard to cure?

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
Ringworm is actually a fungal infection and not related to a worm at all. The disease was incorrectly named based upon the inflammatory skin lesions it caused. The fungi that cause the disease are called dermatophytes. You may be familiar with this term thanks to a popular televsion commercial featuring "Digger, the Dermatophyte." Pets and people with weakened immune systems are predisposed to infection.

The spores of Dermatophytes live in the environment and can survive for a long time. Infected animals shed spores and constantly infect their surroundings.
Treatment involves both the patient and environment. Pets can be treated with both oral medications and Lyme Sulfur dip. Your veterinarian can recommend the appropriate treatment for your pet.

Affected pets should be confined to a single room while the rest of the house is treated. Thoroughly vacuum and steam clean carpets. Hard surfuces should be cleaned with soap and water several times weekly, then treated with a 10:1 bleach solution if possible. Persistence is the key to eliminating Ringworm.

Posted April 4, 2006

Topic: Dogs Nipping at Visitors

Question from Pete from Hockessin:
Why does my 7 year old American Eskimo still nip at visitors to my house and what can I do to change her behavior?

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
This is a serious problem not to mention a liability for you. Nipping at home visitors can potentially be a sign of fear (an abusive past) or lack of socialization during the first few months of life. Aggression problems are best handled by animal behavior specialists. A behaviorist will be able to ask the appropriate questions in order to gain a better understanding of your dog's psyche.

In the meantime, I recommend keeping your dog confined when you are expecting visitors. Once your guest is settled, allow your dog to come out. If she still displays aggression, she may be guarding her territory. You can also try having your guests wait outside and take your dog out of the house on a leash to greet friends. Some dogs will react more favorably to visitors when everyone enters the home together.

Posted March 23, 2006

Topic: anal sac disease

Question from Felicia in Wilmington:
My dog often scoots his rear end across the carpet. What does this mean and should he see his veterinarian?

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
"Scooting" is sometimes thought to be linked to a worm infestation; however, it is actually more often caused by impacted or full anal sacs. Your dog's "scooting" represents an attempt to empty his uncomfortably full anal sacs.

Two anal sacs are located just inside your pet's anus and contain glands which secrete a foul smelling material thought to be useful in territorial marking. Many dogs and cats can empty the sacs on their own, but others need the help of a trained professional. Dogs and cats which "scoot" or lick at their anus or "back side" should be evaluated. Impacted anal sacs can become infected and even develop into an abscess.

Because your dog is "scooting," an appointment with his veterinarian is recommended. The frequency of anal gland expression is dependent upon the individual pet. Some pets only need to have the sacs emptied twice a year while others require monthly visits. A bloody discharge coming from the skin near the anus is indicative of an abscess and your pet should be seen immediately.

Posted March 5, 2006

Please have your pets spayed or neutered!

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