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Tuesday, March 1, 2005; Page C10

Dear Dr. Fox:

Our dog is an English setter who is about 30 pounds and 15 months old. He sleeps in the kitchen at night and he is out all day in a fenced-in yard. The problem is that he runs around the yard nonstop. When I'm home, I bring him in and make him lie down.

He's so skinny from running you can see his ribs. He's fed twice a day, plus treats. Any suggestions on how to slow him down and put some weight on him? I can't leave him in the house all day -- it's too hot and he is a chewer.

J.F., Ocean, N.J.

Your dog is seriously underweight and should first be tested by a veterinarian for intestinal parasites.

His constant outdoor activity (as is often seen in poorly managed zoo animals) may well be an obsessive-compulsive disorder. This can be triggered by boredom, confinement, fear and separation anxiety.

Before deciding on a course of treatment with an anxiety-reducing psychotropic medication, try behavior modification by changing your dog's routine. Let him be in the house when you are away, leaving a radio or television on (and a fan out of his reach in hot weather) for company. Also have a dog walker come by (initially three to four times a day) to give him a few minutes in the yard and then a walk on the leash around the block.

Dear Dr. Fox:

My Lhasa apso chews and licks his paws constantly. Is it some kind of allergy? It seems to bother me more than him.

Can you help?

S.P., Winston Salem, N.C.

There are many reasons why dogs lick their paws obsessively -- even to the point of chewing mutilation and saliva-soaked bacterial or fungal infection in the skin, especially between the toes. So even if you think it seems to bother you more than him, do have him attended to by a veterinarian.

Paw licking and chewing can be an obsessive-compulsive disorder due in part to boredom or separation anxiety. Some dogs do it to get attention. But, often, there is a primary bacterial or fungal infection, or more rarely a contact allergy to certain surfaces and floor cleaners. Some dogs stop licking their paws when their groomer stops clipping the hairs between their toes; these hairs can be an irritant when they begin to grow back.

You need to do some detective work with your veterinarian and find out why your dog is so obsessed with his paws. One of my dogs developed frostbite due to the winter weather, and aside from not being able to find decent dog boots that stay on, I have had to medicate and wrap his front paws for two months to clear up the problem that his licking only aggravated.

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