Dear Dr. Fox:

I am at my wits' end with my old beagle-mix dog. I've taken him to the vet to have his teeth cleaned, but he's still got terrible bad breath. It's not all the time, so it can't be his food. Or could it?

The smell isn't the usual kind of smell: it's sickly -- sweet and foul; it makes me want to gag! Help!

V.B., Cabin John

Since your dog's halitosis (fetid breath) is periodic, and based on your description of the smell, I believe the problem will be solved if his anal glands are seen to immediately. Dogs with hyperactive and inflamed anal glands periodically leak on places on which they have been sitting or sleeping, and sometimes after a run outdoors. The secretion from these glands has a stink that is difficult to put into words and is more disturbing to my nose -- and gag reflex -- than all the skunks and stinkbugs I've ever come across!

When a dog's anal sacs (located on each side of the anus) get full, some of the contents leak out. Most dogs respond by licking themselves clean, along with the spot on the bed, carpet or sofa where they lie down. That's why their breath stinks from time to time. I'm sure they hate it, too. So, do make sure to have the anal glands seen to. If left unattended, they are likely to get worse.

Dear Dr. Fox:

My Westie (West Highland white terrier), who lives with two other dogs and gets on fine with them, acts crazy in the evening. He chases his own shadow on the floor and seems like he's hallucinating. I got him from a pet store, where he spent the first six months of his life in a cage. A year later he started this weird behavior.

What can be done? Outdoors in the park he's quite normal.

L.S., Arlington

Your dog has what I call a schizo-affective disorder (what some other veterinary behaviorists regard as an obsessive-compulsive disorder). It is more prevalent in some breeds, like Rottweilers and German shepherds, than in others. The cause of this bizarre behavior could be early psychological trauma resulting in frustration and boredom. Being confined to a small cage all day could certainly cause this. Other factors that may play a role include genetic background and mistreatment.

One form of this hallucinatory schizo-affective disorder is air- or fly-swatting. Some dogs traumatized during the London Blitz in World War II behaved this way, as did some of Pavlov's caged dogs after a flood in the laboratory.

Medication with Prozac may be helpful; more important, however, you must distract and re-motivate her with more attention -- perhaps a toy to chase or a tug-of-war with you. The best medicine is prevention, and that means never confining a pup in a cage during her formative months.

Dear Dr. Fox:

I really need your help with my cat Suzie. She is seriously overweight and will only eat dry kibble that she has access to whenever she likes. She won't eat the low-fat, high-fiber diet I got for obese cats that the pet store recommended.

Should I just feed her less regular dry food, say half a cup, twice a day? The trouble is, she likes to snack all day long.

B.R.W., Norfolk

Obesity is a serious and widespread problem in the domestic cat population, and is often coupled with urinary tract problems and diabetes. I attribute this to cat owners doing what you have done: allowing the cat ad-lib feeding, such as free access to a feed dispenser of kibble. Dry cat food is high in starch, which cats convert to fat. Cats are carnivores and need a diet high in protein and fat. A high starch and fiber "weight loss" diet could make your cat sicker than ever.

Take poor Suzie to a cat-specialist veterinarian who will put you and your cat on the right track: a high-protein diet, with special beneficial supplements like Carnitine.

High-starch cat kibble, to which many cats become addicted, has caused much harm to millions of cats over the past years. Advances in feline nutrition are revolutionizing what pet food companies are putting on the market, providing a scientific foundation for long-overdue improved commercial diets.

Cat Flea Collar Recall

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has worked out an agreement with Hartz Mountain Corp., a manufacturer of flea prevention products, to address the serious problem of adverse reactions in cats (including seizures and death).

If you have Hartz Mountain Care Brand Flea and Tick Drops Plus for Cats and Kittens, or Hartz Advanced Care Brand Once-a-Month Flea and Tick Drops for Cats and Kittens, contact the company at 800-275-1414 or log on to www.epa.gov/pesticides/factsheets/hartzq_a.htm. These products are being recalled and relabeled; and the company is required to provide improved monitoring and consumer education.

My advice is to never buy any over-the- counter pet medicines without your veterinarian's approval and supervision.

Dr. Michael Fox, author of many books on animal care, welfare and rights, is a veterinarian with doctoral degrees in medicine and animal behavior. Write to him, in care of United Feature Syndicate, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

(c)2003, United Feature Syndicate Inc.