Dear Dr. Fox:

I have two "fixed" female Lhasa apsos. They are both close to 10 years old and I was wondering if there would be an easy way to paper-train them.

They have been really good at not going in the house (I don't kennel them), but lately I have noticed they've been urinating on my dining room floor. I love them, but can't allow this to continue. I hope you can help (they have not been previously paper-trained).

K.M., Fargo, N.D.

Adult dogs can, indeed, be "paper-trained," which can be a convenience if the dogs are small and the owner is incapacitated or otherwise unable to get out with the dogs every few hours.

Some pet stores sell urination pads for dogs, but before you consider paper-training your dogs please have their kidney function and blood sugar levels checked out. There are health problems that are associated with dogs urinating more frequently because they are drinking more water. Older dogs with failing kidneys need to be taken out more frequently to urinate, as do dogs receiving corticosteroid medication, again because they are drinking more water. Dogs need to get outdoors to smell the roses, and whatever else that appeals to the canine nose, so indoor paper-training should be no excuse for depriving dogs of frequent outdoor excursions.

Dear Dr. Fox:

I have a 3-year-old shih tzu named Sebastian. He has a large, orange-sized knot beside his rectum. You can tell it bothers him when it is time to potty. A veterinarian told me it is a hernia and that surgery would be too extensive. I ordered some of the dog food from the company you recommended (Flint River Ranch) and hope this will help.

Could this condition be something other than a hernia? What should I do?

D.A., Katy, Tex.

No brand of dog food will help with your dog's hernia problem. It is called a perineal hernia, and is often associated with enlargement of the prostate, especially in un-neutered males.

If it is not surgically corrected (and it sounds as if it is already very large), this hernia could cause Sebastian's intestines to get blocked, twisted and gangrenous. This would mean the end of your dog's life if emergency surgery -- which would be much more costly than correcting the hernia now, what with the addition of intensive care -- proved to be too late to make a difference.

Dear Dr. Fox:

I read with interest your response regarding the Maltese who constantly licks and bites her paws. I noticed that the dog's owner is from Houston, so the following thought crossed my mind.

I believe her dog is showing signs of being allergic to dust and molds. If she has carpeted floors, it wouldn't surprise me it this were the root of the dog's problems.

I suffer from allergies to dust and mold, and I noticed that since I have been taking preventive actions for myself, my dog licks and bites his paws much less frequently. Periodically, I use a special powder on my carpet to eliminate dust mites and the house has more stringent controls to minimize these problems.

J.L., Pearland, Tex.

Your observation is most helpful in the diagnosis and treatment of dogs with irritated paws that they constantly lick and chew. Fungus infections need to be ruled out, too, and in many cases boredom is the culprit.

Many dogs test positive for hypersensitivity to dust mites that thrive in carpeted environments, and which certainly seem to play a role in dogs developing itchy skin and obsessive paw licking and chewing. Specially treated borax powder sprinkled on carpets and then vacuumed up helps reduce such problems if done on a weekly basis, and can also help control fleas.

Michael Fox 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) 2004, United Feature Syndicate Inc.