Dear Dr. Fox:

I have two dogs and a cat who have been in our family many years. Due to my oldest daughter's allergies and asthma to dogs and cats, they do not come into the house. We have an electric fence, so they are outside in the yard during the day with access to come into our temperature-controlled garage, and we always put them into the garage at night. I would like to purchase one of the "hypoallergenic" dogs, such as poodle, schnauzer or even the schnoodle breed, so we can have an indoor pet. And yet I am concerned that our other animals would feel hurt and resentful. Do you think this would be the case?

I should mention that my daughter does not seem to have a problem with these breeds, as she can spend long periods of time in friends' homes that have these dogs without any reaction problems.

D.P., Salisbury, Md.

It is worth noting that no-shed dogs (like poodles, schnoodles and other breeds and mixes) seem to be less of a problem to people allergic to dogs and cats in general.

However, cats and dogs who do shed can be less of a problem to an allergic family member if they are bathed every couple of weeks and wiped all over with a moist sponge every day. Also, having them lay on cotton sheets on the floor and sofa, or wherever they regularly lie down, and laundering these sheets every few days will help too.

I think it would be unsettling for your animals to see and know that another animal is allowed in the house while they are not. I appreciate your sensitivity on this matter, and hope other readers who keep one dog inside all the time and others always outside would think twice about this. It is worse when there is only one dog all alone outside. At least your animals have each other's company, and might not be too jealous if your daughter keeps a hypoallergenic dog inside. But I would advise against it.

Dear Dr. Fox:

I would like to know why my dog, Max, likes to lick my hand and wrist when he sits in my lap. He won't stop until I put him down. It doesn't really bother me, but I would just like to know why he does this.

He is an 11-year-old Lhasa apso. I've had him since he was six weeks old. He is the sweetest dog in the world, and I love him dearly.

D.J., Southfield, Mich.

You love your dog a great deal, and the feeling is reciprocated -- that's why he licks you. This care-giving behavior is his way of showing affection, just like a mother dog licking her pups. Some people say dogs do this only because they like the taste of salt in our sweat, but that's a myth.

Dogs who are insecure or over-dependent can become obsessive lickers. Gently and firmly pushing the dog away (when enough is enough) should not hurt the dog's feelings. Like children, they need to learn boundaries and develop self-control.

Some people hate being licked by dogs, and believe that the saliva is harmful. On the contrary -- the saliva of a healthy dog is harmless and actually has wound-healing properties.

Dear Dr. Fox:

I took in a stray cat 15 months ago. He spent several weeks at the vet clinic being nursed, tested and neutered. He is a healthy and happy cat who's approximately 2 years old.

However, recently he has been spraying! To make matters worse, it's usually me that he sprays (although I suspect he has also sprayed my spayed female cat, as she occasionally smells of it).

Could it be that he was not thoroughly neutered? He was 8 or 9 months old when he was neutered -- could the hormones have already determined his behavior? He has a dominant, pushy personality -- is he just asserting himself? Once, I had to get up, shower and change the bed at 3 a.m. after he sprayed me in the middle of the night. What can I do to change this behavior? I don't want to hit him, and he doesn't respond to my "angry voice" like my dog does.

C.S., Naples, Fla.

After all that you have done rescuing and rehabilitating this cat, it is indeed unfortunate that he should be such a stinker.

Certainly, this spraying is for marking territory and possessions (including you), and could have become strongly imprinted prior to his being neutered. Neutering does help reduce and even eliminate this sex-hormone-linked spraying behavior, but not in all cats.

Your veterinarian should try putting your cat on a daily dose of clomipramine (0.5 mg/kg) or fluoxetine (1 mg/kg) for eight weeks. Recent studies have shown that a course of treatment with either of these anti-anxiety drugs reduced marking behavior, although the treatment had to be repeated since the cats tended to start marking again soon after the medication was stopped.

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