Dear Dr. Fox:

I have become enamored of African dwarf frogs (or clawed frogs), which are aquatic frogs sold in pet stores for the aquarium. I have had several and they are just adorable. But I have lost some to sudden death. They seem to get to a certain size, then become unable to anchor to the bottom of the aquarium and are blown around at the top of the water, where they are subject to the currents from the filtration system. They do not seem to have the diseases mentioned in the sources I have found.

I have researched the animal at the library and online, and have questioned pet-store employees. There is very little information on the care of aquatic frogs, and the information you find may contradict other information that I have found. No one I have spoken with knows of any local exotic animal veterinarian that I could ask.

I would be grateful for any reliable reference or information on the husbandry of these frogs. I do not wish to lose any more due to my inability to care for them correctly.

N.B., Manassas

Keeping any "exotic," wild-caught or captive-bred species can be a challenge. There is also the risk of uncommon diseases being spread to indigenous species and human caretakers, and of exotics escaping or being deliberately released into the wild, which could possibly cause ecological havoc.

No matter how enamored you are of these frogs, I wish that you and everyone would totally boycott the sale and continuing exploitation of them and other exotic species. Expert veterinary care is rarely available when needed.

A recent epidemic of exploding frogs in Europe is under investigation, with a gas-producing bacteria being suspected. This may be the case with your poor frogs, but without clinical research the cause and cure will never be determined.

So, again, I ask you: Why keep any species that is likely to never receive adequate veterinary treatment when needed because so little is known about them? As defeatist as this may seem, we must surely think first about what is best for the animals. Those who are wild and from abroad should stay abroad in the wild (their natural habitat).

Dear Dr. Fox:

We have a 3-year-old, loving, affectionate, purebred Shetland sheepdog. Several weeks ago he was violently attacked by a much larger, bad-tempered dog in our neighborhood and, although he was not physically injured, he has had an increasing number of behavioral problems since.

He has been excellently housetrained since he was a puppy, but about a week after the attack he urinated in the house at least four times in one day. We crated him for the rest of the day and overnight and, luckily, it has not happened again. He's also always been an infrequent barker, but now he barks at everything and sometimes even at nothing. He never bitten before, but now he snaps at us when we touch him in the wrong way or accidentally step on him.

I don't think he wants to hurt us -- I think he's just scared. He's constantly underfoot and always wants to be near us, sitting on our feet or in our laps. He's always been nervous around strangers, but now is downright fearful. He'll let people approach him and pet him, but as soon as they step away from him or start to leave he goes crazy and starts barking and snarling and leaping toward them. He also snarls and leaps at all dogs we pass while walking.

How can we stop him from being constantly fearful and overly aggressive and get him to be sociable with other people and dogs again?

M.S., Annapolis

Your letter describes in dramatic detail how a dog can become psychologically derailed after a traumatic experience. Your dog is suffering from classic post-traumatic shock/stress disorder. Consult with your veterinarian and get an anxiety-relieving psychotropic drug like Valium or Xanax prescribed, or even Prozac. Then, after your dog has been on the medication for two to three weeks, start taking him out and about on the leash so he becomes desensitized and loses his fear around other dogs and unfamiliar people. Praise him verbally and offer him treats for remaining calm and in the "sit" position, so that he learns self-control and recognizes that you are in control as "top dog."

Dear Dr. Fox:

This is in response to the family that is expecting a baby and wanted to know what to do about their dogs.

Your advice was perfect, but you forgot one very important piece of it -- the husband should bring home something that smells like the baby, like a T-shirt or even a used diaper, and allow the dogs to smell these items.

Also, as animals are very territorial, take them out of the house/territory (a little trip in the car does the trick) and have them come back into the house with the new baby there.

L.F., Ijamsville, Md.

Thanks for the additional tips for once the baby is born and still at the hospital. For home births, smelling the baby's clothes and soiled diaper is in order, too. The hormonal changes that pregnant and lactating mothers undergo affect their body-odor pheromones, and companion animals are sensitive to this smell change. Thus, it may naturally clue the dogs in and sensitize them to be accepting of the new baby.

(c) 2005, United Feature Syndicate Inc.