Dear Dr. Fox:

J.J. is our 4-year-old brown and tan miniature dachshund. The breeder said he should weigh no more than 12 or 13 pounds.

Unfortunately, he got up to 23 pounds, so we put him on Iams Diet Control and got him down to 18 pounds after six months, but we can’t seem to get him to lose any more weight.

He is starving all the time. He constantly begs, and even goes to the neighbors’ house to steal bird food.

What can we do? He seems healthy otherwise, except that he has clumps of dry skin that resemble dandruff.

R.C., Mechanicsville

DF: Because of their susceptibility to serious and painfully crippling back problems, dachshunds must never be indulged with overfeeding and allowed to lose their muscular, trim condition.

Too many treats, too much food, too many carbohydrates and decreased exercise as they put on more weight can cause dachshunds to become arthritic and to develop diabetes and heart problems. This so-called metabolic syndrome is the sad fate of too many dogs, as well as people, today.

It is borderline cruel when animals are put on special weight-reduction diets and, as a result, are constantly hungry. Many of these animals could be starving, because these weight-loss diets often lack essential nutrients.

I advise no snacks, more playful activity outdoors before meals and four to five small meals a day of high-quality protein and few carbohydrates. A daily “pet tab” of vitamins and minerals, plus a teaspoon of coconut oil, would be advisable, along with one tablespoon of raw plain organic yogurt or kefir.


Dear Dr. Fox:

I have a 5-year-old West Highland white terrier. In the past year, he has had to have his anal glands cleaned out once a month.

He is on Science Diet Sensitive Stomach dog food, plus a tablespoon of pumpkin twice a day. None of this seems to help. He walks about 11 / 2 miles most days. In warm weather, he has a very bad flea problem.

Any advice to help me help him? He is such a lovable dog. I feel as though I am letting him down.

V.L., Keyser, W.Va.

DF: Check out the search feature box on my Web site,, for details about anal gland problems and coping with fleas.

In many instances, a gradual transition to a home-prepared diet of known, ideally organic ingredients is all that is needed when the anal gland issue is diet-related.

Fleas do seem to be more attracted to animals with weakened immune systems. Better nutrition can make a world of difference, as can an integrated flea control routine.

Giving your dog a course of good-quality probiotic supplements might help, because many canine (and human) ailments are improved by seeding the gut microbiome with beneficial bacteria. Discuss this with your veterinarian, and if he or she is dismissive or disinterested, find an animal doctor who will listen.

Spooked by plastic

Dear Dr. Fox:

I was interested in the recent letter about the cats who ate plastic bags. We have three cats: one 10-year-old Maine coon and two adopted feral cats, approximately 21 / 2 years old. All three cats are afraid of plastic bags.

I use these bags to line my wastebaskets, and at the sound of a bag being opened, the cats run and hide. We have never teased them with the bags or punished them in any way. Their reaction remains a puzzle to us.

Why do you think they react in such a fashion?

P.S., Bonita Springs, Fla.

DF: The two formerly feral cats that share my home also get spooked when they hear the sound of a rustling plastic bag.

My guess is that the sound, which has some high-frequency elements, mimics the kind of noise that a larger animal might make moving through rustling vegetation. This feline response could be triggered by this noise, and they instinctively run and hide as part of their evolved predator-avoidance behavior.

Michael W. Fox, author of a newsletter and books on animal care, welfare and rights, is a veterinarian with doctoral degrees in medicine and animal behavior. Write to him at United Feature Syndicate, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, Mo. 64106.

2013 United Feature Syndicate