Dear Dr. Fox:

We adopted a kitten yesterday from the Humane Society. We couldn’t take her home right away because she had to be spayed first.

Because we didn’t know any better, our two previous cats were declawed. We now know how horrible this procedure is, and this is not a fate that our new little girl is going to suffer.

One of my friends puts covers over her cat’s front claws that last from four weeks up to several months.

Is this a good practice? If so, can you recommend a place where these covers can be obtained? If not, how do we teach her not to claw our furniture? Even if she does claw the furniture, we will still love her, but we’d really rather that she doesn’t get into that habit.

R.S., Minneapolis

DF: I appreciate your concerns, and I am glad that the veterinarian doing the spay surgery on your cat did not push you to have her declawed at the same time. Check my Web site,, for a review on this procedure, which can permanently disable cats.

The adhesive balls you’re talking about come off too easily, and some cats pull them off quickly in the process of nibble-cleaning their claws. Although you can snip the sharp points off the front claws, just like trimming your own nails (and most cats get used to this), I find the best approach is to train them to use a vertical scratch post and a horizontal scratch board.

The post must not wobble and should be taller than the cat’s full, stretched-out length. Let the kitten see you raking the post with your fingernails, and then put her up against the post to show her what to do. They’re called copycats for a reason!

Tack old carpet or thick towels behind sofas and other furniture you do not want scratched, and also use thick plastic sheets for temporary protection.

Unsafe toys

Dear Dr. Fox:

I recently bought a Kong Wubba toy from Petco. It was covered in nylon and made in China. After a few minutes of play, my Weimaraner dropped the toy and started licking the air, his legs, the blanket, floor, cabinets, me, etc.

He hadn’t been outside or had any other new items. I called my veterinarian, and he said to watch him and give him a Benadryl. I took him in later that day, and the vet could not find anything wrong with him. He guessed that the toy might have had a substance on it that got on my dog’s tongue. He suggested washing the toy to see whether it was still a problem. I did that, and when I gave it to him a week later, he started licking again.

Have you had any complaints about dog toys made in China? I’m wondering whether the toy had a chemical on it. I would like to find out whether the U.S. government has any restrictions on imported dog toys, but I don’t know where to start. In the meantime, I will not buy any more toys made in China.

D.S., St. Louis

DF: I hope many readers and the Food and Drug Administration will take note of your dog’s reaction. Contact Kong at, and have your veterinarian report your dog’s adverse reaction to the U.S. Bureau of Veterinary Medicine.

Simply washing this toy will not remove chemicals impregnated in the synthetic material. Phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA), endocrine disruptors and possible carcinogens and obesogens are all too common in plastic and synthetic food and water containers, children’s toys and pet toys. Our government has been slow to regulate manufacturers and importers.

My advice is to never buy pet products, including pet beds, manufactured in China, or even in the United States if you are not sure they are pet-safe and there is no clear ingredient labeling. The foam filling of furniture and pet beds can contain endocrine-disrupting, thyroid-harming, fire retardant bromide compounds (PBDEs — polybrominated diphenyl ethers). Try going to www.
and for safer pet products.

Lump raises concerns

Dear Dr. Fox:

My 21-month-old male wheaten terrier seems healthy and is very active.

He was born with a hernia, which was repaired by the breeder’s vet when he was 7 weeks old. He was neutered at the same time. Everything seemed to heal well, and he is a very active dog who eats well and has normal bowel movements.

At his one-year checkup, he had a small, soft lump in the area of the hernia. The vet said it was probably just residual inflammation and was not concerned.

I am concerned now, because the lump has changed — it is larger and harder. Can I wait until his two-year checkup or should I take him to the vet now? He does not seem ill.

K.J.M., Stroudsburg, Pa.

DF: Whenever a dog develops a lump, one should be concerned, especially when it is increasing in size.

This is especially critical in older dogs, because it could be cancer, and the longer the veterinarian is delayed in taking a needle biopsy to determine whether the growth is cancerous, the smaller the chances of the dog making a full recovery.

But do not panic with your young dog. I agree with your veterinarian, and I do not think there is any emergency at this time. If the navel/umbilical area were hot and inflamed or very soft and easily pushed into the abdominal cavity, there would be an issue.

The veterinarian is correct that this is fibrous, healing tissue that helps close up the operated umbilical hernia area. Rub it with aloe vera gel or other herbal creams or ointments that help skin and tissue healing, such as calendula, frankincense and myrrh. Stop the dog from licking the area for at least 30 minutes after applying the creams twice daily. Measure how wide the swelling is, and make records every week for a month.

If there is any further growth, a veterinary appointment with the original surgeon is called for. There could be an embedded suture causing excessive inflammation and fibrosis, which would call for surgical correction — at a discounted price!

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.

2012 United Feature Syndicate