Dear Dr. Fox:

I work all day and get home soon after 5. I think I want a puppy. The cockapoo breeder says it would be best to keep the puppy in a crate while I am gone. That would help house-training, too, and stop the pup from messing and chewing things while I am gone.

So should I keep the pup in the cage for the night? And will she need to stay in the crate when she is older?

J.L.C., Winston-Salem, N.C.

DF: Please think twice about getting a puppy. Instead, consider adopting two littermate kittens.

This cruel practice of crating is widespread. Dogs are pack animals that need social stimulation and will suffer separation anxiety, boredom and loneliness while caged.

Having to hold urine and feces for the long hours of confinement, especially for active, growing young dogs or older dogs with kidney problems, is animal cruelty and neglect.

I have seen the results of long-term crating: poor muscle tone, deformed limbs, splayed feet, neurotic obsessive-compulsive self-grooming, paw chewing and nervous tics like repetitive movement behaviors.

A crate should be used only for house-training pups. Leave the crate open to serve as a secure den once the dog is house-trained. Anyone working long hours should leave his or her dogs in a safe, open room — ideally with a window — and have a dog walker come over at least once per day.

Leave a TV or radio on to help alleviate separation anxiety and, hopefully, associated barking and destructive behavior. Stuffing hollow rubber dog toys with treats or frozen peanut butter can make time alone a little less stressful, as can the company of another dog or compatible cat.

abnormal breeding

Dear Dr. Fox:

My younger sister has two Persian cats that get along fine. Why are their eyes always tearing? She says it comes with the breed, so she washes their faces every day. I think they need veterinary attention — they are freaks of nature. They could never survive in the wild.

N.C., Clayton, Mo.

DF: This is one of many chronic health problems often seen in purebred cats such as Persians. They are not freaks of nature but freaks of human creation.

Their abnormally large heads often mean kittens must be delivered by cesarean. The smashed face makes breathing difficult. It also causes susceptibility to respiratory infection and skin problems in the deep facial folds, often compounded by turned-in eyelids, which can lead to corneal ulceration and blindness.

A veterinary appointment should be made immediately for these two cats if they have not been for the past six months.

Some cat breeds have become deformed through selective breeding, creating long limbs and narrow heads, hairlessness, folded ears and the extreme Persian face emerging in the exotic shorthair breed.

no harm in alcohol

Dear Dr. Fox:

Is there any risk to small dogs when it comes to PetzLife oral care products? Is grain alcohol, one of the ingredients, harmful to pets?

C.K., Fargo, N.D.

DF: The small quantity of grain alcohol in PetzLife products should not pose any risks to cats and dogs that are not being treated for any diagnosed liver or pancreatic disorder.

The alcohol is used as a natural preservative and antibacterial agent in this excellent formulation of natural ingredients. The products are of great benefit and can be a lifesaver: Gum disease can have fatal ramifications when left untreated and when oral health is neglected.


Dear Dr. Fox:

I have a 10-year-old German shepherd with exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) and have helped my dog live a normal life in spite of it.

There is much that owners of EPI dogs can learn to help their pets cope with EPI. Many EPI dogs suffer from a vitamin B-12 deficiency that results in dry, flaky skin. This can be rectified with injections for a period of time (although some dogs require it for their lifetime).

It can take quite a long time for an EPI dog’s bowel movements to return to normal, or something close to normal. The best food for an EPI dog is a grain-free, low-fat diet that is soaked with the prescribed enzymes in water until it has an oatmeal-like consistency. The soaking ensures the enzymes have permeated all the food and the nutrients will be fully absorbed by the dog’s digestive system.

Supplements might be needed over time, but start with small amounts and gradually increase to a normal dosage if no side effects occur.

E.B., Sequim, Wash.

DF: Certain breeds have a higher incidence of pancreatic insufficiency disease, which suggests genetic factors are at play.

But as with many health problems in dogs and other animals, including humans, several co-factors can play a role in the genesis of disease, including the mother’s nutrition during pregnancy and the harmful side effects of vaccinations and various medications.

Having a healthy “gut flora” — the population of beneficial bacteria in the digestive system — is of critical importance for optimal digestion and assimilation of food and for maintaining the immune system.

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