Dear Dr. Fox:

My sister adopted a female German shepherd, Cassidy, from a rescue organization about two years ago. A vet thought she was a little more than 4 years old at the time.Every Monday through Thursday, Cassidy is in contact with her owner and with me, her regular dog walker. Friday afternoon through Sunday evening, she is cared for by two other family members at a different location, about 25 minutes away by car.Is it harmful for Cassidy, emotionally or physically, to be shuttled back and forth between her owner and the other family members? Is it confusing or upsetting for her to maintain this schedule on a weekly basis? We all would like to continue with this arrangement, but only if it is not detrimental to Cassidy.

S.M.P., Gaithersburg

DF: I appreciate your concern. Most dogs would enjoy this kind of extended pack and two-den environment, because it provides more varied stimulation and enrichment, rather than seeing the same people and places day in and day out.

I am happy to see dog owners linking up on the Internet and community bulletin boards for dog play groups. It’s even good for a person with a dog to take in others while their owners are away at work — yes, a doggy day-care business.Boredom, loneliness and separation anxiety are modern dog burdens. Choosing to have more than one dog plus a dog walker to get your pet outside for stimulation and physical activity during the workweek are responsible decisions. A happy dog is a healthy dog.


Dear Dr. Fox:

How often should a dog be bathed? My sister insists that her Chihuahua needs to be bathed every week or so. I say that it dries out his coat and that he doesn’t need it.

P.O., Cumberland, Md.

DF: There are no set rules beyond those of common sense. You could be right about drying out the dog’s coat. Too-frequent shampooing can also encourage skin infections when the protective oils and healthy skin bacteria are washed away.

Some dogs never need bathing, just a daily brushing. Older dogs often need to be bathed as soon as they get stinky, for their own comfort and for those living with them. This might be every two weeks or so, especially for those with naturally oily skin. There are spritzes and dry shampoos on the market that can help deodorize dogs’ coats, such as Bath Eaze from PetzLife. You can make your own spray using an emulsion of 100 parts water, 100 parts aloe vera liquid or coconut milk and one part lavender essential oil.I would advise bathing any dog that has been swimming in the ocean, where salt residues can be irritating to the skin, or in a lake or pond, where harmful bacteria, algae and parasites can flourish in the warmth of summer. Do not let your pet quench its thirst from these potentially harmful natural sources. Some kinds of blue-green algae can kill dogs within hours, and fecal (human and animal) contaminants, such as cryptosporidium, salmonella, shigella, E. coli and norovirus, can put all bathers at risk, especially those with compromised immune systems.


Dear Dr. Fox:

When my husband and I had our first dog, a beagle and boxer mix, we were amused and annoyed that when we let her out, she would always head for a patch of garlic that my husband planted for fun. That was her favorite resting spot. We couldn’t figure out why she picked such a smelly place, but it finally dawned on us — no fleas!We have had several dogs through the years and have always included garlic (fresh or powdered) and brewer’s yeast in their food, and we have never had a sign of fleas or ticks.Dumb dogs? I don’t think so.

R.K., St. Louis

DF: Your first dog certainly demonstrated a degree of “wild wisdom” in her choice of lying on a patch of garlic growing on your property.

British biologist Cindy Engel has compiled many fascinating accounts of animal species self-medicating with various herbs and treating wounds and even broken bones in her book “Wild Health: Lessons in Natural Wellness From the Animal Kingdom.”Freshly chopped garlic and its potent oil extract have many medical benefits. But it is an irritant to the stomach lining, so it is best taken with food. It can act as a natural antibiotic, anti-viral and anti-fungal agent, and it can rid the body of intestinal worms. On the skin, garlic can help heal burns and kill ringworm. It might help diabetics lower their daily insulin dose. Garlic can be helpful with many other conditions, including toothache, heart problems, high cholesterol levels and allergies. It is a potent blood thinner, helping to prevent coagulation and clot formation. It might also help lower blood pressure.These are just a few of the medical benefits of this remarkable herb. It can cause a form of anemia in cats but is safe for most dogs. You can give one large clove per 30 pounds of body weight with food. Coupled with one teaspoon per 30 pounds of body weight of brewer’s yeast, it works well to keep fleas and other biting insects away from dogs and people.

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