Deceiving appearances

What looks like disobedience might be a health problem

Housetraining problems

Q: I’m having a terrible time housebreaking my new puppy. I’ve been reading books and following all the advice – putting her on a regular schedule, using a dog crate, etc. But she seems to need to urinate almost constantly! She’ll have accidents just minutes after coming in from outside. Help! What can I do?

A: It’s normal for puppies to have a few accidents even when you’re doing everything right. If her need to urinate seems constant, though, or if she squats often and produces little, it’s possible there’s a medical cause for her housebreaking difficulties.

It’s very common for female puppies to develop urinary tract infections between the ages of six weeks and six months. The infection causes irritation and discomfort which results in an almost constant need to urinate. Fortunately, this problem is easily controlled with medication from your veterinarian. To find out if this could be the cause of your troubles, take your puppy in for a checkup and be sure to tell the doctor about your housebreaking woes!

Worms and parasites can cause housebreaking problems as well. An infestation of these undesirable creatures can result in runny stools and diarrhea, making it difficult for the puppy to control her bowels. Almost every puppy is born with worms which is why most veterinarians insist on stool checks when they’re brought in for their first shots. Like urinary tract infections, parasites are easily dealt with using appropriate medication prescribed by your veterinarian.

Accidents in the house

Q: My previously perfectly behaved dog has started having accidents in the house! She’s 10 years old and we’ve always been able to trust her until now. Has she forgotten her housetraining? What can I do about it?

A: When a dog’s behavior changes suddenly and drastically, there’s often a medical reason for it. Before you try to fix the problem from a training standpoint, take the dog to the veterinarian for a thorough checkup to rule out any medical problems that may be causing the strange behavior. Elderly dogs, for example, sometimes become unable to control themselves, especially during their sleep. This problem is more common in older spayed females. A bladder or urinary tract infection may also be at fault. Fortunately, medication from your veterinarian can usually control both these disorders.

Lost interest...

Q: I’ve been taking my nine-month-old Labrador to obedience and agility classes for the last few months. He really seemed to enjoy it until just lately. After a little while at class, he loses interest and wants to lay down. He used to get so excited but now he seems depressed. What could be wrong? What can I do to motivate him? Is he bored already?

A: Perhaps but it’s not likely. Enthusiasm over almost anything is the trademark of a young dog like yours! If your dog seems unusually tired even though he’s barely warmed up, he may have a medical problem that makes it painful for him to move.

Large breed puppies of your dog’s age sometimes suffer from panosteitis, otherwise known as “growing pains.” This condition can appear anywhere from age four months to two years and is caused by inflammation at the end of the growth plates in the bones of the forelegs. Fortunately, this painful problem can be treated by your veterinarian and gradually disappears with maturity. Hip or elbow dysplasia can also cause a previously active, enthusiastic dog to lose interest in activity or training. These inherited disorders can appear at any age and can be very painful depending on their severity. Bone and joint diseases can only be accurately diagnosed through x-ray. If your dog is affected, your veterinarian can discuss the many treatment options available.

My dog is grouchy...

Q: My five-year-old dog has become increasingly grouchy the last couple months. He’s always been so easy going and friendly to everyone before. I don’t understand what’s come over him. He actually snapped at someone the other day! What do you think I should do about it?

A: Take him to the vet for a thorough checkup before doing anything else! There are many medical problems that can cause a pleasant dog to become irritable and aggressive – ear infections, arthritis, hip dysplasia, and low thyroid levels are some of the most common. A poorly functioning thyroid gland can affect almost every system in the dog’s body including personality. Fortunately, checking thyroid function involves only a simply blood test and can be treated successfully with appropriate medication prescribed by your vet.

Vicki DeGruy

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