Q: Do I sleep with my dog, or does my dog sleep with me? -- C.J., Cyberpace
A: Now I know what philosophy majors do with their degrees; they ask questions like this!
More dog owners than ever, 44 percent, share their beds with their canine friends, according to American Pet Products Association. Here's my take on the issue. Ultimately, these are our beds, which we allow our dogs to share (or in some cases, the dogs insist on sharing). Rarely do I hear about people who sleep in their dog's beds. Therefore, I'd I say my dog sleeps with me.
Q: I had to have my 7-year-old Great Dane put down, and now her sister seems to be grieving; she's very needy and seems sad. Is there anything I can do for her? -- B.M., Bullhead City, AZ
A: I'm so sorry for your loss. As a fellow Great Dane owner, Dr. Brian Holub, of Boston, MA, points out, "Great Danes are particularly sensitive dogs. I'm not surprised (that your remaining dog is grieving). Dogs or cats need what people often need to help them grieve: patience from friends and time. We sometimes feel badly (for a dog like yours), so we reward the pet with attention, which could backfire by rewarding the sad behavior. Certainly, be understanding, but also be careful not to give your dog too much attention when she seems despondent."
By Great Dane standards, your 7-year-old is getting up there, but if your dog is willing, play is a great antidote. If your dog enjoys a walk in the park, the myriad of sniffs might prove distracting. Also, consider a visit to the veterinarian to rule out a physical explanation for your dog's demeanor.
Q: We're going to be traveling from West Florida to East Florida regularly. Our cat doesn't travel well, and has had accidents in his carrier. He howls in the carrier, too, but seems OK if we let him roam the car. We've tried to quiet him with a product called Quiet Moments, but that didn't work. We also tried catnip, but he just rolled around and then howled. Any ideas? -- R.L., Homosassa, FL
A: Try spaying Feliway into the carrier about 20 minutes before you depart. Feliway is a knock-off of the calming pheromone cats deposit when they rub their cheek pads against a table leg or your leg. If this doesn't help, another possibility is Rescue Remedy (drops are added to your cat's water). Both products are available at pet stores and online.
You're right to feel it's unsafe for your cat to roam freely in the car. However, you might try using a leash and harness, since there's a passenger in the car who could hold the leash. Perhaps, your cat would be more content in the passenger's lap. This is not an ideal situation, but better than being as anxious as your cat seems to be.
Dr. Nancy Kay, of Greenville, S.C., might have a better idea. "Don't take the cat with you," she suggests. "Have a pet sitter, trusted friend or neighbor look in on your cat while you're away. Your cat may be happier."
If you do travel with your cat, make sure he's microchipped and that you've provided up-to-date registration information to the chip provider.
Q: My Sheltie has been shaking her head and scratching her ears. I've cleaned out here ears, but the shaking continues. Any advice? -- C.B., Cyberspace
A: "All dogs occasionally scratch their ears or shake their heads," suggests Dr. Mike Cavanaugh, executive director of the American Animal Hospital Association. "Most dogs have a nice pale pink color inside their ears. If you see red, moist skin around the ear canal opening and on the pinnae or flap of the ear, there may be an infection which veterinarians typically call otitis externa.
"Another clue: There may be an infection if there's a strong, foul odor emanating from the ears. In veterinary school, we take microbiology to learn about the various bacteria and yeast organisms that can cause such infections. There's a book called 'Bergey's Manual of Determinative Bacteriology' that lists all of these organisms. I remember a professor telling us, 'Ear canals are the perfect place for these bugs to grow....dark, warm and moist.' Heck, you could grow 'Bergey's Manual of Determinative Bacteriology' in there!"
Since you've already cleaned your dog's ears and that hasn't solved the problem, it seems pretty clear that it won't. Cavanaugh strongly suggests seeing your veterinarian to pinpoint what's going on. The most common problem, overall, is allergies. Cavanaugh adds that once the problem is rectified, "the veterinary team may also discuss ongoing maintenance for the ears, including how to keep them clean and dry, and that's the best (form of) prevention for recurring or chronic infections."
By the way, it's important to know that shaking and scratching may be associated with mild discomfort, but is just as likely to be associated with significant pain.
(Steve Dale's NEW EBOOKS, "Good Dog!" and "Good Cat!", are available on all major eReader devices and platforms. The basic version of each book is $2.99. An enhanced version of "Good Dog!" with embedded videos is available at iTunes for $4.99. For details, check the "Good Dog!"Facebook page. Write to Steve at Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207. Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is www.stevedalepetworld.com)