By STEVE DALE
Tribune Media Services
Q: I've stepped outside the law because Washington State recently passed a rabies vaccine law that doesn't allow for exceptions. My dog had a life-threatening reaction to his first rabies vaccine, and is definitely not going to get another one. Do I have any recourse? -- C.S., Cyberspace
A: One of the world's experts on vaccinations for pets is Dr. Ron Schultz, professor and chair of the Department of Pathobiological Sciences at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, Madison. He says you're in a no win situation. He can't advocate that you break the law, but is hopeful for changes in this inflexible law.
"We're trying to get states to recognize rabies titers (or antibodies to determine if the pets remain protected by their previous vaccine) even at three years in lieu of revaccination," says Schultz. "Titers are a reliable determination. But state regulators don't always ask vaccine experts, and may themselves not be veterinarians. What's more, laws vary from state to state and even within states. There's no standardization."
Schultz concedes that if you vaccinate your dog again, he could die. While giving a steroid to your dog 24 hours before the vaccine, or an antihistamine an hour or so prior to the vaccine may prevent the adverse reaction, it might not help.
"There's absolutely no dependable way to prevent these reactions in some dogs," Schultz says.
Clearly, if you vaccinate your dog, you are taking a chance. If you don't vaccinate, you're also taking a chance. If the dog does bite someone, he would likely be impounded at a veterinary clinic or a shelter. Sometimes local veterinarians are encouraged to "report" dogs that are unvaccinated. If your dog were found wandering and landed at a shelter, you would likely by fined and the dog would be vaccinated.
So, what should you do? Schultz concedes that if it was his dog, he would not vaccinate, even though he knows as much as anyone on the planet about potentially preventing a bad reaction and what to do if one occurs.
To be clear, Schultz, who participated in the 2011 American Animal Hospital Association Canine Vaccine Guidelines, absolutely understands and agrees with laws to vaccinate pets for rabies. However, he also believes allowing for exceptions makes common sense, as well as the use of titers.
I hope you present this column to the Washington State Veterinary Medical Association, who can advocate for still another change in the current state law -- this time based on science.
Q: My Lhaso Apso is not very nice. He's beaten up several dogs and he doesn't like people, either. I'm scared about putting my bird and my dog in the same room. Is there a way I can train my dog to know that she can't bite the bird? Better yet, could he learn to be nice to the bird? -- J.W., Cyberspace
A: "Just because your dog isn't nice to other dogs or apparently not to people doesn't necessarily mean the dog won't be kind to the bird, but I sure wouldn't want you to find out the hard way," says Houston, TX-based veterinary behaviorist Dr. Lore (cq) Haug.
You didn't indicate what kind of bird you have. A formidable macaw or Amazon parrot might stand up to your dog and do quite well. Still, you don't want bird or dog injured. If you're talking budgie or canary, maybe "never together" is the best option.
"Training is feasible," says Haug. "Meanwhile, absolutely (provide) adult supervision whenever the bird and dog are in one another's presence. Accidents can happen so fast, though, I'd consider leashing the dog, as well." You can find a certified dog behavior consultant at wwww.iaabc.org.
Q: How can I stop my cat from biting? He's affectionate, but a few weeks ago he began biting hard when he's hungry and we don't feed him immediately. Any advice? -- D.M, Lizella, GA
A: Talk about no patience! When your cat wants something, he wants it now! You could teach him to sit. Hold a really tasty bit of food over your cat's head, just beyond reach. If it's too high, the cat will wave a paw to get it or jump up, but if the treat is just above the cat's forehead, his head will go up and his back end will go down. You can easily use a clicker to teach your cat to sit. A great resource for learning to do this is certified cat behavior consultant's Marilyn Krieger's book "Cat Fancy Naughty No More: Change Unwanted Behaviors Through Positive Reinforcement" (Bow Tie Press, Irvine, CA, 2010; $12.95).
Watch your timing, says applied animal behaviorist Dr. Sophia Yin, of San Francisco, CA. "When teaching your cat to sit, at first offer treats immediately after he sits. Then after five seconds, then 10 seconds; you're rewarding patience," she notes.
Meanwhile, if the cat bites, calmly get up and remove yourself from the situation, says Yin. You can certainly offer a stern "no," but some cats get off on dramatic reprimands, so don't offer any extra attention.
Q: My cat, Chester, is 10 or 11 years old, and has been climbing trees again lately, but has difficulty getting down. This was never a problem before; how is it he forgot? -- S.C., Durham, NC
A: I doubt he forgot how to climb down. More likely, he's just not as athletic as he once was. He may have trouble seeing. He may be overweight. or even have an inner ear problem. Also, according to recent studies, a surprising number of cats over age 10 have some arthritis, even if you don't see them hobbling around the house. See your veterinarian.
Chester is waving a red flag that he just doesn't belong outdoors any longer. Instead, provide an exciting and enriched environment in the house, and gradually transition him to being an indoor only pet.
Steve Dale's new ebooks, "Good Dog!" and "Good Cat!" are now 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
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