By STEVE DALE
Tribune Media Services
Q: I have the happiest and most pleasant dog on the planet -- except when the mail carrier drops mail into our slot. Sadie growls and attacks the mail, then barks and growls until the carrier walks away. If I'm not home, mail is sometimes ripped apart. Try explaining to the gas company, "my dog ate the bill." It doesn't work. Any advice? -- B.D., Bangor, ME
A: From Sadie's perspective, she's trained the mailman; a few barks and growls and the person who drops all those papers through the door goes away. Voila!
One idea is leave some sterilized bones or small Kong toys stuffed with treats for the mail carrier to drop through the mail slot. Soon, Sadie will begin to welcome the mail carrier, and any barks will be ones of excitement. The hope is she'll be so busy chewing at the Kong or bone (to get the treats out) that she won't bother with your mail. If this doesn't work, consider keeping Sadie in another part of the house or providing a mailbox so the carrier doesn't have to use the slot in the door.
Q: My two Shih Tzu's eat each other's poop. It's disgusting. Our veterinarian has no answer, nor do pet store employees. I'm 82. Other than pulling out all my gray hair, what can I do? -- B.B., Rochester, MN
A: "I agree this is disgusting to people, but apparently not to dogs, who also eat cat, horse and sheep poo, and they like it!" says trainer Teoti (cq) Anderson, of West Columbia, S.C.
Anderson, a former president of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, says that in her experience, products you add to pet foods (available at retail stores) formulated to make pet droppings distasteful, mostly doesn't work.
"People tend to not like my answer, but picking up after your dogs right after they go is the best idea," Anderson adds.
"Another thought is to teach your dog a reliable 'Leave it,"' cue," Anderson says. Have your dog sniff some kibble in one of your hands (fist closed). When the puppy even glances the other way or up at you, drop some tasty liver snacks or other yummy treats from your other hand. As you offer the higher-value items, say, "Leave it." The idea is to get the dog to pay attention to you on cue -- whatever he's doing. The challenge, in your case, is that you have two dogs.
Anderson, author of "Puppy Care and Training" (with Dr. Wayne Hunthausen, TFH Publishing, Neptune City, NJ, 2007; $19.95), has a Labrador retriever with the same habit as your little dogs. She tries to pick up promptly, but if she's not fast enough, Anderson can now tell her dog to "leave it."
Q: Our sweet little kitten was diagnosed with feline infectious peritonitis. We're heartbroken because our veterinarian says there's no treatment and no cure. I was researching online and read about your coverage of Dr. Al Legendre's treatment, and that he's supporting a cholesterol drug which may also help cats with FIP. Can you tell me more? -- B.E., Cyberspace
A: Until recently, feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) was always considered fatal. Sadly, this immune-mediated disease typically strikes kittens. Now, for the first time, there's a treatment which seems to work for at least some cats diagnosed with FIP -- a drug called Polyprenyl Immunostimulant (PI).
Dr. Al Legendre, a professor of internal medicine and oncology at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, Knoxville, announced last year at the Winn Feline Foundation Symposium that PI -- originally found to help cats with the herpes virus -- can extend the lifespan and quality of life of cats diagnosed with dry (or non-effusive) FIP.
Legendre says PI is not effective for a second kind of FIP, called wet (or effusive) FIP. You didn't indicate which of the two forms of FIP your kitty was diagnosed with.
While cats with dry FIP may wax and wane for months, until now it's been rare for them to survive much past two years. Legendre says five cats from his PI studies have survived past the two-year mark, and are enjoying an excellent quality of life.
"I'm not saying these cats will be cured. We'll see what happens," he comments. Still, other cats with dry FIP who've been given PI have shown only modest improvement, or none at all.
Legendre theorizes that using an anti-viral drug in conjunction with PI may be helpful. He hopes to soon study this possibility.
Still awaiting approval by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, PI can only be issued directly to veterinarians by Legendre, per dose for compassionate use. Veterinarians can contact Legendre if they have patients they believe may benefit. Legendre hopes the drug will be approved by year's end.
Despite whatever you've heard or read, Legendre says he has not thought about using a human cholesterol drug to help cats with FIP.
Learn more about FIP at http://www.winnfelinehealth.org/health/fip.html. You can hear Legendre and Dr. Niels Pedersen, director of the Center for Companion Animal Health and the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at the University of California-Davis, speak about FIP at the 2011 Winn Symposium with links found here: http://www.chicagonow.com/steve-dales-pet-world/2011/10/transcripts-of-fip-symposium-with-legendre-and-pederson-now-available/.
The Winn Feline Foundation Bria Fund supports further FIP research, which is desperately needed. At least Legendre appears to be on to something.
For your kitten, I wish you the best. I am sorry; FIP is a horrible disease.
Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is www.stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.
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