Have Questions About Dogs? Ask Doctor Dog
What's the most popular pet? Dogs. How many dog breeds are there? The American Kennel Club recognizes 197 dog breeds. How many dogs are in the world? There are around 900 million pups, and about 470 million of them are domesticated.
That's a lot of dogs. If you own one, you might have questions about them. Answering those questions is what I do. My name is Doctor Dog. I am the resident dog expert for Always Pets. Dear Doctor Dog is my advice column. I answer questions from Always Pets readers in our email newsletter.
You can ask me any questions whenever you want. Then look for my responses in the Always Pets newsletter.
But first, a little more about me.
How I Joined the Always Pets Team
I was at a park investigating some highly suspicious squirrels when a human asked if I could help her out. She said she worked on the Always Pets team, and they were looking for someone to help humans understand and care for their dogs better.
I love pets. I love teams. I love humans. And, of course, I love dogs. After she told me more about the job and benefits (hint: all the dog treats I can eat), it was a no-brainer.
Now, I'm on staff. I'm not exactly sure what staff is, but it smells like coffee and snacks, so I'm pretty sure it's a good thing. And now I get to help people like you.
I Have Lots of Fursthand Experience
I am a 7-year-old golden retriever, or so I'm told. I'm very good at finding balls, but the humans always expect me to give them back. I don't get why they would throw the ball in the first place if they wanted to keep it, but that's OK. Humans are funny like that.
I have been a dog my whole life, so I know a thing or two. I know what dogs like, what we don't like, and all about how to take care of them. For example, I know humans should throw away toys when they start getting too torn up. Otherwise, we might eat the pieces and end up at the emergency vet with something called a "$4,000 bill." Not that I speak from experience, but I have heard some stories.
I also know it's a good idea to take us on all of the walks. When we don't get enough exercise, we have to practice our guard dog skills on the living room sofa. Safety furst.
My Humans Help Me Answer Questions, Because Paws
I love being a dog. It's definitely better than being a cat, and so much better than being a squirrel. Still, there are pros and cons about the whole "paw" thing.
On one hand, not having opposable thumbs means I need to rely on the human writers at Always Pets to type out my answers. They also double check my responses for accuracy, because apparently, "give your dog seven cheese sticks daily" isn't considered "sound medical advice." (I was obviously joking. Five is way more reasonable.)
I don't really need the help since I know almost everything there is about dogs, but it's nice that they try. Humans are cute like that. They also run my answers by real vets when necessary, just in case.
On the other hand, paws are ideal for delivering soothing pats to the rest of the team. Morale is important.
I Am the Best Girl Ever
Or so they tell me. I am very good at many things, especially the following:
- Pulling the humans on walks so they get enough exercise
- Surgically removing pills from cheese
- Clearing coffee tables using only my tail
- Protecting our home from intruders, like the scary man in the UPS hat
- Explaining the finer points of dog life to the humans
- Vacuum cleaning duties
*Note: Vacuuming services only apply to crumbs.
I Have a Few Bad Habits
I'm a doctor, for goodness' sake. I think I'd know if my habits were "bad," but the humans said I should offer full transparency with all our readers. I have been known, on occasion, to indulge in the following delightful activities:
- Guarding the local park from the invasive species known as "squirrel."
- Helpfully spreading the toilet paper in the bathroom across the floor for easier access.
- Cleaning my paws during meetings. Do they not understand personal hygiene, or what?
- Drooling on keyboards while reviewing questions.
- Dragging my rear-end across the carpet. They might have a point on this one.
I Love You
At the end of the day, I love all our readers, and I can't wait to help. I've already answered a few questions, so here's a sneak peek at my column.
Dear Doctor Dog,
My roommate got a puppy recently. He's a 14-week-old Westie named Paxton. He's super cute, but even though she takes him out regularly he still has accidents often, especially on the carpet. We're in a rental, so we need to figure out a solution ASAP. Help?! — Rosy Becker from Fort Wayne, Indiana
It sounds like you have a smelly situation on your hands. My first question is what you mean by "regularly." Puppies are much like human babies. While they mature a lot faster, they're still basically toddlers. As a rule of thumb (well, paw), puppies can "hold it" one hour for every month of age. Paxton should be able to hold it for about three hours.
If that's already taken care of, he probably just needs a week or two of extra potty breaks to reinforce good habits. The Humane Society's guide is a great resource for more tips.
When the inevitable accident does happen, apply an enzymatic cleaning spray to remove the smell and discourage him from returning to the same spot. With a little TLC, Paxton should be barking up the right tree in no time.
Thanks fur the great question!
— Doctor Dog
Dear Doctor Dog,
I have a seven year old pug, and over the past couple of years, he has put on quite a bit of weight. I feed him the amount recommended on the bag for his size, and I try to walk him regularly, but he doesn't make it more than half a block before he starts pulling to go back home. Sometimes, he just sits!
I know keeping him at a healthy weight is important, but I'm not sure what else to try. Any advice?
Craig Benson from El Segundo, California
Give yourself a pat on the back (or a belly rub), because noticing a change in your pet's health is the first step to getting back on the right track. Being overweight can put your dog at risk for problems like heart disease and diabetes, so it's a valid concern.
To start, seven is a good age to switch your dog to food formulated for seniors. It doesn't contain as much fat, and will help to keep your pug pal from packing on more pounds. Make sure you're feeding them a high quality dog food without unhealthy fillers, too.
When a dog is overweight, long walks can be uncomfortable. Encourage him to get moving with games of fetch, trips to the dog park, or playtime with his favorite squeaky toy. Anything that motivates him to move is fair game!
One last thing. As a dog, I can confirm: People food is so much tastier than dog food. We love it. (I once stole an entire roast chicken from the countertop. #Noregrets) Too many table scraps add up, however, so make sure everyone in the family knows to save treats for special occasions.
Have fun, and stay pawsitive!
— Doctor Dog
Dear Doctor Dog,
My chihuahua, Moose, loves laying out in the sun. He finds the sunniest spot in the house to nap, just like a cat! As he's gotten older, however, his fur has gotten thin in places. The other day, I realized there was enough skin showing for him to get a sunburn! He's fine, but now I'm wondering what I can do to keep him warm and comfortable without getting burned. Is dog sunscreen a thing??
— Janice Wethers from Austin, Texas
Thanks for noticing Moose's discomfort! Many dog owners don't realize that some breeds can get sunburned just like people. Any skin that's not covered by fur is at risk, and over time, frequent sun exposure can raise the risk of your dog developing skin cancer.
Fortunately, dog sunscreen is a thing. A spray like this one is easy to apply, and will keep your dog's skin safe on trips to the beach or out for long walks on a sunny day. Since it has to be reapplied frequently to be effective, it may be easier to find a comfortable, well-fitting sweater to provide more coverage. As long as Moose doesn't mind wearing clothes, they can be a big help.
Thanks fur the great question!
— Doctor Dog
What Are You Waiting For? Run Over and Ask Away.
I am ready for any questions you have about dogs. Leave any questions for me, and look for my responses in the Always Pets newsletter.
And don't forget to tell your friends to join us, if they aren't already part of our community. The more, the merrier.
Important reminder: Doctor Dog is happy to provide general pet care guidance, but she cannot provide formal medical recommendations or diagnoses for your pet. Your pet's veterinarian should always be your primary resource for serious questions regarding your pet's health.