Balloon Phobia

Avoid the Fear Triggers; Reduce the Anxiety Balloon Fiesta is great fun for us, but it’s not much of a party for pets who freak out from those cosmic monsters leering and looming over them. The far-off hiss of a propane burner or a multi-colored speck in the distance can trigger overwhelming terror. There’s nothing logical about phobias. Dogs with this irrational fear haven’t been physically assaulted by balloons but like humans with unfounded... Read More

Cancer of a Dog’s Spleen

A Bleeding Malignancy: Painful and Life-Ending Question: My 17 year-old beagle was diagnosed with a splenic tumor last week. She has arthritis in her hips and knees. She is too old for surgery. What is her life-expectancy? I’m assuming the tumor is malignant and aggressive since it wasn’t palpable in June and her hematocrit has dropped 12 points, which means it is hemorrhaging. She is eating well and ambulating without assistance. I think my girl... Read More

Hot Spots & Maggots

Older Pets Outdoors are at Risk Are you eating your breakfast as you read this? If you don’t have a strong stomach you may want to enjoy a news story on murder and mayhem instead. Today’s Pet Care topic is maggots. They’re not cute and cuddly. No one has them as pets. Despite my love for all creatures great and small I’ve never gotten goose bumps watching them hatch. Maggots are among the most dangerous summertime hazards to our pets. Similar... Read More


Almost always a Failure; Uncover & Treat the Cause Instead Last week, on this very page, I advised the owner of a barking dog to conduct a trial of daily exercise. She had considered an electric shock collar because she was desperate. Canine verbal communication is actually normal. Dogs are a highly social species, after all. But some are truly verbose. Canine windbags, like their human counterparts, can be tiresome. Context is important. An active... Read More

Why is my year-old dog barking all the time?

Question: I have a Pyrenees/Anatolian shepherd who is 1 year old. He barks constantly. If nothing is out there to bark at, he barks at birds and such. My husband is considering an electric bark collar. I know it is in his breed to bark, but are there any other suggestions before the collar? Dr. Nichol- Why in the world is your husband considering an electric bark collar? Isn’t it the dog who’s barking? You need to act fast. The poor man thinks... Read More

Xylitol is Dangerous for Dogs

Get Serious about Pet Proofing Do you know what xylitol is? If you’re a dog owner it’s time you did. Here is the story of a family that understood the risks of this sugar substitute, did their best to pet-proof their house, but their dog “Zoe” outfoxed them anyway. “We were gone for less than two hours. During that time Zoe went into our closet and got a sealed plastic container of Spry gum (containing xylitol) that was on a shelf.  She... Read More

Dog Eats Clothing, Towels, & Bedding

Consider Physical or Behavioral Causes Question: Our Siberian husky eats towels, clothes, bedding – had surgery yesterday to remove a hand towel from his small intestine. 3 incisions later and almost losing him show we need help! Dr. Nichol: Eating nonfood items, called pica, is not a rare problem. Your husky is fortunate that his latest dietary escapade ended well. Some dogs are more discriminating, preferring-sorry about this-women’s underwear.... Read More

Eye Discharge in a Dog

Travel Anxiety makes it Hard to go to the Veterinarian Question: We have an older female German shepherd that for the past couple of months has ‘matter’ in both eyes off and on. I wipe off the material and rinse the eyes with “Eye Relief’ but in a few days it returns. She is terrified to leave the yard and go in a car so I hate to cause her the stress! Dr. Nichol: With the wind, dust, pollen, and – worst case –... Read More

Food-Stealing Dog

Booby Traps work Better than Reprimands & Corrections Question: We have a 5 year old beagle. We can never leave food out anywhere, even on the kitchen table, without him trying to get to it and he usually is successful. We have two small children and he takes food out of their hands. He is always getting into the trash. Dr. Nichol: Your dog is not alone in his cravings. He, and most of his gluttonous canine brethren, are convinced that a famine... Read More

Noisy, Difficult Breathing is Dangerous

Diagnosis may be Complex; Relief is Essential Question: I have a Great Pyrenees dog, 10 years old. For the past 6 months he acts like he has sleep apnea: he tries to get to sleep, but constantly awakes unable to catch his breathe. He’s big. He doesn’t seem to have it worse when he’s running or barking (which he does less and for shorter periods now – but he’s old) he does often seem to be breathing heavier even when just resting.... Read More

Anal Glands – The Rear End Canine Curse

Diet can Help but Manual Expression is a Must Question: I have a 2 year old Apple head Chihuahua. Her name is Sunny and so is her disposition! She has had a problem in the past needing her anal glands expressed. Our veterinarian recommended a list of several different food choices. I have tried several on the list, however they all have small kernels and she chokes on them easily. Last night I was in fear of performing a doggy Heimlich maneuver. Dr.... Read More

Bassett Hound Mounting (humping) his Friends

Gainful Canine-Specific Employment is Needed Question: We adopted a little basset hound about six weeks ago. He is a lover. And by that, we mean a real lover! He is humping the male cats and the other male basset. Frequently! Passionately! He was neutered in late March. Does he still have testosterone in his system? The cats and other houndie just move away when he tries to mount them. He spends a lot of time wandering around the house, moving the... Read More

Ear Pain and Discharge

Every Painful Ear needs Medical Attention Ear disease is the most common problem seen by veterinarians and there are still too many uncomfortable pets flying below radar. Redness, swelling, and nasty smelling discharges are frequent findings even when dogs and cats are brought to us for unrelated reasons. Many smolder quietly for weeks or longer. By the time the ear flapping, head tilt, and scratching starts, an infection may already be advanced.... Read More

Puppy Mouths Owners & Steals

Assertive Personality must Learn to Earn Everything Question: My five month old Australian Shepard mix is constantly biting and chewing. If he’s not trying to eat rocks on his walks, he’s snatching tissues out of our hands, trying to gnaw on our arms/hands/legs/shoes/furniture. We have an arsenal of chew toys, bones and rawhides but when we try to correct him, he bares his teeth and snaps. Dr. Nichol: Sounds like the terrible twos. Not... Read More

Motion Sickness in a Dog

Car Trips can Improve Question: About 4 years ago we adopted a Lab/shepherd mix, Maggie. We’d love to take her places but anything other than a short trip to Grandma’s causes frothing at the mouth and eventual vomiting. Having the windows wide open seems to help. Is there any hope of being able to go several hours in the car without a catastrophe? Dr. Nichol: Poor Maggie’s motion sickness has her green behind the gills with vertigo as she drools... Read More

Controlling Canine Thievery

Your Dog is Not a Wolf; You Don’t need to be Alpha Question- I added a rescue Labradoodle to my pack about a year ago. She’s always looking for something to eat. She’s well fed but when she gets something in her mouth she’s not supposed to have she won’t drop it and will growl at me if I try to take it from her. She scares me. I don’t know if she’ll bite me and I am clearly not alpha with this dog. Dr. Nichol: You... Read More

Special Diets can Prevent Recurrence of Bladder Stones

Use the Right Treats or Risk more Surgery Question: My little Shih Tzu could not urinate because he had stones in his bladder. The veterinary hospital that cares for him removed those stones but they are the kind that will return without proper diet so they recommended Hill’s u/d non struvite dog food.  Can I still give him dog treats once in a while?  I am sticking to this diet heart and soul, but he likes his treats every now and then, so is... Read More

Painful when Jumping

Hip Dysplasia more likely than Spinal Disease Question: Our German shepherd who is 5 years old suddenly jumped down from her (our!) easy chair and fell in a heap! Her legs seemed stiff and she was in pain. She was scared till she got up and wanted to go outdoors. Next day she was chasing around like normal. Last night she came in and collapsed in a heap on the floor! After a few minutes she gradually got up and wanted outdoors again and walked fine.... Read More

Heeler x Drives his Owner Bonkers

More Exercise, especially Herding, would be Perfect Question: I’ve a blue heeler/Lab mix, altered. He tries to herd people and drives me nuts barking when I’ve got to go out. I’ve considered finding someone more active than me because my health prevents me from activity I used to do with him but would miss him so much I’m torn. Heard of Zylkene but unsure of using it. Dr. Nichol: You describe a big active herding dog who came hard-wired,... Read More

Dog’s Fear of Shoes suggests Severe Punishment

Teaching Fun Tricks can Desensitize & Heal the Emotional Wounds Question: Our 8 year old hound-spaniel mix (rescued at age 1) is afraid of new shoes/boots. She runs away from us and hides. She shakes, emits a horrible smell, and now checks out what’s on our feet. She won’t accept treats when we are wearing the shoes. We have never abused her. Dr. Nichol: Your dog gets so terrified that her anus puckers, causing her anal sacks (similar... Read More

Hen Hysteria

More than just Freaked-Out Fowl I want to discuss hen hysteria. Don’t get me wrong – this is not a pejorative term; I’m not a politician. Hen hysteria is a genuine behavior disorder, a significant challenge in commercial poultry operations. Stuffed into cages, row upon row, some laying hens suddenly wig-out with no apparent trigger. This syndrome is marked by sudden flying (or attempts at flight), squawking, and searching frantically for... Read More

Angry Chihuahua needs Special Treatment

Irritability can be Overcome with Targeted Medical & Behavioral Treatment Question: We have a 7-10 year old rescue Chihuahua. Whenever we attempt to put on her harness, leash or Velcro coat/dress she attempts to snarl and bite us and it is getting much worse. Our veterinarian sees her for a cardiac, liver and allergy ailment. There is arthritis but we are ever so gentle. “Miss Luna” does not know how to play and cries like a child... Read More

Euthanasia of an Elderly Dog

Consult your Veterinarian for Perspective Question: We have a Staffordshire bull terrier, 14, stiff and a little weak on his back legs, sleeps a lot, and now seems to be going deaf, barks a lot, and stares into space. He asks to go to toilet and eats and drinks normally. A year ago we lost our rottie to a brain tumor. She was at her worst for two weeks before I realized what I was supposed to do, carrying her to the toilet because she could not stand.... Read More

Dog Shocked for Car Chasing

Harsh Punishment can Work but Humane Treatment is Reliable & Safe Question: I appreciate last Friday’s column about shock collars. However there is one particular use for which I found it invaluable. My 4 month old terrier mix was chasing cars even on a leash. A neighbor k9 officer loaned me a shock collar with strict instructions to set it on maximum so that she would not acclimate. It worked beautifully; I only had to shock her twice.... Read More

Shock Collar Damages Friendship

Rebuild Trust with Slow Desensitization Question: I brought our dog Oscar to a reputable trainer who recommended an electronic collar. I didn’t know how bad it would damage Oscar’s trust. Ever since the training, no one can get near him with a brush, especially around his neck. He goes nuts biting, growling to get me away. Otherwise, he loves me very much and trusts me. I tried the electric collar around my neck to see how bad it could be.... Read More

Bladder stone should be analyzed

Question: Our small rescue dog is 14 years old. During a recent senior checkup we discovered a bladder stone (from an ultrasound during a draw for urinalysis). She has no symptoms. She is increasingly distressed when we go to the veterinary clinic (panting, shaking, defecating). What is the worst case scenario if we do nothing? I love my dog, but I do not want to upend her mellow senior life. Dr. Nichol: I appreciate your concerns. We consider different... Read More

Healthy Feeding for Big Breed Puppies

Rapid Growth can lead to Bone & Joint Disease Big breed dogs are at higher risk of joint problems like hip and elbow dysplasia. Heredity is a factor but so are early nutrition and weight. Here is an update on healthy dietary management of puppies who will someday reach size large to gargantuan. The right food matters in part because rapid growth due to overfeeding or from a diet that is too calorie dense puts excessive load on soft, immature bones... Read More

Combining Dog & Cat Households

Cat Chasing Dogs can be Dangerous Question: After a lifelong search for a compatible partner, I plan to move in with my love and his two dogs and two cats in the near future. I have two dogs of my own, that have not been around cats. One has a particularly strong drive to chase after rabbits, squirrels – basically anything that moves. We have slowly introduced the dogs, and they get along well so far. My concern is the cats and my dogs. Dr.... Read More

Xylitol is Not Your Dog’s Friend

Read Labels of Prepared Foods & Snacks Have I ever mentioned that dogs and cats are not little people in furry suits? Oh, sure, they’re like us in lots of ways. They snuggle and play and talk to us, which may be why we keep them as pets rather than, say, cockroaches or earthworms. Be careful. There are species differences that can lead to trouble. From time-to-time in this column I’ve explained the risks of holiday hazards, household toxins,... Read More

Fear, Excitement & Submissive Urination

Reduce the Triggers, Reinforce Calm Behavior, & Medication Question: We rescued a beautiful female 18 month old shepherd/whippet from the Taos shelter. She had been left in the backyard by herself. She is terrified when she goes to the veterinary clinic. She hides behind me and even tries to climb up my back to get away! Her main problem is submissive/excitement urination. She just sees us and lets go. Dr. Nichol: That is one wigged out whippet.... Read More

Dog Eats Only Frankfurters

Establish Health Status before Providing Dog Food Only Question: We have a dog that we have difficulty feeding. He is a very finicky eater. Most of the time he’ll eat frankfurters but nothing else. We began giving him those because we were afraid he would get sick not eating. What should we do to help him? Dr. Nichol: You may be the owner of a healthy dog who has duped you with a common brand of canine chicanery. By eating only frankfurters he has... Read More

Dog Freaks Out on Car Rides

Cover the Crate & apply Adaptil Wipes Question: Our Puggle is 4 years old. She is a fabulous dog . Just one problem. She goes crazy in a vehicle especially when she sees oncoming traffic.  We have done a great deal of travel with her, it never gets easier. We have tried Benadryl to calm her….not!  We have a barrier in the back of the jeep for her, she still jumps around back there and goes crazy.   We tried a crate and she tore out of there. Dr.... Read More

Parvo: Avoiding Risk with Socialization

Vaccinated Puppies & Adult Dog make Safe Friends Question: I am getting an 8 week old Lab puppy. I already have an older Lab who is fully vaccinated. I am concerned about protecting the pup from parvo. I plan on avoiding dog parks, pet stores, and sidewalks. I will also avoid taking her to my parents’ house because their dogs, though vaccinated, visit the dog park. I want to expose her to as many things as possible, but also keep her healthy.... Read More

The Time has come to let go of a Terminally Ill Dog

This Gut Wrenching Decision is an Essential Last Gift Question: My 16 1/2 year old cocker spaniel suffers from dementia, rear leg myelopathy, food sensitivity, abnormal kidney levels, a cataract, hearing impairment, and multiple benign lumps. Recently the dementia symptoms require ‘round the clock care. He’s lost all interest in food and I’ve had to force feed him by shoving food in his mouth. He’s been skin and bones for a month.... Read More

Pomeranian with Anal Gland Pain

Impacted A/G may be Sore following Expression Question: I have a 5 year old female Pomeranian, who was expressed yesterday. She is still whipping her head around to get to her bum. She can’t reach there because she is soo tiny. Is she supposed to still be irritated there? And is there something I can do to help her? Dr. Nichol: Anal glands are a real drag. An evolutionary vestige, similar to the rear end accessories of skunks, they are standard... Read More

Hound Dog Chewing Nails & Ears

Allergies are the #1 Cause Question: We have a Red Bone Coon Hound who is 18 months old. He chews his ears and toenails. He was a rescue dog about six months ago. What can we do to stop this behavior and why does he do it? Dr. Nichol: Dogs who lick, chew, or scratch themselves are miserably itchy. Among many possible causes allergies are the most common. Your big red hound dog could be reacting to airborne particles like house dust and pollens or... Read More

Dogs Fighting on Owners’ Bed

Everybody is at Risk; Dogs should Sleep on Floor Question: I have 2 male Chihuahuas, father and son. They have always slept with us. The older one growls when the younger one is near him and starts prancing around on the bed so the younger one prances behind him eventually growling back and then they fight and my husband and I have to break it up. This has affected our sleep and they are causing each other stress, pain, and injuries. Dr. Nichol: Are... Read More

Trapping-Reader Feedback

Effort Underway to Outlaw Trapping on Public Lands A few weeks ago in this column I posted a letter telling the story of a dog who spent 3 days caught in a coyote trap. “Bailey” ended up doing fine but the trapping issue continues to smolder.  The Journal published some letters on the Op-Ed page. Here are a few of the responses from my facebook page. “In this day and age, that we allow these mindless and cruel devices especially on our public... Read More

Dog Wild and Crazy in Car

Prevent Arousal Triggers; Treat Anxiety, Nausea Question: I need help controlling my Sunny in a car. I have had big dogs all my life but never had this problem and it’s getting scary to travel and worry about the distraction. In all other situations he responds to speech commands and treats. In this he is oblivious to my existence! Dr. Nichol: Oblivious to your existence, eh? I’ve been to that movie. You might as well be raising children. Out-of-control... Read More

Holiday Risks for Pets

Prevention is the Best Medicine The time honored American tradition of conspicuous Christmas consumption isn’t just for humans; pets too can be guilty of dietary indiscretion. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center provides the following list of holiday hazards. There are bound to be others. Edibles: alcoholic beverages, chocolate, coffee (grounds, beans, chocolate covered espresso beans), moldy or spoiled foods, onions, onion powder, fatty foods,... Read More

Pet Dog Caught in Wild Coyote Trap

Microchip and Caring People Saved this Life The following narrative is a difficult story with a good ending and an even better lesson. A friend and longtime reader wrote this and titled it: “A story of Good vs. Negligence!” “My neighbor visited his ranch twice on a recent weekend. It abuts the National Forest near Ruidoso.  On the first trip, he noticed a dog in the distance.  Accompanied by others 3 days later, he noticed the same dog in... Read More

Senior Dog Barking Excessively

Dementia is Common in Canine Seniors Question: My 13 year Sheepdog has started barking since he came out of kennels in March. I have gotten complaints from my neighbour as I live in second floor flat. My dog is kept in the kitchen where he has an area to walk about since he started to have incontinence about a year ago. Even if he has been out for a nice walk and toilet he is still barking. I thought it was due to seagulls squawking. Dr. Nichol: This... Read More

Urine Marking

Crowding & Political Stress Question: Why does my 3 year old neutered male toy poodle Jack urine mark in the house? He is house trained and goes outside. I also have Barney a Beagle- Jack Russell and two females – Jill a Jack Russell and Frankie a toy poodle. Dr. Nichol: With that house full of active young hellions you’re lucky to have only one graffiti artiste. Dogs are social creatures–party animals who sometimes need to avoid, escape,... Read More

Beagle Struggling with Heart Disease

Reevaluate Diagnosis & Treatment for Best Results Question: My 5 year old beagle has a grade 4 heart murmur. She is on 3 medications: furosemide, enalapril, and spironolactone. Do all these drugs really help, or just make her gain weight and add to her lethargy? I don’t take her on true walks anymore, as she tires so easily. She has a little bit of fluid in her lungs, but as yet is not coughing and to my knowledge has not passed out. Dr.... Read More

Which Dog is Urine Soiling?

Check first for Bladder Disease Question: I read with great interest (and often amusement) your weekly column. I have two female Llaso Apsos. They are sisters and are ten years old. One is quite docile and the other one can have an attitude. In our bedroom, I have placed runners on three sides of the bed. One of the girls is urinating on them. I don’t know which one is the culprit. Dr. Nichol: I’m sure you’ve sat these two young ladies down... Read More

Balloon Phobia

Avoidance & Antianxiety Treatments Question: Help!  My dog is terribly afraid of hot air balloons, causing him to bark uncontrollably.  The occasional balloon I could deal with, but my home is directly under a regular balloon flight path. Dr. Nichol: You and your petrified pupster are not alone. There is nothing in the evolutionary adaptations of Canis familiaris (domestic dogs) that prepares them for this annual Albuquerque aerial assault.... Read More

Hip Dysplasia

Good Treatments depend on Age & Severity Question: My husband and I are the owners of a beloved one year old Airedale terrier. Toby has been x-rayed and diagnosed by our local veterinarian and by Dr. Michael Wey as having hip dysplasia.  When Dr. Wey checked him out some months ago he said he didn’t recommend surgery just then. However, in the ensuing time he’s been spending more and more time getting around on three legs. Toby has hip dysplasia... Read More

Aggression between Family Dogs

Act Early & Be Careful Question: I have 2 dogs that have been together for 2.5 years.  The female has always be passive before the male, however in the last month she has become extremely aggressive, taking his food, even growling when he attempts to get close to us.  The male is now showing up with cuts from fights that are happening during the day when we are gone.  There have been no changes in their routine. Dr. Nichol: Aggression between... Read More

Lepto-An Emerging Wet Weather Threat?

Vaccination is Safe & Effective Have you ever questioned the significance of “emerging” disease threats? Some stay for years while others seem to fade with yesterday’s news cycle. Real epidemics can wax and wane because of changing weather patterns. Generous summertime rainfall is a beautiful thing but standing water can harbor leptospirosis, an almost forgotten risk in New Mexico but a serious problem for dogs right next door in Texas. “Lepto”... Read More

Wild, Enthusiastic Failure to Obey

Set Out-of-Control Dog up for Success Question: My 4 year old dog has been through 2 obedience trainings where she behaved perfectly.  When we get ready to walk in the mornings, she will not stay sitting while I get ready. She also barks and jumps up when someone comes to the door. I try to get her to sit and it is like she doesn’t hear me. I am trying hard to be the leader of the pack but I think I am failing! Help! Dr. Nichol: Your highly... Read More

Counter Surfing: A Self-Rewarding Behavior

Question: My Airedale Max is tall for his breed and has easy access to the kitchen counters. He likes to “fish” for goodies left unprotected. Max never misses an opportunity and will do it right in front of us. He knows it’s wrong and that he gets punished. We’ve tried spritzing with water, but nothing seems to sink in. Dr. Nichol: Counter surfing is hard for Max to resist. He has the physical stature for it and it’s a self-rewarding... Read More

Canine Distemper Spreading Fast

Vaccination is Critically Important Veterinarians in New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas have seen a significant uptick in canine distemper cases. The Humane Society of Southern Arizona in Tucson had so many infected dogs they recently halted intakes for 2 weeks to get control of it. Native American reservations have been particularly hard hit. Back in the day, before large-scale vaccination programs, we saw enough distemper in dogs to diagnose it on physical... Read More

Barking when Alone a Sign of Separation Distress

Food Toys can make a Difference Question: We have a 9 year old Shih Tzu that has started barking when we leave her alone. We leave the TV on, give her food & water, and walk her before we leave. We are summering in NM in a RV and neighbors tell us she barks when we are gone. It’s only for a movie, dinner etc, not for all day. Dr. Nichol: Your little dog is suffering. Accustomed to the security of having you close by she becomes overwhelmed... Read More

Puppy Eats Tortoise Poop

Disgusting but most likely Harmless Question: Our large back yard is shared by our Russian tortoise and our 5 pound (11 month old puppy) poodle. As soon as “Tortie” came out of hibernation our puppy started spending a lot of time outside. I then discovered why: the puppy was finding and eating Tortie’s poop!! Gross. Can she get sick? Dr. Nichol: Your poodle puppy, that delicate little flower, has become a tortoise stalker, motivated by her taste... Read More

Video-Predatory Aggression Against a Child

Heroic Family Cat Derailed a Tragedy Question: I keep seeing this video everywhere and hearing lots of theories about the dog’s behavior. The dog is completely unprovoked, but it also doesn’t seem like he/she sneaks up on the child as I would expect a wolf to sneak up on prey. Is the dog curious and regarding the child as a toy? Is this predatory aggression? Is it fear aggression? As a dog lover I find the video terribly disturbing both... Read More

Defensive Aggression toward Strangers

Teach Improved Behavior with Gentle Guidance Question: I just got a dog that was free. He is overly aggressive plus I think he was mistreated. He responds to me but is aggressive towards any males or anyone who comes to the door. He was also restricted to his kennel and he growls towards his food. I have never owned a dog before Dr. Nichol: You may have saved a life. There aren’t a lot of people lined up to adopt pets with a history of aggression.... Read More

Dietary Treatment for Kidney Failure gets a Major Boost

Leash in hand, we blissfully soak up the sun on a healthy walk while our dogs are busy cavorting and scavenging for scraps of, well, maybe we don’t want to know. There’s a lot going on inside their bodies, including questionable oral hygiene, that can gradually damage their kidneys. Even while nosing around the yard they inhale airborne junk, shifting their immune systems into overdrive just to neutralize the incoming flow of organisms and debris. For... Read More

Cats & Dogs as BFFs

Choose Carefully & Raise them Together Question: Am I crazy or is this possible? I want 2 cats and 2 large dogs to get along peacefully in our mountain home. Do you think if we could raise them together we would be able to train the dogs to be guardians of the cats? We love caring for dogs and cats and don’t think we could ever live happily without them. Dr. Nichol: Guardians? It is possible that you’re crazy but I like your question anyway.... Read More

Aggressive Dog on Owners’ Beds

Give Dog her own Bed; Avoid Punishment Question: Usually at night my 8-month young mini pinscher sleeps in my brother’s bed and if someone passes by the room she jumps off the bed and barks, if you enter the room, situation is getting worse and if you try to calm her she can even bite you! This is happening every time she sleeps next to someone, no matter who, no matter when and attacks everyone who is “disturbing” her! Dr. Nichol: Pint-sized... Read More

Non-Drug Arthritis Treatments for Dogs

Life is Short; Do Whatever it Takes Question: I have an 8 year old mixed breed (old yeller, lab looking beauty) with arthritis in her right ankle. It swells up with a knot on it and causes her a lot of pain. Our veterinarian recommended Rimadyl, but we want to treat with natural products if possible to avoid long term complications. Dr. Nichol: Dietary supplements can help but they are seldom potent enough to control serious joint pain and inflammation.... Read More

Don’t Mix Predatory Dog with Frightened Cat

Protect Cat’s Security at All Costs Question: As mature adults growing closer, my girlfriend and I want to bring our pets together. Chewie is an eight year old dog, sweet, sensitive, and friendly, but inclined to chase small furry creatures. My girlfriend has a five year old reclusive and somewhat scaredy-cat, Roo, who is deathly afraid of Chewie, a logical response to Chewie’s vibrating response to Roo. We would like them to become comfortable... Read More

Fear Aggression toward Visitors

Forget Punishment; Guests mean Good Things Happen Question: We have an 8 month old mix breed dog who is timid but aggressive. We have had her since she was 8 weeks old. There are 3 other dogs. When people enter the house her hackles go up and she barks, all the time backing up. She has nipped at people who she deems “scary”. We do not let visitors back down. We have also tried being dominant. Dr. Nichol: This really is a scared puppy,... Read More

Spaying & Neutering May have a Downside

Some Disorders may be More Prone to Occur To neuter or not to neuter: That is the question. Really? Wasn’t that settled a long time ago? As a veterinarian, obliged to reduce animal suffering, shouldn’t I, of all people, vigorously beat the spay/neuter drum? The oversupply of pets has not gone away. The behavioral benefits of spaying and neutering are clear. Roaming, urine marking/spraying, and aggression between intact (unneutered) males are greatly... Read More

Pet Medical Insurance Saves Lives

A Good Plan can make Veterinary Expenses Affordable A dog or cat who is sick or injured needs competent medical care but the cost can be a serious problem. Research has given us more diagnostic accuracy and some astonishing cures but it doesn’t come cheap. Like most veterinarians I’ve struggled with providing state-of-the-art medicine while keeping fees affordable but advanced training, new equipment, and drugs, added to the costs of running a... Read More

Cat Killed in Yard

Coyotes may be Responsible. Rule out Involvement of Dogs Question: We raised two LGD puppies with sheep — neither of them showed aggression toward anything — not chickens, cats, sheep, nor people. Early today, we found a cat torn to shreds. There are three cats still lying in the sun purring and weaving. It sounds more like a coyote’s work, but I haven’t seen any (we do hear them). We can’t find evidence — blood,... Read More

Paralysis of a Dog’s Face

Idiopathic Facial Paralysis is a Lifelong Condition Question: One of my tenants has a heartbreaking situation with her precious 8 year old golden retriever mix. Half of the dog’s face has become paralyzed. His left eye will not close and neither does the left side of his mouth. He has been in this state for 4 weeks. Otherwise he seems pretty healthy. Dr. Nichol: I’m sorry about what’s happened to this dog’s face. It must be really unsettling... Read More

Veterinary Fees Cause Pet Owner Angst

Ask Questions & Make Informed Choices Question: I am writing to you to vent my frustration toward the excessive fees charged by veterinarians. We took our pet for a routine annual physical and were charged $206.01. (For my last physical, I paid $135.75.) Today, we took her to have her teeth cleaned and paid $276.08 including a ten percent senior discount. (Mine cost $100.46.) Why you see fit to charge more than even we humans pay is beyond me.... Read More

Lick Wounds on Front Legs of Dogs

GI Disease Underlies Most Question: My dog recently had a lick granulomas removed by laser. He was placed in an e-collar. When I take off the collar for him to eat he stops eating to lick the wounds. I have tried to take off the collar and dress the wounds with gauze and duct tape, as well as Boundary. Each time he chewed and licked off the dressings. Using the e-collar until the wounds heal seems cruel, especially since he will start licking anyway. Dr.... Read More

Clipper Burns

Heal well with Careful Treatment Question: We have a Rhodesian ridgeback, chow, Sheppard mix. I made the error of shaving his coat. Now these red bloody abrasions keep appearing. Dr. Nichol: As with any medical problem, attempting to diagnose a skin disorder without a physical exam would be a serious gamble. Having said that, I suspect clipper burns. Without frequent lubrication the friction between the rapidly moving blades generates serious heat. Clipper... Read More

Retained Baby Teeth

Early Extraction is Safest Question: I discovered that Rocky (5 month old Jack Russell) is growing his adult canine teeth however his baby teeth are not coming out. Will they come out on their own later? Dr. Nichol: Retained baby (deciduous) teeth is a common bump in the road of adolescence for small breed dogs. Those little choppers will not fall out on their own. If they’re allowed to stay beyond the toddler phase, the much bigger permanent teeth... Read More

Dust-Up at the Dog Park

Question: Our German shepherd, Chrysanthemum (6 months old), has fear-aggression issues so we’ve been taking her to Bullhead Park to try socializing. There were 5-6 dogs there and she was doing her barking thing. Suddenly, some guy strode up and grabbed her by the neck, shaking her hard a couple of times before I shoved him away.  He pushed me, and Chrysanthemum jumped at him. He kicked her. He claimed he has been a trainer for 40 years. Another... Read More

Jerky treats: Possible cause of illness in dogs

Specific cause unknown The risks to canine health from eating jerky treats are on the front burner again. I shared information on this problem in my Pet Care column back in March, 2012. Now, for an update. Food safety issues are a growing problem in part because of the globalization of this industry for humans as well as animals. Reported by the Veterinary Information (VIN) News Service, Dr. Linda Fleeman and her Australian colleagues published a... Read More

Balloon Phobia

Avoid the Fear Triggers; Reduce the Anxiety Balloon Fiesta is great fun for us, but it’s not much of a party for pets who freak out from falling cosmic monsters. Every exposure worsens their fears. The far-off hiss of a propane burner or a multi-colored speck in the distance can trigger overwhelming terror. Phobias are not logical. Dogs saddled with this irrational fear haven’t been physically assaulted by balloons but like humans with unfounded... Read More

A New Infectious Virus in Dogs?

There may be a new and ugly infection of dogs that could spell trouble – or maybe not. Confirmed so far in only a handful dogs in Ohio, the organism, called circovirus, has been implicated in cases of severe, sudden onset vomiting, diarrhea, poor appetite, and physical depression. Speculation is rampant. Here is what we know so far. Circovirus causes, or may be involved in causing, marked inflammation of blood vessels, called vasculitis, potentially... Read More

Recent Uptick in Parvo Cases

Thorough Vaccination will Diminish Risk Question: A friend with connections to a therapy dog group emailed me about two “new” dog illnesses. They seem serious. Dr. Nichol: Not only are dog owners worried, veterinarians have been sharing information about the recent uptick in canine parvo, a nasty virus that invades the lining of the small intestines, destroying the cells that absorb nutrients. Infected dogs get sick fast with dehydration,... Read More

Submissive Urinator

Patient repetition of Rewards for Courage Question: My mom is a young widow. And very lonely. She mentioned she wanted a cocker. So I surprised her with one for Christmas. She loves him dearly, but he is a submissive urinator. He is 10 months old and despite obedience classes and behavior modification he isn’t getting better. My vet suggested, as a last resort, Clomicalm to see if we took the nervous edge off Presley he may break the habit of... Read More

Dislocating Knee Caps will eventually need Surgery

Intermittent Lameness does Not Signal an immediate Crisis Question: We have a Pomeranian who weighs 10 pounds and just turned 1year. We have been told he has luxating patella dislocating in both kneecaps. He is very active and only shows favor to his knee maybe once a month. Is it possible the bones will form correctly over time? At what age should we consider surgery? What is the down time and what would be the best way to keep this active pup quiet... Read More

Puppy Perplexed by Potty Pads

One Day Housetraining is Fast & Simple Question: My puppy is 10 weeks old and has been paper trained since 4 weeks. I want him to go outside so I started gradually moving the pads closer to the dog door. I have taken him out on the leash after eating and then he messes inside. He has found some favorite spots in the house. I do not want to settle for a paper trained adult dog. Dr. Nichol: I agree. No adult should settle for being paper trained.... Read More

Airborne Particles & Allergens can cause Eye Discharge

A Trip to the Doctor means Managing Travel Anxiety Question: We have an older female German shepherd that for the past couple of months has ‘matter’ in both eyes off and on. I wipe off the material and rinse the eyes with “Eye Relief’ but in a few days it returns. She is terrified to leave the yard and go in a car so I hate to cause her the stress! Dr. Nichol: With the summer wind, mixed with dust, pollens, and occasional wildfire... Read More

Fast Drinking Jack Russell Regurgitating

Myasthenia Gravis may be the Cause Question: Why does my Jack Russell (5 months) get sick when he drinks? Every time the poor little guy gets a drink, especially first thing in morning, he throws it back up. Dr. Nichol: If little Jack (May I call him Jack?) is like others of his ilk, he does everything fast. If he is just guzzling water fiendishly, a Drink Better bowl would be a great way of slowing him down. But there may be much more to his problem.... Read More

Dog Crated Day & Night Urine Soils

Natural Behavioral Outlets Essential to Well-Being Question: I am a new mom to two wonderful shelter dogs, including Moxie, a 15 month old pit bull/heeler.  She has never urinated or defecated in the crate at night, but has consistently urinated in the crate during the day.  I have tried making the crate smaller, coming home in three hour intervals, putting the crate away from my other dog, covering the crate, taking all bedding out of the crate,... Read More

ACL Rupture in a Small Dog

Surgical Management is Best for Young Dogs Question: My dog Lola is a happy 3 year old Lhasa-poo. Recently, she eagerly ran down the stairs and hurt her leg. Her diagnosis was ruptured anterior cruciate ligament. I left the animal hospital crying. While researching online, I read non-surgical treatments are possible for dogs less than 30 pounds. Some articles advised against “rushing into knee surgery” and encouraged self-healing by restricting... Read More

Fearful Dog Losing Bladder Control

Avoid Fear Triggers & Teach Scared Dog that Strangers are Safe Question: Our 6 year old, mostly red healer, was rescued from an Indian reservation, then rescued again with her companion dog after her owner died, then rescued by us because of dominance issues in her adopted home.  She came without her companion. She had serious separation anxiety and some nervous urination.  We moved and now she is urinating on the beds whenever she is threatened... Read More

Who Decides How Much Care is Right for an Older Pet?

The Doctor Informs & Advises. The Owner Makes the Call Question: Last week you advised an owner of a Great Pyrenees to get expensive tests for her dog’s breathing problems. At 10 years old, that gentle giant is OLD. At what point do advise simple stuff and keeping the dog comfortable? Limiting exercise, losing weight (which you did suggest), maybe symptomatic help like asthma meds or prednisone but just letting nature take its course for... Read More

Noisy, Difficult Breathing is Dangerous

Diagnosis may be Complex; Relief is Essential Question: I have a Great Pyrenees dog, 10 years old. For the past 6 months he acts like he has sleep apnea: he tries to get to sleep, but constantly awakes unable to catch his breathe. He’s big. He doesn’t seem to have it worse when he’s running or barking (which he does less and for shorter periods now – but he’s old) he does often seem to be breathing heavier even when just resting.... Read More

Feces by Home Delivery

A More Enriched Environment will Provide Healthy Alternatives Question: My dog brings feces into the house from outside almost as an “offering”. How can I stop that behavior? Dr. Nichol: Maybe she’s like Lassie and she’s trying to tell you something. These tokens could represent your dog’s depth of feeling for you or her payment for room and board or perhaps an honest critique of your cooking. You want the truth? Some dogs play with... Read More

Overweight Elderly Dog is House Soiling

Weight Reduction is the Best Medicine Question: We have a 10 year old German shepherd/Malamute mix who is using the bathroom in the family room every night. She is house broken and knows she should not. She does have some difficulty getting up; however we cannot live with a dog using the bathroom in the house. She is overweight but will not go for walks. We love her very much and just don’t know what to do. Dr. Nichol: Aging is unkind to big dogs.... Read More

Great Dogs Wait for Caring Homes

Adult & Senior Dogs can Make Great Pets Sometimes I volunteer to direct the behavioral rehabilitation of pets in shelters and foster homes. One of these was a German shepherd mix named Sarge, whose reactive aggression toward other dogs made him unattractive to potential adopters. Sarge’s plight caught the attention of Melinda, a committed volunteer at Albuquerque’s Animal Welfare Department. Here are Melinda’s comments on this dog she had... Read More

Personality Change in Older Dog

Similar to a Human’s Alzheimer’s Dogs can have Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome Question: I have an older Lab cross that has undergone extreme personality changes. He is withdrawn, does not want to be around us and refuses to come indoors at night. Is this condition treatable? Toby’s regular vet thinks he is in pain due to severe arthritis but, he is not sure what is going on. Dr. Nichol: Your veterinarian is probably right about the joint... Read More

Peanuts & Pumpkin for Irregularity

A Steady Diet of Dry Food is Best Question: I’m a new dog Mom. Is it okay to give peanuts to my little dog?  She won’t eat peanut butter but loves those peanuts.  Is it okay to give can pumpkin when she has not gone #2 in a day or more?  I’ve given her some baby food pumpkin and apple which she loves and that seems to work.  I also give her a 3.5 oz of Cesar gourmet filets along with some dry food twice a day? Dr. Nichol: That’s... Read More

Glo-Sticks & Glow-Jewelry cause Misery for Pets

Have a good Christmas? Great! The carousing and cavorting has only begun. With New Years Eve right around the corner everybody who’s anybody is certain to accessorize with glo-sticks and glow-in-the-dark jewelry. Lots of laughs for us but for an inquisitive pet the experience can quickly turn from exhilarating to excruciating. Biting through the chewy plastic casing releases the vile tasting luminescent dibutyl phthalate. Your furry friend’s festive... Read More

Urine Soiling Away from Home

Anxitane can Help with Social Anxiety Question: I have a 5-year old female border terrier who is almost the perfect pet. The problem is that I cannot bring her with me when I visit someone else’s home. Even if I let her empty out before we enter, the first thing she does (even on a leash) is mark her spot. She does this going to the vet or to the groomer. I would like her to come with me when I play at my weekly card games (like my former companion... Read More

Choke Collars Carry Risks

Head Halters are Safe and Effective Question: How do you feel about choke collars for dogs? Dr. Nichol: You ask a complex question with behavioral as well as physical implications. Walking a dog is a lot more fun when everybody is under control but jerking on a pet’s neck can have serious consequences. Not all dogs are equally at risk. Most thick furred brutes like malamutes and Chow Chows are sturdy and difficult to injure but a substantial number... Read More

Aggression toward other Dogs On-Leash

Ignore Bad Behavior & Teach Focus on Leader Question: I have a 3 year old female border collie. We have stopped going for walks because of her atrocious behavior, which ranges from screeching like a pterodactyl, to whirling like a dervish. This is with a Halti leader. We have tried BAT. Other dog owners give us dirty looks or worse, make comments. She is such a wonderful dog at home. She does have 2 very good dog friends. Dr. Nichol: I feel your... Read More

Knee Pain from Dislocating Kneecaps (luxating patellas)

Surgery plus Stem Cells can make a Huge Difference Question: I have a 3 year old cockapoo and she was trying to jump and did something to her leg. She cried for about 30 seconds, it was horrifying. She was born with loose kneecaps. My vet was telling me about stem cells. I’m skeptical with any new procedures. Are there side effects or possibly future problems? She loves to play and I’m afraid it might happen again. Dr. Nichol: Knee pain is... Read More

Canine Senior with Arthritic Pain & Anxiety

Causes include Medication Side Effects or Aging Brain Disease Question: I have a wonderful 12 year old German shepherd mix. She has arthritis in her back legs. She is now on prednisone and tramadol 3 morning, 3 night. She follows us around and won’t leave our side. She tries to sleep on the bed or she is constantly crying. We can’t even use the restroom without her. When we let her outside she barks. We have to watch her and have the light... Read More

Matted Geriatric Cat

Mouth Pain or Uncomfortable Joints are likely to Blame Question: I have a 20 year old cat that is having “fur” issues. Her coat is matted in several places. I have tried to cut off the mats but the problem is getting worse. I know she’s uncomfortable. The vet said that shaving her might help, but that it might stress her out. She is also a diabetic. She is otherwise in good health. Dr. Nichol: Hair mats for kitties are not a fashion... Read More

Ear Pain and Discharge

Every Painful Ear needs Medical Attention Ear disease is the most common problem seen in veterinary clinics and we still aren’t treating enough of it. Redness, swelling, and nasty smelling discharges are frequent findings even when dogs and cats are brought to us for altogether different reasons. Many smolder quietly for weeks or longer. By the time the ear flapping, head tilt, and scratching starts an infection can already be advanced. Look carefully,... Read More

Unruly Young Dog can Learn to Behave

A Head Halter is a Great Leadership tool Question: I read the post on your facebook page about the Pyrenees/Anatolian shepherd and felt an instant kinship! Our 1 year old Aussie shepherd is driving us nuts. In addition to nuisance barking at everything that moves, tearing around the house and the yard like a crazy bull in a china shop, she barks and lunges at strangers when I take her for walks. People cross the street to avoid her. She has not bitten... Read More

Big Young Barking Dog

No Electric Shock Collar; Enrich this Dog’s Life Instead Question: I have a Pyrenees/Anatolian shepherd who is 1 year old. He barks constantly. If nothing is out there to bark at, he barks at birds and such. My husband is considering an electric bark collar. I know it is in his breed to bark, but are there any other suggestions before the collar? Dr. Nichol- Why in the world is your husband considering an electric bark collar? Isn’t it the dog... Read More


An Important Summertime Threat Maggots are worse than disgusting; they are among the most dangerous summertime hazards to pets’ health. Confronting these flesh eaters and their unmistakable odor is a truly memorable experience. Maybe you don’t want to read this over breakfast. Similar in size to grains of rice maggots are the larvae of the common house fly. They are attracted to rotting garbage, road kill, and the sticky secretions from inflamed... Read More

Overweight Dogs & Cats

R/d is the Best Way to Shed the Pounds & Prevent Serious Disease Question: Is Science diet r/d formula equal to the prescription r/d? Can I buy this r/d food anywhere else besides my vet?   Dr. Nichol: The prescription diets (r/d and others) are made by Hills Science Diet. R/d is the best weight reduction diet I’ve ever known. (Just look at my girlish figure.) R/d’s big difference, compared with “light” diets, is that it’s much... Read More

Postoperative Pain

Pets, without question, feel pain just as we do. Better pet hospitals treat & prevent pain.   Question: I have often wondered about cats and dogs and pain, especially when Skippy, our wonder cat with 3 legs, had most of his hind leg amputated to the hip.  He came home the evening of surgery and my wife and I took turns holding him all night.  He did not seem to be in pain, but rather out of it or a little crazy from the anesthetic. Isn’t... Read More


A nasty parasite, they can also infect humans.   Question: What causes hookworms and what are the symptoms?  Can my kitten be reinfested with them? (She is strictly an indoor cat.)   Dr. Nichol: Hookworms are passed between cats and dogs by microscopic eggs and through the skin. They bite into the inside wall of the intestine and suck blood. They cause weight loss, diarrhea, and anemia. If you fail to dump out your cat’s litter pan after... Read More

Excessive Sleeping

A grumpy, sleepy cat with fleas is also anemic & sick. Frontline should do the trick.   Question: My cat of eight months, recently has been sleeping a lot, and every time I pick him up, he gets mad, and bites me. My cat is normally very active, and doesn’t mind getting handled. My cat right now is experiencing a lot of fleas.  I don’t know if that has to do with anything.   Dr. Nichol: You make the diagnosis simple. Those... Read More

Adult Littermates w/ Anemia

Don’t Waste Time with Meat Diets & Supplements. Get a Diagnosis & Save Your Cats’ Lives Question: When my 5-year old sibling cats had a dental cleaning, the vet performed blood tests.  The results indicated less than 50% of normal red blood cell count for one and low normal for the other. He suggested feeding them some red meat. I also have been putting drops the vet prescribed, to prevent anemia, on their food. Both are feisty, active,... Read More


Methimazole Helps Many. Consider the Cures Carefully Question: My 10 year old female cat was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism 2 years ago and placed on oral methimazole 10mg. The dose was too high (she wouldn’t eat or play and she was always cold) so she has been taking 5mg. for the past year.  Now our vet is saying that her dose needs to be increased again even though neither her behavior nor weight have changed. I am very concerned about the... Read More

Intermittent Diabetic Symptoms with Mouth Pain

Symptoms are Red Flags; there is Help for Financial Constraints Question: Gritz is an 8 year old cat, weighs 14 lbs. His urine has an overwhelming odor. When he uses the litter box it sounds like a fire hose. It seems sticky. He has a good appetite and drinks plenty of water. He was very sick 1 month ago with severe dehydration, not eating, drinking, or going to the bathroom. He also had a very sticky clear substance that he was drooling. The only... Read More

The High Cost of Newer Insulin

Many Feline Diabetes can do Fine Without Expensive  Insulin Question: I have a 14 year old diabetic cat. We've always used Humulin U insulin. We now use PZI-Vet at a cost of $100 versus $30.00 for the Humulin that we can’t get anymore. Are there less expensive alternatives? I'm not putting a dollar amount on my kitty's life-she's priceless. I'm frustrated and worry about those unfortunate kitties whose owners can’t afford it. Once again the... Read More


Learn about this difficult disease & how best to control it.   Question: My 13-year-old cat has recently been diagnosed with diabetes. My doctor has me injecting him twice a day with insulin before his meals. I feed him 1/4 small can of W/D in the morning and 1/4 can at night with some crunchy food on the side. I have talked with another cat owner who only gives her cat one shot a day and less food at night. Do you recommend one method over the... Read More

Diabetes & Cushings Disease

Cats who drink & urinate a lot may have diabetes. Some cases are complicated by an additional hormone disorder called Cushings. Both are treatable.   Question: My 9-year-old cat was diagnosed with diabetes in May. Now, additionally, she has Cushings Disease. What is it and what is the prognosis? I understand it is rare in cats.   Dr. Nichol: You’re smart to ask questions. These two diseases are separate problems for your kitty... Read More


How Vaccines Work & the Risks of Too Much of a Good Thing Question: I read your column regularly and respect your advice. What do you think about this perspective? Summary of News Article: Are We Overvaccinating Our Pets? You may get notices from the veterinarian every year or two suggesting you revaccinate your pet for distemper, leukemia or other diseases. But now some vets are wondering whether the repeated doses can do more harm than good.   Dr.... Read More

Vaccinations for Puppies & Kittens

What do they really need & what’s unnecessary.   Question: My kids and my wife and I have decided that we want to have a pet but we can’t agree on a dog or a cat so we got both. We know they need shots but I’ve called a few vet clinics and I’m getting different answers on how many shots they need. Can you advise us on what’s best?   Dr. Nichol: Boy, am I glad to hear this question. It is painful for me to recall... Read More

Three Year Rabies Vaccination

Even with Less Frequent Vaccinations, Health Exams are Needed every 6-12 Months Question: We understand that the New Mexico legislature was considering a measure that lengthened the time between rabies vaccinations for cats and dogs beyond the current annual requirement. Does my indoor cat still need an annual rabies shot? Dr. Nichol: That’s a good question. Why would a cat with no exposure to other pets need any vaccinations? On the other hand,... Read More

Vaccine Reactions

Our best methods at disease prevention have a down side risk. Here are the facts. 276c Question: When my cat gets her shot series, she seems sick the next couple days, and even has foam coming from her mouth. What causes this, and is it harmful?   Dr. Nichol: Your poor kitty is having an allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). That drooling is a sign of nausea. Her next vaccinations could cause her to have intense itching of her head and neck, vomiting,... Read More

Anal Gland Surgery

If They’re a Big Enough Pain in the Rear-Get Rid of those Anal Glands Question: My four-year-old male cat has had anal gland problems since he was a year old. Our vet has expressed them several times. He now wants to remove them as he got blood out (for the second time in two months). I have heard he could loose control of his bowels. He is my best friend and don’t want to lose him. I myself had cancer and he helps me keep going.   Dr.... Read More

Butt Dragging

Anal gland disease & the itchy rear end.   Question: My indoor pet Siamese cat has recently began dragging her butt across the floor.  She has never been outdoors, and I really am clueless as to the cause of the problem. What could be causing this?   Dr. Nichol: Mmmmm. Sounds like me after a tough week at the animal hospital. Maybe she just needs a vacation. Oh, I forgot. Cats are always on vacation.   OK, let’s talk about... Read More

When to Go to the Veterinarian: How Sick is Sick Enough

How much should it cost? How sick is that kitty anyway?   Question: My cat has had all of his shots plus a recent tapeworm shot.  He has been lethargic and drool has been pouring from his mouth.  He has not lost his appetite and is currently drinking more water than usual.  Should I take him to the vet $$$ ?   Dr. Nichol: I think I understand your problem. Your kitty is eating but not feeling well. Clearly his drooling and excessive drinking... Read More

Canine Gobbler

How to Manage the Feeding Frenzy Question: My 4 year old pug is obsessed with food. She turns into the Tasmanian devil. I tried just filling up the bowl and she gobbled down five bowls and was totally miserable. She would eat herself to death.  I have gone back to 1/2 cup morning and night.  My pug is a good normal weight. How can I stop the feeding frenzy?   Dr. Nichol: Managing food intake is important. Overweight pets live less active lives... Read More

Raw Food Diets

It’s Complicated and Risky to try to Duplicate Mother Nature Question: I’ve heard good things about a raw food diet.  Are there any negatives to raw food for our cats?   Dr. Nichol: In principle it’s fine; cats are true carnivores. They don’t need to build little fires to cook their meat because they eat their kill raw-on the spot, allowing no time for spoilage. For nutritional balance they consume the entire rodent: bones, intestines,... Read More

Home Made Pet Diets

A Disaster in the Making   Question: In your Journal article on July 30th, you comment about people food for dogs. I have a friend who has a “handicap assistance dog.”  It came with a very specific diet that includes raw chicken backs, vegetables and vegetable oil.  They were told it would extend the life of the dog.  Do you have any comments about this type of diet?   Dr. Nichol: Self anointed experts in pet nutrition are... Read More

Designer Pet Foods & High Price

If the ingredients match & the analysis looks as good, why pay more? Because you won’t get what you don’t pay for.   Question: I read an article in last week’s paper that got me to thinking about how much money I spend feeding my animals. The article talked about “designer” pet foods and said that regular food like Dog Chow was just as good but that a lot of people buy the pricier food because it’s recommended... Read More

Age to Switch to Adult Dog Food & How Often to Feed

Large Breed Puppy Food Cuts the Risk of Bone & Joint Growth Disorders Question: I have a 7-month old Labrador retriever. How long should I feed puppy food, and at what age should I switch her from three meals per day to two?   Dr. Nichol: Important question. More than just managing your puppy’s weight, the diet you feed can influence her risk of skeletal defects.   Labs and other big breeds continue growing until they’re 14 months... Read More

How Much to Feed

Being overweight is unhealthy. Here’s how to get it right.   Question: How much should I feed my cat? I thought I was doing the right thing by following the recommendations on the bag but when I took “Shalako” for his shots, he weighed over 12 #. Now I feel guilty that he may not get as old because his doctor said that overweight cats usually don’t. How much is the right amount?   Dr. Nichol: This is a very good question.... Read More

Canned Food for Dogs & Cats

Different Species Have Different Needs Question: I read in your column, three weeks ago, about the reverse opinion about feeding cats dry food. Would this advice, also, apply to dogs? Do pet owners just feed canned food? Would a really lean piece of meat without the spices and gravy suffice for a healthy diet? Dr. Nichol: If we treat our dogs like big cats with long ears we’ll get into a lot of trouble. Both species are fuzzy and walk on four legs... Read More

Dogs Eating Cat Food & Cats Eating Dog Food

Cats & dogs are different species with very different needs. Poor health can result from the wrong diet.   Question: Our 8 month old Pomeranian – dachshund sure enjoys eating the cat food! (Although the cat doesn’t appreciate it much). Is this a bad thing? Also, the cat kinda digs the dog food once in a while. What do you think?   Dr. Nichol: This reminds me of how much our pets resemble our children. Regardless of how well intentioned... Read More

Plant Eating

There is no way to stop plant eating. Give the gift that keeps on giving: a Catnip Garden.   Question: We have an 8 year old purebred Manx who seems to really love to eat plants.  It was always a problem for the geraniums in his grandma’s house when he lived there (she’s happy to actually have plants now, since he would eat them all), and now he goes completely crazy when my husband brings me flowers.  It seems he loves the baby’s... Read More

Dog will Eat only Cat Food

Protect his Kidneys; Try Tough Love Question: My mother took in a throw away dog. He will eat only table scraps and cat food. When she first got him he would get constipation. She would feed him applesauce and he would get better. Now he seems to have gotten used to the cat food. My mother had tried every dry and can dog food but the dog will not eat. I have even tried doggy treats. He seems happy and healthy otherwise.   Dr. Nichol: Your mom... Read More

The Healthy Dog Who ‘Won’t Eat’

Frequent dog food changes, gas, & dry flaky skin. This fellow needs a consistent diet.   Question: We adopted “Satchmo” a few months ago–he was the featured pup in the paper one day–and I’m having a heck of a time trying to get the little bugger to eat. I started him right off on Lamb & Rice, but he had the patchy red armpits, itchies, and heavy scalp flaking right away. So, I switched him to a new Nature’s... Read More

Cheap Pet Food is No Bargain

Lower priced diets boast comparisons to the better brands, but you won’t get what you don’t pay for.   Question: I read an article recently in Consumer Reports that said that some of the lower priced pet foods are a much better deal than food like Science Diet because the ingredients are just as good but the price is much lower. But you’ve said that the premium brands are better. Somebody doesn’t have their story straight.   Dr.... Read More

Rawhide Chews

A great way to keep a dog occupied & maintain healthy teeth & gums.   Question: I have a healthy 3 1/2 year old female Great Dane.  She really likes rolled cowhide chew toys.  I let her have one about 5 days a week.  Someone at my wife’s work told my wife that cowhide chew toys are bad for dogs.  What’s the scoop?   Dr. Nichol: You’ll hear old wives’ tales of all kinds. For example that feeding dogs sugar... Read More

Pig’s Ears

Fine-as long as the pig & the dog aren’t related.   Question: I was wondering if pig ears are bad for dogs.   Dr. Nichol: I’ve always thought that this should be a matter of personal preference. If a dog has no ears at all, then pig ears are better than none. On the other hand a guy or gal with a decent set of God given ears should just be happy and accept themselves as they are.   Now eating pig ears is a different story.... Read More

Bones for Dogs & Other Table Treats

Feed no bones. Eat without your pets. Table food leads to trouble.   Question: Our one-year-old female Jack Russell Terrier might have swallowed some fish bones.  She seems fine, but I am worried about if they will hurt her in her stomach and cause problems. Should I be worried and take her to the vet or just love her as usual. Dr. Nichol: The reason for your concern is that you love this girl. The good news is that she’s not likely to have... Read More

Corn as the Main Ingredient

Are you crazy? Dogs & cats don’t eat corn in the wild. They need meat, right?   Question: Can animals, dogs and cats, digest corn? I know that in most cat/dog food the number one ingredient is ground corn meal, or something like that. If they can’t digest it, isn’t most of the dog food you feed your dog or cat is just ‘running though them’?   Dr. Nichol: Don’t you know that reading food labels can be dangerous... Read More

Maintaining Healthy Weight

Prescription diets r/d &  w/d make it easy to help your pet keep that slim figure.   Question: I have my dog on diet food & he is now @ his required weight. Should I change to regular food or give him more of the diet food, because he acts like he’s starving all the time.   Dr. Nichol: Good job! Do you know how often I preach my weight loss sermon to the owners of fat dogs? It’s really remarkable. I tell people that... Read More

Chocolate Candy & Smoking

Second hand or otherwise this stuff is poison.   Question: Hi. My dog, Bruce, is 5 years old. He likes to eat chocolate. I heard that chocolates are toxic to dogs. Is this true? There’s one other thing I’m really concerned about. I’ve been giving my dog candies since he was about 3 months old. I smoke a lot and I eat candies when I do. After smoking I give my dog what’s left of the candy. Is this going to affect his health... Read More

Overweight Dogs

Low thyroid function is a factor for some obese dogs.   Question: We have a 4 year old male whippet (Echo) with a severe weight problem that we have been trying to get under control for some 8 months. We have tried many different diets. With some he was so hungry in about 2 hours that he would begin crying and trying to open the food container. We even had to put childproof locks on all the cupboard doors because he would open them looking for food.... Read More


Feed an excellent diet & forget the rest.   Question: Can you tell me your thoughts regarding supplements for young pups? It seems there are differing opinions as to whether or not it is necessary. He is on Nutro’s Natural Choice for ‘dogs’ not ‘pups’ which the breeder (and many others) have suggested.   Dr. Nichol: You are an excellent dog owner. I wish everyone loved their pets the way you do. Supplements.... Read More

Diet: Which Food is Best?

How to tell the good nutrition from the junk. Question: I know someone who feeds her dog people food constantly.  I try to tell her that it is not good for the dog, but she disagrees with me and wants it in writing from a vet or she won’t believe me.  Am I wrong?  Is people food okay for pets?     Dr. Nichol: Well at least she doesn’t feed her people dog food. Yech! Your question: You are right, your friend is wrong. Here... Read More

Vegetables in the Diet

Great for the humans but dogs need them predigested.   Question: My little terrier loves raw vegetables, lettuce, broccoli, carrots, okra, etc. and fruits-apples, oranges. Will eating these harm her? She eats this in addition to her dry food.   Dr. Nichol:   Fruits and vegetables for dogs: unnecessary if you are feeding a complete and balanced diet-which most are nowadays. In fact anything you add to a balanced diet is really just throwing... Read More

Table Food-What’s Toxic & What’s Best

You’ll be surprised by what human foods are dangerous to dogs.   Question: Please lists foods that may be or are toxic to dogs. I know about chocolate but my daughter tells me that onions and peanuts should not be feed to dogs even in very small amounts. My dog likes raw carrots,  celery and bananas. I know that your position is to feed them just high quality dog food but do other things in small amounts harm them?   Dr. Nichol: Are you ready?... Read More

Dogs Who Don’t Eat Enough

Many Dogs Need Less Food. Coaxing a Dog To Overeat May be Bad for her Health. Question: I have a 3-year-old black German Shepherd that rarely eats. She usually only eats once a day, if that. She gets a whole lot of exercise everyday. The only way we usually get her to eat is to throw her ball at the food bowl until she finally eats.   Dr. Nichol: I assume that since this girl plays hard and often that she is a healthy dog. If she is free if symptoms... Read More


Most hungry overweight cats are just bored. Question: My eight-year-old cat, Nelson, was placed on IVD special diet three years ago. I have noticed that giving him the same measured amounts of food have recently caused him to gain weight.  He always acts famished, so I am reluctant to reduce the amount. Being a housecat, he is inactive and cannot burn off the calories.  Can you recommend another limited diet plan product for him to try? He is my... Read More


Rewarding this behavior with food will encourage more of it. Avoid the problem & the weight gain that goes with it by putting  your pets outside while you eat.   Question: Could you shed some light on giving table scraps like chicken, pork, & beef? I have a situation where some teenagers will give their dog candy because the dog is constantly begging for human food even though it is on the Science Diet program.   Dr. Nichol: Your questions... Read More

A Dog With a Place at the Table

Attention Seeking Behavior is a Factor Question: My daughter-in-law feeds the dog from her plate using the same utensils she eats with. I am truly serious. She eats a spoonful of food then gives the dog a spoonful. The dog is at the table with his front paws on the chair and his head under her arm. I would really appreciate you opinion. Dr. Nichol: What’s on tonight’s menu? I might be free for dinner. Do I look like Dear Abby to you? OK, I’ll... Read More

People Food for Dogs

Dogs are the best trainers. Here’s how you can be the trainer. Teach your dog to eat dog food.   Question: I really enjoy the light and amusing style in your writing. My dog will not eat dog food, but prefers “people” food. I know this is not good for her but I don’t know how to change her. I have tried just giving dog food only until she accepts it. It seems almost cruel to do it that way. She always outlasts me and I will... Read More

Appetite-Poor Eaters

Elderly cats who fail to eat may have serious illness. But we can help many.   Question: We have a 20 year old female cat. She will not eat canned cat food from the pet stores. I have tried many brands but she will go many days before finally eating a little.  My wife wanted to know are there any recipes available she could cook up that our cat might eat.  We are worried she is not getting enough food.   Dr. Nichol: Thanks for writing. You... Read More

A Smorgasbord of Gastronomic Delights for Fussy Eaters

Give Dogs a Structure for Eating Dog Food Question: I’ve tried to find a dog food that will satisfy both of my Chihuahuas but haven’t been successful.  As a last resort I started fixing them hamburger, boiled chicken or ground turkey with steamed rice, carrots and scrambled eggs which they love. Is this a healthy regimen; am I doing more harm than good?   Dr. Nichol: That’s an impressive menu. I’ll be right over but I’ll leave... Read More

Finicky Eaters

What’s good, What’s junk, Why it matters   Question: For most of my cat’s 12 years she would only eat canned food. She got cat acne and our vet suggested it was due to the wet food. We have tried many varieties of semimoist and dry food and she seems to hate them all. She seems to always be hungry yet she often won’t eat the food we give her. Recently I noticed her eating our dog’s food quite often.  As the cat has lost... Read More

Varying the Diet-Changing Brands of Pet Food

Variety is the spice of life-but cats can get gas & diarrhea. Pick a good diet & stay the course.   Question: I live alone and my cat is my constant companion. I know I spoil her but I can’t help it. She’s 4 years old and I have noticed that she seems to grow tired of a particular food after a while. So, like the doting cat mother I am, I give her something different. The problem is that I often find loose or fluid stool in her litter... Read More

Slow Heart Rate during Anesthesia

Preventable with Medications, a Diagnosis is still Essential Question: I have a 15 year old terrier cross. She is very healthy, however the last time I had her teeth cleaned, they said her heart beat too slowly from the anesthesia and they had to wake her up and that her teeth could no longer be cleaned.  She has a black growth on her leg. In the last six months it has increased to the size of a pecan.  Is this something that needs attention?   Dr.... Read More

Laryngeal Paralysis can be Life Threatening

Surgery can be a Life Saver Question: Our Keeshond has laryngeal paralysis, acts like he is gagging all the time, and when he gets excited he lies down literally gasping for air and can’t breathe or get up. He is at least 13 years old, has always been in great health.   Dr. Nichol: Laryngeal paralysis usually affects large breed older dogs. Most cases are caused by a degeneration of the nerve supply to the larynx, reducing airflow.   It... Read More

Fainting German Shepherd

Heart Disease, the most Likely Cause, may Result in Sudden Death Question: Do dogs faint?  Yesterday I noticed my 6 year old female German Shepherd appear to faint twice.  We were playing fetch when she suddenly wobbled, then fell over on her side.  After 30 seconds she got up.  This morning she had another bout. Does this need investigation? Dr. Nichol: Your dog’s fainting problem is serious business. There are many possible causes for a German... Read More

Coughing Older Dog

Congestive Heart Failure is Common & usually Responsive to Treatment Question: My dog is 16 years old and has not been to the vets in a long time. He has a very bad cough and I have been giving him an herbal product called cough-x. Is this safe? I don’t want him on drugs at his age.   Dr. Nichol: You are gambling way more than necessary. While there are many causes of coughing in older dogs, congestive heart failure is among the most... Read More

Update on Canine Influenza

Canine Flu Vaccine Available By now we’re all aware of the H1N1 swine flu. Canine flu (H3N8), while not contagious to humans, is also on the upswing. Fortunately New Mexico’s dog population has so far been spared.   Dog flu has been around since 2004, a likely mutation of the equine influenza virus. What’s new is the vaccine, released by Intervet/Schering-Plough in June of this year. According to Cynda Crawford, D.V.M., Ph.D., professor... Read More

Dog Flu

A Possible Serious Epidemic-Dogs have No Natural Immunity Dog lovers need to be aware of a new infectious disease called dog flu. So far there have been no cases identified in New Mexico but it’s been seen as far west as Texas. This virus can be transmitted through the air by coughing as well as by contamination of equipment, clothing, and the hands of caretakers. Seen first in racing greyhounds in Florida dog flu can spread rapidly in kennel and... Read More

Herpes Virus Infection is Rampant in Shelters

Latency causes Repeat Infections; Eye Infections are the Worst Part Question: We adopted a one year old male orange tabby in January, 2005.  He had been in the city’s shelter and then the humane association. He was very ill with what our vet called herpes virus-high fever and upper respiratory congestion.  It took him 5 weeks to recover.  Ever since, he periodically gets coughing spells, very loud and uncomfortable. Is this kind of “leftover”... Read More

Kennel Cough: Spread & Prevention

Injectable Vaccine is Better Question: I don’t have a question just a heads up to all dog owners that take their dogs to dog parks.  Please get them vaccinated for Kennel Cough.  I did not and my Labrador Retriever came down with Kennel Cough.  She has been miserable for over a week and I hope my German Shepherd does not come down with it too.  Once I am sure that both dogs are healthy again they will get the vaccinations so they can once... Read More

Kennel Cough

Usually contracted in boarding or grooming establishments, it can be tough to manage. We can help but it always runs its course.   Question: As an owner of three dogs, imagine my dismay when my vet told me my little one’s problem was kennel cough.  Their only exposure was at the groomer’s.  I of course hold no one responsible, but am very curious about the “disease”, its course and the current preventatives. Only my Lhasa... Read More

Noisy Breathing

Gradual onset of paralysis of the voice box can be dangerous but it is treatable.   Question: My 11 year old female lab’s breathing is labored when walking & if any excitement at home. X-rays were normal. What are treatments? I competed for 6 years with Lucy in hunt tests & owe her so much.   Dr. Nichol: This must be hard for you and Lucy. Labs are active and playful anyway. But with Lucy also being a working dog she has to be... Read More

Nasal Discharge & Difficulty Breathing

Tooth Root Infections Can Be Diagnosed with Dental X-rays Question: I took my female mixed terrier for many check ups for, what I thought, was a respiratory problem. There was some thoughts of extracting some teeth. Antibiotics helped but did not totally clear it up. She still has a clogged up nose, which makes her breathing labored. I have given her Benedryl and even tried Noni juice. What else can I try?   Dr. Nichol: You sound frustrated.... Read More

Sneezing & Coughing

Dogs don’t get colds the way we do, but they can get some serious upper respiratory disease. See the doctor.   Question: I have a 7-year-old mixed breed (lab & husky).  Over the past couple of days she has been sneezing and coughing.  Do dogs catch colds? I’m not sure what to do?   Dr Nichol: Your dog is in good company. I too am mixed bred. I have worked in a lab but have never been husky, though I have wanted to be. I am no longer... Read More

Snorting, (You Know, Like a Pig)

“Reverse Sneezing” usually has allergic causes. Antihistamines should help.   Question: I have a 3 year old female pug named “Pug”. I know we should have come up with something else instead of “Pug” but….,anyway about once a month, she has what I call a seizure, but all  I’ve read doesn’t describe what she has. Pug acts like she’s trying to “hock up a loogey”. It lasts for about 15-30... Read More

Heart Disease

Medications can have side effects. Know what to look for.   Question: My dog, Comet, is 11 years old with enlarged heart and liver. She is refusing to eat her dog food. After her bloodwork and x-rays she was put on vasotec and furosemide. She will eat rice with some chicken. I have checked several books, and seem to get contradictory information. What would be an acceptable diet considering she won’t eat dog food?   Dr. Nichol: Good for... Read More

Heartworm Disease

How to recognize it, How to prevent it, How it’s treated.   Question: What are the symptoms of heartworms and is there a cure? If I give my dog a heartworm pill every month, do I have to give him wormer medicine too?   Dr. Nichol: Smart questions. Every dog owner hears recommendations of heartworm prevention. But not everyone knows why. I’m a veritable fountain of information so I will enlighten you.   Dirofilaria immitus (impressive... Read More

Chronic Nasal Discharge

Immune System Compromise Due to FeLV or FIV May be at Fault Question: About a year ago I started feeding a stray cat and lately he’s been coming in the house to eat. He seems to have a perpetual cold or allergy condition. He snuffles and sneezes all the time. Whatever it is isn’t contagious, because none of our regular house cats are affected. He even has a snub-nose look from wiping his paw across his nose all the time! Otherwise, he’s... Read More

Pomeranian with Difficulty Breathing

Collapsing Trachea is Common, especially in Overweight Small Breeds Question: My 9-month-old Pomeranian puppy suffers from a breathing problem. It seems to be an asthma attack. What can I do about it? Dr. Nichol: Pomeranians, and other small breeds, can be prone to a variety of respiratory diseases. You are smart to get this problem managed early because it can become much worse if neglected. The first priority is finding the cause.   Asthma... Read More

Chronic Coughing in an Active Young Dog

Collapsing Trachea is a Lifelong Challenge Question: I have a young male chi-wiener dog who has a cough that sounds like human whooping cough.  He gets it maybe once a day and lasts for 10-30 seconds.  He is very healthy and active with a good appetite.   Dr. Nichol: Chronic coughing is never a good sign.  Chi-Wiener’s youth and vigor make cardiac and lung disease unlikely. He may be struggling with kennel cough or he could have a collapsing... Read More

Chronic Nasal Discharge Indicates Serious Disease

Antibiotics are Necessary but so is a Clear Diagnosis Question: I have a cat that falls into the “feral cat living in a confined space” definition!  Rosebud lives in my house but is not tame.  She has sounded like a “wet head” for the past few years.  But now, she has real congestion with yellowish nasal drainage.  I have been crushing antibiotics and mixing them into baby food for her for several days and do not see any... Read More

Breathing Difficulty

Persian cats can have a simple surgery to correct their narrow nostrils.   Question: We have three Persian cats. Two are just fine but one of them (two years old) has trouble breathing. Her nostrils are very narrow. Can anything be done to help her breathe a little easier? I thought maybe tubes can be inserted.   Dr. Nichol: This kitty has stenotic nares; it’s as though her nose is being pinched. Persian cats have pushed-in faces that,... Read More

Heart Murmurs in Puppies

Some abnormal heart sounds are dangerous but early, thorough diagnosis is key to good outcomes.   Question: I’m a proud owner of a beautiful Siberian Husky who is eight weeks old and is suspected to have a heart murmur.  If that is true what will happen to my puppy and will she be able to live a long life? I’m worried to death.   Dr. Nichol: I understand how you feel. If you learn more about heart murmurs you’ll feel better.... Read More

Annual Heartworm Prevention & Testing

Treat year ‘round with once monthly chewables.   Question: We moved 6 months ago and our vet there didn’t heartworm test our dog after he was 9 months old because the dog was on the heartworm preventive year ’round. Our new vet says that the dog needs to be blood tested every year. Why? It’s so expensive and I’m a senior citizen on a limited income.   Dr. Nichol: You have raised an important question. Here are the... Read More

Managing a Car Sick Puppy

Give OTC Meds Prior to Travel Question: Lu Lu, the 4 month old miniature poodle, has responded well to your house breaking tips and continues to be a happy, energetic, entertaining puppy but she doesn’t do well on road trips.  She frequently vomits and doesn’t appear to be enjoying herself at all.  Is there anything we could do to ameliorate her symptoms so we can get on with our ‘new life on the road with Lu Lu’?   Dr.... Read More

Shotgun Pellets Found in a Dog

No Need for Concern-No Toxic Risk Question: When our shelter rescue dog joined our family recently, we noticed shotgun pellets imbedded in several locations on his body.  He must have led a colorful life before coming into our family.  If these pellets are lead, is there any danger long-term of them leaching lead into his body and causing harm?  Should they all be removed?  Any danger if they are steel pellets.   Dr. Nichol: Remember the... Read More

Dog Flatulence

Diet, Internal Illness are possible Causes Question: I have a 15 year old boxer beagle mix. He is in great health except he is getting gas worse and worse. It really smells bad and can clear the room. I have had to purchase a small fan to put at his rear end to blow the fumes out of the room. I have had all blood work, urinalysis, and fecal tests done and he is good. Also, he drinks about a gallon of water a day. He does not have diabetes. He will... Read More

Leptospirosis in Dogs

Vaccination May or May Not be Necessary Question: Our vet recommends Luke have a leptospirosis vaccine. In what specific areas are the large outbreaks of lepto occurring? Does a dog have natural immunities to lepto? Does the vaccine protect against the most lethal versions? Our dog is never off leash, so won’t come into direct contact with wildlife.   Dr. Nichol: Luke is a lucky dog to have owners so concerned about his safety. Leptospirosis,... Read More

Rawhide Chews for Dogs

An Excellent & Safe Pastime Question: My two mini-poodles love to eat rawhide chews. What are you recommendations on this? Dr. Nichol: Go for it. Rawhides are healthy for the teeth and gums. Once they’re good and soggy and yucky they get swallowed and pass through the system uneventfully. There is no reason to limit the number unless your dogs’ idea of rawhide is your shoes or baseball mitt. Incidentally, many cats also enjoy a good chew.... Read More

Distemper in a Puppy

Euthanasia May be Best Question: I bought a puppy. A day later it had diarrhea and green stuff coming from his eyes. I took the puppy to the vet and had the dog tested for distemper. The test came back positive. The vet said that the puppy only had a 3-5% chance of recovery, would be contagious to other dogs, and have neurological problems. So I opted to have the puppy put down. Did I do the right thing?   Dr. Nichol: The decision to end the... Read More

Diabetes Requires Careful Management

Frequent Insulin Adjustments can Create Big Trouble Question: My dog has diabetes.  For a long while, we weren’t able to get her glucose below 200.  Now it will spike or drop with no warning.  I can tell when a problem is coming by her excessive panting.  I check her blood glucose level and give her a small dose of insulin or something to eat.  What can I do to stop this, and why the rollercoaster effect?   Dr. Nichol: You are certainly... Read More

Sudden Disappearance of an Older Dog

Rattlesnake Bite is a Strong Possibility Question: When I was hiking in the foothills with my two female rottweiler mixes (age 9 and 12) I realized that the older one was gone. We have hiked this same trail so many times. She has always found her way back to me. Now I’ve lost her. I didn’t hear or see anything and my other dog didn’t either. What could have happened?   Dr. Nichol: I’m so sorry for your loss. I suspect a wild animal attack-... Read More

Rattlesnake Bites

Vaccines & Training are Available but Vigilance is the Best Preventative Question: My wife was walking our dog Sasha on an asphalt path and came upon an immature rattle snake. Sasha got nipped on the nose. Within 20 minutes Sasha was admitted to the ICU. She spent two nights hooked up to IVs and given antibiotics. It was a very scary experience (for us, too!). Please warn your readers to be vigilant when walking your pets around open fields. Dr.... Read More

Rattlesnake Vaccine

A new vaccine by Red Rock Biologics can reduce the risk of painful injury and death from rattlesnake bites in dogs. The vaccination is given in two doses about one month apart. To remain effective it is boostered every 6 months; a good idea since rattle snakes may be encountered year ’round in New Mexico. Possible vaccine side effects can include an allergic reaction and swelling at the site of the injection.   Just because your dog lives... Read More

Snake Bites

Also covered in the Snake Bites section of this book, this answer will provide additional detail.   Question: Last year my friend’s dog got snake bit. I have a new puppy and we plan to hike a lot and it’s already getting warm. What happens if we find a snake? What should I do if my puppy gets bit?   Dr. Nichol: This is a subject that strikes fear into the hearts of most of us. The type of snakes you might run into has everything... Read More

Valley Fever

Bone Lesions can only be Controlled with Long Term Medication Question: After we moved to Tucson in 2002 our Keeshond developed Valley Fever which didn’t invade his lungs or spine, but led to almost complete disintegration of his bones in his front legs. He stays on fluconizole for 4 months or so, then his titer is normal, so he goes off it.  About six months later he starts going lame again, so the titer is run, he goes on the drug for 4-5... Read More

Overweight Dogs Stealing Food

Overweight Dogs Stealing Food Food Competition is Normal-Feed Separately Question: I have two dogs who eat each other’s food nearly every day to the point where the lab is becoming over weight. I try to catch them “in the act” but that’s not always possible. What can we do to help them?   Dr. Nichol: Dogs are competitive eaters for a reason. Despite the abundance of food in your home your two Labs are sure a famine will be... Read More

Blindness in a Diabetic Dog

Cataracts are Common but Treatable Question: My 10-year-old heeler cross, Maeve, was diagnosed last year with diabetes. She has responded very well to the twice-daily insulin injections and the low-fat dog food and in most ways is doing just great. However, she now appears to be completely blind. What are the options for her blindness?   Dr. Nichol: Maeve is not alone.  Cataracts occur in 3/4 of diabetic dogs within one year of the onset of... Read More

Blood Transfusions

No Need for Concern about the Use of Jugular Veins Question: My 95 pound sheepdog mix has been a blood donor for the past year.  I was happy to allow him to give blood for other dogs until I learned that they draw blood from the jugular vein (I had assumed it was the leg). I am concerned about the risk in drawing blood from this vital blood vessel.   Dr. Nichol: You and your excellent dog are providing an even greater service than you may realize.... Read More

Warm vs. Cold Noses

Nose Temperature is Never Reliable; a Thermometer is Much Better Question: Is a cold nose an indicator of health in a cat (like a dog) or is it OK if a cat’s nose is warm? Dr. Nichol: I’ve enjoyed thousands of canine and feline noses in my years of practice but, contrary to folklore, their temperatures have no meaning whatever. Good ways to monitor your pet’s health are to watch for a change in appetite, weight, water consumption, urine,... Read More

Fainting German Shepherd

Heart Disease, the most Likely Cause, may Result in Sudden Death Question: Do dogs faint?  Yesterday I noticed my 6 year old female German Shepherd appear to faint twice.  We were playing fetch when she suddenly wobbled, then fell over on her side.  After 30 seconds she got up.  This morning she had another bout. Does this need investigation? Dr. Nichol: Your dog’s fainting problem is serious business. There are many possible causes for a German... Read More

Does Allowing a Dog to Have a Litter Make a Better Dog?

Numerous Health Risks plus Overpopulation Make Spaying the Right Choice Question: A friend recently got a lab X puppy.  When I asked if he was going to spay her – he said he wanted to let her have a litter first because it makes a “better dog”.  I’d like to be able to argue that point.   Dr. Nichol: It can be tough debating folks who are sure of things that aren’t so. Start by explaining that mixed bred puppies (and... Read More

What Does it Take to Become an Animal Behaviorist?

There are a Few Routes; All take Education Question: How does a person become an animal behaviorist? Does one need to go through veterinary college or something more like an apprenticeship?   Dr. Nichol: There are a few choices. A veterinary behaviorist is a veterinarian (4 years of undergraduate study plus 4 years of veterinary medical school) who has also completed a residency program and passed a national board examination. Veterinarians,... Read More

High Blood Calcium & Back Pain

Many Possible Causes but Cancer Tops the List Question: Our 12 year old Lab/Border Collie has had back pain for 2 years and is very weak in the back legs. We’ve done a variety of treatments and none has worked. His appetite is seriously declining. All blood tests were normal except for high calcium. Our vet says that indicates cancer of the parathyroid. Surgery and chemotherapy are not options for us. We understand that his condition will lead... Read More

ProHeart 6 Recall

Adverse Reactions Plagued ProHeart but other Good Preventatives Remain Question: I read that ProHeart 6 had been recalled.  My poodle was on this medication.  What can be used in its place and what is the status of ProHeart 6?   Dr. Nichol: The every-six-month ProHeart injection seemed like an easy way of preventing heartworm infection but it appeared to cause adverse reactions in enough dogs that it was voluntarily recalled. Dogs who got the... Read More

Hypothyroidism in Dogs

Many are Simple to Manage, Others are a Challenge. Nearly all do Well Question: My 10-year-old spayed lab cross has been hypothyroid for 2 1/2 years. Molly’s thyroid is still not stable and she’s been on different levels of levothyroxine, countless blood work and now on phenobarbital for seizures. She is healthy in every other way. I just don’t understand and would like to get Molly better and stable. Dr. Nichol: Hypothyroidism (low thyroid... Read More

Hot Tubbing for Dogs

A Lab’s Common Sense should keep her Safe Question: I have a 9-month-old female Labrador Retriever that loves water (naturally). Would our hot tub be harmful if the temperature is 90 degrees? Dr. Nichol: Labs love the water regardless of temperature. I’m betting your girl is smart enough to get out if it’s too hot for her, as long as you two aren’t DRINKING while you’re in there together.    Read More

Beer Drinking for Dogs

Safe in Small Amounts, it can Damage the Health of a Trusting Dog Question: My 5-year-old male lab/shepherd cross “Q ” has picked up beer drinking. He sits next to me when I’m drinking a beer waiting until I give in and pour him some, which I do once in a while. It’s so funny, after he has a good drink he starts sneezing, I always laugh. Could a little beer now and then cause him any harm? Dr. Nichol: A little beer now and then... Read More

Grapes are Dangerous

Kidney Damage can be Permanent Question: I read in the ABQ Journal that frozen grapes are a good summer snack for dogs. I’ve been giving them to my dog and she loves them! But the other night I saw on the TV show, Dogs 101, that they might cause liver disease.   Dr. Nichol: Grapes and raisins are poisonous to the kidneys of many, but not all dogs and some cats. Kidney failure can be rapid in onset and is life threatening in some cases.   If... Read More

Health Risks of Sharing Food with a Dog

Intestinal Parasites can be a Major Human Health Risk Question: Can you get sick or contract a disease from sharing things, for example a Popsicle or letting them lick your face, with your dog? Dr. Nichol: Peter Rabbit is the Nichol family’s wonderful dog. We really love that boy but, hey, he does things with his mouth that I won’t even mention here. If we eat what he eats then we’re eating everything he’s ever eaten. We believe in safe eating.   Your... Read More

Older Lab Struggling on Summertime Walks

Disorder of the Larynx may be at Fault Question: How can I tell when my black lab, 12 years old, is becoming overheated on our walks?  We walk about 20 minutes daily, about 9:00 AM.  He seems to pant even during the cool of the morning, and heavy panting after our walk.  I don’t want to stress him if we need to adjust our walk.   Dr. Nichol: Your dog is having a tough time. The danger signs to watch for: heavy/labored panting, gums that... Read More

Summer Heat

Know How to Avoid Serious Risk & What to do in an Emergency Most of us have enough sense not to leave a dog in a hot car, but our pets can still be susceptible to heat stroke. All of us need to know the risks. We should also know first aid.   Dogs who run too hard in the direct sun can easily spike body temperatures above the critical level of 105 degrees. Think ahead when you leave home. If the female dog next door comes into her heat cycle,... Read More

Lyme Disease & Back Pain

A Treatable Disease that is Missing from New Mexico Question: My dog has Lyme disease and an injured spine. Her vet has prescribed prednisone. My concern is a compromised immune system. Are there alternatives? Dr. Nichol: Lyme disease can be a nasty infection that usually causes recurring joint pain often accompanied by lethargy and a poor appetite. Long term it can damage the kidneys and, in some cases, the heart and nervous system. Spinal pain is... Read More

Ehrlichiosis in Dogs can have Multiple Symptoms

Blindness may be Reversible is Treated Soon Question: Is there anything I can do to cure Ehrlichia in my dog?  She only has 1 symptom; she suddenly lost her eyesight about 4 weeks ago. She tested positive. Dr. Nichol: Ehrlichiosis is a blood parasite that is carried by ticks. It is a nasty disease. The symptoms can appear suddenly or creep up so gradually as to be recognized only in their advanced stages. Your dog’s blindness may be reversible... Read More


A Potentially Fatal Disease, Most Dogs Respond Well to Treatment Question: I am the “grandmother” of a handsome poodle with a big problem. He has been diagnosed with Ehrlichia platys and has been a very sick boy. We would like clarification of exactly what this disease is and what medical course we should take. The vet has him on antibiotics and has had a course of prednisone. He has responded well but they tell us this is a life long... Read More

West Nile Virus

Dogs & Cats are Not at Risk Question: Do I need to protect my dogs from the West Nile virus?   Dr. Nichol: This spreading infection is nerve wracking for horses, birds, and humans, but our dogs and cats are way out of the loop. For the latest and greatest on West Nile, I contacted state epidemiologist Dr. Paul Ettestad in Santa Fe. The good doctor pointed out that with carrier mosquitoes spreading this infection as far west as Texas and Colorado,... Read More

Exercising Dog with Bike Riding

A Healthy Dog Can Run Longer than a Human Can Ride Question: I was wondering what’s your take on biking with a dog. I’ve got an Aussie that I’ve been biking with a mile or so in the morning and she seems to be doing fine. She has a good sprint the first couple of blocks then an easy pace and a few stops and smell the poops along the way. I use a 6-foot lead with a Halti.   Dr. Nichol: Exercise is important for both of you, but... Read More

Overweight Dogs & Cats

R/d is the Best Way to Shed the Pounds & Prevent Serious Disease Question: Is Science diet r/d formula equal to the prescription r/d? Can I buy this r/d food anywhere else besides my vet?   Dr. Nichol: The prescription diets (r/d and others) are made by Hills Science Diet. R/d is the best weight reduction diet I’ve ever known. (Just look at my girlish figure.) R/d’s big difference, compared with “light” diets, is that it’s much... Read More

Swelling of the Abdomen, Weight Loss, & Yellow Gums

Advanced liver disease can be deadly but many cases are manageable.   Question: Our beautiful old dog is getting a little weak. And her stomach is getting big but when I feel her head and her back, she’s skin and bones. When you push on her stomach, it’s soft and mushy. She still feels pretty much OK but I also notice that her gums are a little bit yellow. Why is her belly big?   Dr. Nichol: I’m glad you are getting advice. This old girl... Read More

Excessive Drinking is a Critically Important Symptom

A Thorough Diagnostic Workup is Essential for Life Question: My 7-year-old Akita mix has started drinking a lot of water. He was tested for diabetes and Cushing’s and results were negative. Is there something else that can be causing him to be so thirsty?   Dr. Nichol: Your dog’s excessive drinking (polydipsia) (CQ) is critically important; you may lose him if the cause isn’t fully understood soon. A heavy thirst is usually compensation... Read More

Cushing’s Disease

Often Difficult to Diagnose & Treat, Cushing’s is fairly Common Question: I lost a 9-yr-old Boston Terrier to Cushing’s disease. What is that? Could I have done something to save her? Should I have recognized early symptoms? Dr. Nichol: I am so sorry for your loss. I’ve seen other grieving pet lovers second-guess themselves. I hope a few answers will help.   Cushing’s disease results either from excess hormone production from... Read More

Addison’s Disease

Poorly functioning adrenal glands produce low amounts of the body’s cortisol. Learn the signs of this disease. Also know how to recognize trouble with medication dosages.   Question: My 5 year old mixed breed dog was diagnosed with Addison’s disease last August. He is currently on 5 mg. Prednisone and 5 mg. Florinef daily. Since he started these medications he has been experiencing excessive urination, mostly when he is asleep. Is there something... Read More

Screwtail in a Bulldog

Cursed with funky, misshapen vertebrae, Bulldog tails can plug the anus.   Question: Help! My bulldog has screwtail. I’d never heard of such a thing. What do I do?   Dr. Nichol: Screwtail is a problem seen in brachcephalic dog breeds (pushed-in faces like bulldogs and pugs). It’s caused by malformed vertebrae in the tail that cause it to grow in the shape of a corkscrew. It’s a problem if it grows in such a way that it interferes... Read More


Severe flea infestations can cause blood loss anemia. Shock & death are a big risk.   Question: I have a small dog who has been passing out! She comes out of it when I pick her up . Yesterday she went into convulsions but again snapped out of it when I picked her up. The fleas are really bad this year, she was okay for one day after bathing , I sprayed the carpet and all was okay until she went outside and again was covered with fleas. Is it... Read More

Postoperative Pain

Pets, without question, feel pain just as we do. Better pet hospitals treat & prevent pain.   Question: I have often wondered about cats and dogs and pain, especially when Skippy, our wonder cat with 3 legs, had most of his hind leg amputated to the hip.  He came home the evening of surgery and my wife and I took turns holding him all night.  He did not seem to be in pain, but rather out of it or a little crazy from the anesthetic. Isn’t... Read More

Older Dogs May Show Their Pain with Behavior Changes.

Hidden problems like joint pain, organ disease, & thyroid trouble can be found with lab testing. Proper treatment can improve life quality & life expectancy.   Question: My 14 year old Brittany Spaniel, Beckett, is beginning to show her age, a lot like her owners. Cataracts, hearing loss, and arthritis are among her maladies. She has gone from a very frisky youngster to a timid little baby in the last year or so. Her latest quirk is chattering... Read More

Big Active Dogs & Their Big Active Tails

Wounded, bleeding tails are a miserable mess. Here are some answers.   Question: I have a small problem with my chocolate Labrador. Her tail at the end is hairless and when she wags her tail and hits it on anything it bleeds. We’ve tried to bandage it but she takes it off. We are really at wit’s end on this. Splatters of blood are everywhere she goes. It’s not infected or anything like that. Can you help?   Dr. Nichol: What... Read More

Hemolytic Anemia

It’s fatal in 50% of dogs who have it. It must be treated quickly & aggressively   Question: What is done to treat Hemolytic Anemia?  My 9 year old Airedale- Shepherd mix Dog has been diagnosed with Hemolytic Anemia and I searching for treatment options.  Thank you in advance for your help.   Dr. Nichol: The problem that has beset your dog is complex and quite delicate to treat. The full name for this disease is Immune Mediated Hemolytic... Read More


Umbilical hernias are common in puppies. Most are insignificant. A few can be dangerous.   Question: We have a 10 week old white German Shepherd puppy and I just noticed a lump about the size of the tip of a pinky finger on her tummy below her rib cage.  What could it be?   Dr. Nichol: You describe an umbilical hernia. This is a birth defect that is usually quite minor. The lump you are noticing is likely to be a small amount of normal fat... Read More

Tail Chasing

Anal Glands are a common cause of rear end discomfort. It’s usually easy to remedy.   Question: Is it an old wife’s tale or a fact that if a dog chases its tail that it will go crazy and have to be put to sleep?  This sweet little Spitz also loves to chase her tail. I would appreciate any help in these two areas.   Dr. Nichol: Tail chasing: Sometimes I feel like my live could be described that way. Will I go crazy and have to be put... Read More

Nail Trimming

Long toenails make for painful arthritic feet. Black nails are hard to trim safely. Here is the how-to.   Question: I’ve recently acquired my deceased mother’s dog. I’m taking her to the vet soon to have her checked out and to get shots updated. My main question is her toenails are so long that they curve and lay to the side. Can I trim them back to the normal length without causing her any harm? I’m really concerned about her.   Dr.... Read More

Double Dewclaws

Surgical removal is only necessary for field dogs.   Question: We recently adopted a 6-month-old German Shepherd-mix puppy from an animal shelter.  He is “double dewclawed” on his hind legs.  Do they need to be removed?  One vet said they should be removed; the other said it’s optional. I’m planning on walking him every day in fields and on forest trails, also some rugged hiking in New Hampshire. I understand that removing... Read More

Vaccinations for Puppies & Kittens

What do they really need & what’s unnecessary.   Question: My kids and my wife and I have decided that we want to have a pet but we can’t agree on a dog or a cat so we got both. We know they need shots but I’ve called a few vet clinics and I’m getting different answers on how many shots they need. Can you advise us on what’s best?   Dr. Nichol: Boy, am I glad to hear this question. It is painful for me to recall... Read More

Vaccine Reactions

Our best methods at disease prevention have a down side risk. Here are the facts.   Question: Last year, my standard poodle had a very severe reaction to her annual vaccinations. In fact, she almost died. She was literally unable to move without a great deal of pain and her eyes were glazed. She was treated but barely survived. They told us that they give the same dosage of vaccinations to all dogs, whether Chihuahua or Great Dane. I find that... Read More

Anesthetic Safety in an Older Dog

Age is not a disease. Safety is really a function of health. Complete lab work will solve the safety question.   Question: My beloved Cairn Terrier is 13 and his vet has recommended neutering him to prevent testicular cancer and prostate problems.  He will also clean the dog’s teeth and remove some warts.  At the equivalent of 91 human years, I’m of course worried about Excalibur surviving the surgery and wondering how long his possible... Read More

Hiccups in Puppies

No Treatment Necessary Question: I never thought I’d be writing to you (sounds like Dear Abby). I have a 5-month-old Basset Hound named Homer who has a terrible problem with hiccups. He seems to get them daily and I can’t imagine using any human remedies on him. He’s a little high strung so I’m afraid that scaring him would kill him! Just joking. Any ideas?   Dr. Nichol: Abby and I are old pals, having shared this page... Read More

Health Risks to a Dog Who Catches & Eats Field Mice

Nothing Important to Worry About. Tapeworms & Hanta Virus are Highly Unlikely Question: I recently caught my pedigree-challenged dog chasing and catching a field mouse. She dropped the mouse when I shouted, but I’m sure this is not an isolated incident. Can she get sick if she catches/kills/ingests a field mouse?   Dr. Nichol: Dogs can be such animals, can’t they? You’d never catch a human hunting, killing and eating a defenseless... Read More

Anal (rear end) Irritation

Impacted anal glands make a dog scoot and/or lick his/her rear end. Relief is simple but important.   Question: I have a daschund (wienie dog, female) about 7 years old. She seems to be trying to scratch here anus, and unfortunately see can’t seem to reach. She’s a tad over weight. She even drags or circles on the floor in a futile attempt to scratch. I do not find the usual suspects of fleas or ticks. I don’t see any signs of worms.... Read More

Wet Noses

Wet nose, dry nose-no big deal.   Question: Should my cat have a wet nose?  In the mornings, his nose is wet.  He did have an upper respiratory infection when I got him at the shelter.   Dr. Nichol: Assuming the infection has resolved your cat can have a wet nose because of excessive tearing. Are you making your cat upset? Does he read romance novels in bed? Some of my best friends have wet noses and I’m not complaining.  Read More

Senior Dog Dropping Stools Inside

Joint Pain makes it Hard to get Outside Question: 15 year old terrier/collie mix is losing control of anal muscles. Has difficulty holding squat position. Outside walks in straight line, dropping as she goes. Occasionally drops several “bombs” in house without meaning to. Looks sheepish. Have not scolded her.   Dr. Nichol: Thank you for not punishing your senior dog for her bombing missions. She knows she’s breaking the rules but... Read More

Old Dog Anorexia & Weight Loss

Forget Tempting Treats-Get Medical Attention for that Sick Senior Dog Question: In January my 16-year-old dachshund/cocker cross stopped eating her dry dog food. Canned food caused her to have diarrhea and vomiting. Now she’s eating very little.  She’s very thin, and I’d like to know what I can feed her that might help her gain a few pounds.   Dr. Nichol: I can tell how much you love this girl. The reason for her weight loss... Read More

Sudden Blindness in a Dog

SARDS is Incurable Question: We discovered a few weeks ago our Brittany dog, Val, is experiencing SARDS, Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome. I am devastated at how quickly he is losing his eyesight. He is only 8 years old and in good health otherwise.   It is difficult to see how confused he is. His activity level has dropped dramatically. He used to love to hunt lizards but now I’m afraid he’ll scratch his eye since he... Read More

Glaucoma Risk

Prevention is the Best Cure Question: I hope you will remind your readers about the importance of making provisions for their beloved pets should they die before the pets. A friend recently diagnosed with terminal liver cancer committed suicide last week. Prior to that, I promised him I would care for his two dogs (he had originally planned to kill them first).   I had no idea one of the dogs is on Xalatan (a $100 vial lasts three weeks). He... Read More

Boston Terrier’s Eyes are Vulnerable to Cat Scratch Injury

Consider Nail Caps or Declawing for Cat Question: I have a sociable cat. My boyfriend has a Boston terrier who’s blind in one eye. My cat, who has her claws, will playfully bat at the dog. My boyfriend believes that my cat will inevitably blind his dog by scratching his good eye. This matter is very important to our relationship.   Dr. Nichol: Will I cause a serious rift if I agree with your boyfriend? Sorry about that. The protruding eyes... Read More

Dry Eye (KCS) in a Young Dog

Blindness can Result but it Can be Treated Question: We adopted the cutest little dog from a shelter. She was a mess-matted, fleas and smelly. The vet said she was virtually blind-something about not enough tears as a puppy. We love our little Buttons to pieces. Is there an eye specialist you would recommend? She is happy but would be such fun if she could see further than her nose.   Dr. Nichol: Buttons sounds delightful. Her eyes may respond... Read More

Eyelid Masses on a Middle Aged Dog

Small Tumors Should be Removed Question: I am a widowed senior citizen. I have a 10 year old miniature poodle. This little dog has lost most of her eyesight due to cataracts. For several months she has had sties appear on her right eye. She now has one that has grown to the size of an English pea. It does not seem to bother her. The sty seems to have some drainage.   Dr. Nichol: Your poodle is not alone. We see a lot of eyelid masses in middle... Read More

Blind Older Dog Circling, Confused, & Becoming Lost

Most Dogs Adjust well to Blindness. Brain Aging Changes are More Likely & Treatable Question: We have a 14 year-old, female Japanese Chin who is blind. Sometimes she complains and whines, but she doesn’t seem to be in pain. She can’t run and play like she used to love to do and just walks in little circles for hours on end. She has to be taken outside and taken to her bowl and, of course, she runs into walls and furniture. She is still... Read More


An Older Chow’s Blindness may be Reversible with Eyelid Surgery Question: I have a Chow and he is 10yrs old. Lately I have noticed that he runs into things. There’s a thin film on his eyes that wasn’t there before. I hate seeing him not being able to see. I was considering surgery but was told that surgery on a dog his age wouldn’t do any good and possibly make him blind. I would like to fix the problem if it’s possible.   Dr. Nichol: Your... Read More

Superficial Pigmentary Keratitis

Brown Pigment on the Surface of the Eyes Can Cause Blindness in Pugs, Boston Terriers, & Lhasa Apsos. Question: I recently adopted a 10-month-old female fawn pug, Phoebe. I was told that she was probably blind and had keratitis pigmentosa. She sees fairly well. Is there anything I can do for her, or to help her with this condition?   Dr. Nichol: Phoebe’s eye disease, also called superficial pigmentary keratitis, can be serious business... Read More

Cataracts in an Older Dog

There are Multiple Causes. Treatment is Usually Successful Question: I have a female mixed breed terrier (12 yrs. old) named Rosie whom we all love dearly. She has a white cloudiness in her eyes, and has trouble seeing well. She is not yet blind. What are my options for bringing her sight back? And how important is the timing (too late, now, soon, within a year)?   Dr. Nichol: You are describing cataracts, a permanent gray/white lens color that... Read More


Surgical Approaches to Correction in a Miniature Schnauzer   Question: My miniature schnauzer will be 5, and has congenital cataracts (knew she had something wrong the first few days of having her home but oh well).  She has a dachsund companion that helps her out but it’s sad to see her so disabled by her blindness when she runs into things.  I heard that there is ophthalmic surgery. What do you recommend?   Dr. Nichol: Your compassion... Read More

Eye Discharge

Extra eyelashes can cause discharge & damage the eyes.   Question: I have a wonderful little female Bichon Frise.  She has these really bad leaky eyes that turn the hair around her eyes brown and black.  When I look real closely, especially at her left eye, looks like she has sleep in her eyes all the time.  She is not a show dog, just our sweet little pet, so I just wonder how much this bothers her or if it causes her pain of any kind? ... Read More

Eyes: Uneven Pupils

It may be normal, or maybe not. Get a good physical exam.   Question: We have recently acquired a new cat to our household. She is an odd eyed white. The pupil in the blue eye is always larger than the pupil in the yellow eye. Is this normal? She seems to be in good health otherwise.   Dr. Nichol: Congratulations on your new kitty. You were smart to examine her carefully. Actually there are lots of white cats with eyes of different colors. Many... Read More

The Third Eyelid

Third Eyelids can be visible with stress, infection, or foreign material. A good exam is important & essential.   Question: I must say that I am very worried about my Maine coon kitten. This morning, when we woke up, we found that one of her eyes had an off-white coating on most of the eye. It doesn’t seem to bother him (he’s not scratching at it or grooming it or anything else) but it really worries me. It looks like the stuff that... Read More

Cherry Eye

Not just unattractive, chronic eye can result. Surgical correction is best.   Question: I just bought a boxer/bulldog mix and he has what you call a cherry eye. What do I do about it?   Dr. Nichol: This is a common eye disease but I wish it hadn’t been named after food. It’s an oxymoron like jumbo shrimp and military intelligence.   OK, cherry eye. It’s not an emergency but it is important. The eyeball itself is fine.... Read More

Spring Time Winds & Eye Discharge

Grey Mucous can be Managed by Simple Eye Cleaning Question: I live in the East Mountains and have a 3-year-old healthy Doberman. Just recently with all of the high winds, I’ve noticed that my dog is getting a white, gooey discharge from her eyes after she wakes up in the mornings. Is this an allergy of some sort? She seems fine and does not paw her eyes or rub her face in the ground. Should I be worried?   Dr. Nichol: The only good diagnosis... Read More

Eye & Nose Discharge

Infectious upper respiratory diseases can linger & run rampant in multiple cat households.   Question: I have a litter of white kittens  who are approximately 3 months old plus 6 cats. They have never been outside but they have developed a discharge from their eyes and scabs around their noses. Only two of them are infected. They have not had any shots as of yet. Their behavior has not changed and they run and play and eat really well. And now... Read More

Puppy Epiphora

Possible Injury, Possible Birth Defect Question: I am in the process of purchasing a Lab puppy from a litter of 8. The one I picked seems to have a small amount of tearing, the others do not. Should I be concerned that might lead to eye problems later on? Or is this normal? Dr. Nichol: You may have reason for concern. If that new baby has a minor infection (conjunctivitis) it should be easy to manage with ointment or drops. On the other hand, tears... Read More

Chronic Discharge from One Eye is Potentially Dangerous

Let Go of Fears of Expense or Losing Cat-Get Treatment ASAP Question: A homeless, male tabby that comes by our home is such a sweet boy. Poor Goober has had a very bad infection in one eye for about 3 weeks. It’s very pink and it looks raw. I came close to hauling him to the animal hospital but I’m afraid they’ll fine us (he’s not really our kitty and he’s not microchipped). I’m not prepared to pay hundreds of dollars.... Read More

Eye Discharge

Don’t goof around at home. See the doctor fast.   Question: I just noticed today that my cat’s eyes were tearing and one was infected with green pus.  Is there any way that I can treat her myself? She is kept indoors.   Dr. Nichol: Please do NOT monkey around with eye disease. Discharge coming from just one eye suggests a possible injury to that eye. Without thorough diagnosis and appropriate treatment she could end up with big... Read More

Dog Only Eliminates in One Location

Here is how to Train to Eliminate Anywhere Question: We adopted a puppy in March at 3 months old. We had no problem house training Duke. The problem is he will not eliminate when we take him for a walk, go hiking, go to the dog park, etc. He will hold until we get home and he went to the area we trained him to eliminate. How can I train him to eliminate when we take him for a walk or hiking?   Dr. Nichol: Duke follows the letter of the law. He... Read More

Pets Need You to Plan for their Care in the Event You Die First

Caretaker has no $ for Dog’s Expensive Eye Medication Question: I hope you will remind your readers about the importance of making provisions for their beloved pets should they die before the pets. A friend recently diagnosed with terminal liver cancer committed suicide last week. Prior to that, I promised him I would care for his two dogs (he had originally planned to kill them first).   I had no idea one of the dogs is on Xalatan (a $100... Read More

“Warts” on Dogs’ Muzzles are Important Sensory Equipment

Vibrissae Help Animals Feel their Environment Question: Dogs have warts on their jaw or under their chin or both. They seem to have inherited these from their wolf ancestors. What evolutionary purpose do you think these may play? Perhaps at one time they were identification marks?   Dr. Nichol: Rather than warts, those mounds of skin around our dogs’ muzzles have an important function. The long, thick hairs that protrude from them, called vibrissae,... Read More


Dogs can Catch them from People This is an interesting reflex we share with our pets, quite literally with our dogs. It has long been recognized that when you yawn after seeing someone else do it you are showing empathy. Until recently it was believed that only other humans and great apes could catch human yawns.   Now we know better. Research has shown that dogs catch human yawns; of 29 pet dogs tested, 72% yawned when they observed an unfamiliar... Read More

Zoonotic Disease Transmission

Good Hygiene is Essential but other Humans are the Greatest Risk Question: When the Europeans came to America they brought diseases that we as a people only scarcely survived. Because of the Europeans’ close association with their animals they were immune to most of the diseases that we were not. My question: A lot of people kiss and do other questionable things with their animals, the animals kiss and lick other animals’ butts and parts, is this... Read More

Changing a Dog’s Name

Associate the Name with Obedience & Food Rewards Question: I’ve been perusing the available dogs at various shelters and found a gorgeous white shepherd, but his name doesn’t suit the quite regal fellow he is. How difficult is it to change a dog’s name?   Dr. Nichol: Not hard at all if you pick a name that sounds like dog food hitting the bottom of a bowl. Start on day one teaching simple commands. Say “George, Sit!”... Read More

Dog Walking Elimination Etiquette

Avoid the Ire of Neighbors by Rewarding your Dog for Eliminating at her Territory’s Boundary Question: I used to be a professional dog sitter and when a dog lifts his leg on a fence post I've had screaming banshees run out & shoo us away. When a dog defecates on a neighbor's rock garden, do you drag the dog to the street as he's performing his dirty work? How do you train a dog to eliminate in an appropriate place?   Dr. Nichol: It’s... Read More

Weed Killers and Insecticides that are Safe for Dogs

Vinegar & Diatomaceous Earth are In; Round-Up is Out Question: I have two dogs, George & Gracie, whom I love dearly.  I am working under the assumption that there are no safe products to kill weeds and insects that would be safe to use around G&G.  Is this correct? Dr. Nichol: Your question stimulates my brain; we veterinarians are taught how to recognize and treat chemical poisonings but we know little about safe alternatives. For reliable... Read More

Does Allowing a Dog to Have a Litter Make a Better Dog?

Numerous Health Risks plus Overpopulation Make Spaying the Right Choice Question: A friend recently got a lab X puppy.  When I asked if he was going to spay her – he said he wanted to let her have a litter first because it makes a “better dog”.  I’d like to be able to argue that point.   Dr. Nichol: It can be tough debating folks who are sure of things that aren’t so. Start by explaining that mixed bred puppies (and... Read More

Tying a Dog in the Hot Sun is Dangerous & Abusive

More Effective ways of Keeping a Dog at Home are also Safer Question: I was appalled to find that my wife’s adult son had left his dog chained to a clothesline pole.  He had no food or water and very little shade.  I gave him food and water, and he seemed SO GRATEFUL. I considered it animal abuse but my wife said that this was a country dog, and when he learned not to run away her son would let it off of the chain.  I think I know the answer,... Read More

Cloning a Dog

It’s Happening Fast-But is it the Right Thing to Do? Question: My dog’s 10 and is a great friend. What’s the latest on dog cloning (how/cost/etc.)? Dr. Nichol: Cloning of nonhuman animals is on the fast track. Remember Dolly the sheep back in ’97? She didn’t end up doing so well but her short life was followed by the successful cloning of a cat, a guar, a rabbit, cows, mice, goats, pigs, mules, and recently a horse. Soon primates,... Read More

Boxer Roots in Food Bowl

Question: I have a wonderful Boxer who is 4 years old. Cookie has had this unusual habit since she was a puppy. Before she eats she roots in the dry food, then moves her head to the side and seems to push down, then she roots again. She gets a primeval look in her eyes. At first I thought she was mentally ill but she is a sweet, fun loving, highly intelligent dog. Have you ever heard of this strange but true behavior?   Dr. Nichol: Such primitive... Read More

Careers in Veterinary Technology

College training in the highly skilled area of medical support in a veterinary hospital. Question: I just love animals. I think it would be great to be a veterinarian but I don’t want to go to school for 8 years. I have heard about a career as a veterinary technician or assistant. What can you tell me about these careers?   Dr. Nichol: I am always delighted to hear of folks interested in the rewarding field of veterinary medicine. You are... Read More

Distemper in Dogs

This horrible disease of the nervous system is still with us. Vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate. Dear Dr. Nichol, A couple of weeks ago my wife and I adopted a beautiful Labrador Retriever cross puppy from an animal shelter. Everything was great for the first week, then he stopped eating, had pus in is eyes and nose and quit playing. Our veterinarian said that little “Brandy” has distemper and that he may die. We thought distemper was all but wiped... Read More

Bathing: How Often? What Shampoo?

With a few exceptions, never is best. Brushing is much healthier. Question: How often should I bathe my pets? I’ve heard everything from once a week to never.   Dr. Nichol: In almost all pets the right answer is never. No kidding. Here’s why. Unlike humans, pets don’t have sweat glands. Without them there is really no hygienic need for frequent shampooing. But pets, especially dogs, do start to swell funky without grooming. This is because,... Read More

Wolf Hybrids

Call of the Wild? Great pet with an independent spirit? Dangerous & illegal? Question: I know some people who breed wolf hybrids. I’ve seen these animals and they are magnificent. The breeder tells me that when mixed with a Malamute, they are protective but loving pets. They seem a little wild to me. What do you advise?   Dr. Nichol: I have to admit that it’s kind of thrilling to think of owning a critter out of Call of the Wild. But... Read More

Tail Docking in Puppies

It’s just for looks, but for your pups it’s important. 1-3 days old is best for safety. Question: My Boxer just had a litter of the cutest babies I have ever seen. But, as you know, they were born with long tails. To make them look like Boxers we need to get their tails docked but we don’t know at what age to have it done. Our vet’s office said 1-3 days old but isn’t that awfully young?   Dr. Nichol: I am glad you asked.... Read More


More than just a nuisance, flies can cause maggots to destroy the health an older dog. Question: My old dog has flies buzzing around. What works well?   Dr. Nichol: Get a spray or lotion at a feed store that is intended for horses. Keep it away from the eyes and dilute it as recommended on the label and you’ll be fine. Flies are important because they can lead to maggots.  Read More

Dog House Construction

Size Does Matter Question: We have two 10 year old beagles who have always been “outdoor” dogs. I have built them a house framed with 2×4’s, plywood, and have insulated the floor, walls, and ceiling with pink fiberglass insulation. It even has a tabbed hinged door that they can open themselves. They have carpet and an old down sleeping bag inside. The problem is due to the cold weather; my wife thinks they should be inside.... Read More

Dogs Outside in Cold Weather

A Shared Doghouse or Indoor Separate Crates are Best Question: I have two dogs, Zara with a built-in fur coat, very thick, and Luke, typical short hair, about 35 lbs and skinny. We have two doghouses. Is this enough protection for Luke the skinny nougins? They mostly are indoors at night, however once a week we go and stay at Grandma’s. I’ve been following the idea if its about 30 and up, he’s o.k., 29 or below, or if it actually snows... Read More

Outdoor Shelters For Pets

What’s the right size, how much house is enough Question: I’m worried about my neighbor’s pets because it’s getting so cold at night. They have 2 cats and a dog who huddle up together in a pile each night in a corner of their yard. I told them I would ask your advice-I know they will do what you suggest. They’re nice people-I just don’t think they know any better.   Dr. Nichol: Thanks for caring. It’s actually remarkable how well... Read More

Tobacco Kills

Nicotine is a potent nerve toxin. Feeding cigarettes to any critters is deadly. Question: I think my dog Harvey has worms. He drags his rear end a lot. So a friend told me that I could get rid of the worms by giving him tobacco. Can I just give him pieces of cigarettes?   Dr. Nichol: Only if he’s not a minor. (Sorry, only kidding). Please do not give tobacco to Harvey. Nicotine is a potent toxin that could kill him if given in high enough... Read More

The Business End of Pet Health Care

What’s right & wrong on the discussion of money. Question: Two weeks ago our cat Walter was real sick and was in the animal hospital for 5 days. Each day, the veterinarian talked to us about how he was doing. He also told us how much we were spending on Walter. In fact when we left Walter for treatment at the beginning, the clinic wanted a deposit. I know they do good work there, but why do they have to talk about money so much? Did they think... Read More

Cloning a Dog

A new dog with new lessons. Sometimes different is better. Question: I read a few weeks ago that they were trying to create an exact replica of someone’s pet dog.  I would give a lot to have a clone of my Westie.  I’m sure I’m not the only pet owner who hates the thought of a dog’s short life-span-and would love a second chance at training a smart but ornery puppy.   Dr. Nichol: It certainly sounds like an intriguing... Read More

Quality Standards for Veterinary Medical Care

How to know if your veterinarian is doing the job right.   Question: Why is there so little standardization between vets? The best ones do extensive prep work, blood testing, fine needle aspiration, etc. and have one person on the heart monitor, one anesthetist, with 3 kinds of anesthesia while others have only one assistant who answers the phone during surgeries. Wouldn’t it make sense to standardize veterinary surgery, like human surgeons... Read More

Daily Dog Care

The Basics Question: What do you have to do to take care of a dog daily?   Dr. Nichol: This is a great question. Give excellent food in two measured feedings each day. Pick it up when he or she walks away from it. If you have more than one pet, feed them at the same time but in separate places so they can’t see each other. This prevents competitive eating which leads to obesity. Water: Clean the bowl and refill with fresh water at least... Read More

Blood Types in Pets

Cats, with only Two Blood Types have Good Success with Kidney Transplants Question: One of my students asked me if animals of the same species have different blood types like humans. For example: if you needed to give a cat a blood transfusion would you need to find another cat with the same type of blood (for example type A or B etc.) for the transfusion to be successful?   Dr. Nichol: Yes, other species have blood types too. Dogs are known... Read More

Normal Body Temperature

101.0 F (+ or – 0.5 degrees) Question: I’m curious as to the normal body temperature of a dog.   Dr. Nichol: 101.0 degrees Fahrenheit plus or minus 0.5 degree is the official answer, but 100 to 102 is fine. REALLY excited, but normal, dogs can sport rectal temperatures of 103.5. Forget using ear thermometers, though. It will annoy your dog and the darn things don’t even play music.  Read More

Carsickness in Dogs

Dramamine or a prescription medication given before the car ride will prevent nausea. Question: My 6-month-old Silky Terrier is plagued with carsickness. We have tried traveling on an empty stomach to no avail. We’ve also only taken very short trips–so far 10- to 20- minutes traveling time. Part of our reason for getting a small breed was so he could join in on family vacations. Is there anything we can do to prevent the carsickness or... Read More

Where to Find Good Care for Your Pets When You’re Out of Town

Leave out food & water? Friends who visit your home? Expensive kennels? Here’s how to choose.   Question: Soon our children will be back in school and our family has one last vacation planned. We have a cat and a dog but we don’t know where to turn for reliable pet care while we’re gone. Please advise us.   Dr. Nichol: You show real concern for those other family members-your pets. Here are some bad ideas first. Do not leave a... Read More

Current Parvo Vaccination Recommendations

Get Advice from a Reliable Source Question: Conflicting advice for older dogs and parvo vaccination. I’ve recently been advised by a pet supply outlet that my older dogs (8 year old golden and 13 year old heeler) do not need annual parvo if they have regularly been vaccinated up to this point. The exception they noted was if they were to be kenneled. Is this correct or would you always do a parvo vaccination?   Dr. Nichol: Gone are the... Read More

Vaccinations for Puppies & Kittens

What do they really need & what’s unnecessary. Question: My kids and my wife and I have decided that we want to have a pet but we can’t agree on a dog or a cat so we got both. We know they need shots but I’ve called a few vet clinics and I’m getting different answers on how many shots they need. Can you advise us on what’s best?   Dr. Nichol: Boy, am I glad to hear this question. It is painful for me to recall the... Read More


Health means more than just ‘Start out slowly, then taper off’. Question: I have a beautiful 8-month-old Bichon Frise puppy who loves to go running with me.  I started her off on 10-minute runs, and she has now done one 30-minute run. (She’s always in front of me, pulling on her flex leash!)  Am I doing any damage to her puppy joints by having her run with me?  And how long do you think it’s safe for her to run?  Could she do 10K... Read More

Basset Hounds

Why that funky body style? Are they all loveable?   Question: What are basset hounds good for?   Dr. Nichol: That depends on who’s asking and why. Originally Bassets were bred to hunt rabbits. Their short legs allowed them to get into small places like rabbit holes. They are really tenacious hunters. Once they’re on a scent they are be oblivious to everything-all the while howling their little brains out.   But that’s... Read More

Training Collars & Head Halters

There are several useful tools; each has its place. All are safe if used properly.   Question: Do you know of any health problems related to either prong/pinch collars or head halters?  I am doing some research for our training club.   Dr. Nichol: I’m glad to get this question because there is a great deal of concern and misinformation about training methods and devises like these. The truth is that, yes they are safe, but there is... Read More

Pets & Children: Teaching Responsibility

Carefully consider the maturity of the primary caretaker before adding a new pet to your home.   Question: I’m thinking that a pet is a good way to teach responsibility to my children. One is 5 and the other is 3. Do you think they are old enough?   Dr. Nichol: Do I look like Dr. Joyce Brothers? (Please say no.) The truth is I see a lot of parents making this decision at various times in the development of their children. And having a... Read More

Introducing a New Dog to an Established Group of Cats

There is a good method to taking it slow & careful. A gentle dog should fit in well-eventually.   Question: Five days ago I got a young dog. I already had three cats . I’ve let the cats run loose at night and kept the doggie in the bathroom. I let them all sniff under the door. I’ve taken the dog with me in the daytime and let the cats be able to go into her bathroom to check out her scent. I’m not comfortable letting her roam... Read More

Introducing a New Dog to an Established Group of Dogs

Give them plenty of distance & take it slow.   Question: I have a one-year-old male Chihuahua. He and our female dog got along well until she was killed in a car accident.  I just recently purchased another female approx. 7 weeks old.  My male will have nothing to do with her and growls and tries to fight with her.  We make sure and give him plenty of attention and loving before and after her adoption, but he will not even look at her without... Read More

Active, Normal, Out of Control German Shepherd Puppy

Establish a Healthy Hierarchy & Train that Puppy Question: I have a 10-month-old German Shepherd female. When my husband is home, she is on her best behavior. However, when he goes to work, (I am a stay-at-home mom) she is terrible. She chews everything, digs in the yard, and tries to get away with murder. Also, is it common for German Shepherds to be so hyper? Please help.   Dr. Nichol: You sound like you’re at wits end. In far too many... Read More

Puppy Training Class

Even small breed dogs need good manners. Taking a puppy to school gets you both trained-and your lives together get better.   Question: We just got a brand new puppy and are we ever excited. She is perfect. She’s a miniature poodle and she’s 12 weeks old and she’s already making potty outside and she comes to us when we call her. But I think dog school would be a great idea but my husband says that she’s just a little dog... Read More

Aging Dogs-Knowing when the Time for Euthanasia is Right

Your Veterinarian should be there for Guidance & Support Question: I have a 17 year old cocker terrier. She now has multiple problems and is on many meds. She is deaf and can’t see that well. My dilemma is this: When is the appropriate time to think about “putting her to sleep”? I love her with all my being and have a difficult time even thinking about this let alone asking about it. She still runs around and loves to eat and... Read More

Grieving Pet Loss

Other family dogs share the loss & the grief. Question: A few weeks ago I had to put down Sam, one of my four dogs, due to liver failure. The remaining three seem to be grieving, no playing, no barking, not eating. Sam seemed to be the leader. How can I help them overcome their grief when I cannot seem to recover from it? Thank you for listening.   Dr. Nichol: Your world has been badly shaken. You and your special family are having normal... Read More

Death of Pet Owner & Its Affect on a Loving Dog

The loss of a family member can be a major stress on a beloved pet. TLC, time to grieve, & medication will ease the transition.   Question: Our family has a very serious problem. Two weeks ago my dad died. He lived alone except for his faithful dog Angus. Angus is a truly great Labrador Retriever. He is eight years old and physically healthy. The problem is that since Dad’s passing, Angus has been really depressed. He barely eats, he won’t... Read More

Urine Killing Grass

Daily Vitamin C will provide a healthy lawn.   Question: We have a 6-month-old blue heeler, female; she is slowly turning my grass yellow.  Is there anything that I can do to prevent my grass from dying?   Dr. Nichol: 250 mg. (two hundred fifty milligrams) of vitamin C once daily will acidify her urine and cause the grass to grow lush and green in those spots instead of brown and dead.     Question: I read in your column that... Read More

Belly Buttons

Everybody has one. Here’s how to hunt one down.   Question: Why don’t dogs and cats have belly buttons like people?   Dr. Nichol: Well, the truth is that they do but they’re just a bit more modest about it. I’ve examined the tummies of countless dogs, cats, ferrets, rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, rats, mice and guinea pigs and everybody has one but they are all strangely unfestooned with rings and studs and starburst tattoos.... Read More

Legal Intervention for a Neglected Dog

Do your Best job of Diplomacy Before calling Animal Control Question: One of my neighbors has had his Labrador confined behind his house (on the windowless side) for years.  Never walks him, now had a debark collar installed.  The dog is outside day and night, very lonely.  I have tried to talk to the neighbor, but the answer has been “mind your own business.”  What organization can I contact to do something to help this poor, lonely creature?   Dr.... Read More

Puppies-Adding a New One to the Home

It’s important to carefully select the right puppy to add to your life.   Question: I have a 2 1/2 yr. old female Chihuahua. She is VERY spoiled.  We have ordered a new female Chihuahua puppy, to be delivered in a couple of months.  I have NO idea how to introduce them and am fearful that the older one will try to hurt the puppy.  Any advice would be appreciated.   Dr. Nichol: You are smart to think ahead on this issue. Small breed dogs... Read More

Rare Dog Breeds, Ear Trims, & Air Travel

Be Careful with “Designer” Dogs; Inbreeding Often Spells Poor Health & Bas Temperaments Question: I will be getting an Argentine Dogo puppy form a breeder in Austin in a few weeks.  She will grow to 90-105 pounds, will she be able to fit under the airplane seat at 8 weeks old? Why do people crop dogs’ ears? How long does it take for the ears to heal? Have you ever seen Argentine Dogos in NM? Should I consider giving her a sedative for the... Read More

Small Breed Dogs

They have some Issues of their Own but are Better in some ways than Large Dogs Question: A couple of weeks ago there was an article in the Journal about all the “negatives” of adopting “very small” dogs because of their teeth and other health problems.  I’ve been thinking about adopting a small one but this article has put me on hold. I like Chihuahuas and Shih Tzus.   Dr. Nichol: It got my attention too. It’s... Read More

Plan Carefully when Choosing a Lifetime Pet

The Best Individual means More than Breed. Watch the You Tube Video Question: We are looking to purchase a puppy.  We have two children ages 12 and 13.  We enjoy our back yard along with our vegetable garden.  Our choices of puppies that we are looking toward are Samoyed, St. Bernard and Siberian Husky.  If you could please help us decide which dog would best suit us and the life style we have we would be very grateful.   Dr. Nichol: The... Read More

Choosing the Right Dog Breed

Dogs of the same breed are not identical. But the right breed for you can help avoid a mismatch in your home.   Question: Last December we lost a very special companion, our Rottweiler. He was the best dog we ever had. He was congenial, a joy to be around, smart, regal, and an all round dear friend. My question is: “should we have another Rott.?” Or which kind of dog would be best for us? I want a full bred kind, even if they can... Read More

Singing Along

Good tunes and the dogs who love them.   Question: I have a one year old Bearded Collie who barks and howls whenever I play the piano. My question is, does the sound hurt his ears or is he “singing” along?  He doesn’t leave the room or try to hide.  He barks much less if I play soft or slow, if I play loud and fast he howls.   Dr. Nichol: Gee, if only our pets could talk. Some folks might wonder if your Bearded Collie (they... Read More

The Expense of Raising Pets

There are places to trim costs & do just fine. But cut quality on the wrong priorities & your pets will pay more later.   Question: Should I give vitamins to my pets? I have a whole menagerie. I have 2 guinea pigs, 3 cats, 2 dogs, and some fish. I try to feed good food but it can get expensive. So is it good to feed food that’s just O.K. and add vitamins? Which vitamins are good?   Dr. Nichol: I think I understand where you’re... Read More

Pets as Gifts

It may be a great idea. But the surprise of a real live long-term responsibility wears off fast. Talk about it first & be ready for the real investment of energy & expense.   Question: My fiancee has said that she might want a pet and I’m running out of time to get her a birthday present. I really love her and I want to see that look of joy on her face when she opens the wriggling box. What kind of pet do you think I should get her?   Dr.... Read More

Estimating Age Pets

Teeth and, Later, Eyes are the Best Indicators of Age Question: How can I tell how old my cat is, he is a rescue cat and the center had no idea themselves.   Dr. Nichol: This is an important question not only because many health issues are linked to age; cats are very fussy about getting their birthday cakes on the proper day.   Many parts of the body show signs of age (I personally have no idea about this), but in most cats and dogs the... Read More

Non Pet Owner Annoyed at Neighbor’s Pets

Times have Change since the Great Depression Dear Dr. Nichol: Sir, I am so tired of dogs and cats that I could use some old navy swear words. I have 5 neighbors with cats who run wild through my flowers. I smell dog manure on a nauseating scale. I have seen them spend thousands on care of these animals. There seem to be no children anymore, only animals who are treated like children. I grew up during the Great Depression. Need I tell you things were... Read More

Protecting Pets from Terrorist Attack

Here’s How to Protect & Treat Question: If the Albuquerque area is hit by terrorist biochemicals or radiation, what is the best way to protect indoor or outdoor pets from skin damage? In my case, the question is in terms of cat care, but I’m sure dog owners would also like to know what, if anything, can help if a pet was injured in this type of attack. Would washing, rubbing, shaving the pet help? Dr. Nichol: You’re not alone; other... Read More

Careers in Veterinary Technology

College training in the highly skilled area of medical support in a veterinary hospital. Question: I just love animals. I think it would be great to be a veterinarian but I don’t want to go to school for 8 years. I have heard about a career as a veterinary technician or assistant. What can you tell me about these careers?   Dr. Nichol: I am always delighted to hear of folks interested in the rewarding field of veterinary medicine. You are... Read More

Bathing: How Often? What Shampoo?

With a few exceptions, never is best. Brushing is much healthier. Question: How often should I bathe my pets? I’ve heard everything from once a week to never.   Dr. Nichol: In almost all pets the right answer is never. No kidding. Here’s why. Unlike humans, pets don’t have sweat glands. Without them there is really no hygienic need for frequent shampooing. But pets, especially dogs, do start to swell funky without grooming. This is because,... Read More

What it Takes to Become a Veterinarian

Question: How much college does it take to become a veterinarian like you.   Dr. Nichol: It takes a 4 year undergraduate degree and 4 years of schooling at a college of veterinary medicine. A veterinarian like me also needs a goofy sense of humor, which requires no college at all.  Read More

Outdoor Shelters For Pets

What’s the right size, how much house is enough Question: I’m worried about my neighbor’s pets because it’s getting so cold at night. They have 2 cats and a dog who huddle up together in a pile each night in a corner of their yard. I told them I would ask your advice-I know they will do what you suggest. They’re nice people-I just don’t think they know any better.   Dr. Nichol: Thanks for caring. It’s actually remarkable how well... Read More

The Business End of Pet Health Care

What’s right & wrong on the discussion of money. Question: Two weeks ago our cat Walter was real sick and was in the animal hospital for 5 days. Each day, the veterinarian talked to us about how he was doing. He also told us how much we were spending on Walter. In fact when we left Walter for treatment at the beginning, the clinic wanted a deposit. I know they do good work there, but why do they have to talk about money so much? Did they think... Read More

Microchips & Tattoos for Pet Identification

Each has its place, but microchips are the latest & greatest. They are quick to implant & highly reliable. Worth the modest expense. Question: Are doctors trained to look for identifying tattoos and microchips?  A friend of mine recently lost her Labrador Retriever — a very valuable show dog as well as a beloved pet – when he broke through the gate and took a walk.  She hired the services of a search and rescue dog, advertised... Read More

Quality Standards for Veterinary Medical Care

How to know if your veterinarian is doing the job right. Question: Why is there so little standardization between vets? The best ones do extensive prep work, blood testing, fine needle aspiration, etc. and have one person on the heart monitor, one anesthetist, with 3 kinds of anesthesia while others have only one assistant who answers the phone during surgeries. Wouldn’t it make sense to standardize veterinary surgery, like human surgeons are... Read More

Travel & Fear/Aggression

Feliway can Calm and Comfort Question: Our daughter has moved to NYC and we are caring for her large, friendly 5-year-old tabby cat until she settles into her apartment. We plan on sending Ferris to her and wondered if you have any suggestions. We want Ferris to arrive safe and healthy.   Dr. Nichol: Ferris is lucky to have you looking out for him. There are tranquilizers, like acepromazine, to keep a cat quiet and controlled during air travel.... Read More

Boarding Kennels & the Vaccinations They Require

Protecting your pets is important. But you need to be better informed that the kennels. Question: I travel for business a fair amount and I live alone except for my dog and cat. I have used two different boarding kennels for my pets. One of the kennels insists that my dog have a Bordetella vaccine that was given in the past year. The other kennel wants a vaccine against Kennel Cough. What’s the difference and why don’t they require these... Read More

Where to Find Good Care for Your Pets When You’re Out of Town

Leave out food & water? Friends who visit your home? Expensive kennels? Here’s how to choose. Question: Soon our children will be back in school and our family has one last vacation planned. We have a cat and a dog but we don’t know where to turn for reliable pet care while we’re gone. Please advise us.   Dr. Nichol: You show real concern for those other family members-your pets. Here are some bad ideas first. Do not leave a pet home... Read More


How Vaccines Work & the Risks of Too Much of a Good Thing Question: I read your column regularly and respect your advice. What do you think about this perspective? Summary of News Article: Are We Overvaccinating Our Pets? You may get notices from the veterinarian every year or two suggesting you revaccinate your pet for distemper, leukemia or other diseases. But now some vets are wondering whether the repeated doses can do more harm than good.   Dr.... Read More

Vaccinations for Puppies & Kittens

What do they really need & what’s unnecessary. Question: My kids and my wife and I have decided that we want to have a pet but we can’t agree on a dog or a cat so we got both. We know they need shots but I’ve called a few vet clinics and I’m getting different answers on how many shots they need. Can you advise us on what’s best?   Dr. Nichol: Boy, am I glad to hear this question. It is painful for me to recall the... Read More

Silent Dog Whistles & Your Cat

Cats can hear them but, like most things canine, they lack dignity. Question: I would like to know if a silent dog whistle is blown around my cat, will it bother her?   Dr. Nichol: It is likely that your cat will ignore the “silent” dog whistle. The fact is that they aren’t silent-to dogs, nor to cats for that matter. The reason they hear the whistle and we inferior humans cannot is that these two species can detect higher pitched... Read More

Pets & Children: Teaching Responsibility

Carefully consider the maturity of the primary caretaker before adding a new pet to your home. Question: I’m thinking that a pet is a good way to teach responsibility to my children. One is 5 and the other is 3. Do you think they are old enough?   Dr. Nichol: Do I look like Dr. Joyce Brothers? (Please say no.) The truth is I see a lot of parents making this decision at various times in the development of their children. And having a couple... Read More

Merging Households with Cats & Dogs

Spraying Cats & Fear of Dogs need Special Consideration Question: I am merging households with my fiancée. I am concerned about moving my two cats into his house. He has two cats and two dogs. One of my cats is very shy and is known to spray at times. How can we accomplish this move with the least anxiety for the animals? Dr. Nichol: You are smart to consider your pets’ future. Among the most common behavior disorders I treat is aggression... Read More

Introducing a New Dog to an Established Group of Cats

There is a good method to taking it slow & careful. A gentle dog should fit in well-eventually. Question: Five days ago I got a young dog. I already had three cats . I’ve let the cats run loose at night and kept the doggie in the bathroom. I let them all sniff under the door. I’ve taken the dog with me in the daytime and let the cats be able to go into her bathroom to check out her scent. I’m not comfortable letting her roam... Read More

Garage Door Openers:

I received this input from grieving cat lover, Tanya Gross: “I sure wish I’d asked about the safety of garage door openers before my cat, Big Louie, was fatally crushed by my ‘safe’ garage door. My new opener had sensor lights but they were set too high off the ground (at 8 1/2-10″). Louie limboed under the sensors as the door was moving downward. The back-up safety feature, auto reverse, was never adjusted, so the door... Read More

Skunked Pets

Tomato Juice or a new mixture can make a pet worth having back in the country. Question: Do you have any suggestions on how to deodorize a skunked pet?   Dr. Nichol: I hate it when that happens. There are a few products on the shelves of pet supply stores that claim effectiveness for pets who have tangled with the business end of a skunk. But the best treatment still seems to be tomato juice.   Start by bathing your cat (don’t do it... Read More

Dog Age & Cat Age Compared to Humans

The old 7 years to one doesn’t work but this chart will help. Question: Could you please tell me how to figure a dog’s age? I know it isn’t like everyone says, just 7 years for every 1 of ours.   Dr. Nichol: Do our pets hang around the water bowl and debate their human’s ages in pet years? I don’t think so. But, heck, it’s fun so here’s the chart:   DOG                            ... Read More

Twitching Rear Legs & Scrapes on Foot Pads

A ‘Near Miss’ should Warn Cat Owner of Dangers Question: I have a 1 year old Russian Blue and recently his rear legs have started to twitch a few times a day.  I did notice that there were some minor scrapes on the pads of those feet.  Could the twitching be from those scrapes?  He doesn’t seem bothered with it (doesn’t loose balance, etc.)  In fact he’s always running around, playing, and wanting to be petted.   Dr. Nichol: It... Read More

Severe Back Pain

Effective Pain Control or Euthanasia are the Only Good Choices Question: We have a 14 year old Pug. She has a disc problem in her back, and her back legs go out from under her when she is squatting to go to the bathroom. Her water intake is minimal, and she passes urine maybe once a day.  She goes ‘number 2’ where she sleeps.  She has a hunchback look to her, and stands with her head drooping over.  How do we know when her time has... Read More

Multiple Joint Pain & Swelling in a Cat

Among many Options, Stem Cell Treatment may be Best Question: My wife and I own (or are owned by) a thirteen year old spayed, female, tortoise-shell cat named “Michaela”. Michaela has become arthritic and her mobility impaired, with a slight swelling of her joints. She sometimes hobbles and is in apparent discomfort when she walks up an incline or climbs stairs. This condition is particularly evident when the sky is overcast before a storm... Read More

Wobblers Syndrome causes Staggering and Nerve Damage

Surgery is Best for Some; Physical Therapy is Good for All Question: Otto, our 2 year old male non-neutered German shepherd, was diagnosed with Wobbler’s Disease. The vet said he was not bad enough for surgery, but how we can make Otto’s life a better one?   Dr. Nichol: The spinal cord problem that causes most dogs with wobbler’s syndrome to stumble and stagger results from abnormal anatomy of the vertebrae in the neck. Young large... Read More

Osteosarcoma in a Litter of Borzois

Bone Cancer can be Hereditary Question: There were 5 dogs in the litter of borzois born in 1996 (1 female and 4 males). Three of the males have gotten bone cancer, two have since died with the third still alive after a front limb amputation. I have the other male and female dogs, both of which are healthy, happy, and getting lots of exercise. What is the prognosis for our two dogs that, at present, are cancer-free, to my knowledge.   Dr. Nichol: I... Read More

Dislocated Hip of 2 Weeks-Dog Still Lame

Surgery may be Necessary, Physical Therapy for Sure Question: My dog dislocated the ball in his rear hip joint.  This occurred two weeks ago.  After it happened, I took him to a vet who put the joint in the proper order.  He is not using that leg and I fear that if he doesn’t use it he will lose its use.   Dr. Nichol: After two weeks you are right to be concerned. In most cases of a dislocated hip, if the ball at the top of the femur... Read More

Dislocated Hips from Hit by Car & Other Serious Injuries

If treated quickly many can be “popped” back into the socket. Waiting longer requires surgery. Question: Our dog “Nacho” is an Irish Setter and he’s been scared of hot air balloons since he was a baby. A couple of weeks ago he really wigged out and took off. We looked for him everywhere and he finally came home-but not using his right rear leg. His doctor took x-rays and he has a dislocated hip. What can be done for Nacho?   Dr. Nichol: You... Read More

Lameness in One Leg, then Another, then Another…

Large breed growing puppies with shifting leg lameness may get well without help.   Question: I have a German Shepherd pup who is 9 months old. He started to limp on his right front leg a while back. After a while he quit. Well that was about a week ago. Then starting today, he’s limping on his left rear leg. What’s the matter with this guy? I keep him with me or in the yard so I know he hasn’t been injured.   Dr. Nichol: This... Read More

Bone Deformities Following Injury

Damage to areas of bone growth sometimes can’t be known until later. Deformed limbs can be corrected-if surgery is not delayed.   Question: We have an Irish Setter puppy, about 4 months old. Two weeks ago she got bumped by a car when she got out of the yard. Her name is Beans and she seemed fine after it happened. But in the last few days we have noticed that her front let is starting to look crooked near her wrist. What’s going on? Does... Read More

Loss of Use of Rear Legs

Severe heart disease in cats can send blood clots to the arteries of the rear legs. A problem of sudden onset, it is painful. Have a full diagnostic workup done ASAP.   Question: My cat Button has twice lost use of her hind legs. My vet had suspected something parasitic going on, inflaming the disk space, and Button has now tested positive for heartworm exposure. She was not tested for this during last years’ episode, as it is uncommon in this... Read More

Broken Tail in a Puppy

All fractures & dislocated tails heal without help.   Question: I have a puppy, his tail looks like it has been broken. Should I have it docked/cut off?   Dr. Nichol: This is common in youngsters like your little guy. Some cases of crooked tails result from injuries like getting it accidentally stepped on or caught in a door.  These heal quickly. Others are simply minor birth defects from malformed vertebrae called hemivertebrae. But either... Read More

Rear Leg Limping in Small Breed Dogs

Dislocating kneecaps are a common cause of intermittent lameness-especially in overweight dogs. Weight loss & surgery will stop the pain.   Question: I’ve got a Pomeranian named Sarah. All of a sudden she started yelping (just on occasion) every once in a while. My mother took her to a local vet who said she had dislocated her hind leg in the knee. She put it back in place, and Sarah was fine for about a month, and then suddenly she started... Read More

Rx Pain Relievers vs. Aspirin

Lower Cost Alternatives have Limits Question: In your response to the 80 year old woman whose collie-mutt was in need of pain medication, (Let vet ease old pal’s pain) you suggested that his doctor prescribe chewable oral medication like Rimadyl.  Many elderly people on a fixed income can little afford their own medications, much less expensive medications for their pets. Could you not recommend baby aspirin for this woman’s dog to keep her from... Read More

Joint Pain and Pain Relievers

Deramaxx & Other Meds can have Side Effects including Diarrhea Question: Our Rott cross has had both her knees reconstructed twice. This has been traumatic for her and our bank account. At this point we have decided to keep her comfortable without additional surgery. She has been on Deramaxx for over a year. She started to have diarrhea so our vet put her on Cimetidine. She was still unhappy and my son gave her a Tums over Thanksgiving. Since... Read More

Knee Ligament Rupture

Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Rupture: How it’s fixed & what happens if we don’t. Question: Our Lhasa Apso is 6 years old and has been limping on his rear left leg for 3 weeks. His condition may have improved slightly but for the most part has remained the same. The doctor diagnosed an anterior cruciate ligament rupture and has recommended a surgical procedure to stabilize it. How successful is this type of surgery?   Dr. Nichol: I’m... Read More

Risk of Recurring Disc Disease

X-rays to Learn the Extent of Disease, Exercise, Weight Control,  & Glycoflex to Manage the Risk Question: Later this year we will be “inheriting” Grif, a good-natured, eight-year-old, non-neutered mutt. He visited us over the holidays and greatly enjoyed going for twice daily walks (he’s quite sedentary at home). When he got home, he was very sore; apparently, he has a bad disc in his back. The vet treated him with painkillers... Read More

Sudden Onset of Pain

Most Likely a Disc Rupture, prompt Medical Attention is Essential’ Question: Our 11 year old Jack Russell is having trouble with his rear leg the past two days. He is in pain especially if he tries to walk or if we pet him. If we touch around the area we think is bothering him he cries and yelps very loudly. Dr. Nichol: That little guy needs medical attention right away. Sudden onset of his kind of pain is suggestive of a disc rupture in the neck... Read More

Dachshund Back Problems

Vitamins won’t help. But you can cut the risk.   Question: I have a miniature 8 month old Dachshund.  I’ve read that giving them Vitamins C and E can help prevent future back problems.  Is this true?   Dr. Nichol: Close but no cigar. Vitamins C and E are what we call antioxidants. They can help improve the health of arthritic joint surfaces but they won’t prevent the degenerative disc changes that could cause back disease in... Read More

Tail Biting & Chasing is Likely Due to Cauda Equina Syndrome

X-Rays, Myelogram, or MRI is Needed to Diagnose it. Medications & Rest or Surgery Will be Necessary. Question: We have a 2 year old wolf hybrid at a research facility in Bluewater. About 4 weeks ago she started biting her tail and going in circles. We have tried butazolidine and prednisone at the suggestion of the local vet with no improvement. He says that the only option now is amputation of the tail. Do you have any suggestions?   Dr.... Read More

Staggering, Difficulty Rising in German Shepherds

Degenerative Myelopathy is a slowly progressive spinal cord disease. It’s non-painful but terminal. Question: My German Shepherd is eight years old and has degenerative myelopathy. Could you please give me some information about it?   Dr. Nichol: This is a tough problem. Your dog’s disease is caused by a breakdown of the spinal cord that is non-painful. The bad news is that it is progressive and will ultimately lead to his inability to... Read More

Young Puppies Who Lay with Splayed Legs

Puppies are Flexible Question: If my 3 month old puppy lies down with her hind legs splayed out to each side—-does this mean she has dislocated hips or hip problems in the future???   Dr. Nichol: Your puppy is normal. She’s just demonstrating her flexibility. At that age the joints are loose, the bones are pliable, and the ligaments are like rubber bands. With maturity the joints begin to fit more tightly together as the tissues get tougher... Read More

The Last Best Hope for Hip Dysplasia

Surgical removal of portions of the hip joint can ‘salvage’ the well-being of a beloved dog. It can be the treatment of choice, but there’s no turning back.   Question: Last week you answered a question about a dog with hip dysplasia. You said that there were 2 different surgeries that could help that young dog walk better. I have a dog who had a different surgery where they took off the ball from the thigh and he’s fine now. What about... Read More

FHO & Overweight Dog

Question: I have a 6-year-old golden retriever crossed with something BIG! She had severe dislocation of her femur and socket, and had surgery to cut off part of her femur. She now weighs 96 lbs. My vet said the best thing to help her is to lose a lot of weight.   I cut down on her canned dog food. I add about 6 or 7 baby carrots. She gets two cups of IAMS dry dog food at lunchtime. At breakfast I give her one-cup of skim milk. Will my dog lose... Read More

Hip Dysplasia & Weight

AVMA Study Shows Restricted Feeding Drastically Reduces Hip Arthritis There is a direct relationship between excessive weight in dogs and the age of onset and advancement of hip arthritis. Research published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association in September, 2006 found that overweight dogs begin their struggle with joint pain early. Each dog was x-rayed at intervals throughout life. The study showed the effects of overfeeding... Read More

Hip Dysplasia-The Borderline Case

A major cause of hip arthritis comes in all shades of gray. X-rays are the key to effective treatment.   Question: I just had my 3-1/2 year old female Brittany’s hips x-rayed so they could be sent to the OFA. She would probably be rated as dysplastic. Should I send these into the OFA anyway and what can I do as far as medications, etc.? She does not show any signs of this problem in her running, jumping nor does it affect her hunting in... Read More

Severe Hip Pain in Young Dogs

Large breed puppies with hip dysplasia can keep avoid joint replacement & other radical surgery. The TPO procedure can correct bad anatomy early & prevent arthritis later.   Question: I have a German Shepherd puppy that I bought about 4 months ago that’s having trouble getting up sometimes. She’s 10 months old now and a really sweet dog but I’m worried that she maybe dislocating one hip because if I feel the side of her... Read More

Rheumatoid Arthritis

This crippling disease is manageable but not cureable.   Question: Do dogs get Rheumatoid Arthritis? What does the treatment consist of? Dr. Nichol: I’m glad you wrote to me with this but I have to admit that I wince every time I diagnose it or even think about it. Rheumatoid arthritis is a life long, advancing disease that destroys multiple joints in the body. Its exact cause is not well understood but we do know that some of an affected... Read More

Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD)

A hereditary joint disease of larger dog breeds influenced by rapid growth diets.   Question: Today our 6-month-old Golden Retriever was diagnosed with Osteochondosis (left shoulder). He’s facing surgery and I cannot find any information on the Internet. Can you explain this for us?   Dr. Nichol: I’m sad to learn that your happy-go-lucky Golden has a painful shoulder but pleased to report that dogs with this condition usually... Read More

Large Breed Dogs: Medication for Joint Pain is Expensive

Alternative or Combination Therapies often Work Well & Save Money Question: We recently started our 9-year-old Great Dane on Deramaxx and it has dramatically improved her quality of life.  The problem is that it costs almost $60 a month.  Is there an over-the-counter medicine that would be as effective or perhaps a less expensive generic?   Dr. Nichol: Because of the weight they carry big dog are more prone to degenerative joint disease... Read More

Joint, Neck, or Back Pain may be Causing Older Bassett’s Grumpy Attitude

Adding a Younger Dog will Add to Misery unless Old Timer gets Treatment Question: We have been owned by bassets for 20 years–lunacy in itself! Is it wise to add a third to our household? We have an 11 year old male and a 3 year old female. Our female is ADHD and really needs a playmate. The male is too old and cranky. Do you feel it would add to the ole boy’s old age problems?   Dr. Nichol: A wild and crazy companion for your 3 year... Read More


More information, more alternatives. Question: My 11-year collie, Boo, has arthritis that seems to be located mostly in her hind legs. I’m not a big fan of Rimadyl because of the long-term side effects. I have been taking Boo in for Adequan shots with no dramatic improvement. Boo has also been receiving Cosequin. She is a bit overweight and on r/d food, which is not really helping much. She doesn’t get as much exercise as I would like... Read More


Glucosamine is a safe & often effective way to improve joint health & help relieve joint pain.   Question: I have a 9-year old, very active black lab who may be developing some arthritis, and will sometimes walk around very stiff if she’s been sleeping for awhile after playing hard that day. Would you recommend glucosamine for her? I take it for my old joints, and am wondering if my dog would get the same benefits.   Dr. Nichol: Yes,... Read More

Garlic Poisoning can be Deadly for Dogs & Cats

Toxic Anemia may cause Weakness or Death Question: Is it true that any amount of garlic is bad for dogs? Even garlic salt on a steak?   Dr. Nichol: Garlic is a potentially serious toxin for dogs, and an even greater risk for cats. It changes the oxygen carrying hemoglobin in the pet’s red blood cells to a nonfunctional form called methemoglobin. This in turn leads to breakage of red cells followed by anemia (too few red blood cells). Anemic... Read More

Geranium Toxicity

Irritating to the Mouth & Skin, they aren’t Significant Question: I was wondering if geraniums are toxic to dogs and cats. I have a lab and my wife has a cat. We were asked to adopt some geraniums.   Dr. Nichol: Geraniums rarely, if ever, cause serious problems. According to Tina Wismer, DVM, ABVT of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, “Geraniums are not highly toxic plants. Pelargonium sp. (geraniums) can have an irritant effect... Read More


Yams are Not Sweet Potatoes but some or Irritants to Pets Question: Are sweet potato skins poisonous to dogs?  Your column last week said that yams are poisonous.  My dogs go nuts over sweet potato skins.  My daughter checked the ASPCA poison web page and found nothing about sweet potatoes -- she's a 4th year veterinary student.   Dr. Nichol: You are not alone. Since listing yams among common household toxins in last week’s column I have... Read More

Common Household Poisons for Dogs

More than just Chocolate and Rodent Poison Question: What the top ten worse things for dogs are.  My dog loves carrots and apples but I wonder if it is OK to give him these as treats.   Dr. Nichol: Carrots and apples are safe but beyond the fructose (sugar) naturally found in fruit they are essentially non-digestible for pets. Your question is important; there is an enormous, and growing, number of dangerous substances found in and around the average... Read More

Grapes & Raisins are Poisonous to Dogs

Severe Kidney Damage can Result Question: I have a 1 year old Pomeranian.  Every day I throw a few grapes and he plays with them and eats most.  My vet said dogs should not be given grapes but my dog has never had any problems.  Then, I got an advertisement for a seminar on the top 10 worst things for dogs.  As you might guess, grapes were listed as number 1.   Dr. Nichol: Your boy has been lucky. Grapes and raisins (dehydrated grapes) are... Read More

Insect Traps

Seldom the Cause of Serious Poisoning in Pets, Still Unhealthy Ant Baits and D-Con: Do you have bugs in your house this summer? How safe are ant stations and roach motels? If your pet checks in, will she check out? Mixed with the insecticides in these disposable bug traps is peanut butter, breadcrumbs, or sugar to attract insects. Fortunately most pets who eat this stuff show few if any symptoms. Those who do get sick usually recover quickly on their... Read More

Toad Poisoning

Symptoms are Dangerous but Treatable. Still Toads are Important Question: What is the treatment for pets (or humans) who have mouthed Colorado River Toads (Bufo alvarius)? On a rainy evening this July I was at gathering near Tucson when a number of the party started brutally killing the toads. It was explained that this was necessary to protect the dogs. What is the threat to dogs? Dr. Nichol: You paint an interesting picture of humans mouthing toads.... Read More

Strychnine & Seizures

Highly treatable if caught in time, it’s also preventable by ‘Poison Proofing” your dog.   Question: I’ve been worried ever since I saw a TV report of strychnine dog poisonings. I have 3 big dogs that I need to leave outside while I am away at work. How do I teach them not to eat poison? How will I know if they get poisoned?   Dr. Nichol: It’s a very serious and frightening situation. Strychnine causes the nerves of the body to... Read More

Dry Wall Eating

Not poisonous, plaster can cause intestinal blockage.   Question: Recently my two Lab crosses have gotten into the habit of eating pieces of dry wall that I have in the yard. They seem to really enjoy it and will even fight over it! Why do they like it and could it hurt them?   Dr. Nichol: You raise an interesting question about some pretty boring stuff: dry wall (plasterboard). Unlike cat stool, which most dogs regard as a delicacy worthy of... Read More

Vomiting-Inducing Vomiting

Ipecac is best & safest.   Question: About 5 columns ago you told a lady she would have to make her dog vomit. I’ll bet there’s not one layman in 500,000 who knows how to make a dog vomit. Please tell us how to do that.   Answer: There are several effective methods including oral salt or hydrogen peroxide. Each of these can be dangerous. The safest is Syrup of Ipecac which is available in little tiny bottles at any pharmacy.... Read More

Chocolate Poisoning

She may look like a dog but she’s really a pig. Never trust a dog around the goodies. Many will get liver damage.   Question: One of my dogs consumed a large amount of chocolate, and I was wondering if this could hurt them? If so what should or could be done when this happens? I have a mutt and a Dalmatian. Well the Dalmatian was laying in the other room whining for no apparent reason. I was thinking she was the one maybe that got it. What should... Read More

Dog Skunked in the Mouth

A Tragic Event that Calls for Tooth Paste and Oral Rinse Question: Several days ago our dogs decided to play with the striped kitty. The Sheepdog took a shot into the mouth. Now each time she pants, the skunk scent returns. Can you help us return “skunk breath” back to just plain “dog breath?” Dr. Nichol: My condolences. Brush her teeth with toothpaste for dogs and use Nolvadent as an oral rinse. Your veterinarian has both.  Read More

How Dogs Get Serious Mouth Disease

The details on How it Starts & When to Stop It.   Question: Cleaning a dog’s teeth is much more of a septic and neurologic shock than cleaning a person’s teeth because the canine gingiva grow over the calculus and tartar, rather than recede as in a person, and have to be cut back. Vets should explain procedures in detail, shouldn’t they?   Dr. Nichol: This is an excellent question. It is true that no two dental conditions... Read More

Dry Food vs. Canned for Cleaner Teeth in Dogs

Feed t/d Dry, brush those teeth &  add Greenies Question: Enjoyed your column today (8/14) re: feeding a cat dry food. How about dogs? Have heard the same thing about dry food preventing tartar in dogs, yet our vet has our dog’s teeth cleaned every year even though the dog lives on dry food and seems very healthy.   Dr. Nichol: Dogs are physiologically different than cats. They too are predators but the amount of protein in cat food... Read More

Is Human Toothpaste OK for Dogs?

Dangerous when Swallowed; Toothpaste for Dogs is Safe & Effective Question: Is it ok to use people toothpaste to clean dog’s teeth?   Dr. Nichol: Human toothpaste would be fine for our dogs except that they swallow it, leading to potentially big trouble. The major brands contain additives including sudsing agents that make it foam when we brush. It’s not a problem for us humans but a dog who ingests enough of it can develop liver... Read More

Tooth Brushing can be a Challenge.

Be Gentle & Patient. Also consider Science Diet Oral Care & Greenies. Question: Alice, 6 year old generic dog (yes, she came in a black and white package) enjoys having her teeth brushed. Amy, 15-year-old poodle, refuses. Molly, one-year-old cat, will not allow the brush in her mouth. I feed them all Science Diet Oral Care. What else can I do?   Dr. Nichol: Tooth brushing is the best way to prevent painful gum disease as pets age. It... Read More

Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth

It’s the easiest & cheapest way to save the health of your dog’s mouth. Start out gradually and don’t forget to make it fun.   Question: We’ve been trying to brush our dog’s teeth like you said but he really hates it. We know it’s best but how to we get him to go along?   Dr. Nichol: You are right-it can be a real challenge. While there are alternatives like Nyla-Floss toys and prescription diet t/d, brushing is best.... Read More

Milk Bones, Rawhides, & Pig’s Ears for Cleaner Teeth.

Here is what they will do for your dog’s teeth & what they cannot.   Question: I have a question about my animals and their teeth. You wrote about cleaning pets’ teeth with an anesthetic. But isn’t it true that Milk Bones clean dogs’ teeth? How about rawhides and pig’s ears? I checked my dog’s teeth and they have that hard brown junk you talked about but I would rather get rid of it by her chewing instead.   Dr.... Read More

Bad Breath in Dogs

Tooth & gum disease is the most likely cause. Take it seriously.   Question: We have a pet Shar-Pei who has recently gained a rather bad breath problem.  We had thought that it was some sort of digestion issue as we had recently tried a different brand of dog food.  We tried a rawhide bone and even made an attempt at brushing the teeth and using a doggy treat. His breath is atrocious.   Dr. Nichol: You’re not protecting the identity... Read More

Dental & Oral Disease

Heart disease may be a complication. Thorough care includes a complete lab evaluation, antibiotics, and anesthesia to stop tooth pain.   Question: I have a Yorkshire Terrier who is 10 years old and weighs 5 pounds. He has just been diagnosed with a gum infection. He also has a slight heart murmur which he has had since birth. I would like to know what antibiotics you would prescribe and what dosage. My dog’s name is Little Foot.   Dr.... Read More

Retained Baby Teeth

Neglect leads to Damage of Adult Teeth Question: My little “snoodle”, 9 months old, has two sets of eye teeth. She didn’t lose her baby teeth. Do these need to be extracted?   Dr. Nichol: Yes they do. At issue is the abnormal position of those retained baby teeth relative to your puppy’s brand spanking new adult canine teeth. Food, hair, lint, you name it collects there causing gum disease. If you procrastinate your snoodle... Read More

Teeth-The Baby Kind

Puppies lose teeth just like the rest of us.   Question: My question is regarding our puppy’s teeth. She is a 3 month old Sheltie mix. I noticed this morning that she lost a tooth (I found it on her bed). Is this something to be concerned about?   Dr. Nichol: A baby dog losing baby teeth is normal but I suspect that she may actually be closer to age 16 weeks. The emerging adult teeth begin pushing the baby teeth out from age 4 to 6 months... Read More

Dental Cleaning & Anesthesia

Anesthesia has a risk-but it’s very small if done carefully and competently. But advanced infections in the mouth are a greater health risk.   Question: My own pets are eating fine, although their breath is less than perfect. Our vet recently said that both our dog and our cat need teeth cleaning but that they would need anesthesia. Isn’t that risky? I’ve heard of animals who have died from anesthesia. Is it really worth that kind of... Read More

A Dog Who Wants to Eat but Walks Away

Bad breath + tooth & gum infections = Weight loss & poor health.   Question: I have 3 dogs of different ages. All are fine except “Chelsea” who is 11 years old. For the past weeks she has seemed like she wants to eat but does not and her breath is bad and she looks thinner. Should I try a new kind of food? Maybe canned food would be easier for her to eat. What do you think?   Dr. Nichol: I can tell that you are quite concerned... Read More

Microchips and Cancer

Research on Mice Does Not Translate to High Risk for Pets Question: I’ve recently read a couple of articles regarding microchip/tumor relationships and wondered now if I have erred by having my puli chipped a couple of years ago. Are chips removable and is it worrisome enough to have this done?   Dr. Nichol: There has been a lot of concern since the news articles of a couple of weeks ago that linked microchips with cancer in laboratory... Read More

Cancer Surgery of the Mouth & Throat-Here is How a Pet Can be Fed

A tube implanted into the stomach wall makes it simple to feed a recovering dog at home.   Question: My old dog just had surgery of the throat. The surgeon removed  a tumor and said that it would take time to heal. So that we could get some food into Sarge, he put in a PEG tube for feeding. Can I feed Sarge at home with this? Will he need this his whole life?   Dr. Nichol: I’m glad Sarge’s doctor has taken the long view. If Sarge... Read More

Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Feldene Can Slow Tumor Growth Question: I have a 15-year-old miniature poodle. Six months ago, they found a squamous cell tumor in her jaw, which was removed, with no further complications. About two months ago, my dog started to yelp (in pain) every now and then, so I took her back to the vet, who could not seem to find the reason. He said her heart and numbers are just as they should be. She runs and jumps like a puppy, eats and sleeps well, and... Read More

2nd Opinions & Chemotherapy

Anxiety, fear & doing the right thing for a beloved pet. Where to start & what’s right for you and your kitty.   Question: My cat’s 13 years old and she’s been losing weight and eating poorly for a few weeks. My husband and I have no children and this little cat means the world to us. Yesterday we took her to her vet who did some tests. She said that “Spider” has cancer and that she needs chemotherapy. This is... Read More

Cancer Causing Agents Need Long Term Exposure

Genetics Plays a Major Role; In Many Cases We Just Don’t Know Question: Does professional carpet cleaning cause cancer in pets? What else can? Moose was a Great Dane, Buddy was a lab, and Biscuit is a golden. It is strange that all three would have cancer within the same year. Dr. Nichol: Cancer is common in pets. Like humans, some dogs are genetically preprogrammed, Boxers being the most vulnerable. According to veterinary cancer specialist Dr.... Read More

Cancer is the Leading Cause of Death in Older Dogs

Do we just accept this? There are risks that can be avoided & symptoms that you can recognize. You can improve your dog’s chances.   Question: Cancer seems to kill a disproportionate number of dogs. Is it because of carcinogens in their diet, background radiation, excessively chlorinated water, ultraviolet rays, and our attitude? Why are some breeds more susceptible than others? What can be done to prevent cancer in dogs?   Dr. Nichol: What... Read More

Case Report: Twelve Year Old Golden Retriever has Splenic Mass & Thrombus

Surgery & Careful Observation Make the Difference Checkers is a delightful, energetic twelve year old Golden Retriever owned and loved by Richard and Pat. A lifetime of great health was interrupted in January by a 3 day bout of vomiting and diarrhea. The physical exam was normal but I knew there would be no way to help Checkers without a diagnosis. Abdominal x-rays told the story: a mass the size of a soft ball sat where his spleen belonged. Cancers... Read More

Cancer of the Spleen in Older Dogs

A common malignancy in older dogs, it is handled best with surgery followed by chemotherapy. While not a cure, most feel great & live well for 9-12 months.   Question: Doctor, I hope you can help me and my Sadie. The worst has happened to us. Last week she was weak one day and didn’t want to walk or eat. The vet found her to be anemic and found out she had a cancer on her spleen. They operated and took out her spleen and she has started... Read More

Bone Cancer

There are treatments for this devastating disease but it’s tough.   Question: Our wonderful six year old lab has been diagnosed with osteosarcoma on his back leg. We keep getting conflicting reports on the efficacy of taking the leg off which seems so drastic, and chemotherapy. Is it worth it to the dog, to put him through this before it comes back or should the dog be put down? He is a wonderful affectionate dog and I can barely write those... Read More

Multiple Skin Masses may be just Lipomas-or Maybe Not

Fine Needle Aspirates will make the Diagnosis Question: My 7 year old Rhodesian ridgeback has several fatty tumors and more keep appearing.  My vet said they were of no concern, but since I lost one Ridgeback to cancer, I am concerned.   Dr. Nichol: Fatty tumors, called lipomas, are especially common in large breed dogs. They are benign, so they don’t spread, but they can grow slowly, especially on overweight pets. Lumps and bumps are common... Read More

Tumors-Fatty of the Skin

Lipomas are common in older dogs. They are usually harmless. Be sure they are “just lipomas”.   Question: My yellow Lab a female is 9 years old, weights 81 pounds and has fatty tumors.  What is causing them and can they be removed?   Dr. Nichol: Fatty tumors go by the name lipoma. They are benign but they can grow to several pounds beneath the skin and get large enough to get in the way of normal function. They can be surgically removed... Read More

Anal Gland Tumors

The Benefits of Rx Diet n/d and the Risk of Vaccinations Question: My dog had cancer 2 years ago and had his left anal sack removed. I did some research about natural healing. He is now on a raw meat, vegetables and grain diet with vitamin C, E, herbs and he is doing real good-he has quality life. I did not give him his vaccinations and his Vet does not agree. I have read that pets should not have vaccinations if they are sick.   Dr. Nichol: You’re... Read More

Tumors-Near the Rear End

Often malignant, rapid tumor growth demands rapid attention.   Question: My 11 year old Chihuahua has a large lump in the area of her rectum and genitals causing both to extend out, the lump is as big as a golf ball and is firm. Pebbles has not shown any signs of discomfort but recently has started having trouble walking. What could this lump be caused by?   Dr. Nichol: You’re making me nervous. Cancer is the leading cause of death in... Read More

Bleeding, Open Skin Tumors

A needle aspirate is a quick & simple way of getting more information from suspicious masses. Get a diagnosis EARLY.   Question: We have a dear old Basset Hound (about 10 years).  Recently we have noticed lumps under his skin.  Now one has ruptured and is an open sore.  I am assuming that these are tumors of some kind.  He started with one and now has three.  I have heard from friends that if they bleed they are usually cancerous.  I have... Read More

Mast Cell Tumors

Mast Cell Tumors can be dangerous. Don’t “Wait & See”. Have them removed.   Question: Our boy is a 10 year old Rottweiler/German Shepherd cross who had a mast cell tumor removed from his side 5 months ago. The tumor was caught early and the surgical margins were clear.  He is doing great but we were wondering if there is any routine screening that should be done to detect a recurrence. Also, what are the chances of the tumor coming... Read More

Min. Schnauzer with Black Skin Masses

Malignancy is a Serious Concern Question: My 13 year old miniature schnauzer has 2 black bubble-like growths on his back. They seem to have liquid in them. They are unsightly, but are they harmful? Should I have them removed? Also, he has started oozing a liquid from one of his nostrils that dries & adheres to his beard.   Dr. Nichol: Your concern is well placed. Considering that 30% of all cancers in dogs are found on the skin all pets,... Read More

Skin Lumps-When is it Safe to Watch & Wait?

A quick sample from the inside of the mass can give an early diagnosis without surgery.   Question: We have an 8 year old Sheepdog and I just found a lump under her skin. Should I be worried or watch it or have it removed or what?   Dr. Nichol: A very good question. My answer is do not gamble. Those skin masses that get watched may spread to other parts of the body by the time someone decides that they’re really a problem. To learn... Read More

Leukemia Virus

What are the risk factors? How to avoid trouble.   Question: I have two cats who I’ve had vaccinated against leukemia who come into contact with other cats. There are two neighbor cats which had been diagnosed positive for feline leukemia and neither cat has been put to sleep. How dangerous is it for my cats? Dr. Nichol: Ready for a complicated answer? Feline leukemia virus (Felv) is a contagious cancer-causing organism. It can also lead... Read More

New Treatments & Preventions for Feline Vaccine-Related Sarcomas

Question: My two older female cats, Lily and Silvia, have both been diagnosed with “injection site sarcoma.” I was flabbergasted to learn that vaccinations given a few years ago were likely to have lead to these fast growing (and at this point LARGE) cancers which will claim my cats’ lives. Why have there been no warnings – I didn’t know to be on the lookout for “funny bumps” and at this point am worried that... Read More

Vaccination Related Cancers

The risks & rewards of vaccination. Now we know that less may be better.   Question: Our 12-year-old cat has developed a pea-sized lump at the site of the vaccination she got last November. We have since found out about post-injection fibrosarcoma and are afraid she now has cancer. Should we have it biopsied?  We’ve heard that a biopsy may cause it to spread more rapidly if it is cancer. We’re concerned about the risk of having... Read More

Ringworm in Cats & Dogs

Program is a Great Systemic Treatment Question: We have an eight year old Airedale that has been getting ringworm. We can clear it up with Lamisil but another spot will crop up in another place. He is never near any cats. Also, do you have any experience in using Program for the treatment of ringworm in cats and dogs?   Dr. Nichol: Remember in school when some other kid got ringworm? Talk about a pariah. Now you know how cats feel. You’re right-cats... Read More

Hot Pavement Burn Risk to Paws

Check the Asphalt Temperature Before Walking Question: Dr. Nichol, would you please put something in the paper about people walking their dogs when the temperature is high?  I feel for the dogs’ paws as they could be seriously burned.  Owners should try walking without shoes on the concrete and blacktop.   Dr. Nichol: You are absolutely right. All experienced Albuquerque veterinarians have treated burned paws. Rather than an asphalt fire... Read More

Hair Color Change following Grooming

Any Skin Trauma can turn Hair Color Dark Question: Cinder is my 7 month old miniature poodle. She has been groomed 4 times but the last time she got black markings on her back overnight. They look like Chinese writing. I thought she had been shaved too short and it grew back black.   Dr. Nichol: I just love the photos you sent. Cinder is a charming puppy. I have seen changes in hair color in lots of poodles but even more often in miniature schnauzers.... Read More


Severe Inflammation of the Feet is Painful. Without Proper Treatment it can be Permanent Question: We have a German shepherd who licks her feet until they are bleeding and she can barely walk.  How do we end this habit?   Dr. Nichol: The general term for your dog’s condition is pododermatitis. There may be several factors involved in those painful swollen feet. A specific diagnosis will be essential to her getting well.   Common causes... Read More

Summertime is the Season for Foxtail Disasters

Weed Awns are Ubiquitous Question: Would you please warn pet owners of the dangers of “foxtails” again? I’m sure you have in previous years but this past mild winter provided the perfect growing conditions for them. We’re diligent in keeping our two large dogs out of harm’s way.   Dr. Nichol: What a scourge! If you’ve ever walked through a field of weeds in New Mexico you’ve gotten the pointed little beige “awns”... Read More

Raised Red Skin Lesion on Dog’s Face

Pemphigus is a Potentially Dangerous Autoimmune Disease Question: I have a 7 year old male red Heeler, neutered. About 6 months ago I noticed pink raised patches on his nose. It got worse, going up the bridge of his snout, then they dried up and went away. Now the patches have appeared in his ears and around one eye. It doesn’t seem to bother him. What is it and does it require treatment?   Dr. Nichol: I’m concerned about your heeler;... Read More

Flaking Skin on Shih Tzu Smells like Locker Room

Yeast Infection may be Responsible Question: I have a Shih Tzu female that has a skin problem. Since birth, she has had an oily coat whose smell reminds me of a locker room. Recently, the groomer changed shampoos. Now her skin sheds in flakes, and the smell persists. I have changed her diet and shampoos.  Please help me and my dog!   Dr. Nichol: There are several possibilities but I am most suspicious of a yeast infection of the skin called... Read More

Yeast Infection Run Rampant

Starting in the Ears, Other Factors can cause Overwhelming Skin Infection Question: Our dog Oscar, a 13 year old Shih-Tzu, has a chronic yeast infection in his ears. He smells so badly your hands smell after you touch him.  The yeast infection has spread from his ears to his entire body.  It’s everywhere, under his legs and on his belly. We’ve changed his diet, he’s taken every kind of pill and cream and now we are bathing him... Read More

Skin Tags on an Older Dog

Treatment is Safe & Simple Question: I have a German shorthair pointer, Hogan, with numerous skin tags on his chest. The only suggestions offered to remove them require anesthesia. Since he is over 12 years old, neither I nor his veterinarian are willing to proceed with that course of action. I realize they are mainly an aesthetic issue, but one has grown and it sometimes bleeds. I would like to prevent him from eventually having a jellyfish hanging... Read More

Symmetrical Ear Flap Lesions may be Vasculitis

A Blood Vessel Disease that could Worsen, there is Effective Treatment Question: I have a toy fox terrier/Chihuahua cross who has extremely large ears. She has always had them in the upright position but in the past week, I have noticed two small scabs below the tips of her ears. As a result, she no longer holds her ears in the upright position. Has she just become lazy and cannot hold up her ears anymore? Dr. Nichol: Your dog is lucky to have an... Read More

Demodectic Mange in a Puppy

Demodectic Mange in a Puppy Patchy Hair Loss Resolves in Some; Potentially Fatal in Others Question: My grandson adopted a puppy from the city adoption services. She is 5 months old. She is loving and very active. Recently she developed a bald spot on her forehead about the size of a dime. Now she has 3 on her face and 4 on her body. What causes this?   Dr. Nichol: There are a few suspects but the likely culprit is a parasitic disease called... Read More

Skin Masses

A Careful Diagnosis is Crucial to Making the Right Decision Question: We have an eleven-year-old Doberman. She continues to get multiple warts. One on her front leg she continues to wash and bite which causes it to bleed. She is so old we’re fearful to have her anesthetized to have them removed. Will the biting of the one on her leg cause cancer? Is it OK to just ignore them? Why is she so prone to warts? I understand they are caused by a virus.... Read More

Sebaceous Adenomas

Multiple Small Skin Masses (often referred to as Cysts) Should be Removed & Biopsied Question: We have a small toy fox terrier about 8 years old. She suddenly developed these weird little skin cysts. They’re bigger than skin flaps and thicker, about 1/4 inch long. Our vet just laughed and said he’d only seen these on cocker spaniels. Do you know what they are?   Dr. Nichol: Was it like “Ha, ha, ha, that’s an odd looking cocker... Read More

Compulsive Licking may Reflect Physical Disease

Pain and Infection, along with Behavior, are Important Considerations Question: Please explain what DAP is regarding reducing separation anxiety. I’ve tried everything to stop my dog’s excessive licking of his rear leg. Where/how can I buy some?   Dr. Nichol: Your dog’s self injurious behavior is a big priority but it may have nothing to do with separation anxiety. There can be physical reasons, like bone or joint pain, for compulsive... Read More

Lick Granuloma

An Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, the Potential for Devastation is Huge Question: My yellow lab has 2 sores caused from licking. She does not have fleas, or any other parasite, she has had these for years, and will not let them heal correctly. We have tried many, many different things. Do you have any suggestions? Will she eventually pass away with these afflictions? She is 10 years old.   Dr. Nichol: Your poor dog is miserable. Acral lick granulomas... Read More

Hair Loss & Eye Discharge

Low levels of thyroid hormone are common in dogs. Most cases are simple to correct.   Question: I have a little Shih Tzu named Ling Ling. Ling Ling is very cute but she is losing her hair, she has this beige goop coming from her eyes and she stinks. I’ve been to three different vets with her and nothing really helps.   Dr. Nichol: I’m sorry Ling Ling has these problems. While there may be only one disease that is responsible... Read More

Itching Puppies May Have Cheyletiella Mange

Yellow skin flakes & thickened skin are giveaway simptoms.   Question: My husband and I just got a new puppy for our children. The puppy seems to be in good shape except that he scratches a lot. When I looked at his skin, I saw a lot of light yellow flakes. What’s the matter with him?   Dr. Nichol: There are a few possible causes but the most likely is a mange mite called Cheyletiella. It is caused by a microscopic insect that lives... Read More

A Collar Imbedded in a Dog’s neck

Puppies can outgrow a collar just like children outgrow their cloths. Neglected collars can cause infected open wounds of the neck.   Question: I feel horrible. I have Teal who is a 4 month old Malamute puppy with an awful looking wound around her neck where her collar dug into her skin. It’s my fault because I forgot to check to see if the collar was getting too small. She outgrew her collar. I didn’t think about it because she didn’t... Read More

Sores on the Eyelids of Boxers

Boxers are highly prone to malignant cancers-including skin. An accurate diagnosis & treatment is needed fast.   Question: My Boxer is Spike and he’s 9 years old. He’s white with a few big brown spots. Two months ago I noticed a red spot on one of his eyelids. Now it looks like it’s getting bigger. I thought about putting some Neosporin on it. What do you think?   Dr. Nichol: I am concerned about Spike. He has had 9 years of exposure... Read More

Pomeranian-Adult Onset Growth Hormone Responsive Dermatosis

Not Diet Related, A Cause of Non-Pruritic Hair Loss & Dark Skin Question: We have a 4 year old Pomeranian that was given to us when he was about one year old. He was fed Pedigree dog food. A few months later he started losing his hair on his rear end and the skin turned black, a spot on his neck and some on his stomach. Took him to two different vets who did blood tests on him. Neither one had an answer. Now he is losing hair on his sides and... Read More

Hair Loss of the Ears & Tail of Dachsunds

If hair follicle infection has been eliminated only Rogaine will help. Is appearance that important?   Question: I have a seven year old male dachsund. The hair on his tail has been gone for almost two years. His tail looks like a rat’s tail. He also has some of these same sort of spots on his ears. About a year ago the vet ran blood tests etc. thinking it was a thyroid problem but everything was OK. For a while I rubbed vitamin E on his tail... Read More

Bulldogs Can Have Serious Body Odor.

Dental infections, ear problems, or anal gland disease can be responsible. But those deep skin folds can harbor serious bacteria.   Question: I have an English Bulldog who has a terrible “odor” problem. He is bathed frequently (at least once a week), and brushed. Excuse the comparison, but for lack of any other way to describe it, he smells like bad foot odor! I have tried several shampoos and even creme rinses, but nothing so far... Read More

Shar-Peis & the Skin Disease of Excessive Wrinkles

More wrinkles means more skin, eye, & ear disease. The best for breeding have fewer skin folds.   Question: I have a female Chinese Shar-Pei and I’m very disappointed in something my vet said. In fact I don’t know if I want to go back to this vet again. He told me that Shar-Peis have a lot of skin trouble and that most of them have bad eyes and that I shouldn’t breed my dog because I shouldn’t pass along these bad things.... Read More

Unruly at the Groomer’s

Sedation or Light Anesthesia at the Animal Hospital Makes it Easy for the Groomer and the Pet. Questions: We have 2 hairy mutts who are charming members of the family but considerably less charming at the groomer’s. Both have become increasingly more aggressive when groomed. Last time, both had a tranquilizer. The groomer reported that it wore off after 20 minutes yet both were still considerably subdued when we brought them home. I hesitate to... Read More

Generalized Hair Loss without Skin Lesions

Low Thyroid is Possible; Cushing’s is More Likely Question: We have a 9 year old male Boston terrier who has begun losing his body hair.  He does not have any sores, he is just balding.  How we can we treat this problem?   Dr. Nichol: Symmetrical hair loss in a middle aged dog with no skin lesions suggests a hormonal issue. Thyroid or adrenal malfunctions are the likely culprits.   Your Boston terrier needs an exam and lab profile. If... Read More

Hair Loss

A common sign of Low Thyroid function. Diagnose with a blood test. Question: Our 12-year-old male Golden Retriever named “Buddy” has hair thinning about the size of a silver dollar on his upper hindquarter. There is no irritation.  It has been on his left side for about a month, and now it is beginning on the right.   Dr. Nichol: By far and away the dog breed with the highest incidence of low thyroid function (hypothyroidism) is... Read More

Nose Color-Black to Brown

Golden Retrievers have a normal nose color change. If it’s not inflamed it’s OK.   Question: I have a 10-month-old male golden retriever, Casey. I have started to notice that his nose seems to be changing from black to brown. I feed him dry dog food from a stainless steel bowl. Is this normal?   Dr. Nichol: Yes, feeding dry dog food to Casey from a stainless steel bowl is completely normal. I do it too. It is also normal for a Golden Retriever’s... Read More

Rough, Cracked Foot Pads

Home treatment can help those paws feel a whole lot better.   Question: Our 10-month-old cocker spaniel has been having trouble with his paws. His pads are very rough and cracked. They seem to be sensitive at times. He gets very upset if we try to touch them and occasionally we see him nursing them. We live in a fairly urban suburb, so he spends much of his time walking on concrete and pavement. But this seems like it might be more than just normal... Read More

Hair Loss in Clumps

A Haircut is a Great Alternative Question: I have a wonderful 4 year old Yellow Labrador. He sheds horribly. Although I brush him at least 5 times a week, he still sheds. A friend has a lab that does not shed. He shaves his pet in the spring and fall (twice a year). Shaves all except the head. Do you see a problem with this?   Dr. Nichol: Trimming off some of that thick coat will help with shedding. It’ll also keep that big boy more comfortable... Read More

Hair Shedding

Dog breeds with continuously growing hair coats shed the least.   Question: My friend is going to get a dog for her birthday, but she is having trouble deciding which kind of dog to get! She wants a dog that does not shed and is small!  Can you help her decide what kind of dog to get?   Dr. Nichol: It’s good to know that she is thinking ahead. So often it’s just an overpowering love of pets that causes the purchase a new dog on impulse.... Read More

Toenails Sloughing & Bleeding in a Schnauzer

Lupoid Onchodystrophy is Immune Mediated & Controllable Question: Cagney, our 5-year-old spayed female Schnauzer has been shedding her toenails for three months. Her toes are raw and bleeding. She is very protective about her paws but shows no visible signs of pain. Is this great pet going to go through this process from now on?  Do you have any idea what could be causing this? Dr. Nichol: The likely cause for Cagney’s misery is a disease called... Read More

Dog Uncomfortable with Spot-On Flea Treatments

Comfortis: the New Oral Chewable Question: I have noticed that when I apply Frontline or Biospot to my 25 lb. terrier mix he becomes somewhat agitated for awhile. Maybe he doesn’t like the smell or is he allergic? Do you have comments on the new oral flea/tick medication?   Dr. Nichol: Spot-on flea and tick treatments are generally well tolerated but if your dog is uncomfortable I agree that it’s time to change. Comfortis is the new once... Read More


How Dogs Get Them, How They Feed, & Who They Parasitize: A Second Grader Needs to Know Question: Hi! My name is Lauren and I’m a second-grader at Inez Elementary. My science project is titled “How do Dogs Get Fleas”. Why do dogs get fleas? Are fleas fuzzy? Do fleas get on babies? Do fleas get into people’s skin?   Dear Lauren: Fleas spread themselves around by leaping from one dog onto another. They can jump so fast... Read More

Frontline Failure to Eliminate Ticks

Additional Applications plus Frontline Spray & Preventic Collar Question: This spring my Golden Retriever Maggie is covered with ticks.  I use Frontline on a regular basis.  My veterinarian said to use it more often.  But I pick off 20 or more ticks every other day. Has she developed a resistance to Frontline?   Dr. Nichol: Clearly your yard, the ditch trail, or the park where you take Maggie has a bumper crop of ticks. Small pets can... Read More

Ticks 2

Ticks transmit serious disease. Frontline is a Spot-On treatment that works great.   Question: I own a female Lab cross and have been having a terrible bout with ticks this spring season.  I started her on topical repellents a few weeks ago and have sprayed suspect shrubbery within the lawn but I still seem to find a few new ticks on her daily.  Is there anything I could add to her diet (garlic?) or other precautions I should be taking?   Dr.... Read More


Vectors for deadly blood parasites, ticks are actually quite dangerous. Simple home treatment has made them much easier to eliminate.   Question: My dog, a miniature Doberman pincher named Morgan, has had two ticks on him lately. I would like to know the best way to keep him tick-free. I use Advantage for fleas, but was told it was not good for ticks.   Dr. Nichol: You have raised an important question. Ticks are not only a source of discomfort... Read More

Insect Stings

Know what is dangerous, what you can treat at home, & when to call it an emergency. Also, flip to the Emergency section in this book on Insect Bites & Stings.   Question: ‘Tis the season and I don’t mean Christmas. ‘Tis the season for bees, hornets, wasps and things that sting.  My dog likes to chase after and ingest bugs of any type.  (Of course this happens after my vet closes.) What is the best treatment for a sting? ... Read More

Discoid Lupus can lead to Cancer

Oral Treatments often Work Well. A New Ointment may be Perfect Question: Our dog has lupus. We have been treating her with tetracycline, niacinamide, vitamin E, and steroids. Her nose is pink rather than black and has open sores, worse at times. Recently I heard of a topical treatment for lupus.   Dr. Nichol: Your dog has discoid lupus erythematosis (DLE), not systemic lupus erythematosis. Both result from a haywire immune system that makes antibodies... Read More

Discoid Lupus has Several Treatments

A Correct Diagnosis is Most Important Question: We have a 5 year old Beagle/Basset. Our vet thinks he has Lupus. His nose has holes on the black part and into his fur with bumps. His meds are niacinamide, tetracycline, and prednisone. We have a hard time getting Lobo to eat for the last two years. I use cheese to administer his meds.   Dr. Nichol: Lobo’s doctor has diagnosed him with a life long skin disease called discoid lupus erythematosis... Read More

Dudley Nose

Loss of Pigment is a Normal Variant Question: My Terrier mix and my friend’s Golden Retriever, at the age of about 2, had their noses slowly change color from top to bottom and from near black to a pink. Is it due to age, environment, diet, types of food dish, etc…?   Dr. Nichol: A gradual nose color change is a common genetic trait in many breeds. Consider it normal unless you see swelling, redness, blisters, or scabbing. These signs... Read More

Nose-Color Change

Noses shouldn’t change. Loss of pigment or blistering of the skin can lead to cancer. Question: We have a 7 year old wolf hybrid that has been suffering from a peeling nose-so bad it cracks and bleeds-for 4 years. My concern is that it could develop into skin cancer-aside from the fact that she cries when her nose gets touched. Our vet’s diagnosis was of an immune imbalance. He recommended a combination of tetracycline and niacinimide. After... Read More


Itchy, miserable, and potentially fatal. Treatment must be aggressive.   Question: We have a Great Dane a little over 1 year old.  He was diagnosed with demodectic mange when he was 8 weeks old.  Our local vet says there is nothing we can do except give him a mange dip. He is currently losing a lot of hair and itching.  He has severe dry skin with flaking.  Under his arms is raw and his coat is becoming patchy.  Please let us know if there is... Read More

Dry Skin-Supplements

Question: My mom’s Boston terrier (12 years old) has lived mostly outside in Deming. She’s lost a lot of hair. Her vet there found no cause for it (mites, etc). Mom has just moved to Albuquerque with us, and Bonnie will now be mostly inside. We’re hoping this will help her skin and feet, but were wondering if there is anything that would be of benefit.   Dr. Nichol: Bonnie sounds like a sweet old girl who deserves a health boost.... Read More

Dry Skin

If you treat it yourself your dog may end up with REALLY dry skin. Question: Any ideas on skin care? My 3 year old female pug named “Pug” has dry itchy skin. She loves to be scratched. In fact she’s obsessed about being scratched. Will “bag balm” help?   Dr. Nichol: First try to determine the cause. For starters: If you are bathing Pug: Stop. You may be over drying her skin. If you have not been bathing her get her... Read More

Surgery Wound Care

Keep the incision clean for good healing.   Question: We adopted a puppy from a local animal shelter 2 days ago. She had to be spayed before we brought her home. My first question is; do we have to do anything to keep the incision site clean? Or put any kind of ointment on it?   Dr. Nichol: Congratulations on your new baby! I admire you for sharing your home with this little orphan. You just may have saved her from euthanasia.   Her spay... Read More

Ringworm in Cats & Dogs

Program is a Great Systemic Treatment Question: We have an eight year old Airedale that has been getting ringworm. We can clear it up with Lamisil but another spot will crop up in another place. He is never near any cats. Also, do you have any experience in using Program for the treatment of ringworm in cats and dogs?   Dr. Nichol: Remember in school when some other kid got ringworm? Talk about a pariah. Now you know how cats feel. You’re right-cats... Read More

Itchy Feet

Paw licking & chewing can drive everybody crazy. Have your veterinarian do what it takes to understand the cause & get that poor foot sucking dog feeling better.   Question: Our daschund is 4 years old and began licking her back paws about 2 months ago and does this constantly. Please advise what this could be and any remedies.   Dr. Nichol: This is an important question because it illustrates a difference between dogs and humans. While... Read More

Stinky Itchy Dog

Bacterial Infection may be the Overlooked Component Question: Our dog is a 2 year old Akita. He scratches constantly under his belly and around his private area and he stinks. He stinks so bad you smell him as soon as you walk into the house.   Dr. Nichol: Itchy smelly dogs (I hate to use the pejorative stinky) may have any number of skin diseases. Allergies, mange, ringworm, yeast, and even cancer are possibilities. Often overlooked is the part... Read More


Inhaled allergies can cause severe injury to the skin. And symptomatic treatments can be safe & effective. But the worst cases may need skin testing. Injection series give the best results for the tough cases.   Question: We have a 1 1/2 year old Great Dane. For several months, now, he has been scratching his under-belly and seems to have an allergy to something. Our vet said he could be allergic to a number of things…..Bermuda grass,... Read More


Allergies are a common cause. But don’t be a do-it-yourselfer. Overbathing an itchy dog may only make it worse. Get that itch fixed by your veterinarian.   Question: We have a 3 year old miniature schnauzer. She has been getting very itchy here lately. Nothing has helped her so far. We tried using different shampoos on her, changed her food, washed all of her bedding and used dye-free and perfume free detergent and no softener. We are wondering... Read More

Scratching-All Year ‘Round

Food allergies cause non stop itching. A food trial with a prescription diet can answer the question & help a dog feel so much better.   Question: Dr. Jeff, I have the most itchiest dog. This guy Buford is 4 years old and he seems to scratch all the time. I’ve heard that dogs with allergies only itch in the spring and summer-not Buford. Amazingly his skin looks fine and normal. Do you think he has allergies? If he does, what can I do... Read More

Tail Biting & Chasing is Likely Due to Cauda Equina Syndrome

X-Rays, Myelogram, or MRI is Needed to Diagnose it. Medications & Rest or Surgery Will be Necessary. Question: We have a 2 year old wolf hybrid at a research facility in Bluewater. About 4 weeks ago she started biting her tail and going in circles. We have tried butazolidine and prednisone at the suggestion of the local vet with no improvement. He says that the only option now is amputation of the tail. Do you have any suggestions?   Dr.... Read More

Chow x Depressed following Grooming

Does she really need a Haircut? Question: My late Pomeranian used to love getting his hair cut (lion cut) in the summer. He was always proud and feisty after being trimmed and groomed. My Chow/terrier, on the other hand, seems depressed after a haircut. With summer approaching, I have heard that for some dogs, their coat actually keeps them cooler, while for others, getting a haircut is better.   Dr. Nichol: Chow Chows and other arctic breeds... Read More

Big Black Itchy Dogs

Hot Weather + Allergies +  the Heat Absorption of Dark Fur = Hot Spots Question: Since the weather has turned hot and with humidity as low as 5% our two black Newfoundlands have been scratching a lot.  They are on Frontline, do not have fleas or ticks.  How can I make them more comfortable?   Dr. Nichol: Fleas and ticks are important but there are lots of factors that can gang up all at once to make dogs scratch like fiends. Add spring pollens,... Read More

Hot Spots with Allergies

Question: I have a four-year-old Shar Pei/Chow Chow. He frequently suffers from a skin allergy. Especially during this time of year, he gets “hot spots”, places where he bites or scratches himself raw. He really seems to suffer.   Dr. Nichol: I’ll bet your dog is miserable. All that scratching damages his skin causing infections (hot spots). Without quick treatment, the oozing from those hot spots will attract flies. And fly eggs... Read More

Hot Spots

These nasty red infected skin lesions can recur due to allergies.   Question: My dog has an annually recurring problem my vet refers to as “hot spots”. His name is Jack and recently, he’s scratched himself horribly on the side of his neck. He’s scratched off quite a bit of hair and skin. Consequently, he spends a great deal of time with a cone on his head.  What causes this problem and is there a treatment to avoid its... Read More

Dogs Licking Human Mouths

Isn’t this Unhealthy? Question: In your picture on your website and on TV we often see pets licking the faces/mouths of adults and babies. They clean themselves with their tongues, so it seems gross and dangerous to show this with apparent approval by the veterinary medical community. Is this acceptable?   Dr. Nichol: You have a point. Swapping spit with a dog would never qualify as good hygiene. There is a reason for it. Dogs with a healthy... Read More

Health Risks of Cats Preying on Birds & Squirrels

With Several Zoonotic Diseases, Indoor Cats Live Longer & Healthier. Question: My cats have developed a taste for our neighborhood bird population. I find what’s left over (feathers) almost daily. Yet they are still consuming a healthy amount of cat food.  Another kicker, yesterday they left me a gift of a dead squirrel in my closet.  Should I be worried about their health?   Dr. Nichol: You should be worried, and frankly, so should... Read More


Household Pets are the Greatest Risk for Human Exposure Question: A squirrel has recently started visiting my yard.  He likes the food I put out for the doves, and I enjoy having him here. However, since the news stories about the plague, I am concerned that he may bring fleas and/or ticks into my yard. I have a small dog and have never had a flea problem. Should I be concerned, and, if so, what preventive measures should I take?   Dr. Nichol: I’m... Read More

Heartworms & Human Risk

We are not the normal host for this parasite. But carrier mosquitoes have infected a few unlucky folks.   Question: Can people get heartworms? If dogs and cats get it from mosquitoes, can’t humans?   Dr. Nichol: Cases of human infection with Dirofilaria immitus(heartworm) has occurred but it is pretty rare. The reason is that the human immune system is very good at killing the larvae because we are not a natural “host” for... Read More

Asthma, Children, & Pets

Specific breeds of dogs & cats for kids who may need pets the most.   Question: I would like to know if there is any breed(s) of dog for children with asthma. And if a child is allergic to cats, does it necessarily mean dogs, also?   Dr. Nichol: I think you’re great to find a pet for your children. Pets teach love and forgiveness in ways that no parent can. Peter Rabbit and Raoul (our family dog and cat) have a big place in the... Read More


A disease of pets & humans, the human risk is low-mostly.   Question: I live in the Four Corners area and camp in the mountains in the Flagstaff area. The Hanta Virus has been reported in Arizona and I am concerned about our pets.  Can they catch the virus and/or transfer it to humans?   Dr. Nichol: I’m glad you’re concerned about hantavirus. This infection has actually been around for a long time. In Europe and Asia it infects about... Read More

Allergies to Pets

Here are several hypoallergenic dog & cat breeds   Question: I would like to know if there is any breed(s) of dog for children with asthma. And if a child is allergic to cats, does it necessarily mean dogs, also?   Dr. Nichol: I think you’re great to find a pet for your children. Pets teach love and forgiveness in ways that no parent can. Peter Rabbit and Raoul (our family dog and cat) have a big place in the lives of the Nichol... Read More

Chronic Vomiting & Diarrhea

Several Canine Parasites are Infectious to Humans Question: Could you please tell me why my little 14 pound dog throws up about twice a week?  Lately she throws up and periodically has runny bowels. Could it possibly be her food or should I just take her to the vet for an internal examination? Could I give her acidophilus to help in her digestion of her food?   Dr. Nichol: Chronic vomiting is no fun and it’s never a healthy sign. Add in... Read More

Human Diseases: Susceptibility of Pets

Our pets are not at risk from Mononucleosis and Flu. But humans without pets may have more risk.   Question: Here are two families with similar concerns: One of my kids has Mono. And they were letting the dog lick their face and lips. Can my 10-week-old beagle catch this sickness? The entire human part of my family is very sick with the flu. My question is are our pets at risk if they sleep with us and kiss us? I don’t want them to get... Read More

Is Loud Music a Risk to a Dog’s Hearing?

Like Humans, Dogs can have Noise Induced Hearing Loss Question: I often see people with their dogs at outdoor concerts. Given the volume of the music at these events, I have to wonder if the dogs’ hearing is being adversely affected. What’s your opinion on the subject?   Dr. Nichol: I’ll do better than an opinion; I will regale you with facts. All mammals have similar hearing structures. It starts with sound waves causing our ear... Read More

Yeast Infection Run Rampant

Starting in the Ears, Other Factors can cause Overwhelming Skin Infection Question: Our dog Oscar, a 13 year old Shih-Tzu, has a chronic yeast infection in his ears. He smells so badly your hands smell after you touch him.  The yeast infection has spread from his ears to his entire body.  It’s everywhere, under his legs and on his belly. We’ve changed his diet, he’s taken every kind of pill and cream and now we are bathing him... Read More

Foxtail Removed One Month Ago

Chronic Ear Infection Likely Question: Had a fox tail removed from my cattle dog’s ear by my vet about a month ago but the dog still shakes her head like crazy and also rubs her ear on the rug. It don’t happen every day but when it does I feel so bad for her because her head droops and her ear is down. Could there still be something in her ear even though it does not happen every day?   Dr. Nichol: There may be another foxtail in your cattle... Read More


Question: Zeb is an 18-month-old Great Pyrenees. He gets foxtails embedded in his coat, between his toes, and most unfortunately in his ears. We had to have him sedated to have a foxtail removed from his ear canal. We have burned the foxtail patches in our yard and dug them out but he still picks them up from the neighborhood. How can we keep the little devils out of Zeb’s ears?   Dr. Nichol: For the uninformed, foxtails, also called grass... Read More

Head Shaking in Cats Can Mean Foxtails in the Ear

A sudden onset suggests a grass awn (foxtail). Have it checked out soon.   Question: I have a head problem with Schnapps. Schnapps is our cat and she is a female. All of a sudden 2 days ago she’s been leaning her head to the right. Sometimes she sort of shakes her head too. She seems O.K. in other ways. What’s wrong with Schnapps? Will this problem go away by itself?   Dr. Nichol: I’m glad you are asking for advice on Schnapps’... Read More

Ear Mites

Nasty little creatures drive cats crazy. Injections from your veterinarian are easier for your & your cat than pets store ear drops.   Question: We have 3 cats at our house and all of them are scratching their ears. This has been going on for a long time. We took them to the doctor and she said that she saw ear mites. She even showed them to me and my kids in the microscope. The doctor said that she could give the cats injections to get rid of... Read More

Reoccurring Ear Infections

Many Factors can Influence Failure of the Same Old Treatment Question: I treated my dog with Tresaderm for yeast infection for 2 weeks and she was better but now she is again shaking her head and the ears are tender. Is there another remedy?   Dr. Nichol: Like any treatment Tresaderm’s effectiveness will depend on the cause(s) of the ear problem. Is it yeast? Bacteria are often involved, but what type? Ear mites and foreign material like foxtail... Read More

‘Do-It-Yourself’ Approaches to Ear Disease

Treatment must be serious. See the doctor & do all of the follow-up to be sure that it’s gone for good.   Question: My 2 year old male Rottie has had wetness in his ears accompanied with redness and itching and a brown moist discharge. The moisture in not from an external source. I clean his ears with Solvaprep and then use Solvadry. I q-tip some antibiotic ointment on to the red areas in his ears. The red areas are not from scratching because... Read More

Ear Infections

They  can recur time & again. Get serious. End the misery for the kitty & protect long term health.   Question: My father’s cat has a problem since birth with his ears. He seems to have what we thought at first was some sort of ear mite and now believe to maybe be some sort of a yeast infection in his ears.  He will constantly shake his head and stuff does come out and his ears are very sensitive. My father has tried various products... Read More

Ear Flap Swelling

Head shaking/ear scratching can damage blood vessels in the ear flaps forming a  blood pocket. Treatment the disease of the ear canal is priority one.   Question: I have a 5-year-old cat.  He had been holding his ear down, and when we looked at it, the ENTIRE inside is swollen. It looks like a bubble. I don’t want to take him to the vet for something that will clear up on it’s own! It doesn’t seem to bother him at all, not even... Read More

Hereditary Seizures

Inbreeding only Raises the Risk Question: We had to put our wonderful standard poodle, Mychal Angelo, down this week. He had seizures that no amount of medication could control. Five and a half years were not enough for us. We found out that Mychal’s mother, brother and sister has seizures, and his great uncle was put down for seizures. All have begun at about the same age, 4-5 years old.  After finding out more information, the breeder is line... Read More

Sudden Inability to Stand & Walk Straight in Older Dogs

Dogs don’t have strokes. Geriatric Vestibular Syndrome looks the same but resolves quickly.   Question: I think my dog had a stroke. She’s an 11 year old Lab named Polly and she seemed like she was doing OK when all of a sudden this morning she couldn’t stand. Her head is cocked to one side and her eyes are rolling. But she still wants to eat and she still recognizes me and my family. We think Polly’s suffering. Do you think it’s... Read More

Seizures & Circling

Brain tumors in cats are usually treatable. Acting early can return the older kitty to her old self. See Seizures in the Emergency section of this book.   Question: I am really worried about my cat. She’s been sleepy and inactive for awhile. Lately she’s walking like in a circle. She acts blind. She even had a fit. Our vet has done tests and x-rays. The vet said she might have a brain tumor. She wants us to take her for a scan. It sounds... Read More

Phenobarbital & Potassium Bromide Treatments

Long Term Safety is Important Question: Our 5 year old Standard Poodle recently had several grand mal seizures and is being treated with phenobarbital. This makes him very awkward and sluggish when before he was so graceful and alert. We have been advised that he can never stop taking the drug because to do so would precipitate another seizure. Will he always be “drugged” or will the effects of the drug become tolerated as he becomes addicted... Read More


Anticonvulsant tablets are inexpensive & nearly always effective. See Seizures in the Emergency section of this book.   Question: I have a Golden Retriever, he is only 3 years old and in the last month he suffered 2 epilepsy crisis. The vet told me that there is no remedy. And they will be more frequent until I need to take the decision to sacrifice him. I will like to know if you can help me. I know it will be difficult because I live in... Read More


Puppies with seizures need special attention. Don’t delay. Babies can get sicker fast. See Seizures in the Emergency section of this book.   Question: I have a 3-month-old Brittany. Every once in awhile she has these attacks in which her body tightens up, her eyes get all glassy, and she falls over. I’m assuming it’s an epileptic attack, but I’m not sure. What do you recommend we do for her during the attacks? We just hold her,... Read More

Seizures-Adult Dogs

Anticonvulsant medications make a vast improvement in life quality. See Seizures in the Emergency section of this book.   Question: I have a cocker spaniel that has seizures.  His name is Odie and we consider him an important part of our family!  He is having seizures more often.  I haven’t put him on any medication because I fear it will change his personality. What is your advice on this condition? He is five years old and in good health... Read More

House Soiling Dog may have Urinary Tract Disease

Evaluation for Infection & Bladder Stones should Precede Retraining Question: Gabby is incontinent.  This is not a consistent cause and effect situation.  She has 24 hour access to a dog door and dog run.  She does NOT wake up from sleep in a pool of urine.  She simply will go on carpets even if you are right there. We call her our “special needs dog” as perhaps this is an IQ issue???   Dr. Nichol: Despite your best efforts... Read More

Sudden Onset Night Time Urine Soiling

Bladder Disease is the Likely Cause Question: What to do about a 3 year old spayed cock-a-poo that suddenly has “accidents” at night? She has no problem during the day, uses the doggy door.  She chooses the same area, about 10 feet  from the sleeping area. We have spanked her with newspaper, scolded.  She is always aware that she has been naughty and is contrite for most of the morning. Dr. Nichol: Considering that your dog has no trouble... Read More

Shar-Pei Fever

A devastating disease of the kidneys & joints, it can also cause pneumonia & liver disease. A thorough diagnostic workup is important to rule-out other diseases.   Question: I have a 5 yr. old female Shar Pei. Over all she appears very healthy. From time to time she has urine leak out; like when asleep or laying in a chair resting etc. I know Shar Peis have kidney related weakness. She is eating well and drinking. A few times in the past... Read More

Risks Associated with PPA for Treatment of Spay Incontinence

A generally safe drug, DES is an alternative Question: Our 9 year old Doberman has a leaky bladder.  We had her on Proin 50 until we read that it can cause seizures and major health issues.  She has been doing well for the last 8 months but she has started leaking quite a bit.  Is there an alternate to Proin?  Hopefully something a little less hard on the dog. Dr. Nichol: Proin 50 is a brand name of phenylpropanolamine, PPA for short. In spayed... Read More

Older Dogs & Urine Dribbling

Aging problems are manageable in some cases. It’s worth some investment in diagnostics.   Question: My 12 year old female dog, 85 pound shepherd cross, is starting to “dribble” and is kind of incontinent. My vet seems to feel there isn’t much that can be done about it. It’s hard to believe that, in this day and age, there isn’t a pill or shot for this condition. Is my vet correct?   Dr. Nichol: Depends(?) This... Read More

Bladder Stones

Crystals in the urine can form stones, which might pass with the urine. Carefully save these for your veterinarian to have analyzed. This is the key to effective treatment.   Question: I got a real problem with my dog Emily. She’s been a healthy girl but the last few days I seen her straining to urinate. I watched real close yesterday and she passed a small round stone with blood on it. What the heck’s going on?   Dr. Nichol: You... Read More

Kidney Failure in Dogs

What Can be Done to Extend the Enjoyable Life of a Great Dog Question: Our 10-year-old Golden Retriever hasn’t been her normal ravenous self. Blood work indicated kidney failure. Through diet, intravenous fluids, and moderate exercise, she is maintaining weight and muscle mass.  We’ve explored the option of a kidney transplant but this is not a viable alternative.  Are there other options? It is difficult to simply let nature take its... Read More

Addison’s Disease

Vague Symptoms make Diagnosis Tricky Question: My two-year old Labrador retriever has been diagnosed with Addison’s disease. I would appreciate your commenting on Addison’s, what it is, symptoms to watch for, and treatment. Our lab is recovering due to the expertise of our veterinarians and our dedication to his quality of life.   Dr. Nichol: Addison’s disease can be tricky because it’s a “masquerader”. Symptoms may include... Read More

Recurring Diarrhea following Boarding

Multiple treatments for Giardia: Change Medications & Treat Stress Question: Sometimes we board our dogs Hogan and Abby. More often than not, Hogan comes home with diarrhea. Our vet has diagnosed giardia and prescribes metronidazole and the problem is solved. Abby never has this problem. Is Hogan just more prone to giardia? Is it something he ingests or exposure to infected fecal matter? Dr. Nichol: Treating giardia quickly is important; chronic... Read More

Parasites: Risky for Pets & Young Children

Eliminating Infective Larvae is Challenging Question: I’m having my three adult dogs treated for worms/parasites. Some of the info that I have found online states that the yard may need to be treated to kill anything that remains. How do I treat a yard? My concern is that my 18 month old daughter likes to walk around, and I don’t want her to get anything that is affecting my dogs.   Dr. Nichol: Intestinal parasites are serious business.... Read More

Dog with Chronic Vomiting

There are Many Possible Causes. Controlling the Vomiting is a High Priority Question: Our 8-year old Cairn Terrier, MacDuff, has a very sensitive stomach. He continues to throw up and now it happens almost every day, often after vigorous romp with playmate Miss Maggie. The other evening he tossed his entire undigested dinner. The increased frequency of these events has us very worried.   Dr. Nichol: You are right to be concerned. Even though... Read More

Grass Eating & Vomiting

Never Considered Normal. Find the Cause & Help the Dog Question: Every few months, our four-year-old German shepherd dog SUDDENLY starts to run through the house frantic, and begs to go into the yard. He eats all the grass he can and comes in the house and throws it all up. Then he starts licking our carpeting. This continues for about two hours. He also has dry heaves. Blood tests and x-rays have showed nothing. We love “Cherokee”... Read More

Bloating of the Stomach

Large breed, deep chested dogs are prone to twisting & swelling of the stomach. A high risk emergency, surgery is indicated ASAP.   Question: I had my dog “Buzzy”, who is a Standard Poodle, boarded at a kennel and when I went to visit him he passed out. He looked like he was bloated in the middle and they got real concerned and rushed him to a vet for me real fast. The doctor x-rayed Buzzy and did surgery. He said Buzzy’s stomach... Read More

Bones: Chewing Them Up & Swallowing the Pieces

Bone chewing is always a gamble. Swallowed shards can sometimes be removed without surgery using an endoscope.   Question: Porky needs help fast. I think I screwed up. We always thought it was O.K. to give her steak bones but since the T-bone that we gave her last night, she’s been vomiting a lot. I didn’t think small dogs could break off bone pieces. She won’t eat and she doesn’t seem to feel very good. Can we get rid of that bone without... Read More

Dogs Who Raid the Trash

Used diapers, tampons, & bandages can swell inside the intestines causing blockages. Surgery may be the only path to survival.   Question: I think we have a problem with our Nemo. Nemo is a good dog and we love him. But we also have two small children in diapers. Yesterday Nemo ate a disposable diaper that had fresh stool from our baby in it. Now Nemo won’t eat. Will this diaper come out on its own?   Dr. Nichol: Oh, brother. This... Read More


Simple to kill, tapeworms are carried by fleas or rodents. Fleas are much worse than tapeworms. Declare war on fleas. Careful with the chinchilla.   Question: I was recently adopted by a young, female, seal point Siamese who has tapeworms. I understand that tapeworms come from fleas.  I didn’t see any fleas on her. Now that I have given her the medication, how long should I expect it to take for the worms to go away? Are they contagious as... Read More

Swallowed Ribbon Stayed in Stomach 2 Weeks

Unlucky Cats have Perforated Intestines Question: Our cat swallowed a length of ribbon about 12 in long 2 weeks ago. I checked his litter box and never saw it come out. He finally chucked a hair ball and the ribbon was in with the hair. After all that time, where did he store it?   Dr. Nichol: String, toys, bits of bone, bottle caps, and other odds and ends can stay holed up in a stomach for months. Your cat was lucky. Swallowed junk can cause... Read More

Stealing Dollar Bills & Other Objects

Most Likely Attention Seeking, Some Canine Thieves Have OCD Question: My dear friend has an 8-year-old apricot poodle named Bon Bon who eats paper. A paper napkin can disappear off your lap unnoticed. She also steals dollar bills out of your pocket or purse. Is there a diet deficiency? I caught her with a stick of wood and she swallowed it quickly. I don’t think I can teach Bon Bon the difference between a $1 bill and a $20.   Dr. Nichol: You... Read More