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My Pet World: 'Talking' pooch likely has no idea what he's saying

March 15, 2011|By Steve Dale

Question: My dog talks to me and says, "I wuv you."

I'm not crazy; that's exactly what it sounds like! You've mentioned that parrots are the only animals that can mimic speech. Can't dogs do this, too? — C.B., Montreal

Answer: I think you have a YouTube video to post — and you won't be the first. Thousands of people contend their dogs can say, "I love you." In fact, one video of a Siberian husky has received nearly 37 million hits.

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As much as it sounds like Mishka the husky and other dogs are actually saying, "I love you," it's unlikely the dog is learning by mimicking, as parrots do. Instead, the dog's owners most likely shape the behavior with praise and attention.

Each dog likely began with a cute vocalization — maybe years ago — and a family member responded by laughing or telling Mishka he was very smart. Over time, the praise was most effusive when Mishka's vocalizations sounded more like human speech. (By the way, Mishka also presumably says "Obama" and "bye bye.") Not to be outdone, there are thousands of (presumably) talking-cat videos out there, as well.

At least some parrots seem to understand the meaning of what they're saying. It's not likely that Mishka does.

Q: My 19-year-old cat is on thyroid medication but it tastes bad, so she hates it. My vet said there's another thing we can do with radiation, but I'd have to bring Cleopatra to a special place for a few days. I'm on a fixed income, and this special treatment will cost around $800. My cat would also be alone, without me. Any advice? — S.B., St. Petersburg, Fla.

A: The "special place" you refer to likely offers radioactive iodine as a treatment for cats who are hyperthyroid. The pets are injected with the iodine, which destroys the overactive portions of the thyroid gland. The radiation is excreted through the urine and feces, and a safe level of radioactivity is obtained within a few days. Until that happens, the cat must remain.

Dr. Mark Peterson, of New York City, known worldwide for his expertise on endocrinology of small animals, typically touts radioactive iodine, but maybe not in your case. He explains that the cost savings is realized in a 12- or 13-year old-cat, who may live many more years without the expense of a daily medication, which is otherwise required for hyperthyroid cats.

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