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My Pet World: Ways to deal with a timid stray kitten and company

May 03, 2011

A: "There's very good evidence to indicate that walking keeps our gears moving, both our joints and our brains, and the same is true for dogs," says veterinary behaviorist Dr. Nicholas Dodman, director of the behavior clinic at the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, North Grafton, Mass., and editor of "Good Old Dog: Expert Advice for Keeping Your Aging Dog Happy, Healthy and Comfortable" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, NY, 2010; $26).

"Indeed, learning new things, and switching up the environment (rotating toys, etc.), along with regular leash walks, are the most powerful things you can do to prevent or delay cognitive decline," Dodman adds.

If you notice even slight signs of confusion or changes in your dog's sleep/wake cycle as she ages, see your veterinarian. Early diagnosis increases the odds of finding a way to deal with a cognitive issue if, in fact, that is the problem.

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For example, pacing may not be an indication of confusion, but just a dog hesitating to lie down because it hurts. It's great that you and your dog are doing the stairs, although there may come a day when that task is daunting.

For cognitive issues, there's good news. Helpful measure can include a prescription diet (Hill's B/D), a drug called Anipryl and SAMe supplement tablets called Novifit, as well as other products, all available through veterinarians.

Q: Where we live in the woods, the bear population is increasing.

A bear actually walked into a neighbor's home. When her dog began to bark, the bear ran off. My neighbor has a large mixed-breed dog, as I do.

However, my dog, Charlie Horse, is so sweet that I worry he'd do nothing, and a bear could attack.

To test this theory I asked my neighbor to put on a bear costume I'd saved from a Halloween party. My dog wagged his tail and kept a safe distance, but seemed amused more than afraid. Could I train Charlie Horse to at least alert me if a bear approaches the house? — B.C., Cyberspace

A: Charlie Horse was likely entertained when your friend attempted to threaten him wearing the bear costume. He knew there was no bear and might even have recognized your friend by sniffing her under the costume.

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