Dear Dr. Fox: I read your column pretty regularly. I have a 3-year-old female beagle, and I try to take good care of her. I feed her food from a local pet store and try to get the best, as far as I can tell. Right now I am feeding her Taste of the Wild Sierra Mountain Canine Formula with roasted lamb, and she seems relatively healthy.
My question relates to an article in the recent issue of Consumer Reports magazine. The point of the article, in general as it came across to me, was that most store-bought foods are about the same, as long as they are marked as “complete and balanced.” So a pet owner might as well go ahead and buy the cheapest brand, per ounce or pound. This usually wound up being a store brand from a very large chain, or the like.
Can you please read the article and give us your opinion?
— D.M., Friendsville, Md.
Dear R D.M.: I hold Consumer Reports in high regard, but its “Tame Your Pet Costs” (August 2011) report was a washout in its coverage of manufactured pet foods. Advising not to pay a premium for “premium” pet food, provided the brand is labeled “complete and balanced,” “total nutrition” or “100 percent nutritious,” was misleading at best. Then, listing some canned and dry cat food brands (which I would never recommend) at bargain prices added insult to injury.
The book that I co-authored with two other veterinarians, “Not Fit for a Dog” (Linden Publishing), and the manufactured pet food rating system by Dr. Stephen Molle posted on my website, warrant Consumer Reports doing a more in-depth study and publishing a full report on pet foods in the near future. Diet-related pet health problems are all too prevalent and costly, and one of the best ways to “tame your pet costs” is through good nutrition. The health risks of genetically modified ingredients in major pet food brands is a serious issue that I address in a new posting on my website, www.twobitdog.com/DrFox.
I endorse this report’s caution about buying pet health insurance that, in the magazine’s analysis, is rarely worth the price. And I applaud that it advocates pet adoption rather than purchase of a purpose-bred kitten or puppy, and emphasizes the advantages of adopting an adult animal.
Dear Dr. Fox: My boyfriend says I spoil my dog and that she will not learn to respect him when she growls at him. This happens especially when she’s on the sofa with us. I say she’s just jealous and scolding her to get off the couch will make things worse. Help! My boyfriend is almost at the point of saying it’s either me or the dog.
— V.S., St. Louis, Mo.
Dear V.S.: You are not the only single person with a jealous-dog dilemma. Dogs (cats, too) will often demand the undivided attention of their guardians when they see a visitor, male or female, as a potential rival for attention.
Reassurance, rather than discipline, is called for, along with the understanding by your boyfriend that this is a natural reaction and not a sign of disrespect or an indication that you care more for your dog than for him when you don’t shoo the dog away. Possibly you have overindulged your dog and she knows no boundaries, in which case you must step in and teach her that growling is unacceptable and that she is not allowed on the sofa when she growls.
Remember, banishing a dog is, for a pack animal, the severest of reprimands.
Dogs growl for different reasons that you must determine: Is your dog growling for attention? If so, then simply ignore her and then pet her when she’s quiet. If it is a threatening or warning growl, there could be something in your boyfriend’s behavior or body language that you don’t see but the dog either perceives or misperceives as threatening or intimidating. Dogs can be remarkable judges of human character.
Encourage your boyfriend to walk the dog on a leash with you and also alone. Have him learn (if he does not already know) how to play with her and groom her.
Young children whose parents are divorced also act out when a parent brings a date home to meet them. Forbearance, love and understanding are called for where there is insecurity for man and beast alike.
Send all mail to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.