Q: Jasper, our 7-year-old beagle, weighs almost 30 pounds and is pretty much confined to the back yard as his only source of exercise and entertainment. My husband and I are starting our own exercise program which includes some walking/jogging and we would like to take Jasper with us. Is there a certain way that we should start him with us or do you think he will be able to keep up without any problem? Should we change his diet or just feed him less? Jasper seems to be healthy and is fairly active when we are around. Will any of this be harmful for him?
Mrs. R.L. Ellis, Seal Beach
A: Beagles are usually very active dogs and are generally eager to run and play. Starting a diet and exercise program for a pet is very much like a program for ourselves. Everything should be done in graduated steps and should also be done on a regular basis.
At Jasper's age, I would recommend a checkup by your veterinarian before starting a program. You need to be sure that he does not have any physical problems that may restrict his exercise. A target weight should be determined and a proper timetable established to avoid stress.
When you take Jasper for his walks/jogs, always use a leash to keep him under control and make sure his collar fits properly and won't break. Don't force him if he starts to get tired and wants to slow down. Dogs do not sweat like people to lose excess heat, so avoid hot days or prolonged jogging. At the age of 7, he will have his physical limitations too. Let him cool down gradually and give him only small amounts of water on a frequent basis until he returns to his normal resting state. Avoid runs on asphalt or very rough surfaces in order to prevent injury to his paws. Most of all, make this fun for the both of you and enjoy the activity.
Q: What is the proper age to wean our puppies from the mother and when should we find them a new home? We have six poodle-cross puppies that are now 4 weeks of age and starting to eat some solid foods although the mother still nurses them periodically.
Wayne Sallenberg, Anaheim
A: Since your puppies are 4 weeks of age and starting to eat regular foods on their own, now may be a good time to start the weaning process. You can offer the pups regular baby cereal mixed with water as a start and gradually mix in regular dog food as they become more accustomed to eating on their own. This should take place over a 2-week period, so that by 6 weeks of age they are eating regular dog food without any nursing from the mother. She should stop nursing them on her own by this time and her mammary glands will gradually dry up. A good quality puppy food is the proper choice to feed these puppies and the amount will vary as they get older and eat more.
Finding new homes for the pups should be done between 6 to 12 weeks of age since this is a prime time for socialization with humans. Advise the new owners of what you are feeding to avoid problems with diet changes. This is also the time to start the pups on their immunization programs and to have a stool sample checked for intestinal parasites.
Got a question about your pet? Write to: Dr. Glenn Ericson, Ask The Vet, Orange County Life, The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626.