My Pet World: Can puppies recognize their puppy brothers, sisters?

Q: We bought our 8-year-old dog, Callie, from a local family, and we're still in touch. I've often wondered if Callie would recognize a sibling. Is this possible? — J.K., Cyberspace

A: All these years later, the chance your dog would recognize a litter mate is a definitive "maybe."

Veterinary behaviorist Dr. Lore Haug, of Houston, explains: "Siblings most certainly can recognize one another. But when they're separated at a young age, there's no way to consciously remember. Still, it seems that at some olfactory level we don't fully understand, even litter mates separated at a young age probably do recognize one another on a subconscious level."

If Callie is not spayed, it's possible she'd resist hooking up with a brother. This ability is beneficial for the species.

Haug also notes that we know dogs recognize their own breed, or specific general characteristics of other dogs. For example, if your dog was bitten by a dog with a turned-up tail, she could be understandably wary of all dogs with turned-up tails.

Q: I have a cold, with coughing, sneezing and a stuffed-up head. One of our cats, Miss Murray, likes to sleep with me, and now she's as sick as I am. Her brother, Simba, has also been around me but he's not sick. Can cats catch human colds or other ailments from people? — M.A.A., Cyberspace

A: "Cats have their very own set of upper respirator viruses," says Dr. Mike Thomas, of Indianapolis, past president of the American Animal Hospital Assn. and immediate past president of the Companion Animal Parasite Council. "We don't get viruses from cats or usually give our viruses to cats. By the way, if your cat goes off food and water for over a day, contact your veterinarian."

Incidentally, there have been some individual cases of people with the H1N1 influenza virus passing it on to their cats. While it's rare event, some viruses will jump species. Still, feel free to continue to share your bed with Miss Murray.

Q: Our 13-year-old beagle/bassett hound mix has been house-trained since she was a puppy, but recently started to urinate overnight. She has Cushing's disease. Is there anything we can do? — S.W., Las Vegas

A: Was the Cushing's disease (which is hyperadrenocorticism, the production of too much adrenal hormone) under treatment when your dog began to awaken and have accidents overnight?

"The key is to determine if Cushing's disease and the increased water intake is responsible, and also to rule out diabetes, or another other physical explanation," says veterinary behaviorist Dr. Nicholas Dodman, chairman of the behavior clinic at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, North Grafton, Mass.

Dogs can potentially develop a syndrome referred to as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, nearly equivalent to Alzheimer's disease. Dodman, editor of "Good Old Dog: Expert Advice for Keeping Your Aging Dog Happy, Healthy and Comfortable" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, MA, 20010; $26), explains that DISH is the acronym for veterinarians to test for this problem:

D: Disorientation, such as dogs standing at the wrong side of a door to go outside, or generally seeming confused.

I: Altered social Interactions, such as dogs becoming disengaged or mysteriously aggressive toward previously favorite people, or other animals.

S: Sleep disturbances, such as getting up in the middle of the night. Older dogs naturally sleep more but this alludes to a change in the sleep cycle.

H: House-soiling, previously housetrained dogs having accidents.

"Canine cognitive dysfunction is a diagnosis of exclusion, and that can be tricky," says Dodman. "A dog who walks into a glass door may have visual problems. Or a dog getting up a 3 a.m. might do so for physiological reasons.

"Catching canine cognitive dysfunction early on is very helpful," adds Dodman, a proponent of a drug called Anipryl. Some veterinarians are also dabbling with drugs used for human's Alzheimer's, but little is known about their effects on dogs. Additionally, Dodman says, nearly all older dogs can be offered nutritional supplements without a downside, such as L-Carnitene or melatonin. There's actually a prescription diet dubbed BD for Brain Diet (Hill's Science Diet), which can also be beneficial.

Q: My 5-½-year-old part Yorkshire Terrier/Shih Tzu had six gallstones removed. The vet prescribed a canned food. My dog eats it but has lost 3-½ pounds. Is there a food she might like more, and one that's less expensive? — N.P., Cyberspace

A: "Gallstones can occur in dogs but they're very rare," says internal medicine specialist Dr. Saundra Willis, of Seattle. "And diet is not typically a therapy for gallstones. So, I suspect you mean that your dog had urinary bladder stones. Now, were they calcium oxilate stones or struvite stones? It would be a complete guess from here to determine what those stones were caused by."

Depending on the circumstances, "diet absolutely may be able to help control the reoccurrence," Willis adds.

Willis recommends a conversation with your vet to learn exactly what condition your dog has. If the vet in unwilling to have such a conversation, something is wrong. Also, Willis worries that the weight loss could be unassociated with the new diet, but rather the result of another problem.

Note: I want to publicly acknowledge and thank Dr. Sheldon Rubin, who has read over my syndicated columns for medical accuracy for 15 years.

STEVE DALE welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column. Write to Steve at Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207. Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state.

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