My Pet World: Making a difficult decision a little easier

Question: You recently suggested the Kevorkianizing (referring to the late Jack Kevorkian) of a dog, telling the owner of an old dog to supersede God's wishes and kill his own pet. Worse yet, you revealed that you'd recently killed your own dog.

How could you? I have four cats, and two are over 17. One cat suffers from kidney disease and has some very bad days. When it's her time, it will be her time. I'm not going to kill my beloved friend and call it euthanasia. — V.J., Nashville, TN

Answer: Euthanasia comes from the Greek, literally meaning a good death without fear, stress or pain.

You're attempting to make euthanasia a religious issue. I don't believe any religion supports the notion of undue suffering. When suffering can no longer be alleviated, I believe it's humane to end that suffering.

The trick is to know when to make that decision, and it's a very personal one. To a degree, there's no right or wrong time. However, many veterinarians can report instances of clients who held on far too long. It does take courage to let go of a beloved pet. Sometimes, seeking the viewpoint of an unbiased third party, such as a vet, can help a pet owner decide about euthanasia.

There's also a new concept called pet hospice, or Pawspice, which is about creating a timeline with your vet to insure that your pet's last days, weeks, or months are as pain free and pleasant as possible. Learn more at

No person has a better friend in life than a dog or cat. Friends are about giving of themselves, which our pets do every day for us. We're not as good at that, but we do have one last chance to be selfless and to do what's best for our best friends in their final days.

Q: Our year-old Maltese/Shih Tzu is in the habit of licking everything, from clothes to people to furniture; it's hard to get her to stop. Why does she do this? — B.R., Easton, Pa.

Q: Emma must have OCD because all she does is lick her paws. When not licking herself, our 6-year-old Labrador licks anything -- the floor, food bowls, toys. I take her for a walk every day, and she has toys in the yard. How can I stop the licking? — C.D., Old Town, Me.

A: "In both cases, these dogs require a medical work up first," says Thornhill, Ontario- based veterinary behaviorist Dr. Gary Landsberg. "Ruling out skin conditions and allergies, parasites and gastrointestinal issues must happen first." Additional possibilities may be tick-borne disease or a problem related to diet. Once these potential causes are ruled out, it's time to focus on a possible compulsive behavior.

Landsberg says it's important that the dogs are well exercised, though what's appropriate for a Labrador exceeds the workout for a little Maltese/Shih Tzu. Try boosting each dog's mental stimulation. Aside from playing fetch, try hide-and-seek (so the dogs can think) and/or enlist a pup in a fun and upbeat obedience or agility class.

Consider giving each dog a job. For the little dog, this could be as simple as "performing' tricks for Dad" when he comes home from work. For the Lab, the job might be fetching your slippers or the morning paper.

Try feeding the dogs from food-dispensing toys (available at pet stores and online) instead of food bowls. "The goal is for the mouth to be focused on something acceptable," Landsberg says.

Rather than an assortment of a dozen toys, rotate three or four toys into each dog's life every few days. Overall, the idea is to make life as interesting, yet as predictable as possible.

To interrupt the licking (even better to preempt it), call each dog to you and ask the pet to sit. Offer a piece of kibble or a treat as a reward. Be careful not to reward the licking. Your inclination might be to scold the licker, but the attention could backfire, instead reinforcing the behavior.

Landsberg says if these treatments don't help, consult a veterinary behaviorist, who may prescribe psycho-pharmaceutical therapy.

Q: My Shih Tzu just had surgery for the second time in 18 months for struvite stones. How can we prevent this from happening again? — R.P., Prescott, Ariz.

A: "Struvite stones nearly always originally form as a result of a bacterial infection," says internal medicine specialist Dr. George Lees, a professor at Texas A and M University College of Veterinary Medicine, Union Station.

Once the stones are there, the first order of business is to remove them. Traditional surgical removal, as you describe, is common. Another option maybe a using an endoscope to remove the urinary bladder stones by breaking them up so they can pass on their own.

"Some dogs are just susceptible to bladder infections, which eventually allow the stones to form," says Lees, who has a special interest in nephrology. "For these dogs, it's a matter of being vigilant with routine checks for infection and surveillance of the urine, which may include cultures. Treating infections sooner than later can eliminate the opportunity for the stones to form." A prescription diet that acidifies the urine to specifically deter struvite crystals from forming is also suggested.

Q: I read your columns on adopting cats about a year ago. I'd never adopted a cat before, or even lived with a cat. I was cynical even after bringing Amber home from the shelter. I grew up with dogs. However, I work long hours and my condo doesn't allow dogs. It was an adjustment. Amber is smarter than any dog I've lived with, and we play based on mutual respect and trust. Thanks so much for introducing me to the world of cats. I hope you continue to get the word out. — S.J., West Palm Beach, Fla.

A: I think you've become an ambassador for cats! June is Adopt-a-Cat Month, and my hope is other potential owners will take your words to heart. Cats are needlessly dying in shelters across the country. Learn more at,, or Find a feline (or two) for your family at your local shelter, and check out

(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. Steve's website is; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World