Question: I've done what you and my veterinarian have advised to protect my dog from ticks. I have a mixed breed. I check the dog regularly for ticks, and sometimes find them. What's the best way to remove ticks? — B.D., Marietta, Ga.
Answer: "There are new little devices which are marketing specifically to remove ticks," says William Nicholson, of the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Disease at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. "Don't buy them. I feel they're a waste of your money.
"Instead, go to a drugstore and buy a pair of fine-tip forceps or narrow-tip tweezers. Grab the tick and pull straight out; don't twist. You'll have to pull hard to get it out. It may look like a hunk of skin is coming out with the tick, but it's actually a glue-like substance the tick uses to adhere. Now, disinfect the wound."
Also, be sure to disinfect yourself. Ideally, wear gloves to remove ticks. At least use a tissue to protect your hands. Don't touch anything until you've thoroughly washed your hands with soap and water.
Nicholson says the sooner you remove a tick, the better. If you remove a tick within two to six hours, it's unlikely to transmit disease. You get into trouble once a tick has been on your dog for more than 24 hours.
Ask your vet to recommend appropriate tick control products, Nicholson suggests. Learn more at http://www.petsandparsites.org or http://www.dogsandticks.com.
Q: I'm thinking of adopting a new cat. I've had cats all my life, and this is my first period being "catless." In the past, cats have just showed up at my door. Any suggestions? — B.J., Cyberspace
A: There's nothing worse than being catless. In fact, what you really need are two cats. Animal shelters are never catless.
The most efficient method of finding a new cat may be to let your mouse do the work at http://www.petfinder.com. Search the enormous database for shelters and/or individual animals by geographic location. Visiting the cat you pick in person (bring the whole family) is strongly suggested before adopting. If you can take two cats, look for two adults living together (in harmony) or two littermates.
As the American Humane Assn.'s Adopt-A-Cat month comes to a close, it's important to know that thousands of shelter cats are available for adoption year-round.
For tips on cat care, check out "CATegorical Care: An Owner's Guide to America's No. 1 Companion," available free at http://www.catalystcouncil.org. (I was primary editor on the guide, published in conjunction with the American Humane Assn., CATalyst Council, American Veterinary Medical Assn., and the Society of Animal Welfare Administrators.)
Q: Fourteen years ago, I adopted three cats from our local humane society. Within the past nine months, I lost my youngest and oldest cat. Remaining is Hunter, my 17-year-old. He seems lost, or lonely. Or maybe old age is just creeping up on him. Initially, he didn't seem to care that the other cats died. I'm conflicted. Do you think adopting another playmate would help him? — W.C., Eagan, Minn.
A: This is always a tough call. First, have Hunter checked out by your veterinarian, not only for disease but also (based on your saying he seems lost or lonely) for cognitive dysfunction (similar to Alzheimer's disease in people). Sometimes when profound changes occur in their lives, cats don't wear their emotions on their sleeves.
If Hunter checks out and is reasonably spry, consider adopting a pair of kittens. If you take in just one, the tyke might drive your seasoned cat crazy. Two kittens would have one another to play with. If you're lucky, Hunter might even join their play, but if not, watching them might be enriching. Note: Introduce any newcomer(s) to your existing cat very gradually.
Q: Matilda, my one-year old Australian shepherd, won't retrieve a tennis ball. She also has no interest in catching a Frisbee. I've even shown her a mirror so she can see she's an Australian shepherd who's supposed to like doing these things! Why isn't she catching on? —V.H., Tampa Bay, Fla.
A: Apparently your dog didn't read "The Australian Shepherd: Champion of Versatility" by Liz Palika (Howell Book House, New York, NY, 1995; $$29.95). Palika says, "At only a year old, many Australian shepherds are still just silly and easily distracted."
She recommends taking a Frisbee disc, turning it upside down and using it as a food dish for Matilda. After a week, toss the disc. Matilda will likely want to follow the dish, and might just bring it back to you. Another strategy is to roll the disc on its side. Begin with tosses only a foot away, gradually extending the distance.
Palika's favorite technique is to borrow a friend's dog that's an old pro at retrieving balls or Frisbees. Your dog might actually learn by watching another dog. Palika, author of "Puppy Love" (Wiley Publishing, New York, NY, 2009; $24.99), says "The truth is that some individual herding dogs, even very smart dogs, might not want to ever bring back a ball or a Frisbee disc."
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 http://www.stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.