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My 6-year-old female golden retriever drinks a lot of water, especially the past three months. Is she sick?

A -- A sudden increase in thirst is of concern in any pet. First, it would be best if you could measure how much water is consumed by your pet in a given day. Be certain to prevent access to other sources of water in the house like wash basins and toilets. Normally, dogs and cats will drink less than 1.5 ounces per pound each day. Therefore, a 10 pound dog will drink less than 15 ounces of water.

Causes of increased thirst include diabetes, kidney failure, fever, certain drugs, hot and/or dry weather, changes in food or activity level and some less commonly seen diseases. Your veterinarian will want to know the history of changes you have seen in your pet, including whether you have noticed an increase in urination as well.

If possible, you should try to collect a urine specimen for your veterinarian to analyze to assist in the diagnosis. An examination by your veterinarian will help determine if the increase thirst you notice is of significance.

Kevin J. Kuhn, DVM

Scared of storms

Q -- My dog is terrified of lightning and fireworks. During storms, she has become so frantic that she has torn a hole in my kitchen wall. Is there anything I can do to calm her down?

A -- Dogs commonly show fear of thunder and other loud noises. Only occasionally is this fear so great that they damage their owner's home or furnishings. In these cases, behavioral modification (sometimes in combination with anxiety-relieving drugs or tranquilizers) is needed.

A basic principle of behavior modification is the use of counter-conditioning. For fear of thunder, this would involve playing a tape of a thunderstorm at low volume, while countering that stimulus with a highly desirable reward. The idea is to override the dog's fear with the reward.

You must start with the tape at very low volume, so your dog is not too frightened. Reward her for remaining calm when the tape is played. Over many sessions, increase the volume of the tape, while continuing to reward your dog for remaining calm.

With persistence, this method can be very successful. You may need to consult with your veterinarian, or a veterinarian who specializes in behavior, for assistance.

Joseph M. Parisi, DVM
Prepared as a public service by the Niagara Frontier Veterinary Society. Send questions to Pets, P.O. Box 403, East Aurora, N.Y. 14052-0403. Sorry, personal replies cannot be provided.

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