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Pets Q&A: Answers from the pet pros

These reader questions were answered at the American Animal Hospital Association Conference 2014 held in March in Nashville, Tenn. AAHA is the only organization which accredits veterinary practice for excellent standards, with more than 50,000 member clinics. AAHA also oversees the creation and writing of many veterinary care guidelines. Learn more at

Q: Our 12-year-old Labrador slept in a basket next to our bed when he was a puppy. Then he ate the basket. He hasn’t slept in a bed since, and seemed to like the floor. But now he’s arthritic. We got him one bed, but he marked it. We put one of my husband’s stinky shirts on second bed. The dog will use the bed if we tell him he has to, but with a look like, “What have I done wrong?” The moment he can, he gets up. We have wood floors and that can’t be good for his aching joints. Suggestions? – M.J. Z., Saint Paul, Minn.

A: “If your dog is in pain, you’re right to be concerned, and it might be more comfortable (for him) to sleep on a bed, compared to a hardwood floor,” said American Animal Hospital Association Board Member Dr. Heather Loenser, of Lebanon, N.J. “However, I also advocate dealing with the pain. So many dogs are overweight, and seeing your veterinarian to determine your dog’s body condition score is a good idea. In dogs, as in people, obesity is associated with arthritis and also other medical conditions.”

Lots more can be done to help older dogs with achy joints, including underwater therapy, acupuncture, nutritional supplements like glucosamine/chondroitin and approved pain relief medications.

If you could sit on the floor at a time when your dog is tired, odds are he’d lie down next to you, right? This would offer a way to begin acclimating your pooch to a dog bed.


Q: I took in a loving stray Maine Coon cat who’s now peeing and leaving liquid feces on my carpets and floors. He once even eliminated in a dustpan. He’s also urinated on the floor. I gave him medicine for a urinary tract infection, and changed his diet (to a prescription diet for GI issues). I have three other cats and four litter boxes. This cat even eliminates right in front of us. Giving him away is not an option, but we need help. Any ideas? – Y.D., Cyberspace

A: I applaud your commitment to this cat. Loenser says that as far as your cat defecating outside the box, particularly since his feces appears loose, a medical issue is likely. Return to your veterinarian with a fecal sample to help rule out parasites, and consider tests to eliminate feline leukemia. Blood work can offer lots of information and also rule out a vitamin deficiency. Ultimately, an endoscopy may be needed to check your cat’s intestines for inflammation.

In general, it’s a good idea to have one more litter box than you have cats, so with four cats, five boxes is ideal. The boxes should be separated, located in five different places around the house. All must be cleaned daily. Unscented litter is preferred.

Your veterinarian apparently determined that your cat had a urinary tract infection (UTI), which is somewhat uncommon (except for very young and very old cats). Sometimes UTIs come and go, and can require two rounds of antibiotic therapy. Or it could be that it hurt when your cat squatted to relieve himself – even if the infection was gone – triggering an aversion to the litter box.

What may help is secluding your cat in a small room, such a bathroom with a litter box, toys, water and food and retraining him to use the box.

The problem in multiple-cat homes is that relationship issues can develop among the cats. Sometimes cats are clear about the fact that they’re not getting along, but in other instances they’re more subtle.

The problem is likely fixable, however, you may need qualified hands-on help to pinpoint exactly what’s going on. Contact a veterinary behaviorist ( or cat behavior consultant (