Question: Our 10-year-old Shih Tzu recently started snoring, and now it's getting worse. She snores just about every time she sleeps. If we wake her when she begins snoring, she just starts up again.
Is there something wrong? We're not getting any sleep! — K.E., Combined Locks, Wis.
Answer: If you haven't already done so, see your veterinarian to rule out an obstruction in the dog's throat, such as a growth, or even a toy.
"Maybe the problem has worsened as your dog has gained weight," says Dr. Mark Russak, of Berlin, Conn., president-elect of the American Animal Hospital Assn. "Just as weight gain may be associated with snoring in people, the same is true for dogs. Snoring is also more common in dogs, such as Pugs, with short snouts."
"If your dog is overweight, the snoring will likely decline as your dog takes off the pounds. Your veterinarian can advise you on a weight-loss strategy," says Russak. "Otherwise, consider moving your dog out of the bedroom so you can sleep. But I understand that is not likely advice you'll consider. After all, my wife would more likely move me out of the bedroom before she moves the dog. Have you tried ear plugs?"
Q: Four years ago, my sister adopted Molly, a 6-month-old German Shepherd who had suffered from severe injuries inflicted by previous owners. Molly joined my sister's two other large dogs. Molly has been very high maintenance; my sister has already shelled out about $20,000 for vet bills due to the dog's previous injuries. Molly is now scheduled for hip replacement, which will cost $10,000 to $15,000.
Two years ago, my sister's oldest dog was euthanized, and last month, her other dog was put down. Now, Molly is acting depressed. She sniffs around seeking the other dog. Her appetite has also decreased. My sister leaves the TV on when she's gone, and leaves the dead dogs' blankets out. These tactics haven't helped.
My sister plans to pick out another dog as a friend for Molly. I have responsibility for walking Molly when my sister can't and when she travels. I was actually relieved when the other dogs were gone. I'm old and tired. What do you think about my sister getting another dog? —S.C., Richmond, Va.
A: Dr. Nancy Kay, of Greenville, S.C., says many dogs do grieve loss. And just as people seem to improve over time, so do most dogs. Your sister could help out by giving Molly a little extra TLC (she totally deserves it after going through so much).
However, there's also a possibility that the pain Molly is experiencing (you mention she requires hip surgery) or another illness may be the root cause of her lackadaisical attitude and loss of appetite. Please, see your veterinarian.
One more possibility: Molly acts mopey, and your sister offers attention. It may be that Molly has trained your sister to respond.
Kay, winner of the 2009 American Animal Hospital Assn. Humane Ethics Award and author of "Your Dog's Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet" (Create Space Publishing, 2011; $10.99), notes that "in reality, another dog might or might not pull Molly out of her funk. It doesn't sound as though this is a good idea, given the overall family dynamics."
"If it's a companion Molly needs, a cat might be as effective as a dog. And you won't need to walk the kitty (though you might need to clean the litter box and feed the pet when your sister is traveling)," Kay notes.
"Assuming your sister's dog is social with other dogs, frequent dog park visits or periodic doggy day care might be a good idea," Kay adds. "Or perhaps, instead of you coming over to walk Molly, maybe there's a friend with a dog who can do this, giving Molly a new canine buddy."
Molly sounds wonderful, and your sister's commitment to her is inspiring.
Q: Pierre is not a lap cat. He rarely meows. He's finicky about his food, but he loves bacon. When my wife cooks bacon, Pierre can smell it from two rooms away and comes running. We do give him some bacon. (Pierre also loves to chew on plastic bags.) Have you heard of such behavior? — R.F., Cyberspace
A: While I'm not a fan of leaving food out 24/7, your case may be an exception.
"If Pierre always has food readily available, that might be more appealing than the plastic bags," says Gainesville, Fla.-based veterinary behaviorist Dr. Terry Curtis. "Also, leave some treats in food puzzles; maybe bacon treats. Don't overdo this, though; you don't want an overweight cat. Also, I suppose some (real) bacon is just fine (as a treat)."
Be careful, however. Too much bacon can cause serious problems. The best way to prevent your cat from chewing on plastic bags is to store them out of sight.
Q: My cat is about 6 years old. We want to visit a friend with a 4-year-old cat. Both pets are fixed. How can I bring these cats together so as we visit, the cats can, too? — G.J., Cyberspace
A: The protocol for bringing cats together can take several days to several weeks. I get the impression you're talking about bringing the cats together for several hours, or maybe a weekend. Veterinary behaviorist Dr. Martin Godbout, of Quebec City, says, "If you must travel with your cat, then keep the cat in a room (of the house you're visiting) with the door closed and a Feliway diffuser plugged in (to lessen anxiety). Unless your visit is longer than two or three days, it's simply not worth the effort needed to introduce these cats, and both cats will be happier."
Unless your cat enjoys travel, consider leaving the cat at home with a pet sitter.
STEVE DALE welcomes questions/comments from readers. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun