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Pet Talk With Dr. Marty Becker

America’s top veterinarian answers your questions about your furry and feathered pals

Celeste: I have a cat that does not make any sounds, not even a purr. He can hear, as he comes when called. What could be the trouble?

MB: Celeste, first of all, people assume cats purr when they are happy. But I can tell you cats purr when they are in pain, and very often purr when they are near death. And it is an exactly 25 vibrations per second, which is proven to have health benefits to cat owners. I've seen cats before like yours: They open their mouth and go through the mechanics as if they are going to make a purring sound but nothing comes out. It's probably just a little defect with the larynx but nothing that will affect its health.

Kerry Anne: My puppy likes to nip and bite, or mouth. What is the best way to deter this?

MB: First, you have to understand puppies are just like human babies and have an oral fixation. And there is good chewing and bad chewing. Human skin, whether it is someone elderly with sensitive skin or a robust adult, should never be bitten by a pet — even if it is all in fun. Just this Thursday, I had a client who had this exact problem, and like many pets that bite too hard, they were weaned too young. Animals learn from their litter mates proper play behavior, but if they are deprived of that learning time they often have biting problems. If a pet bites human skin, you say, "ouch" really loud and walk away, immediately ending the playtime. If you catch them chewing on something that they should bite, such as chew toy,  you tell them "good chew" in a real sweet, syrupy voice.

Marsha: I just adopted a springer spaniel with allergies. Tomorrow, I have to give her the allergy shot and I am scared to death. I'm afraid I am going to hurt her

MB: This is allergy season, not just for people but for pets. People sneeze, sniffle and get red eyes and a runny nose. But pets lick, chew, face rub and scratch when they have allergies. There are three kinds of allergies: One is related to parasites, such as fleas. Another is food allergies. And the most common is environmental allergies. A dog is basically like a four-legged dust mop and they attract pollen, spores, dust, dust mites and dander. There is a new recommendation from veterinary dermatologists to bathe pets once a week. I know this is counter to what you've been doing in the past — and maybe even against what your vet recommends — but bathing will dramatically decrease allergies and also will dramatically reduce human allergies to pets. Giving your pet a bath once a week has been shown to reduce vet bills by up to half. The allergy shots are one possible treatment and there's also a new drug (an oral cyclosporine) available from your vet that has proven to provide relief for pets who have suffered for years.

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