Older dogs can't always hold it until the morning

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As dogs age, they cannot always make it As dogs age, they cannot always make it through the night without having to go outside. (June 20, 2011) Photo Credit: AP

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Marc Morrone Newsday columnist Marc Morrone

Marc Morrone was born in 1960 in the Bronx and, when he was 2, his family moved to

Q. Our 10-year-old cocker spaniel has always been perfectly housed trained. Now, however, it seems that he needs to wake us up at 4 in the morning to be let out and fed. I tried to just ignore his requests as we do let him out at 11 p.m. before we go to bed, and in the past he was quite content to wait until 7 a.m. But if I do not let him out at 4, then we wake up to a mess on the floor. Any advice? --Jocelyn Ramos, Glen Cove

A. I can offer sympathy, but not a solution. Garfield, my 13-year-old shepherd mix, is doing the same thing. We feed him dinner around 6 p.m. and let him out quite a few times after that until we go to bed around 10 p.m. For the past 6 months, at 4 a.m. he gives out a few polite barks. If we do not let him out, there is an early morning mess by our back door. Since Garfield is 100 pounds, Wee-Wee Pads by the door won't solve the problem. The vet did all sorts of diagnostics. He said nothing was physically wrong, but at his age Garfield just does not have the bladder and bowel control he had when he was younger.

A doggy door that allows your dog to go out at his convenience might work. (We have so many other cats and dogs that all the in-and-out traffic would create other problems.)

Garfield was always a good dog who provided us with security and looked after all our smaller animals. At 13, he does not have much time left, so we'll cut him a pass and be more attentive to his needs in his golden years.

Q. My 1-year-old male, neutered Siamese cat has taken up the habit of eating plastic and wool he finds in our house. At first he would just pick up bits off the floor, but now he actively searches for them. It seems that they pass out in his stool. Why does he have such an odd behavior? We feed him high-quality dry food, so he is never hungry. --John Kelly, Floral Park

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A. I have seen this happen to quite a few Siamese and other Oriental breeds. There is no scientific answer. It must have something to do with boredom and lack of a natural diet. The cats of my youth never did this when they were outdoors all day, climbing trees and eating mice. It seems the commercial diet we give them just does not seem to satisfy them. Feeding such a cat a diet of a quality canned food twice a day -- as much as he wants at first -- seems to satisfy his appetite and oral fixation more than the dry food. At first the cat will eat a large amount of the canned food, but after a few weeks, the amount will level off as the cat feels more satisfied. Adding a bit of cooked chicken or turkey burgers and some mashed up steamed veggies to the canned food will provide more roughage and possibly satisfy the cat even more. However, you are still going to have to help the cat resist temptation by being sure there is no plastic or wool around.

Q. My canary has developed long, overgrown scales on his legs and calluses on the bottoms of his feet. He does not seem happy about this, and no longer sings. I looked on the Internet and saw that putting mineral oil on his feet will help. Are there any other solutions? --Lisa Jones, Islip

A. Most likely he has an infestation of microscopic mites living under the scales of his feet and legs. They live off the canary's blood, and make the bird very unhappy. The scales and calluses are the body's reaction to the parasites. Years ago, we used to coat the affected areas in oil. After many applications the oil would smother some of the mites, but it never worked very well. Veterinarians now have access to Ivermectin, a drug that will kill off the mites after just a couple of treatments. Take the bird to an avian vet for the proper dosage and application.

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