Q I am a 13-year-old girl. My parents and I adopted a 3-year-old mixed lab, female dog last August from a rescue group in South Carolina. At first, Dorie was very timid and thin, but she has gained a lot of weight and is not at all active. She prefers to either lie on her bed or on the back deck in the sun. Although our huge yard is fenced, she doesn't like to explore. She refuses to walk on a leash, and when I hook her up to it, she sits or lies down. We stand her up, bribe her with treats, but she just plops down. I don't believe the dog knows how to play because she isn't interested in balls, Frisbees or tugs. Dorie can wait hours to urinate, even when brought outside several times a day. She seems to be drinking ample water and never has had an accident. She is very fearful of the car and when we need to take her in it, my parents have to carry her to the car. She also gets car sick and anxious. Perhaps it was the long ride from South Carolina to Long Island that made her this way. Dorie has a wonderful disposition, but as you can see, she can be stubborn. I want to play with her and take her for walks, so she won't gain any more weight. Should we worry, because she doesn't urinate frequently? Can you please help me?
— Emma, Oakdale
A I don't think Dorie is being stubborn. I think she may be older than 3 years old or have a health problem, like a thyroid condition, that is making her lethargic. Ask your parents to take her to a veterinarian for an exam and blood work and get a second opinion on her age.
If she doesn't have a health problem or is not an older dog, then the added weight can undoubtedly make her lethargic and uncomfortable, especially in her joints. She might be more motivated to move if you reduce her weight first with a high-quality calorie-restricted diet. Your veterinarian can recommend a prescription dog food, but there are several available at pet stores.
Regarding her limited urination during the day, it may just be a habit she developed with her previous family. If the doctor finds no health problem, there is nothing to worry about there.
As for exploring and playing, if her former family never played with her, she will need to learn how to play from you. Put a few pieces of low-calorie dog food into a simple puzzle toy, like a Kong, with a little peanut butter to tempt her. Hopefully, she will play with the toy to get the food pieces out.
She may never race around the yard looking for toys, but if you can use puzzle toys to keep her mind busy and engaged, she may eventually become a more engaged and active pet.
Q My husband and I have four cats and a dog. One of these cats is a female, spayed, 9 years old, and licks everything. Floors, walls, bags, especially me. She lies on the keyboard tray while I am on the computer. If my hand is anywhere near her face, she licks me. She licks so much she makes sore spots on me. Yesterday, she was licking my leg. I don't really mind it until it starts to hurt. I asked a vet about this behavior once, and all he said was "I don't know." Can you give me any insight as to why she does this? None of the other cats do this.
— Laurie, via email
A Excessive licking is not uncommon in cats. Cats lick to groom themselves, but sometimes, things like boredom, stress, pain and even nutritional deficiencies can lead to excessive licking of themselves as well as other things around the home.
Regardless of the reason, however, it can become an obsessive-compulsive behavior that can be difficult to break, if not treated.
Talk to your new veterinarian (hint, hint) about temporary medication that can help interrupt obsessive-compulsive behaviors. While on the medication, make sure your cat is not stressed by anything new in the home. Also, engage her in a lot more one-on-one play time to reduce her compulsive need to lick. Get some toys that encourage her to use her hunting behaviors or a laser light she can chase around a room. Exercise for her body can help reduce this compulsive behavior.