Q: We have a beautiful, white Siberian husky, female, 9 months old. Ever since she was very young, she has been eating tissue paper, facial tissue, toilet tissue, paper napkins, hand towels etc. Once we realized how persistent she is, and that she gets "angry" whenever we take papers away from her, we have made a constant effort to keep all tissue-type paper out of her reach. Before we started keeping it away from her, she had occasionally thrown up large wads of tissue paper.
My question is, what makes her eat tissue paper? Is it harmful, and what should we do to break her of the habit?
Mr. and Mrs. Oliver Henry, Seal Beach
A: All young dogs like to chew, especially as they shed their puppy teeth and the "adult" teeth come into place. The problem occurs when the dog does not stop chewing on objects that are either harmful or inappropriate, such as shoes. Swallowing the tissue paper could cause a serious intestinal blockage that could require surgery to remove. You might offer her rawhide chews or biscuits as an alternative.
The situation that you describe is more of a behavioral problem than medical, so I consulted with Tom Tackett, a professional handler and dog trainer. Because you describe the dog as getting "angry" when paper is removed, I assume she is threatening to bite or becoming aggressive. You need to establish control of your dog by using a training collar and leash to restrain her while training her.
You might set up a situation where paper is available while you have her under control. When she attempts to pick up the paper, correct her immediately by firmly telling her "no" and giving a quick jerk on her leash. If she has the paper in her mouth, tell her to "drop it" and give a quick jerk. Do not get into a tug-of-war with her because she will only think you are playing with her. I recommend obedience training for her as soon as possible. Good luck with the training.
Q: My 3-year old male poodle coughs, especially when he runs or plays. He seems healthy otherwise and eats well. Could he have kennel cough or a sore throat?
A: Coughing is a non-specific sign of airway disease or irritation. The frequency, duration and type of cough (non-productive/productive, etc.) provide very important information in determining the cause of the cough. There are many possible causes, of which kennel cough (tracheobronchitis) is one.
I recommend that you have your dog examined by your veterinarian. Your vet will want to listen to your dog's chest for any heart murmurs or fluid or congestive sounds. The throat should be examined for enlarged tonsils or possible foreign bodies (grass, bone, etc.) that may be lodged there. A radiograph (X-ray) is recommended to view the trachea, lungs and heart for any abnormalities or disease, such as a collapsing/narrowed trachea or bronchitis.
An EKG will be necessary if the heart is abnormal. Blood tests may be done to check for infection or heartworms. A fecal examine may be necessary to rule out parasitic infection, such as roundworms.
If the cough persists, a culture might be taken to identify possible bacteria that may be developing. An examination under anesthesia uses a scope to look for ulcers or small growths.
Your veterinarian may want to start your dog on medication, depending on what is learned from the examination. You may also need to limit your dog's exercise and use a harness instead of a collar.