Q: I have a question about my dog's weight. She's a 6-year-old cocker spaniel and is fed once a day, using both canned and dry food. She is not exercised very much except on weekends when I take her to the park. She is active when I get home from work but is by herself in the yard most of the time. I have been told she is obese (weighs 36 pounds) and needs to be exercised more. Should I change her diet? Is there medication I can put her on to get her to lose weight?
Bruce Shores, Mission Viejo
A: Without seeing your dog, I assume that her 36 pounds is way too much for her. As in human health, obesity is a serious disorder that is very common in our companion pets. The excess weight affects a dog's cardiovascular system the same way it does a human's, especially if the dog is fed table scraps.
You should have your pet examined by your veterinarian to determine her present state of health. Your vet may want to run a general health blood profile, including a thyroid hormone level. If your dog is on any medication, it may need to be changed or decreased.
You can reduce your pet's weight through a restricted diet or special diets, such as Hill's Prescription R/D diet. You also should exercise your pet on a regular basis, but start gradually.
Weight reduction should be done slowly in order to keep your pet healthy and the weight off permanently. In order for the effort to be successful, the whole family needs to cooperate by not feeding the dog snacks or treats. Weigh your dog weekly and keep track on a calendar.
Q: How often should my parakeet's beak be trimmed? She has recently developed a longer upper beak that is starting to turn to the left and occasionally cracks. I've tried to trim it myself, but it doesn't seem to help. What else can I do?
Lorren McIntyre, Santa Ana
A: The beak is an extremely important part of the bird that is often overlooked by the owner. Your bird's beak should be trimmed back gradually on a frequent basis to help restore its alignment with the lower beak and to avoid cutting the vein that extends down the beak. I recommend having your bird examined to determine if there are other possible causes, such as mites, which can infest the cere and beak and make it very brittle. Also your bird's diet should be examined to make sure that it is meeting her requirements. Nutrition is very important and is the most common cause of problems in birds. You may have to supplement your pet's diet with a calcium/phosphorous additive along with a multi-vitamin supplement.
An exam will also rule out the possibility of tumor causing the beak to deform. Occasionally, metabolic disorders such as low thyroid levels may cause such problems with the beak. These can be diagnosed by blood tests. Don't delay in having your bird's beak examined and treated since the longer the problem goes on, the more difficult it becomes to correct.
Q: I would like to have my dog X-rayed for hip dysplasia before breeding her. Can this be done without putting her to sleep? She is a one-and-a-half year old German shepherd mix.
Ms. Susan Baker, Los Alamitos
A: Hip dysplasia is a congenital disorder of one or both hip joints that eventually develops into an arthritic-like condition and can cripple a dog. Radiographs for hip dysplasia require that the pet be in a relaxed state, allowing the dog to be on her back with the rear legs positioned straight back and the knee caps in alignment. Most dogs will not allow this to be done due to pain or discomfort. Anesthesia or heavy sedation is generally required to get good diagnostic X-rays, especially for dogs that are going to be certified by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA). Incidently, OFA requires that dogs be at least 24 months of age before they can be certified.