Before you unleash your pets on hosts, obtain their OK

Our culture has become very pet-friendly, but as much as I love this shift in attitude, I am also aware that some people don’t approve of the change, especially when other people start planning to bring dogs home for the holidays.

Now I’m a veterinarian, not a family counselor. But I do have some suggestions for minimizing the friction between those who always want their dogs with them and those who believe pets should never be imposed on people who don’t like them.

When bringing together people and pets, everyone should be honest about potential problems, as well as likes and dislikes. And you need to be honest with yourself about your dog. Is your pet well-socialized, well-mannered, and well-groomed? If not, your dog’s not ready to tag along on a family visit. Your pet should also be up to date on preventive health measures, especially those involving parasites.

If your dog is a party-ready animal, ask your host if it’s OK to bring your dog along. Never just show up at someone’s house with a pet in tow.

My “ground rules” suggestion is that the person who has the ground sets the rules, and the decision to bend or break them is hers alone. If you want to take your pet to a family gathering but your son-in-law says absolutely not in his house, respect that. If your host has pets who don’t get along with or would be stressed by a canine visitor, respect that, too.

If you’ve been invited to bring your dog along, here’s what you will need:

▪  A considerate attitude: Taking your dog to someone else’s place is a privilege. Ask where your dog is and isn’t allowed to be and where you’ll be taking him to potty.

▪ Potty bags: You will need to pick up after your pet. And ask where those little bags should go after you pick up.

▪  Leash: Your dog might be awesome at home, but in a new environment you never can tell. Good manners dictate you keep your pup under control.

▪  Crate: Taking a crate when you visit someone allows you to give your dog a room of his own wherever you are and provides your host with options to accommodate other guests.

▪ Food dishes: Don’t expect to borrow bowls from your host’s kitchen. Take your own and ask where you should clean them after meals. Don’t be offended if it’s a utility sink in the garage.

▪  Linens: It’s a good idea to take a sheet to throw over your bed if you’re allowed to have your dog in your bedroom. Pack towels as well.

If you’re a considerate guest, chances are even those who don’t like dogs won’t have complaints -- and you and your dog will be welcome back. That’s the goal, isn’t it?

Is it feline asthma?

My cat is gagging all the time, but he doesn’t bring up hairballs and sometimes seems to wheeze as well. What can I give him that will help?

Via email

Hairballs often take the blame for a cat’s chronic coughing, but the problem could be deeper than that.

Symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, open-mouthed breathing and heaving may indicate a cat with asthma. These attacks can be brought on by stress and allergens, with common allergens including cigarette smoke, pollen, dust, mold, aerosols, perfume, deodorizers, dusty cat litter and food. Common treatment ranges from allergy medication similar to bronchodilators to oxygen therapy.

There’s nothing over-the-counter that will help your cat with the problem. You’ll need to see your veterinarian for a correct diagnosis that will lead to the right treatment for a potentially dangerous health issue.

The buzz

People crave sweets – cakes, candies, cookies and sodas galore – but cats are generally unimpressed. A cat’s taste buds are incapable of detecting, appreciating or triggering a craving for foods that we recognize as “sweet.” As “obligate carnivores” (animals who need meat protein to survive), cats simply don’t need sweets. It’s unclear whether the ancestors of cats had the ability to detect sweetness and lost it, or whether cats never developed a “sweet tooth,” since they didn’t need it. People (and dogs, for that matter) eat a much more varied diet, and human taste buds reflect that – we have nearly 10,000 on our tongues. No such variety for cats: They’re happy to stick with small prey animals and need fewer than 500 taste buds to figure what’s on the menu and what isn’t.

▪  Dogs may be able to blame their tail-chasing habit on high cholesterol levels, according to a study published in the Journal of Small Animal Practice and reported in Veterinary Economics. Turkish researchers found that dogs who didn’t chase their tails had lower levels of cholesterol than the tail-chasers did. Dogs may chase their tails because the high cholesterol levels have blocked the flow of brain hormones controlling mood and behavior. The study suggests that an increase in exercise could help lower the tail-chasing. There may be other medical reasons for tail-chasing as well, so if your dog is chasing his rump, let your veterinarian know.

Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and Kim Campbell Thornton. The two are affiliated with