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Living - February 23, 2007

The Pet Vet saysÍ

by Dr. Heidi Strand Feb. 27, 2007 is Spay Day USA. This National campaign brings together veterinarians, humane organizations, and concerned individuals every February to raise awareness of the benefits of spaying and neutering our pets. In the last 11 year,

Q. Once when I was in my back yard, blue jays stole my peanuts when I turned my back. I now feed them peanuts and they are crazy about them. Are peanuts (in the shell) harmful to blue jays?

A. As with most foods, blue jays can eat peanuts in moderation. They contain high amount of fat and salt (the salted ones anyways), so they are not the most nutritious food. They also contain small amounts of aflatoxins, which for a bird can add up quickly. So I would recommend you put the peanuts out in small amounts rather than fill an entire feeder with them. Also, if you spread them around the yard, the jays will be less likely to fight over them.

Q. My 2-year-old-plus (we don't really know her age) pug/border collie mix often will lick my nose or chin, and then I feel her nibbling. I'm assuming these are "love bites," but figured I'd ask an expert. Is this just my dog playing? A sign of respect? A sign of dominance?

A. Licking is used by mother dogs to care for their pups, and also for puppies to ask adult dogs for food. So it's not unusual that she would lick you in this context, but I would try to stop her before it progresses to a nibble. She probably is just having fun and doesn't have any ulterior motives, but you would not want her to accidentally nibble a stranger, particularly a child. (Many behaviorists for this reason recommend never letting a dog lick your face.) Don't feel bad about setting a limit with her. You should be able to nip the nibbling in the bud by simply ending the interaction with a firm "no bites" if she persists.

Q. My veterinarian said my cat has a tapeworm and it is because of fleas. Can you explain the connection?

A. Tapeworms are parasites that live in the intestine of dogs and cats (as well as other animals). The actual tapeworm is very long but segments break off and pet owners often see these in the litter box or on the pet. The segments look like small pieces of rice. These little segments hang around the environment and, if undisturbed, will open into packets of tapeworm eggs. The eggs are then eaten by the larva of Ctenocephalides, the dog and cat flea. As the flea larva grows into an adult, the tapeworm egg develops into a larva itself. When a dog or cat eats the flea, usually when grooming themselves, the tapeworm larva gets into the intestine and is able to develop into the adult form. The cycle can repeat itself over and over, perpetuating the crafty tapeworm and passing it on to other animals.

Tapeworms are easily treated by your veterinarian. But it is important that you are using good flea control to prevent your pets from becoming reinfected with the parasite. Remember that cats can also get tapeworms from eating infected rodents, which is one of the reasons we recommend keeping your cat indoors.

--Dr. Heidi Strand is a veterinarian for the East Bay SPCA in Dublin. She has lived in the Tri-Valley for 10 years with her family and an assortment of four-legged friends. Questions can be mailed to 315 Diablo Road, Suite 100, Danville 94526; or e-mailed to hstrand@eastbayspca.org. Her column runs every other week.

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