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My Pet World: Helping kittens who never learned to groom themselves

Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

It’s hard to know how long your Shih-Tzu will live, but probably a few more years, depending on her health. Poor dental hygiene cannot only result in the loss of her teeth, but lead to heart problems – or, in your case, more heart problems. So, if her teeth are bad, it’s probably a good idea to have the procedure done.

But I understand your worry. She’s an older dog with heart problems and you are concerned she may not be healthy enough to undergo anesthesia. Your vet will likely recommend a senior blood panel before surgery. When there are heart problems, they should also recommend a consultation with a cardiac specialist for more tests prior to surgery. A cardiac specialist can help you decide if she is healthy enough for surgery. If she is, they can make recommendations for her anesthesia cocktail to ensure the procedure is safe for her.

Dear Cathy,

For almost 40 years, I have used a potty training method that includes telling my dogs to "go potty." However, instead of using clickers or saying good dog, etc., I tell them, "good potty." That way, they associate the praise with the action. In fact, when they poop, I tell them, "good poopie," so they also learn the difference between "peeing" and "pooping." I do this for any training: good sit, good stay, etc., associating the praise with the action.

— Pat, Wittman, Maryland

Dear Pat,

You're using a marker word to mark the desired behavior with the word "good," indicating approval, and an obedience command indicating the desired action. This is a terrific way to train your dogs. You can use this “marker phrase” as a command (and not just approval) when you need your dogs to do something, like relieve themselves when you're in a hurry.


Increasing your dog's vocabulary through training also helps him use his brain and makes him smarter. On average, dogs can learn about 100 words, regardless of the language. Training creates a closer bond between pet and owner, which increases understanding on both sides.

Thanks for sharing your experience.

Pet Tip: It's been a sweltering summer so far. Please protect your pet from the heat and learn the signs of heat exhaustion, which include heavy panting, dry and abnormal gum color, rapid pulse, disorientation, lethargy, vomiting, and collapsing. If you're pet exhibits any of these symptoms, offer them cool water (not cold) and place cool, wet towels across their body. Then contact your veterinarian immediately for emergency care.


(Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.)

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