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Published November 11, 2011, 12:00 AM

Pet Care: Probiotics help dog’s digestion

Dear Dr. Fox: My 18-month-old black Lab mix (rescued two months ago) frequently has loose stools. Not watery, just loosely formed. This doesn’t seem to bother him, but I am concerned that he will need to have his anal glands cleaned out frequently (as per his vet). He tested positive for giardia and then tested negative after being treated.

By: By Dr. Michael Fox, INFORUM

Dear Dr. Fox: My 18-month-old black Lab mix (rescued two months ago) frequently has loose stools. Not watery, just loosely formed. This doesn’t seem to bother him, but I am concerned that he will need to have his anal glands cleaned out frequently (as per his vet). He tested positive for giardia and then tested negative after being treated.

I chose his dog food based on the list of preferred ingredients on your website. We started with ULTRA Adult and then switched to Kirkland Chicken & Rice (it seemed less rich and was much less expensive), to no avail. I’ve tried a tablespoon of pumpkin, some yogurt, brown rice and boiled ground turkey. Nothing seems to make a difference.

Any suggestions? He weighs about 55 pounds. – J.A., Chevy Chase, Md.

Dear J.A.: There are several reasons dogs have loose stools. First, you should have a fecal sample tested again for giardia and other internal parasites.

Second, give your dog probiotic tablets or pills daily. You can get probiotics (the best are kept refrigerated) in most pharmacies. Give your dog a recommended human dose one to two hours before his regular food. This will help build a healthy population of bacteria in his digestive system, improve his digestive processes and his immune system, and help firm up his stools.

Mixing 1 tablespoon of psyllium husks into his wet food each day also will firm up his stools and help improve digestion. A tea of peppermint, ginger, anise, catnip or chamomile – all of which are soothing, beneficial herbs – also may help.

During episodes of very loose stools, giving Montmorillonite clay, kaolin or pectin will help, and your veterinarian should advise. He or she also may recommend an elimination diet to test for an underlying food allergy.

Dear Dr. Fox: We have a Jack Russell terrier named Piccolo. Our household always has a laugh, because when Piccolo wants something (food, toy, etc.), she will literally pray for it.

She sits on her bottom and lifts her two front paws into a praying position. Also, when we sing along to a song, Piccolo has her little bowwow solo. – C.G., Keller, Texas

Dear C.G.: I appreciate the wonderful photo you sent me of Piccolo (great name!) sitting on her haunches with her forepaws together in front of her face. I wish newspapers could print some of the photos I receive from readers that capture their animals’ often unique behaviors and quirks.

Assuming a posture as though she is praying is certainly a very inventive, solicitous gesture. Some dogs will sit up like Piccolo and bat or flutter their forepaws as though waving or signaling for attention. Others will move their snouts up and down while sitting up.

My interpretation of dogs joining in when people sing, or singing solo when they hear certain sounds or music, is that it is an ancient sound ritual, much like the choral howling of their wolf ancestors and yapping howls of their coyote and jackal cousins. This is one way that wild canids bond, communicate and express their souls: canine opera, indeed! For more insights, see the book I edited that includes studies by scientists from around the world, titled “The Wild Canids” (Dogwise Publications).


Readers’ accounts of their cats’ and dogs’ antics are always welcome. They add to our understanding and appreciation of our four-legged companions.

Send your questions to Dr. Fox in care of The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns. Visit Dr. Fox’s Web site at www.twobitdog.com/DrFox.

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