Have homemade pet food recipe evaluated by a veterinary nutrition expert

Q: We've been making our dog's food and she's thriving. However, a large component in the recipe is brown rice. Many commercial pet foods also contain rice. I've heard in the media about unsafe levels of arsenic in rice. Should we substitute something else for the rice, and if so, what? -- D.D., Las Vegas, NV

A: "Seeing headlines linking food and arsenic can be scary, so it's easy to understand your concern," says Jill Cline, nutrition insight manager Royal Canin pet food St. Charles, MO. "Because arsenic exists naturally in soil and water, trace amounts can be detected in many food and beverage products (including those which people eat and drink). Arsenic is in the air, water, rocks and soil, which is why some plants, including rice, absorb it. The question is, how much is acceptable? We constantly test for scary things, as do other pet food companies."

By the way, as far as Cline is aware, it's white rice, not brown rice, which has been implicated regarding arsenic concerns.

Potatoes might be a substitute, though brown rice contains B vitamins, which then would need to be supplemented for.

Cline adds, "I always suggest pet owners who choose to use homemade diets have their recipes evaluated by a veterinary nutritionist or a Ph.D. animal nutritionist to make sure that they are safe and contain all of the nutrients that a pet might need. There are several websites that will evaluate homemade recipes to ensure that they are safe and well balanced." And there are links through these sites to others, some of which feature established diets:

One such site is the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine: http://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/ucvmcsd/nutrition/nutritionprograminfo.cfm.

Another option is available at the Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center site: http://vet.osu.edu/vmc/home-made-diets.

Q: My 4-year-old Yorkshire terrier marks three or four times whenever we visit another home. To stop this, Sophie now wears diapers whenever we go to someone's house, which she isn't happy about. Is there anything else we can do? -- M.C., White Bear Lake, MN

A: "Dogs mark for various reasons," says St. Louis, MO-based veterinary behaviorist Dr. Debra Horwitz. "It may be anxiety or territorial, assuming the dog is actually marking."

There are lots of things you can try to curb this behavior, starting with a long walk before going inside. At least your dog won't have as much in the tank, if you get my drift.

"The good news is that Sophie is a small dog. Keep her on-leash at your friends' homes, and if she begins to lift a leg, scoop her into your arms and quickly take her out," advises Horwitz, an editor of soon-to-be-released book "Decoding Your Dog," written by the College of Veterinary Behaviorists, and also edited by Dr. John Ciribassi and myself ((Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, NY, 2014; $27).

It's best not to give your dog an opportunity to mark in the first place. When you enter a friend's house, keep her on your lap or hold her until she's relaxed Then give her something to do: Stuff a treat inside a toy, for example, so she stays busy ferreting out the goodie instead of wandering around the house.

Q: We have a year-old tabby we rescued from the woods when she was 6 weeks old. She was really wild, but my son befriended her. She's still a bit skittish and runs from me. She's also peeing along the wall in one room, and also on a vinyl desk chair. We do have an older cat that I know is not responsible. The two cats have always gotten along well. How do we stop this behavior? -- S.B., Eden, NY

A: If this behavior is new, there might be a medical explanation. If your veterinarian rules that out, certified feline behavior consultant Pam Johnson-Bennett of Nashville, TN, and host of Animal Planet Canada's "Psycho Kitty," says to place a litter box at the spot where the cat is piddling regularly. This should be (at least) your third litter box. The boxes should be scattered in various places in the house. If you offer four boxes, that's even better.

"It might be the cats aren't getting along as well as you believe," says Johnson-Bennett. "In cats, aggression might be awfully covert. It's challenging for even observant cat owners to notice all their signals."

As for the chair the cat is piddling on, either hide it for now or make it uncomfortable for the cat. Play upside down car mats (nubby sides up) on the chair, or line the chair with double-stick tape or a similar manufactured product called Sticky Paws. Placing a litter box near the chair also makes sense.

All cats can be thrown by change, especially those with the temperament you describe. Johnson-Bennett can't help but wonder if your son has a new schedule; even his going back to school might stress out your cat. Home construction, a houseguest, or any other change in the household routine might be the culprit. Consider purchasing Feliway, a knock-off a cat pheromone, to help minimize your pet's anxiety.

While some cats prefer covered boxes, most seem to like them uncovered; with three boxes you can offer choices. Of course, it's always important to keep all litter boxes clean.

Q: I've always been a terrier fan. I've heard about a breed called the Patterdale Terrier. I looked the breed on the Internet. What can you add? -- S.P., Baltimore, MD

A: People in the UK like these dogs, and they're very gradually catching on here.. Patterdale Terriers were originally bree inthe UK as hunting dogs, a role which many continue in today. They are smaller dogs, averaging 11 to 13 pounds, with an easy-to-care-for smooth or rough coat. They come in various colors; black is the most common. Be aware that like lots of terriers, these dogs have a strong and persistent prey drive and energy to burn, so the neighborhood squirrels and rabbits may not appreciate your choice.

(Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is http://www.stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.)

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