Category Archives: PawsCorner

Why Microchip?

By Sam Mazzotta

Microchip protection is quick and easy

DEAR PAW’S CORNER: Last spring, as I was taking my cat “Ferris” out of my mom’s car at the vet’s office, he jumped out of my arms and ran into the woods. We searched the woods and surrounding neighborhoods for hours, with no luck. About a week later, we got a call from a veterinarian almost 10 miles away from where Ferris had escaped! He was found by one of the assistants, and they had quickly identified Ferris by scanning his implanted microchip.

Please tell your readers how important it is to microchip their pets. It reunited us with Ferris quickly, once he was found. — Sarah in Smyrna, Ga.

DEAR SARAH: I’m glad to hear Ferris got home safely! Microchipping can indeed help reunite a lost pet with its owners. The biggest benefit of microchips is that if a pet loses its collar and ID tag, the microchip — a rice grain-sized device typically implanted just under the skin between the shoulder blades — carries that ID information as well as contact information.

Once a microchip is implanted, owners should register the chip’s information at an online registry such as the nonprofit Found Animals or a registry recommended by your veterinarian. If your pet gets lost and is found and scanned, the information will be relayed to these registries. From there, the owner can check the registries, or opt to be alerted if their pet’s chip is scanned.

Microchipping is affordable, as well. Generally, even the priciest chipping costs well under $100, and it’s often offered as part of low-cost vaccination clinics at a reduced price.

Balding Pigs Have Owners Stumped

By Sam Mazzotta

: I own two potbellied pigs. They have a lot of hair loss. Last year Penny, age 5 years, lost most of hers. Now it’s 2-year-old Norman’s turn. I was told it could be from a poor diet, but these guys are like my kids. They eat good-quality stuff: top-grade hay and potbellied pig pellets. They hardly ever get junk food; instead, they get treats from our garden, like fresh cooked squash, carrots, beans, etc. They have a very nice barn with lots of straw and good hay. They have a choice of lying in dry dirt, on a mud spot or in a pool of fresh water.

I was told to put watered-down baby oil on them. This seems to make it worse. Can you help?

-Diane and John O., on Little Moose Farm

DEAR DIANE AND JOHN: Since their diet is varied and well-rounded, it’s probably not the cause of this periodic hair loss. Stress might be a factor – changes in season, extreme temperatures, pregnancy or any change in their routine can bring on sudden hair loss.

In the potbellied pig community, it’s called “blowing their coats,” a phenomenon when pigs lose most or all of their hair in a very short time. It seems to occur more often after a stressful event, but some potbellied pigs blow their coats every year. The hair regrows over a period of months.

I would consult their veterinarian and bring them in for skin tests to rule out conditions like a parasitic infection. Depending on the results, the vet may prescribe medication, or recommend supplements to their diet like fish oil or vitamin E.

To make both pigs more comfortable, treat their hair and skin with Skin-So-Soft (made by both Avon and Heartland) and rub Norman’s coat daily to encourage loose hairs to fall out faster.

Send your tips, questions and comments to Paws Corner, c/o King Features Weekly Service, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853 or e-mail them to

Signs of Illness in Hamsters

by Sam Mazzotta

DEAR PAW’S CORNER: One of my pet hamsters died just a week after I got it at the pet store. I would really like to know why it died, because the pet store would not tell me. The only clue I have is that it had a wet tail before it died. I’d like to get another hamster, but how do I know if I’m getting a healthy pet from the store? - Hamster Lover

DEAR HAMSTER LOVER: That’s an important question, and one all potential hamster owners should pay attention to. Many, if not all, pet stores have “as is” policies regarding hamsters and other very small pets like goldfish, because so many of them fall ill or die soon after being purchased. But you certainly don’t want to bring home a hamster that’s already sick — not only are you stuck with trying to make it well, but the illness can quickly spread among your other hamsters.

When purchasing a new hamster, look for these telltale signs of illness or injury:

- Wet tail (indicates diarrhea, a clear symptom of illness or worms)

- Lethargic, with dull eyes

- Huddles in one corner for a long time, doesn’t respond quickly to being picked up or petted

- Runny nose and watery eyes

- Rough, matted or patchy fur

- Bites or scratches from other hamsters.

If you notice any of these signs, don’t buy that hamster, and notify store management so that it can isolate the sick hamsters from the healthy ones.

I also recommend that anyone wanting to keep a hamster collect as much information on caring for these small pets as possible. A smaller pet is not necessarily an easier pet to keep — it depends entirely upon you for its health and welfare.

Send your tips, questions and comments to Paws Corner, c/o King Features Weekly Service, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475, or e-mail them to

Cat on a Leash

by Sam Mazzotta

DEAR PAW’S CORNER: The other day I watched a neighbor walking her cat on a leash. I was unaware that cats could even stand a leash, much less that they need to have one to go outside. What’s the deal with cat leashes?
- Bill R., Cleveland

Cat leashes aren’t as new or unusual as you think — they’ve been available at local pet stores for more than a decade now, and the idea of taking one’s cat outside on a leash is continuing to catch on, for a simple reason: owners want to keep their cats safe.

The leash is one sign in a trend of heightened awareness among cat owners, that letting their cats run around the neighborhood unfettered is detrimental to almost everyone involved – the neighbors, the owner and the cat itself, which is at risk from cars, wildlife and manmade or natural poisons. Local laws around the country also are increasing penalties for cats that run loose.

Increasingly, cat owners are deciding to make their cat an indoor cat, where the pet stays inside. But not all cats are happy being inside all the time; and many owners still want their pets to experience the outdoors.
Cat leashes differ from dog leashes – they’re much lighter, as is the harness used to attach the leash. (Leashes should never be attached to the cat’s collar.) The leash should be no longer than 6 feet, as cats do not follow verbal commands the way that dogs do, and tend to leap under bushes or toward the street, necessitating a gentle tug back onto the sidewalk.

While this trend may seem a bit strange to some, “walking the cat” will likely become a very common sight.

Send your tips, questions and comments to Paws Corner, c/o King Features Weekly Service, PO Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475, or e-mail them to

Little Dog, Big Appetite

by Sam Mazzotta

Dear Paws4Pets: I have a 7-month-old Chihuahua that treats each meal like it was her last. “Janie” has been like this since I got her at six weeks. She never chews her food, and eats so fast that she chokes. I have had giver her the “Heimlich” on several occasions to make her cough up the food in order to breathe. I have tried soaking her food to make it soft, but she still gobbles it down. I feed her in another room from my two other dogs so she won’t try to run to their food bowl after she gets through. Is there any way to stop her from eating so quickly? – Hiding the Food Bowl in Crossett, AK

Dear Hiding: Gulping food and eating too fast can be problematic for both dogs and owners. In addition to the potential for choking on larger pieces of food, dogs that eat too much at once can also develop a severe gastric issue called “bloat” or GVD (gastric-dilation volvulus) that must be treated immediately by a veterinarian. So dogs with this tendency have to be watched closely by their owners, not just at feeding time but throughout the day, as they will hunt for a food source between meals.

One recommended way to slow down a gulping dog is to place an inedible object in its food bowl that is too large to swallow — like a baseball. More than one object is fine, too. The idea is to make Janie work to get at her food. You could also spread her dry kibble around a large area so she has to run around eating a bit at a time.

You should continue to feed Janie separately from the other dogs and supervise her mealtimes. I also recommend bringing up this issue with her vet to see if any health issues are causing her to gulp food.

Send your tips, questions and comments to Paws Corner, c/o King Features Weekly Service, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475, or email them to