Mike Fietz



The recent increase of a life-threatening heart condition among dogs—and the suspicion that it may be related to grain-free diets—has led pet owners to question what to feed their animals.

Grains of truth: Are fad diets harming pets?

Pet owners face a perplexing variety of food choices for their animals. From national staples to obscure boutique brands, there are dozens of options, each trying to earn your loyalty. Pet diets, like those of humans, are subject to trends and fads with little nutritional basis. In recent years, the burgeoning market of grain-free foods […]

The idea that pet owners can find a hypoallergenic dog is not backed by science. Image: Getty Images

False promises: The myth of hypoallergenic dogs

Finding a new dog isn’t trivial, and I’m often faced with questions about the process. There are so many variables to consider. Should you adopt a puppy or rescue an adult? What size dog best fits your lifestyle? Some questions have easier answers than others, and many require a degree of generalization that makes me […]

While they are generally a nasty bit of business, excessive hairballs may indicate an underlying problem like anxiety or inflammatory bowel disease. Getty Images

The tangled reality of hairballs

I’ve always been a sound sleeper. Garbage trucks? Thunderstorms? Please. But the low, glugging sound of my cat depositing a hairball three rooms away can wrest me from the deepest slumber in an instant. It’s as if that noise is wired directly to the sleep center of my brain. Most cat owners are somewhat familiar […]

Your pooch may look 
frightfully stressed 
when reverse sneezing 
occurs, but most 
cases are temporary.
file photo

Breathing easier: Getting through reverse sneezing

Anything that looks this terrifying must be an emergency. The poor dog is standing with her legs braced and head thrust forward, and the corners of her mouth are pulled taught in a frightening grimace. Her belly contracts and her ribcage tenses in powerful bursts, and a thundering snort marks each strained breath. She’s distressed, […]

Cat owners should avoid keeping lilies in their homes and their gardens because the plants, flowers and even pollen are dangerous to their pets.

As spring blooms, beware of flowers toxic to pets

It’s not yet safe to think that spring has fully sprung, but as the occasional warm days sneak back onto the calendar, it’s hard to resist cracking the windows and cleaning the house in preparation for brighter weather. In my case, that optimistic spirit invariably leads to the purchase of a few houseplants. Ignoring all […]

Many dogs suffer from hearing loss when they get older, but attentive owners can help them adjust and keep them safe.

Sound off: Hearing loss in pets

It was odd the first time it happened. My dog, an aging Lhasa Apso, failed to greet me at the door. I found him snoozing in the middle of the living room and tapped him on the head. In a flash, he popped up onto his feet and regained his usual wriggling enthusiasm. Clearly, he […]

If your aging dog loses his footing, don’t fret, but do get him to a vet. A dog with idiopathic vestibular syndrome usually recovers in a few days.

Thoroughly Vetted: When old dogs get dizzy

My client is in tears as she carries her standard poodle into the lobby. There was no appointment because the problem came out of nowhere. “It’s like he had a stroke,” she suggests as we hurry to an exam room. And that’s certainly how it looks. The poor dog can’t keep his bearings. His head […]

Marijuana toxicity in pets can be resolved fairly easily, so it’s best to come clean if your pet consumes your stash.

Pot bellied: When pets get into marijuana

I’m suspicious right away. His dilated pupils don’t seem focused on anything in particular, and his usually chipper demeanor has been replaced with a vacant haze unmoored from time and space. His head lists to one side before jerking back to center, like a student fighting to stay awake in a lecture. His eyes squint […]

Testing your dog’s DNA may sound intriguing, but there’s little to be gained in terms of medical treatment with these kits.

Using DNA to test your dog’s breed

She’s such a delightful dog, and you were lucky to find her at the shelter that day. But what exactly is she? Her cheese-curl tail evokes a shiba inu. Those droopy ears are all spaniel. And only a schnauzer could have gifted her those magnificent eyebrows. Everyone who meets her spots another breed in the […]

Just like a human cold, the feline variety has few medicinal options for immediate recovery, other than pampering and rest. File photo.

The strange truth about cats catching colds

It has to be an allergy, right? She’s been sneezing for the last few days, and her eyes are watering up. She lives indoors, and probably hasn’t met another cat since her days in the animal shelter. It just doesn’t make sense that she could have caught anything. Such is the weird truth of feline […]

Not only must you treat hot spots with ointment and medication, but you must keep your dog from licking and scratching at the skin. Courtesy photo

How to manage hot spots in dogs

It definitely wasn’t there yesterday. She looked completely normal before bedtime, and now there’s an oozing 3″ sore over her left hip and she won’t let anybody near it. Some dog owners are all too familiar with this story, but if it’s your first time seeing a hot spot, it can be alarming. They appear […]

Dogs who are prone to separation anxiety may benefit from an owner’s change of habit.

The woes of your pet’s separation anxiety

I knew I was in trouble within days of adopting him. If I made it all the way to the car before the barking and screaming began, I was lucky. I’d return from grocery shopping to find cracked blinds hanging lopsided above splintered windowsills, and puddles of drool creeping across the floor. My return home […]

The dog flu can leave vets and pet owners guessing as to whether a vaccination is necessary. File photo

The trouble with dog flu

It’s flu season for us humans, and the advice really couldn’t be more simple. Get your flu shot this year and every year. We are social animals who spend most of our day in relatively close physical proximity, and it’s very easy for us to get each other sick. Vaccination may provide an imperfect defense, […]

Witnessing a seizure is an alarming event for pet owners, but in some cases it’s a manageable condition.

How to live with animal epilepsy

The first time you see your pet in the middle of a seizure, it’s like time has stopped. You feel helpless, not knowing how long it will last or what will happen next. Seizures happen when electrical activity in the brain becomes disorganized, slipping free of the coordinated circuits that usually keep things running smoothly. […]

Trimming a dog’s nails can be a painless experience for both owner and animal with the right mindset and approach.

The necessary chore of clipping a pet’s nails

It starts innocently enough with some faint clicking as your dog trots across the kitchen tile. It can wait, you figure. She hates having her nails trimmed and another week won’t hurt. Until she climbs into your lap and eight dull knives dig deep into your thigh. Reluctantly, you admit to yourself that this is […]

Cat owners will argue the incomparable joy of snuggling with a purring pet.

The uncertain science of purring

Sharing my home with both a dog and a cat, I’d be hard-pressed to say which one I prefer to keep as company. They bring such different kinds of joy, and feel like two halves of a lovely whole. But my cat does have one clear advantage that no dog can match. She can purr. […]

Pet owners who cope with a diabetes diagnosis have a challenge that will eventually become part of routine care.

When dogs and cats have diabetes

I hate diagnosing diabetes. It’s a frustrating disease, made worse by the fear that washes across people’s faces when they hear the news. I see them hoping I won’t say anything about insulin injections, then watch them deflate when I finally do. Diabetes is a hormonal disorder that comes in a few varieties, but always results […]