Older dogs, sleepy hermit crabs and other questions posed by kids

ERIN: My dog is getting old. What suggestions do you have to keep her healthy and happy?

MARC: Dogs age at different rates and often according to size. For example, a large dog is considered a "senior citizen" when he or she turns 6 or 7, while a smaller dog may reach that status around its 8th birthday. Large or small, older dogs tend to appreciate beds more than they might have during their younger years. If you obtain one for your pet, make sure she can get in and out of it easily. Because a dog's activity level tends to decrease with age, it's a good idea to switch her to a lower-fat food that's enriched with more joint-supporting nutrients; ask your vet to recommend a good brand. You may also find that your dog craves rest, peace, and quiet more often than she once did, and you should give her time she needs. Be certain to monitor any health changes, and consult your vet if anything seems abnormal.

CAITLIN: I have a new Yorkshire Terrier puppy. She has long hair and won't let us brush it. She likes to bite on the brush instead. What can we do?

MARC: Let your dog chew on treats while she's being brushed, and remember that you don't have to brush her thoroughly all at once. Try getting her used to gentle brush strokes, and praise her while you're brushing. This way, your dog will consider grooming a pleasurable experience and undoubtedly become fond of the added attention.

ALICE: How do I tell if my parakeet is a male or a female?

MARC: It's easy to tell the difference: Just look at the bit of skin around the nostrils. This skin, called the cere, is lavender for babies of both sexes, but after three months, male parakeets develop a blue cere, while females develop a white or brown cere.

GABRIELLE: How do I tell if my goldfish is male or female?

MARC: You'll need to check in spring because that's the only time the little bumps, known as tubercles, appear on the males' gill covers.

HOWIE: Why does my hermit crab sleep all day?

MARC: If your hermit crab spends most of its day asleep, chances are, it's too cold. Because they're native to warm, tropical areas, hermit crabs tend to be sluggish in temperatures under 80 degrees. You can help your crab by putting a light over its cage and misting it periodically with warm water.

LIZZY: Why do dogs like to roll in the dirt?

MARC: Dogs and humans have very different preferences as far as smells go. In fact, the scent on a dogs's body after a good roll in the dirt is as pleasing to him as perfume might be to us. Conversely, if you let your dog sniff some perfume, he or she is likely to find it very unpleasant.

KATIE: Why do some dogs know how to swim, and some dogs don't?

MARC: Some dogs were bred to swim and others weren't. Sporting breeds such as spaniels and retrievers are great swimmers, while English bulldogs, for example, have short legs and dense bodies that make it difficult to stay afloat. Other dogs are simply afraid, and they should be gently introduced -- but never forced -- to water.

ETHAN: Are crickets louder when it's hot outside?

MARC: Yes, crickets -- and all insects -- are cold-blooded, which means they're much more active and vocal in warm temperatures.

WALKER: How high can my rabbit jump?

MARC: It isn't a hard-and-fast rule, but generally a healthy rabbit can jump as high as its body is long.

Special Thanks

Marc Morrone, pet expert


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