The dog days of summer are here and we have to treat pets a bit differently than we did years ago. When I was a kid, our dogs were outdoors all day, wandering the neighborhood. They exercised when they felt like it and only as much as they felt comfortable doing.

Today, dogs are shut up in yards and homes all day and a walk with their keeper is a big event. The dogs may overextend themselves when walking with their keeper in hot weather, just because they are happy to be out.

Whenever you are walking your dog in the summer, bring along water for it to drink to cool off. Although a dog can lap up water from a bottle, it does waste a lot of the water. Pet supply companies sell traveling canteens for dogs that will hold a couple quarts of water combined with a dish that will fold up and hang from your belt.

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Question: Our town has quite a few of those wild Quaker parrots that build their nests on telephone poles and a family has decided to build a nest in a gigantic Norway spruce next to my driveway. It was cute at first, but the noise they make early in the morning bothers both my family and my next-door neighbors. Plus our driveway is constantly littered by those sticks they use to build nests. Is there any way to persuade them to go build their nests in the park as the other Quaker parrots do?

Answer: Green Quaker parrots are native to Argentina. Over the past 40 years, escaped pets have colonized cities all over the United States, particularly on the East Coast. They are officially considered an introduced invasive species and are not protected by any laws that protect native birds. Unlike every other invasive species, they do not harm or disrupt the natural balance here at all. But their big nests made of twigs do get in the way and the only way to force them to leave your property is to take down the tree or at least have it cut low enough so it is no longer attractive to them as a place to build a nest. To do it now would not be humane, as there are eggs and babies in the nest, so you really need to wait until fall, when the babies have grown up.

Question: My 8-year-old dachshund is very heavy and the vet says she needs to lose 5 pounds. The low-fat dog food I feed her does not seem to satisfy her at all. Is there something to mix in it that helps?

Answer: Try canned pumpkin - not pumpkin pie mix. There is something about the taste and texture of pumpkin that appeals to carnivorous mammals. Even zoo animals love it. It has very little calories or fat, so it is perfect for diluting a dog's food. Take whatever volume of food you are feeding your dog now and cut it in half, replacing it with the pumpkin. You can mix it with dry food or canned so the dog has the same volume of food to eat but with half the calories or fat. Since the pumpkin is so tasty, the dog does not feel deprived. Of course, this is not a good thing to do with a dog that needs calories or is heavily exercised. But most likely your dachshund gets the bulk of her exercise when she is eating or dreaming or barking - that is about all that my dachshund does, now that she is in her senior years.

Question: We just got a bearded dragon lizard for my son, and we were told to feed it crickets dusted with calcium, and romaine lettuce. Is there anything special about that type of lettuce that makes it better than the iceberg lettuce that we have in our house all the time?

Answer: Romaine is not great as a food for reptiles such as dragons, tortoises and iguanas. In nature, these animals eat dark greens that are high in fiber, low in water content and bitter tasting. Such greens are much more nutritious than the sweet, juicy lettuce leaves humans enjoy. Romaine is a bit darker than iceberg lettuce, but the produce section of any grocery is full of greens that are much healthier for your lizard. Look for chicory, cultivated dandelions and watercress. Whatever green you choose to give to your dragon should be fortified with the same calcium supplement you are putting on the crickets - just wet the greens and sprinkle the supplement over them like salt.


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