A reader sent in a letter that said his aging Amazon parrot had died suddenly. I replied that older birds and other animals can succumb unexpectedly from heart attacks and strokes, just like humans can, and only an autopsy from a vet could actually provide closure on why the bird had died.

I then heard from a few other readers who said they also had a bird or birds that died suddenly, and right after the birds died their carbon monoxide detectors had gone off. The house was slowly filling with gas, and that's why the birds had died. This underlines the need for a carbon monoxide alarm and suggests if a bird suddenly dies in a home without one, you should have your utility company check out the situation. Fumes from the overheating or burning of a Teflon pot or pan, or a self-cleaning oven that is allowed to overheat can also be toxic to birds.

Question: I am leaving my two dogs at a kennel for the first time next week. They will be there for seven days, and I am very anxious for them. I have no idea if they will be afraid of the people who work there or perhaps they may not eat. They are well socialized and have no problem at the dog park, but I am worried anyway. I chose the kennel because it is a small place and a person is there all night long. I would appreciate any advice or information you can give me.

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Answer: Some dogs enjoy being at a boarding facility for a few days, others tolerate it and still others are miserable. It is usually the fear of the unknown that makes them so unhappy, so the best way to address this issue is to ask the boarding kennel if you can pay to leave your dogs there for just one day.

Drop them off in the morning and pick them up in the evening, the equivalent of a shift at doggy day care. If you have time, do this for a couple of days before you go away. The dogs will be happier, as now the unknown is familiar to them and, hopefully, they will enjoy seeing and smelling so many new things all day.

Question: My 8-year-old golden retriever loves to eat the beach grass that grows in my yard. I cannot stop her from doing it. She always throws it all up an hour after she eats it. Why does she eat it when it makes her so sick?

Answer: Dogs eat grass just because they enjoy the way it tastes. They cannot digest grass and if they eat a small amount or if the grass is very fine and soft, then it will come out in their stool.

Beach grass is coarse and wiry, however, so that is why she throws it up. If she threw it up right after she ate it, she may figure out eating the grass is causing her to vomit, but since it happens so long afterward, she does not have the cognitive ability to figure this out. As long as she has access to the grass, she will continue to eat it.

Question: Can you tell me what bird sings in my neighborhood all night long? I thought birds could not make noise in the dark. Whenever I cover my cockatiel's cage, it stays quiet until I uncover it. The neighborhood bird has a very loud song and seems to sing three or four different songs.

Answer: Many neighborhoods are not actually that dark at night, between all the streetlights and cars. In the spring when their testosterone level is high, many male birds in suburbia will take advantage of this and sing the night away. I have heard robins and cardinals singing in the darkness, but the prize goes to the mockingbird. Most likely that is what you have been hearing, especially if you have heard it sing several songs. They are called mockingbirds because they mock or mimic the songs of other birds and incorporate them into their own.

Question: What is the best food to feed my 2-year-old sister cats? One swallows the premium dry food I give her without chewing it at all. It all comes up after she eats and then she starts it all over again. They love canned holistic chicken and lamb cat food and do not throw that up, but I was always led to believe dry food is better. Can I just feed them the canned food?

Answer: Dry food is actually very unnatural for a cat and we feed it to them only because it is convenient. There are many, many cats that do just fine with it and some like yours that do not. If yours respond better to the canned food, then life would be easier for you and the cats if you just keep them on the canned food diet.


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