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Published October 22, 2010, 12:00 AM

Pet-food safety subpar

Dear Dr. Fox: A local pet store is careful about the animal food it recommends and sells. People in this discerning town relied on this store during the horror of the animal-food poisoning a couple of years ago.

By: Dr. Michael Fox, INFORUM

Dear Dr. Fox: A local pet store is careful about the animal food it recommends and sells. People in this discerning town relied on this store during the horror of the animal-food poisoning a couple of years ago. It recently took many high-quality foods off its shelves when it was learned that a widely used preservative was shown to induce cancer.

Who or what organization is testing ingredients on an ongoing basis? What is a reliable source to turn to for staying on top of what to avoid?

Many animal owners relied on a home diet for their pets during that uncertain period and continue to supplement dry food with food they prepare. However, I am uncertain about which foods are toxic to pets. I generally add raw or steamed vegetables and certain fruits like apples and bananas along with cheese, yogurt and peanut butter to my dog’s dishes.

Are there some fruits and vegetables that one should avoid? Which nuts or grains are questionable? – P.F., Takoma Park, Md.

Dear P.F.: There is no reliable source to turn to with regard to pet-food safety. The same is true for manufactured human foods. The FDA has no legal authority to prohibit certain food ingredients or to demand a recall, which is only officially requested on a “voluntary” basis. The FDA is also understaffed and underfunded to effectively monitor food safety, which is enormously complex because many food items and ingredients in manufactured/prepared foods are imported from countries like China.

When feeding dogs, all things in moderation; and be alert to individual and breed hypersensitivity (for instance, wheaten terriers are allergic to wheat). Go easy on fruits and sweet potato (yams) with diabetic dogs. Onions are not safe for dogs, nor are macadamia nuts. A little garlic is safe for most dogs. Buy organically certified produce where available, and avoid all genetically modified corn, soy and other crop foods that have been altered. For more details and documentation, check my website and related links at www.twobitdog.com/DrFox.

Dear Dr. Fox: We have two 4-month-old male Siberian huskies, named Tokyo and Tyson. Tokyo has established himself as the alpha dog, never letting anyone pet his brother without coming over to check things out. And Tyson always follows Tokyo.

The problem is that Tyson has not warmed up to our family like his brother, and we are concerned that this shy behavior might turn out to be aggressive. We want to keep both dogs, but are in a quandary as to how to socialize Tyson.

On the plus side, Tyson does not bite; but again, he is not interested in us. – E.C., Stratford, Conn.

Dear E.C.: Siberian huskies can sometimes seem aloof and more interested in other dogs and their surroundings than people who want to pet them. As a breed, they are not known to be aggressive or fear biters toward people; they have a reputation as generally outgoing, pack-loving canines.

Clearly, your “pack of two” has an established hierarchy with which I would not interfere. Showing sympathy for and identifying with the underdog, who is probably quite secure knowing his place, could cause trouble between the dogs. Giving the underdog a timeout break – such as a romp with just the two of you together outdoors – may make you feel good, but he will have to be checked out and display submission when he comes back to the alpha male of his pack.

The pup whom you see as the alpha should, however, be seeing you as the ultimate alpha pack leader and parent figure and, along with his littermate, be undergoing basic puppy obedience/self-control education at this time, which will also help put you in the alpha position.

Send your questions to Dr. Fox in care of The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns. Visit Dr. Fox’s website at www.twobitdog.com/DrFox.