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Weird pet behavior: Racist dogs and rolling cats

Friday - 6/15/2012, 7:38am  ET

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Dr. Katy Nelson is an associate emergency veterinarian in Alexandria, Va. where she works with a wide variety of pets and pet problems. (Courtesy Dr. Katy Nelson)

Amy Hunter, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - When it comes to weird canine behavior, this one may take the cake: A racist dog.

But according to Dr. Katy Nelson, an Alexandria veterinarian who answered questions during a live chat on Thursday, the behavior is not all that uncommon.

"Every time [my dog] is around my friend who is African American, she freaks out," wrote Kathrine, a commenter during the chat. "She is usually docile and friendly. Anything I can do about this? It's embarrassing."

Nelson says she isn't sure the reasoning behind the matter, but she "hears it all the time."

"The only thing I can really recommend is to try and desensitize her with someone who is patient and a 'dog person.'"

Strange animal behavior became the unofficial theme on Thursday, with dozens of commenters asking questions about pets who chew on toes, suck on their owners' arms or roll so much their hair gets matted. For the latter, Nelson suggested the owner first make sure the cat isn't itchy, remedy that, and then perhaps pull out the shaver.

One dog owner wanted to know how to shop for the best food. Nelson said the most important measure an owner can take when choosing what to feed their dogs is to look at the ingredients.

"Dog food is truly one of the few things that 'you get what you pay for,'" Nelson says. "Looking for a food that has meat as the first ingredient is one of the easiest ways to determine if a food is a good choice."

When food is inexpensive, it's because the ingredients were inexpensive, Nelson says. If a grain source or a vegetable gluten source is one of the top three ingredients, chances are that food contains a higher percentage of fillers than meat.

"Our pets are carnivores," she says. "Feeding them a high quality meat-based diet is going to be one of the best ways to keep them healthy."

Nelson says obesity is a major problem in America's pet population, with 45 percent to 65 percent of all pets overweight or obese. Part of what contributes to the problem is the amount of food we feed them.

"Whatever [the dog food company] recommends, if your pet is spayed or neutered, reduce that by about 20 to 25 percent," she says.

"When we spay and neuter our pets, we remove about 25 percent of their metabolic needs."

A lot of energy is used to keep reproductive organs running properly, so when they're removed, that reduces an animal's metabolism. Pet food companies' recommendations are meant for intact pets, so reducing the amount of food they recommend is central to maintaining a fixed pet's weight.

Nelson has been an associate emergency veterinarian in Alexandria, Va. where she works with a wide variety of pets and pet problems.

She is passionate about health and fitness and helping dogs and cats to live the longest, fullest life that they can lead by staying fit and trim.

Nelson, a native of Louisiana, was raised on a small farm in the heart of the state where her childhood was filled with many beloved pets.

She earned her veterinary degree in 2001 from the Louisiana State University's School of Veterinary Medicine.

Join WTOP at 1 p.m. on Thursday, June 28, for another chat with Nelson.

To read the rest of Thursday's chat, click below.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)