Three readers contacted the Morning News to disagree with my recent advice about feeding garlic to dogs as an organic flea deterrent.
Dr. Craig Verwers, an organic veterinarian who owns Ridglea West Animal Hospital in Fort Worth and who earned a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Texas A&M University, says garlic is safe and beneficial for most dogs if fed in small amounts. Anything could become toxic if used in large quantities, he says.
Safe forms of garlic for dogs include pure garlic powder sold as a spice in supermarkets, fresh garlic, pure minced garlic sold in jars at supermarkets and garlic tablets sold in pet stores and labeled for use for dogs, Verwers says.
These are Verwers' guidelines for feeding garlic to dogs as a supplement:
• Garlic powder is concentrated. A safe amount would be less than ¼ teaspoon per day per 10 pounds of a dog's weight. Mix it with the dog's food.
• Fresh or minced garlic also should be mixed with the dog's food. A safe amount is ½ teaspoon per day per 10 pounds of a dog's weight.
• Follow label instructions when using garlic tablets sold in pet stores.
For garlic to be most effective as a supplement, dogs probably should not eat it daily, Verwers says. He recommends taking one day off per week or one week off per month.
If a dog has breathing problems or other symptoms after starting a garlic regimen, stop feeding garlic for at least a week to see whether the symptoms stop, Verwers says. If the problems continue, see a veterinarian promptly.
QUESTION: Freezes during the past winter damaged my bay laurel shrubs, so I pruned them, spread the trimmings on the lawn and then shredded the trimmings with a mulching lawn mower. I emptied the mower's grass catcher onto the garden soil instead of into a compost pile and tilled the clippings into the soil. For the first time in 40 years of gardening, I do not have squash bugs or other insects infesting my garden. My neighbor's squash stopped producing two weeks ago. The plants were killed by squash bugs. B.K., Lake Texoma
ANSWER: That's interesting. Perhaps other gardens also could benefit from bay laurel trimmings.
QUESTION: I did not plant tomatoes this year, but several weeks ago I noticed a tomato plant that must have grown from a seed left on the ground from last year's crop. I staked the plant, which appears to be a cherry tomato variety and has several blooms. I was excited until my husband told me that without other tomato plants in the garden, this plant will not be pollinated and won't produce tomatoes. Is that true? V.G., Frisco
ANSWER: Tomatoes do not need other tomato plants to produce fruit. Tomatoes have both male and female flowers on each plant, and they can self-pollinate. Some breeds of tomato do this more readily than others, and breeders cultivate self-pollinating varieties because they produce consistent fruit. If the volunteer plant produces good tomatoes, save some of the seed to plant next year.
QUESTION: Black spots are appearing on the leaves of my orchid plants, which look stressed and wilted. Aphids and scale also are attacking the plants. What should I do? When repotting, what is the procedure for sterilizing the pots? M.G., Dallas
ANSWER: Spray Bio Wash by 1st Enviro Safety Inc. or Soil Mender Plant Wash on the plants, and drench the roots with Garrett Juice and Thrive by Alpha BioSystems. Sterilize the pots by spraying the surfaces with full-strength hydrogen peroxide (the type sold at drugstores and supermarkets). If you repot, use only lava gravel; no soil is needed.
QUESTION: We planted a red oak last year, and several months ago we noticed a discolored spot on its trunk. It looks as if the trunk is rotting, and the leaves are turning yellow. In addition, a small tree is emerging from the ground about a foot from the trunk. Can we save the parent tree? A.M., McKinney
ANSWER: That sounds like serious damage that may have started as a physical injury to the trunk quite awhile ago. A lawn mower, a weed trimmer or another piece of equipment may have cut into the trunk. Slathering the wound with my Tree Trunk Goop, removing excess soil from around the root flare and using my Sick Tree Treatment may save the tree. The damage will always be there, even if the tree grows over it, and it could become a problem in the future. Suckers sprouting from the base of the tree are a sign of stress. Cut them off promptly.