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Q Jasper, my 2-year-old Labrador retriever, often jumps on me. His feet sometimes muddy my clothes, but I'm more concerned that he might jump on someone else, knock them down and injure them.

A friend advised me to step on his toes or knee him in the chest when he jumps, but that advice isn't working. What do you recommend?

A Jasper is jumping on you to get attention. So, teach him what to do instead.

The first step is to ignore him whenever he jumps on you, so he learns that jumping is not the way to get your attention. Don't make eye contact; don't touch him, and don't speak to him. Turn your back if that makes it easier to ignore him.

As soon as he's standing quietly, ask him to sit. The moment he sits, praise him and pet him.

When he jumps on you again, ignore him — every time.

If you consistently reward him when he sits quietly and ignore him when he jumps on you, he will soon learn how to gain your attention.

Your job will be easier if you recognize that, as a young Lab, Jasper's excess energy can interfere with his ability to focus. So, tire him out by having him retrieve balls, participate in agility training or romp at the dog park.

Also, enroll Jasper in group obedience training where he'll learn to walk calmly on a leash, even around other dogs. Until you trust him not to jump, leash him whenever he's around people.

If you teach Jasper how to get your attention without jumping on you, help him run off his excess energy and join an obedience training group, he'll make "four on the floor" a habit.

Q I love that my cat dozes on my pillow and wraps himself around my head when I sleep. However, I am thinking about applying minoxidil to my scalp to encourage hair regrowth. Will this have any effect on my cat?

A Yes, it very well might. Minoxidil is prescribed for people with hypertension to lower their blood pressure, and it's applied to the scalp to stimulate hair growth.

Unfortunately, cats are so sensitive to minoxidil that even a tiny amount is potentially life-threatening.

Cats can be exposed when they lick minoxidil from their human's skin, or groom themselves and ingest minoxidil transferred from their human's skin to their own fur.

In cats, minoxidil drops blood pressure to dangerously low levels and damages the heart.

Toxic signs become apparent within a few hours of exposure. They include lethargy, loss of appetite, trouble breathing and pale or blue-tinged gums and skin.

As heart function diminishes, fluid builds up in and around the lungs, preventing oxygenation of the blood. Without treatment, death due to heart failure occurs two or three days after minoxidil exposure.

Therefore, if you ever suspect your cat was exposed, get him to the veterinarian immediately.

Many cat people with thinning hair avoid topical minoxidil because of the risks to their cats. Alternatives are to keep your cat out of your bedroom or consult with your health care provider about other options for stimulating hair growth.

Lee Pickett, VMD, practices companion animal medicine in North Carolina. Contact her at [email protected]

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