Dear Daisy Dog: Why doesn't my veterinarian swab my dog's skin with alcohol before injecting each vaccine? My arm was swabbed before my flu shot.

Daisy responds:
Alcohol swabs have never been shown to offer any benefit to pets receiving vaccinations. Moreover, infectious disease experts say alcohol may inactivate modified live vaccines, such as the distemper combination vaccine. So the American Animal Hospital Association's Canine Vaccination Guidelines recommend not using the antiseptic.

Veterinarians commonly wet the pet's skin with alcohol before drawing blood, but that's to smooth the hair and make the vein obvious.

On the other hand, before a catheter is placed in a vein, an antiseptic is used. The hair is shaved and the skin cleansed, often with chlorhexidine or iodine, followed by alcohol.

Incidentally, several terms are used when describing products that kill or inhibit the growth of germs such as bacteria and viruses. Disinfectants kill germs on inanimate objects, such as tables and floors, but they're too strong to be applied to an animal's skin.

Antiseptics are germ-inhibiting substances used on living animals. Antibiotics are antibacterial medications introduced into the body orally, topically or by injection.

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Dear Christopher Cat: I want to teach my cat, Henry, a few tricks, but so far, I haven't been very successful. Are cats impossible to train?

Christopher responds:
No, but there has to be something in it for us.

Unlike dogs, who evolved from wolves that hunt and socialize in packs, and are relatively easy to train, we cats tend to be solitary creatures. We don't need anyone else, and we don't feel the need to please others. So when Henry spends time with you, it's because he chooses to.

To train him, use especially tasty treats reserved for training sessions. You'll be more successful if you train him when he's hungry.

Start with come, using the word every time you call him to meals.

You can teach Henry to sit by saying the word and holding a treat just above his head, behind his eyes. To get it, he'll have to sit. When he does, give him the tasty treat, pet him and praise his intelligence.

Limit your training sessions to about five minutes. Remember to use the same words each time, and most of all, be patient.

To teach Henry additional tricks, consult the book, "Show Biz Tricks for Cats: 30 Fun and Easy Tricks You Can Teach Your Cat." The author, Anne Gordon, is an accomplished trainer whose animals have appeared in well-known Hollywood movies. She includes directions to help feline fanciers train their cats to roll over, give kisses, ring a bell, climb a ladder and jump through a hoop.

Ask the Vet's Pets appears Friday in the print edition of the Reading Eagle. The animal authors of the column live with Lee Pickett, V.M.D., who practices companion animal medicine at Bernville Veterinary Clinic. Contact them at www.askthevetspets.com, 610-488-0166 or P.O. Box 302, Bernville, PA 19506-0302.