Dear Daisy Dog: Please explain dog flipping. I saw a brief television news report, but I'm still not sure I understand it.

Daisy responds: Dog flipping is a crime in which someone steals your dog and immediately sells him or her. The criminal may take the dog from your yard or, if your dog gets lost, respond to the dog found advertisement, falsely claiming to own your dog.

In the latter case, the dog flipper explains the lack of ownership documents and photos with a hard-luck story, such as a house fire, recent relocation or an overly busy schedule. Once the criminal has possession, he or she promptly sells the dog.

To protect yourself from dog flippers:

•Don't leave your dog unattended outdoors, even in your own yard or car, and don't tie your dog to a post outside a store for even a minute.

•Keep an identification tag on the collar so, if your dog ever does wander away, the finder can contact you directly.

•Have your veterinarian microchip your dog so you can prove ownership. Keep your contact information up-to-date.

•If you don't intend to breed your dog, have him neutered. Sterilized dogs are less valuable when sold, so they're less likely to be stolen.

•If your dog is ever missing, check Craigslist.org and other classified ads to see if someone is trying to sell him.

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Dear Christopher Cat: I read on the Internet that flame retardants in furniture and carpeting can cause hyperthyroidism in cats. Humans are exposed to these chemicals, too, but they don't seem to develop hyperthyroidism as often as cats. Why?

Christopher responds:
More than 10 percent of cats over 10 years of age have hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid glands, making hyperthyroidism the most common endocrine disease of cats.

Since it was first reported in 1979, hyperthyroidism has become much more prevalent.

The cause is unknown, but polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), flame retardants known to disrupt thyroid function, are thought to play a role.

Furniture, carpets, textiles, electronics, plastics and construction materials contain PBDEs, which became popular in the 1970s.

PBDEs eventually flake off these products, joining the house dust on the floor.

When we cats walk or lie on the floor, PBDEs stick to our fur. As we groom ourselves, we ingest the chemicals.

Our bodies don't metabolize PBDEs as efficiently as humans do, so levels in cat blood are 20 to 100 times higher than in human blood. If PBDEs are a factor in hyperthyroidism, the dissimilar metabolic patterns may explain the difference in prevalence of hyperthyroidism between cats and humans.

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.