Dear Christopher Cat: Our elderly cat, Oscar, is in the early stages of chronic kidney disease. His veterinarian encouraged additional water intake but did not change his diet.

We're confused, because with our last cat, the vet started a kidney diet as soon as he diagnosed chronic kidney disease. When should Oscar begin eating a special diet?

Christopher responds: That depends on several factors, including Oscar's lab results and other diseases he may have. After all, every cat is an individual.

In assessing and caring for pets with chronic kidney disease (CKD), veterinarians are guided by a group of veterinary specialists called the International Renal Interest Society (IRIS).

IRIS guidelines for diet, medications and other therapies are based on the severity of the pet's CKD. Severity is described by IRIS stage, which takes into account blood levels of creatinine (a metabolic waste product excreted by the kidneys), blood pressure, concentration of the urine, and the amount of protein in the urine.

Stage 1 is the mildest form of CKD, while stage 4 is the worst. Veterinarians usually transition cats with CKD to a kidney diet during stage 2 or 3, before the CKD dampens the cat's appetite.

For a description of how kidney diets differ from other diets, visit veterinarypartner.com and search the term "chronic kidney disease" for articles on Dietary Therapy of Renal Failure and related topics.

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Dear Daisy Dog: We fell in love with a deaf English setter puppy available for adoption through a rescue group. If we adopt her, will we be able to train her?

Daisy responds: Yes. Deafness is inherited in many breeds, and with consistent training, these dogs mature into wonderful family pets.

You'll teach your pup using hand signals. We dogs communicate with each other through body language, so hand signals are actually easier for us to understand than spoken words.

Supplement the standard hand signals used in dog obedience training with American Sign Language (ASL), so your dog will know the signs for "go potty," "car" and other common words.

Join a group training class where the instructor can give you individual attention. Group training will help your dog learn to pay attention to you and ignore the distractions of other dogs and people in the area.

Use only positive reinforcement, including treats, your sign for "good!" (thumbs up or the ASL sign), smiles and pats on the shoulder. Punishment and other aversive methods are less effective and lead to aggression in some dogs.

To get your pup's attention indoors, stomp your feet on the floor and then give her a hand signal. To call her outside, use a flashlight or laser pointer, or turn the porch light off and on.

Her identification tag should say DEAF and give your phone number and address. When she's outdoors, she should be on a leash or inside a fenced yard.

For additional suggestions, visit deafdogs.org/training.

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. Contact them at www.askthevetspets.com.