The Animal Doctor

Calming the Dog

DEAR DR. FOX: I have what is supposed to be a male German shepherd-Labrador mix. I got him as a 3-month-old pup, and he is now approximately 3 years old. He is extremely hyper and vomits on car rides that exceed 20 to 30 minutes. He is a good eater and weighed as much as 56 pounds a few months ago.

Over the summer, his weight decreased to 50 pounds. He has always been skinny, but he looks almost uncared for due to his thinness. He doesn't have any physical ailments or parasites, sleeps well and is happy and loving.

I was wondering if a supplement exists that I could add to his diet that might calm him. I feel if he was calmer, he might be able to ride in the car better, be generally calmer, walk easier and possibly gain enough weight to look healthy. -- E.M.T., Clinton, Maryland

DEAR E.M.T.: A change in diet may indeed help your dog become somewhat less hyperactive and anxious, as could some supplements and essential oil therapy.

I would avoid all cereals in your dog's diet, at least until there is some behavioral change, and increase the fat content by including 1 teaspoon of organic butter and coconut oil with each meal, feeding him three times daily and monitoring his body weight until satisfactory. My home-prepared dog food recipe (posted on my website) along with a good-quality commercial dog food may be the best solution.

Many dogs "on the edge" of being unstable can benefit from a high tryptophan diet, found in turkey, and supplements that increase brain serotonin, such as the product NutriCalm, which can be prescribed by vets. Over-the-counter options include Animal Health Options' ProQuiet and PetzLife's @-Eaze.

A few drops of organic lavender oil on a bandanna around your dog's neck and a spritz of equal parts lavender oil and warm water in the car could make a big difference. A thimble-size portion of chopped ginger root in a ball of cream cheese may calm the stomach from motion-induced nausea.


Launched in January 2016, the Kennel Club Genetics Center at the Animal Health Trust's initial survey of health issues prevalent in various breeds, epilepsy was the top concern voiced by most dog breeders in the United Kingdom.

The second most commonly listed health concern identified through the breed health summary was hereditary cataracts, listed by seven of the breeds. The Kennel Club Genetics Centre at the AHT has had success launching DNA tests for hereditary cataracts in the Staffordshire bull terrier, Boston terrier and French bulldog, and is currently investigating hereditary cataracts in several more breeds, including the Labrador retriever.

Overall, 80 different disorders were reported with the following conditions listed by multiple breeds: progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), hypothyroidism, hip dysplasia, lymphoma and patella luxation (listed by six breeds) as well as autoimmune disorders and dilated cardiomyopathy (listed by five breeds). For more details and updates, visit

This is important for American dog owners and breeders of these particular breeds whose burden of disease of genetic origin is both costly and often a cause of much suffering.

(Send all mail to or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

Visit Dr. Fox's website at

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