Pet Connection by Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker

Keep 'em Down

When your pet needs some R&R -- rest and restriction -- here’s how to keep him quiet without going stir-crazy

By Kim Campbell Thornton

Andrews McMeel Syndication

When my dog Harper had open-heart surgery in May, she was feeling pretty good just a week later, but we were under orders from the surgeon to keep her quiet for the next 90 days. That wasn’t easy. Baby gates, steps to the furniture and closed doors became the rule in our home. We carried Harper up and down the stairs multiple times a day and lifted her onto the bed at night so we didn’t have to worry that she would try to jump up on her own while we were sleeping. She looked disappointed every time we left the house to go on a walk and didn’t take her along. And nothing could stop her from twirling and dancing at mealtime.

Ensuring that a pet rests for weeks or sometimes months after surgery or medical treatment, such as medication injections for heartworm disease, can be a trial for dog and cat owners. Not only is it impossible to explain to a pet why she can’t run and jump the way she does normally, it’s also a challenge to prevent her from overcoming barriers. Nonetheless, it’s a must to ensure a safe and effective recovery.

Reining in a pet’s activity level calls for creativity and strict supervision. Here’s how to survive, whether your dog or cat must be confined for three days or three months.

Baby gates and exercise pens are your friends. Whether his Jack Russell terriers are recovering from knee surgery, eye injuries or bite wounds, Patrick Burns keeps them indoors, confined to a crate surrounded by an exercise pen. The dogs can relieve themselves in the ex-pen and then they are put right back in the crate.

For cats, a double show cage is a good choice, says Lorraine Shelton, who breeds Selkirk Rex and Norwegian Forest cats. She likes the double SturdiShelter Pop-Up, which is secure, easy to clean and has good visibility. It’s just the right size for a cat or a small dog.

Tether your pet. Keeping him on leash and always at my side was the best way to keep my former foster dog Kibo quiet after his injections for heartworm disease. The drug causes the worms to die and disintegrate, so dogs must remain inactive during the three-month treatment period to ensure that no potentially fatal blockage occurs in the pulmonary vessels.

Close doors. Harper usually spends her day napping beneath my desk. It was easy to forget she has definite ideas about when bedtime should be. We would go look for her, only to find that she had already jumped on the bed on her own. We had to start keeping the bedroom door closed all the time.

Use pet steps to furniture. We placed steps at one end of the sofa and blocked the rest of it with an ex-pen so that Harper could only use the steps to get on it. That worked until she noticed she could jump from the side at the other end. We put an end to that by blocking it with the plastic lid of a storage container.

Ban boredom. Work on touch games such as learning to touch your hand or a target stick with his nose, or teach skills such as “watch me” that don’t require any activity. Feed meals inside the crate. To keep your pet’s brain busy while he’s confined, put food in an enrichment toy so he has to do a little thinking to get at it.

Be patient! Before you know it, your dog or cat will be ready for action again.


Ear trauma causes

painful bruising

Q: My cat has been scratching at his ear and the vet says he has a hematoma. What is that, and how did my cat get one? -- via email

A: The word hematoma is basically a fancy Greek name for a bruise. Hematomas are seen more often in dogs, but cats may get them from shaking their head forcefully or scratching aggressively at the ear in response to itching caused by an ear mite infection, allergic skin disease or a foreign body lodged in the ear. The trauma causes blood to seep out of the blood vessels and pool between the skin and the cartilage of the earflap.

The result is a swollen, fluid-filled area that can be inside the ear canal or on the ear tip. Depending on the size and where in the ear the hematoma is located, it might feel firm or soft.

Don’t assume that a hematoma will resolve on its own. It’s a painful condition and can cause lasting damage to ear tissues. Hematomas can be treated several ways, but surgery is typically the most effective solution. While the cat is anesthetized, the surgeon removes the fluid and blood clots and sutures the inner part of the ear to the outer part so it lies smooth and prevents lumpy scar tissue from forming. An incision is made that remains open so any remaining fluid can drain. Most important is treating the underlying condition so the hematoma doesn’t return.

No matter which route you go, your cat will likely need to wear an Elizabethan collar, one of those lampshade-looking devices that keeps him from scratching at his ear while it heals. For greater comfort, look for a soft fabric or inflatable E-collar instead of a hard plastic one. -- Dr. Marty Becker

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Feline Red Cross?

Donor cats save lives

-- Kitty blood donors are needed at many veterinary hospitals to help cats who may have blood loss during surgery, suffer trauma from being hit by a car or falling out of a high-rise or have a bleeding disorder. Volunteer feline blood donors are screened for disease and may give blood as often as every six weeks. They are lightly sedated before donating approximately 40 milliliters of the life-saving fluid. Ask your veterinarian if local clinics or pet blood banks need cats to donate. Feline fact: Cats have three blood types. Type A is most common, Type B is less common, and Type AB is rare.

-- Active people looking for a medium-size dog may want to consider the Brittany, a dynamo of a pointing dog. The Brittany is smart and athletic with a keen sense of smell that makes him a powerhouse in dog activities such as nose work or tracking and, of course, hunting. Agility and flyball are other sports in which he excels, and he loves going running, hiking, camping or otherwise spending time with his people. The Brittany’s wash-and-go coat is easy to care for, and weekly brushing will remove dead hair that will otherwise land on clothes and furniture.

-- Got skunked? If your pet has been perfumed by Pepe LePew, it’s time to hold your nose and bathe him with an odor-removing solution. A tried-and-true concoction calls for mixing one quart of 3-percent hydrogen peroxide with one-quarter cup baking soda and a teaspoon of liquid soap. Wet your dog down to the skin, then shampoo with the mixture, leaving it on for at least five minutes before rinsing thoroughly. Don’t let your dog lick off any of the solution, and toss what you don’t use; it’s not safe to bottle and save for future use. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker


Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.