DEAR DR. FOX: A recent Animal Doctor column addressed carsickness in dogs. Our poodle has no problems with cars -- he rides many miles with us every summer. But then we took him boating, and he got seasick.
Still, he loved going to the beach and frolicking with our kids, until the authorities posted a "No Dogs on the Beach" ordinance, and we couldn't include him on our excursions. He's a smart dog and could tell when we were going (we'd be putting our bathing suits on). He would sit by the front door, panting and whimpering to go. We tried not saying the words, but spelling them out -- "b-e-a-c-h" and "b-o-a-t" -- he still knew what we were up to.
It's heart-wrenching leaving him behind watching us drive away. Do you have any suggestions? -- M.K., Naples, Fla.
DEAR M.K.: Try my remedy for your dog's motion/seasickness: 1/2-teaspoon freshly chopped ginger root in a small ball of cottage cheese or peanut butter given 30 minutes before the boat ride. Put a bandana with a few drops of lavender oil around his neck. This will help calm him. The ginger will settle his stomach and is a potent anti-nausea herb that is used to alleviate morning sickness in pregnant women. If your dog is not a standard poodle, reduce the amount of ginger accordingly. The only harm of an overdose could be that he might throw it up.
As for beaches closed to dogs, there should be a "dog time" allotment, and an inspector posted who levies a massive fine on anyone who does not poop-scoop at once.
DEAR DR. FOX: Jake is an 8-year-old neutered male cat who came to me as a young stray. He has a very shaggy coat, and it turns out he's a Maine coon, although he must have been the runt of the litter since he never got larger than 10 to 11 pounds.
During a routine examination, my veterinarian found a mass in Jake's abdomen that he decided, after various tests, was probably a tumor of the spleen. That wasn't the case -- it turned out to be an enormous hair ball in Jake's stomach. The vet said he'd never seen anything like it before. He kept it to show me after the surgery, and it was the size of my fist.
Needless to say, the cat feels much better and eats better with this thing gone, but what can I do to keep this from happening again? Jake is a meticulous groomer, and he spits up hair balls like any normal cat, though that obviously wasn't bringing up most of what he's swallowed. -- C.H., Bowie, Md.
DEAR C.H.: I hope that people with cats will take note of Jake's massive fur ball. This is a not-uncommon issue with cats, and if not treated, it can be fatal.
Daily brushing is part of the solution, but not for too long, because it may stimulate more fur growth and shedding. Just brush your cat briefly to remove already-shed fur trapped in the coat.
A few drops of fish oil or 1/2 teaspoon of organic butter in your cat's food daily may help improve coat health. Adding a teaspoon of soaked psyllium husks or cooked mashed green or butter beans to the food can provide some fiber in the diet that can stimulate digestion and the passage of small accumulations of fur in the stomach. Some people find a teaspoon of olive oil helps prevent fur balls and periodic retching of fur from the stomach.
For one of our cats, providing a few leaves of crushed catnip triggers almost immediate vomiting and is done once a month or so. This results in a small "sausage" of fur being expelled from the body. My theory is that swallowed fur is biologically adaptive in the wild, binding up small chewed bones and insect parts to reduce internal injury.
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