DEAR DR. FOX: You recently answered a question from someone whose rescued beagle mix was chewing his tail and knick-knacks when the owner left the house; the vet suggested he crate the dog when he left, but he couldn't do that to the dog since he spent "all that time in one" at the shelter from which he was rescued.
Perhaps the owner could get a crate and leave the door open so the dog can go in and out on his own when the owner's home to see if the dog likes the crate. It's possible that some of the anxiety the dog is having is because he was crated for a while, and he feels as though the crate was his "safe space."
I didn't believe in crating until I had a Brittany spaniel several years ago who chewed up everything he could get ahold of when I was gone. I bought a crate when he was 6 months old and crated him when we were gone, which broke the cycle of him being a "bad" dog -- we didn't have to scold him when we got home, and we weren't unhappy with him about the destruction for the rest of the evening.
He loved his crate after about one week! After all, dogs are den animals, and a crate is actually a "den" to a lot of dogs. He went in it every night on his own to go to bed, as well as whenever anyone's voice got louder than normal, because it was his "safe space." For that reason, I never closed the door to the crate when we were home.
I finally took it away when he was 2 years old and bought him a bed because he was matured and trouble-free by that age. Just some thoughts about the beagle's anxiety issues. Hope it helps! -- T.D., St. Louis
DEAR T.D.: Thank you for confirming, with your personal experience with your own dog, how a crate can become a secure safe-haven for a dog.
I have long advocated the use of dog crates for such purposes, and prefer the term "den provisioning" to the accepted "crate training," especially since far too many dogs are left locked in crates all day rather than having the crate door open so they can come and go as they please and really use the enclosure as a den.
Covering a wire crate with a large towel or blanket to make it more of a shelter adds to the "den" effect. What is especially important is the initial introduction to the crate. Coaxing the dog inside with tossed treats and getting him to go in and retrieve a favorite toy greatly eases the process of den provisioning and acceptance, rather than forcing the dog inside and closing the door. This could trigger an immediate phobia of being crated.
DEAR DR. FOX: We rescued our littermate male Russian blues 10 years ago. In the past two years, one of them has had sneezing fits every two to three months. We bring him to the vet, and he gets a shot of Convenia. Within two to three days, he is fine again for another few months.
Now his brother has started to do the same thing. Our vet wants to anesthetize the cats and scope their noses and lungs. Both cats usually produce thick, greenish-colored mucus from the nose when they sneeze.
Should we put the cats through this, or can we just continue to give him the antibiotic injection when needed? If it is an allergy, would they respond to the antibiotic injection?
Thank you for any advice you can give us. -- J.D., Arlington, Virginia
DEAR J.D.: Your cats' condition can be distressing for all concerned when it becomes chronic. I would shy away from the invasive tests being proposed, which would be extremely stressful for your cats, costly for you and would not guarantee any definitive answers.
There are chemicals and allergens in every home environment that can irritate the nasal, sinus and bronchial mucosal lining and invite in some infection, which is most likely pasteurella bacteria. A culture and antibiotic-sensitivity test of the discharge sneezed or coughed up by the cat can be helpful.
I would continue with the periodic injection under the skin of the Convenia, which is very effective against pasteurella bacteria. Treated cats should be given probiotics to help restore any possible bacterial imbalance caused by this medication. I would also consider better ventilation and air filter system in the rooms the cats occupy, and vacuuming the floor, carpet and upholstery every five to seven days.
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