DEAR DR. FOX: Three years ago, I adopted my beagle, Ben, from a research lab. He had been there for four years, doing something with dental research -- he has six missing teeth.
He is a very sweet, gentle boy but has very high anxiety levels. It took him about nine months to settle in and begin feeling comfortable and at home. He had never been outside and appeared to be on sensory overload when I would try to housebreak him. He is about 7 years old now, and is settling in quite well as he is finally starting to play with toys, chew on chew sticks and act like a pet.
He is very sensitive to noise, which causes him a lot of anxiety. If I set down a coffee cup, he will run upstairs from the noise. He hates the kitchen noises of cooking, and paces and continually runs upstairs and down again hundreds of times while I am preparing a meal. We love him dearly, but his pacing and running is nerve-wracking. My 89-year-old mother (who has cancer) is afraid he is going to make her fall as he races past us when he gets so nervous. I am 64 and have had two knees and one hip replaced; I am also afraid he may cause a fall for me.
When we first got him, we tried Prozac, Xanax and Clomicalm. He wasn't on any of it for too long, as it seemed to make him more nervous and it took away his appetite, causing him to lose 3 pounds. I didn't like the thought of drugging him anyway, but felt so bad for him since he was so nervous. We find that when I cook or do things that I know will make him anxious, crating him is the best thing since he snuggles right in and goes to sleep or at least is more relaxed.
Do you have any suggestions that may help calm his nerves? I tried a behavioral therapist early on and have followed her suggestions, like letting him approach the things that make him nervous and smell them; not paying any attention to him when I drop something; or using a fun, high-pitched voice and saying, "It's OK, Ben," but nothing seems to work. I would have thought that after three years of living with us, he would get used to the household noises and be more relaxed, but there are times when I think he is actually worse. -- C.K., Livonia, Michigan
DEAR C.K.: Good for you for taking in this dog who was experimented upon and kept in a wholly unnatural, deprived laboratory, probably not even taken for daily walks or given any time outdoors with other dogs. While minimal standards of humane care are now applied to cats and dogs in such facilities, rabbits, chickens, guinea pigs, mice and other small rodent species still have no protection under the federal Animal Welfare Act. They are not regarded as animals under the law!
Your dog has what I would call complex post-traumatic stress disorder, coupled with confinement syndrome, which I first saw as a consultant and sought ways to correct decades ago when I was called in to look at a colony of caged beagles in a long-term government radiation exposure study. It is insane what we do to animals and rationalize as necessary, as I documented in my book "Inhumane Society: The American Way of Exploiting Animals."
You have tried all the anxiolytic psychotropic medications I would recommend. You should explore dietary supplements, giving one-third the recommended daily dose twice daily of 5-HTP to try to elevate the dog's brain serotonin, along with plenty of lightly cooked ground turkey or a tryptophan supplement. Also, a small amount of melatonin may help. It has often helped dogs with thunderphobia.
The amino acid L-theanine (from green tea) can also be calming. So put some green tea in his drinking water or try PetzLife's product @-Eaze. A few drops of essential oil of lavender on a bandana around his neck may prove very calming, along with some background music to buffer sudden noises.
He has found his crate a safe place, so keep it open so he can go into it whenever he needs to. Put chew toys and treats inside, especially before you expect to be making sudden noises, as in the kitchen. Being able to go in and out of his crate when he wishes will help calm him as he develops a sense of control over his environment.
ANOTHER DOG TREAT RECALL
Jump Your Bones, Inc. of Boca Raton, Florida, is voluntarily recalling its Roo Bites (Cubes) dog treats made from dehydrated kangaroo meat because it has the potential to be contaminated with salmonella.
Consumers can return the product to place of purchase for a full refund. For further information about the recall, call 888-249-6755.
The mass slaughter of kangaroos for their meat and skins in Australia is a national disgrace.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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