DEAR DR. FOX: I am a regular reader of your column and a couple of dog magazines, and I've noticed that over the past few years, more veterinarians are prescribing drugs to treat anxiety and other behavioral problems in dogs.
With my own dogs, I always asked for a dog trainer or behaviorist when I had issues, and never needed to resort to these mind-altering drugs, which can have some side effects. When my sister's dog was put on medication for separation anxiety, she turned into a zombie.
What is your opinion? -- J.V., Alexandria, Virginia
DEAR J.V.: First, let me say that some psychopharmaceuticals can help dogs and other animals when used with caution when the cause of the problem cannot be eliminated from the animal's environment or identified, and when behavior-modification attempts have failed. Behavior modification is often applied in conjunction with prescribed medications. Their effectiveness is due in part to the fact that animals' emotions are neurochemically analogous to our own -- yes, the inner emotional life of other animals is more similar to our own than different!
I have questioned the overreliance on psychopharmaceuticals to help animals adapt to situations where they do not belong, like a dog being left at home in a crate all day, in my recent book "Healing Animals & the Vision of One Health." This trend of applying mind-altering drugs to help animals cope in stimulation-lacking and socially deprived domestic environments is an ethical concern that all responsible parties need to address. It parallels the stunning findings in a recent national survey by Dr. Steven Cuffe and associates from the University of Florida College of Medicine in Jacksonville department of psychiatry: Nearly half of preschoolers are on medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, often not coupled with behavioral therapy.
NEW CANINE INFLUENZA CONCERNS
First seen in the Chicago area, a new strain of Asiatic canine influenza (H3N2) has been identified and may soon spread across the United States. The available vaccine against the H3N8 strain may not provide protection. This new strain causes sneezing, fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, pneumonia and in some instances, death. Cats may also be infected. Consult with your veterinarian about the situation where you live, and you may be well advised to avoid going to the dog park, doggy daycare or groomer's until the epidemic subsides. Special quarantine measures and sanitation/basic hygiene are called for in shelters. The virus is transmissible on clothing, hands and equipment as well as from infected dogs to others. As yet, this viral strain has not infected humans.
NYLABONE DOG CHEWS RECALL
Nylabone Products of Neptune, New Jersey, is recalling one lot of its Puppy Starter Kit dog chews because they have the potential to be contaminated with salmonella. The recalled Puppy Starter Kit consists of one lot of dog chews that were distributed nationwide, to Canada and through one domestic online mail order facility.
Consumers who have purchased the affected product should discontinue use of the chews and may return the unused portion to the place of purchase for a full refund. Those with questions may contact the company at 877-273-7527.
(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.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.com.)