DEAR DR. FOX: We have a mixed-breed pound dog who we adopted a couple of years ago. She's about 30 pounds and possibly a Sheltie. She's a good girl, and we truly love her. The weird thing is that she's an awful car traveler. She's fine at all other times, but I've never seen a dog behave like this.
She will eagerly jump into the car, but once it starts, it's a different story -- she cries constantly and hyperventilates. She will not sit still; we have to hold her the entire time. We have tried to get her accustomed to the car, but this seems to be a deep-seeded neurosis. We have tried kenneling her in the car and that doesn't help -- it seems worse than just holding her.
Is there anything we can give her to calm her down? -- H.L., Houston
DEAR H.L.: A study was recently published by an animal behaviorist in the U.K. that showed significant benefit from spraying the inside of the car with a mist of water mixed with a few drops of lavender oil prior to the ride. An occasional spritz on the dog may also help during a long journey.
Trying to desensitize your dog may be worth a try. This entails sitting in the car with the dog for increasing periods of time with the engine off, then the engine running, then going on longer and longer drives. The dog is given treats sporadically to associate being in the car with food rewards.
She may travel better and prefer the security of a dog crate or in a harness and tethered to a back seat. This is much safer anyway, and should be the law in every state.
Treatment with Valium (or its parent herb, valerian) 30 minutes before a ride may help. After a few treatments, many dogs settle down and can be weaned off the medication. For dogs who develop nausea and vomit, a small piece of ginger root in a ball of cream cheese can work wonders.
DEAR DR. FOX: I have a cat similar to one I read about in your column. She always had poop stuck on her butt, and it would rub off on the furniture. Her fur was greasy, smelly and matted. I had a groomer bathe and shave her once, and the grease in her fur clogged the groomer's shaver.
That was when she weighed 18 pounds. She couldn't reach to do much grooming other than her front paws and a bit of her sides. She's since lost weight, and from the time she hit about 14 pounds, she started grooming herself again, and now is a very clean, not-smelly cat. -- J.A.W., Wilbraham, Massachusetts
DEAR J.A.W.: I am glad you wrote about what may seem amusing but is in fact a serous cat welfare issue. It is a potentially criminal offense under the U.K.'s Animal Welfare Act to allow a cat or dog to become obese -- and for good reason. Animals' lives can become utterly miserable, not only from being too fat to groom and clean themselves, but they also become depressed, arthritic, develop diabetes, weakened hearts and other serious health problems. The fatter they become -- most often because of being fed the wrong foods and being given too many high-calorie treats -- the more their quality of life deteriorates. For details, check with the Feline Nutrition Education Society at feline-nutrition.org.
PETSMART DOG CHEW TOY RECALL
From the PetSmart website:
"Himalayan Corporation has issued a voluntary recall of specific Ruff Roots All-Natural Dog Chew Toys due to potential metal contamination. While this recall affects all lots of the Ruff Roots Dog Chew Toys sold by PetSmart, no other Himalayan Corporation products are impacted by this issue. If you are concerned about your pet's health, please contact a veterinarian immediately.
"Please stop using any affected product immediately and bring it to your closest PetSmart store for a full refund. If you have any questions about this voluntary recall, please call the Himalayan Corporation at 425-322-4295 or email firstname.lastname@example.org."
(Send all mail to email@example.com 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.)