DEAR DR. FOX: My almost-12-year-old Labrador retriever has recently exhibited signs of severe anxiety.
He's panting and pacing a lot, and recently started waking in the middle of the night to pant and pace. He's been increasingly barking at passersby and seems more anxious than usual at being left home alone -- with the run of the house -- during the day, although he's not damaging anything. While he's always been a little anxious at thunderstorms, that anxious behavior is now happening with greater frequency, more severity and absent thunderstorms.
He seems in otherwise decent shape. He has some fatty tumors, which the vet has said are not particularly problematic; he eats well, drinks well and eliminates with no problems. He has slowed down, sleeps a little more and can no longer jump into the car, although he manages stairs with no trouble.
What do you think is the problem, and is there something we can do to relieve his anxiety? -- A.F., Rockville, Maryland
DEAR A.F.: Many animals, including the human species, show signs of anxiety associated with age-related impairment of sight, hearing and cognition, and chronic debilitating conditions, such as painful arthritis. The latter can be ameliorated with various supplements, which you should discuss with your veterinarian. Add to his regular diet small portions of high-quality protein, such as egg, turkey and cottage cheese -- especially if he is losing weight or muscle mass, a condition called sarcopenia, common in the elderly. Give him a tablespoon or two of coconut oil daily, which has been shown to help improve brain function in old dogs. Above all, keep him off slippery floor surfaces and provide him with a soft bed and nonslip carpet so he does not tear ligaments and damage joints sliding all over. Also discuss with your veterinarian giving your dog a light dose of Valium in the morning and melatonin in the evening.
DEAR DR. FOX: Thank you! We are doing a few of these things anyway, particularly the anti-skid mats, although he's smart enough to bounce around on the carpet and calm down a bit on the tile. My vet has recommended carprofen twice a day. We've tried this for five days, and it's like he's a new dog. However, I have read a lot of the information on the Senior Dogs Project website about Rimadyl, and now I'm concerned that this treatment may cause more problems than it's worth. -- A.F.
DEAR A.F.: Carprofen, marketed as Rimadyl, can give short-term relief for dogs with arthritis. In my opinion, it should only be used for up to three days because of the risk of harmful side effects, notably nausea, gastrointestinal inflammation and bleeding, and liver and kidney damage. This is the problem with this class of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Excellent results have been seen in arthritic dogs given supplements such as fish oil, ginger and turmeric, and in preparations like Cosequin, which contains glucosamine, chondroitin and methylsulfonylmethane. Discuss these safer alternatives with your veterinarian.
PET FOOD TROUBLES
Thanks to Susan Thixton at Truth About Pet Food for these postings on her website:
-- A nationwide class-action lawsuit has been filed against Nestle Purina Fancy Feast pet food alleging, "the pet food manufacturer knowingly supports a system of slave labor and human trafficking (on fishing boats) to produce its Fancy Feast cat food, while hiding its involvement with human rights violations from the public." (See: truthaboutpetfood.com/pet-food-consumers-sue-fancy-feast-for-using-slave-labor-ingredients/.)
-- Orijen/Champion Pet Food confirms counterfeit Orijen cat and dog food is being sold in China. (See: truthaboutpetfood.com/counterfeit-orijen-pet-food-found-in-china/.)
(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.
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