DEAR DR. FOX: We have a mixed-breed pound dog who we adopted a couple of years ago. She might be a Sheltie, and she weighs about 30 pounds. She's a good girl, and we truly love her. The weird thing is, 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 won't sit still; we have to hold her the entire time the car is moving. We have tried to get her accustomed to the car, but this seems to be a deep-seated neurosis. We tried putting her in a kennel in the car, but that doesn't help; in fact, it seems worse than just holding her.
Is there anything we can give her (like Valium, for example) to calm her down? -- H.L., Houston
DEAR H.L.: A recent study published by an animal behaviorist in the U.K. showed significant benefit from spraying the inside of the car with a mist of water shaken with a few drops of lavender oil just 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 essentially entails sitting in the car with the dog for increasing periods of time with engine off, then with the engine running, then going on longer and longer drives. Give your dog treats sporadically to associate being in the car with a food reward.
She may travel better and prefer the security of a dog crate, or you can secure her in a harness tethered to a backseat. This 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 as a "calmative." Some dogs readily eat crystallized ginger, which also calms the stomach.
DEAR DR. FOX: I enjoy reading your column, even though I have no pets at the current time. Been there, done that.
My daughter and family have a border collie that they adopted from a pet rescue. He is very sweet, smart and lovable. They think he is about 5 years old now.
When I was visiting recently, I noticed that he seemed to be snapping at something in the air, as though he were seeing flies. None of the rest of us saw flies, though, so his behavior seems a little strange.
I'm wondering if he has "floaters" in his eyes, causing him to see spots. My daughter thinks he is seeing small bugs that we don't see. -- M.E., St. Paul, Minnesota
Dear M.E.: This kind of behavior is not usually associated with any eye abnormality, but that would be worth evaluating, especially considering the breed of dog your daughter has.
This is most likely an obsessive-compulsive behavior. It may be associated with prior trauma or stress. It was reported in some dogs during World War 11 in the U.K., and was attributed to bombing and sirens around where they lived. A flood in Pavlov's laboratory in Russia, which apparently terrified the caged dogs, resulted in some engaging in this behavior after the water subsided.
Your veterinarian may prescribe a mild tranquilizer. Regular exercise and interactive play outdoors is essential for this working breed. A bandana around the dog's neck with a few drops of lavender oil may help calm the dog. Also try the herbal product @-Eaze from PetzLife. Try giving him a small amount of over-the-counter melatonin before bedtime.
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