DEAR DR. FOX: My dog wakes up early with what appears to be panic attacks. This has happened once a month for the past three months.
She walks in circles, pants hard and clings to me. She won't leave my side. Our vet ran tests and didn't find anything, but she suggested Benadryl to calm her down.
Any suggestions? We are sleeping when this occurs, but it lasts for days. She never does this at the vet's office. These problems also end all of a sudden, without warning. -- J.P., Hamptonville, North Carolina
DEAR J.P.: It is difficult for me to answer your letter and to offer possible diagnoses and treatments without knowing the age and breed of your dog. Readers, please note: When writing to me, I need such basic information about your animal companions.
Older dogs can have these kinds of panic attacks for various reasons. One often neglected one is that they are drinking more water because of kidney issues and they desperately want to go outside to urinate.
Giving your dog the antihistamine Benadryl is a shot in the dark. She may have episodes of restlessness due to discomfort because of some medical condition -- middle ear disease, cancer -- that has yet to fully surface. If your dog is old, she could have dementia, for which there are many treatments. I would try giving her melatonin before bedtime; if that does not help, ask the veterinarian for a prescription of alprazolam. Keep me posted.
DEAR DR. FOX: I have a 7-year-old female pug. Recently, my grandson visited here with his 9-month-old male bulldog.
They seemed to get along OK until the male sat on my dog while she was lying down. She was not about to tolerate that, so she nipped at him. He got off and it ended there. However, he continued to do this from time to time, with the same results.
Why would he continue to do this? Telling him "no" doesn't seem to be enough. -- S.M., Freehold, New Jersey
DEAR S.M.: I think your grandson's young bulldog's "disrespectful" behavior is more upsetting for you than for your pug. She is teaching him "manners" -- what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior.
He may be sitting on her to get attention, or he may be something of a slow learner. This can be a problem for many pure breeds, and poor bulldogs have the added burden of extremely deformed faces that can make breathing difficult. I can imagine that after a brief bout of play, he accidentally sits on your dog as he gasps to catch his breath.
I recall several years ago when I was on Oprah Winfrey's show talking about dogs, and a guest came on with her 6-month-old bulldog pup who was having such difficulty breathing, the poor dog could hardly make it up the two steps onto the platform stage to sit with us. I asked the elderly lady, who bred bulldogs for show, how she could deliberately propagate such handicapped, genetically deformed animals. Sometimes their windpipes collapse. She was taken aback by my on-camera confrontation, retorting, "Well, I love them." There is research evidence of a Munchausen-by-proxy syndrome in people who deliberately chose various breeds that require a lot of extra attention, replacing their animals when they die with others with similar afflictions.
Hyperthyroidism has been linked to pet foods that include the thyroid glands of slaughtered animals. Because pet food consumers are not informed of what portions of slaughtered animals are used in pet food, knowing the symptoms of hyperthyroidism could be important to protect your pet's health.
Read more at truthaboutpetfood.com/diet-related-hyperthyroidism/.
(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.net.)