DEAR DR. FOX: I have a 3-year-old boxer name Mattie. She is smart and beautiful.
Eight months ago, we were both in a hit-and-run accident, and ever since then, I can’t get her into the car. I hate leaving her home alone in nice weather, and she always loved riding in the car before the accident, but now she won’t even walk by it.
Can you help me get my dog back to normal? -- G.B., Poughkeepsie, New York
DEAR G.B.: Poor Mattie! I hope neither of you sustained physical injuries. The car phobia is understandable.
Try coaxing her into a different car or easy-access van. Have the interior sprayed with diluted lavender oil, and put a couple of drops of this essential oil on a bandana around her neck. Lavender is calming and has been shown to help dogs who don’t like being in a car.
If this fails, get a prescription of alpralozam (Xanax) from your veterinarian, and give Mattie about 0.5 grams 30 minutes before coaxing her into a vehicle, offering her favorite treats and lots of verbal reassurance every step of the way.
Alternatively, have someone help get her in the vehicle after she has been medicated, and sit quietly with her, repeating the "total immersion" every other day until she shows improvement. Then give her half the dose of Xanax, and taper off completely.
DEAR DR. FOX: When we first got our tiny poodle, Cinnamon, 18 years ago, her weight was 7.2 pounds, which was overweight for her frame. After suffering from pancreatitis about five years ago and being on a basically fat-free diet, she got down to 4.6 pounds. She was slowly starving to death, and I finally made the decision to euthanize her.
My daughter has a friend who is a vet, and her day off was last Friday, so she came over to euthanize my dog. I wanted to be sure it would be a peaceful death, but, unfortunately, it wasn’t. As the medicine went in, Cinnamon started yipping and arching her back and trying to get out of my daughter’s arms for too many seconds before she collapsed.
I can’t get that scene out of my mind, and I am absolutely devastated and heartbroken -- my dog was so sweet and precious and didn’t deserve to die like that.
What went wrong? Our other two dogs just peacefully closed their eyes and stopped breathing. How common is this reaction? I have a friend who went through the same situation with his cat, and he, too, cannot get that image out of his mind. -- J.K., St. Louis
DEAR J.K.: My sympathies to you and to the veterinarian who came to euthanize your dog.
Old dogs with poor circulation often have adverse reactions to the euthanasia solution that normally reaches the brain swiftly and smoothly, bringing unconsciousness in seconds. But poor circulation can delay this process, so the animal is semi-conscious and may struggle and cry out. It is advisable to give an injection of a strong sedative into the muscle tissue 10 to 20 minute before giving the intravenous euthanasia solution that is essentially an overdose of barbiturate anesthetic.
Heavily sedated animals are less aware of the euthanasia drug’s effects, which, when delayed by poor circulation to the brain, can make animals fearful because they become disoriented and have increasing difficulty moving and breathing.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 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.)