DEAR DR. FOX: I have a 13-year-old deaf female beagle who barks at me constantly.
The vet says she is OK physically, and no calming meds were recommended. The barking can begin as early as 2 a.m. and continues until I feed her. This can go on for one or two hours, as I have tried ignoring her. Feeding seems to help, but she is getting fat even though I give her a small amount each time. In the evening it’s like an alarm goes off about 9 p.m. when she begins again.
I have tried frequent small feedings, petting her, trying to calm her, but nothing works. I’ve even tried calming treats. She will whine and bark even when I am petting her. I guess it is “dog-heimers,” but this is taking its toll on me. -- J.K., Royal Palm Beach, Florida
DEAR J.K.: You are correct in suggesting that your dog probably has “dog-heimers,” i.e., senile dementia.
It is regrettable that your attending veterinarian did not consider that there was a behavioral issue to be addressed. This is a serious professional lapse in service and responsibility, and an issue raised in a recent edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association: Veterinarians in companion animal practice are not adequately covering the behavioral and psychological aspects of animal wellness.
Worldwide, there are currently only 79 board-certified veterinary behaviorists, called Diplomates, of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB). As a result, not all states or provinces will have a Diplomate nearby. I was one of a handful in the 1970s who got the ball rolling in this field, and by now, I would have thought there would be many more. The ball is too often passed to uncertified animal behavior therapists and trainers, many working out of local animal shelters and humane societies.
Because of this serious dearth of veterinarians providing behavioral counseling, prevention, therapeutic intervention and client education, dogs and cats of all ages -- many with no physical problems -- are being surrendered to shelters and usually euthanized. One solution would be for large municipalities to have an ACVB Diplomate work with their animal care and rehabilitation teams and serve as a referral specialist for private practices.
In your dog’s case, stop the overfeeding and stick to a regular schedule of three small meals a day. Add these anti-inflammatory and antioxidant supplements, as follows: a half teaspoon of fish oil and turmeric in one meal; a tablespoon of coconut oil and two tablespoons of mushed blueberries in the second meal; and a tablespoon of unsweetened pineapple and a half teaspoon of ground ginger in the third meal.
Take your dog out often to urinate. Old dogs with failing kidneys need to go out more often to urinate, and some will bark a lot to let you know. Often, they are also in pain from arthritis. The turmeric will help that, as will the ginger, which will also help digestion (along with the pineapple). My massage book, “The Healing Touch for Dogs,” especially helps older dogs with arthritis and other physical and emotional problems.
The coconut oil, which you can increase if the dog’s stools are not too loose, may help with the dementia, along with 6 mg of melatonin at bedtime. A few drops of essential oil of lavender on a bandanna around your dog’s neck during the day may provide some calming effect. And all old dogs need a soft bed!
If these measures do not help, your veterinarian may wish to consider prescribing valerian or alprazolam early in the evening, and later in the morning if the dog is anxious and barking excessively for attention during the day.
DEAR DR. FOX: We have two aunts who reside in Missouri. They are true lovers of nature at its finest and all animals that grace this beautiful world, and I know that the situation they are currently dealing with is breaking their hearts. Their sweet adult cat is struggling on a daily basis with some type of skin disorder.
They first noticed the issue back in July 2015. They immediately took “mommy cat” to the vet, and after shaving all of the hair off her back hip/side, they saw what appeared to be many open ulcers that would ooze pus and blood.
Well, for the past three years, our aunts have continued to nurse “mommy cat” to the best of their ability. There are times when it appears to begin to heal, but then another ulcer opens up and the process begins again.
As you can see from the pictures, the poor cat doesn’t appear to be getting better, and we are hoping you can make a suggestion on what this skin disorder is and how it can be treated. -- D.S. and E.S., Doylestown, Pennsylvania
DEAR D.S. and E.S.: The photographs that you sent are helpful. My initial impression is possible cat-bite wounds -- one reason to always keep cats indoors.
First, the fur all around the edge of any non-healing wound must be shaved or clipped close, since it will interfere with the healing process and carry bacterial infection. Then the lesion should be thoroughly cleaned with normal saline, dried off with a sterile gauze pad, and smeared with honey at the beginning of the day. More than one veterinarian has hailed the healing benefits of honey, especially manuka honey from New Zealand.
At the end of the day, the lesions should be cleaned with saline again and then anointed with aloe vera gel (available in most drug stores). This botanical product also has remarkable healing properties. The next morning, repeat the saline cleanse and honey application.
Have your relatives discuss these options with the cat’s veterinarian. While the honey and aloe will not harm the cat if ingested, if the cat is able to reach and lick the lesions, that could interfere with the healing process. In that case, the cat may have to wear a “lampshade” collar around the neck for a while, which can be removed to allow for eating and drinking.
A fish oil supplement, or two canned sardines a day, may also boost healing processes and skin health.
UPDATE FROM DR. FOX: Two weeks after I emailed this treatment to D.S. and E.S., I received an updated photo of the cat. I am very pleased with the healing progress the picture showed.
(Send all mail to email@example.com 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.)