Animal Doctor: Dogs help war veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder

Hadley Hooper for the Washington Post

Hadley Hooper for the Washington Post

Dear Dr. Fox:

This question might not be appropriate for your column, but you have been so helpful advising about how to cope with the loss of a family pet, I thought I’d ask.

I wanted my husband, a Korean War veteran, buried at Arlington National Cemetery with the ashes of his beloved German shepherd, Samantha. Two of her littermates served in combat.

Samantha did not serve in a war but she served afterward by helping my husband — better than anyone or anything else — deal with his post-traumatic stress disorder. She helped him through his depression, anxiety and panic attacks, and helped him get exercise and a good night’s sleep.

Although she was not a serving military dog, it distresses me that the military authorities won’t even allow me to scatter Samantha’s ashes over my husband’s grave. What should I do?

Alexandria

DF: I greatly sympathize with your concerns over the insensitive rules of military officials that make no sense, unless one thinks that dogs and other beloved animals have no significant place in our lives or our deaths.

The ritual of co-burial goes back in different civilizations for thousands of years. It is an indicator of deep respect and affection for the remains and memories of particular animals whose lives the deceased had shared.

Although the U.S. military has used all kinds of species in various wars and military insurgencies for centuries, it is telling that there is no national monument for such service animals in our nation’s capital. There is such a memorial in the heart of London, close to a major war memorial to fallen soldiers.

The U.S. military has a dubious record when it comes to facilitating the transport home of local dogs from war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan. These animals are often adopted as camp mascots and serve as camp guards. Most important, they give emotional support to troops.

It would take an act of Congress to get these burial rules changed.

As for today’s soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, many become heroin addicts or suicidal after being prescribed analgesic drugs such as hydrocodone and hydromorphone, rather than having a good dog serve as their co-therapist.

‘CHERRY EYE’

Dear Dr. Fox:

My 4-year-old Havanese has “cherry eye.” It seems relatively small, compared with some of the images I have seen on the computer. She’s had it on and off over the past year, but the gland always moved back into place. This time, it has not.

I took her to the vet. He and his partner have opposing opinions on the treatment. One vet is in favor of removing the gland; he says he has removed many with no complications of dry eye. I understand that this complication requires artificial tears daily for the rest of the dog’s life.

The other vet in the practice is in favor of sending my dog to a specialist to have the gland moved back into place and stitched so it stays where it should. Again, complications could arise.

The third option is to leave it alone and do nothing. Right now, it does not seem to bother her, because I don’t see her trying to rub it.

I hate to put her through unnecessary surgery that could produce complications, but I also don’t know whether doing nothing could lead to complications.

L.S., Brielle, N.J.

DF: Certain breeds, such as the cocker spaniel, basset hound, English bulldog, poodle and Lhasa apso, are prone to this condition, which is a prolapse of the gland of the third eyelid. It sticks out like a small, pink cherry.

I would not have the gland removed surgically. The resultant chronic dry eye condition could lead to corneal ulceration and blindness.

Surgical restoration of the normal gland position is called for, after a week of topical treatment with ophthalmic antibiotic and steroid ointment to help decrease inflammation and improve surgical success. The gland in the other eye might be prone to prolapse in the future, so it should be secured to prevent this at the same time.

CAT HAS DIABETES

Dear Dr. Fox:

I have a diabetic 12-year-old male cat. Must I continue to buy costly prescription food, or are there cheaper, over-the-counter foods I can feed him?

Also, I want to change his insulin from ProZinc to Lantus. Can I use the same needle size, and how do I go about changing the medications?

I have not been happy with either vet who has seen my cat, and he is so traumatized by going to the veterinarian. I don’t believe it is good for his condition.

S.B.

DF: I am so sorry to hear about your poor cat, whose condition was most likely caused by high cereal content in manufactured cat foods that are sold even in veterinary hospitals across the country.

Go to www.feline-nutrition.
org
for information about changing your cat’s diet to a healthier one that might cure the diabetes, if it is not too advanced.

A few drops of fish oil and a pinch of ground cinnamon in his food might help. Increase the cinnamon, which has been shown to reduce the insulin dose requirements of people with diabetes, to about a half teaspoon daily, if he accepts it.

Discuss changes in the insulin-regulating drug with your veterinarian. But do seek out a home-prepared, cheaper, palatable diet for your cat — basically meat, including body organs, ideally lightly cooked or raw, and a few chopped vegetables and herbs.

Michael W. Fox, author of a newsletter and books on animal care, welfare and rights, is a veterinarian with doctoral degrees in medicine and animal behavior. Write to him at United Feature Syndicate, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, Mo. 64106.

2013 United Feature Syndicate

 
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