Chicken liver can be too much of a good thing

Dear Dr. Fox:

How good are chicken livers for my toy poodles? How much is too much? What brand dog foods do you recommend?

C.B.B., Bethesda

DF: A daily teaspoonful of lightly cooked chicken liver (unseasoned) after your dogs have eaten their regular meals would be a safe and nutritious treat. Because of the high fat in most chicken livers and the chemical residues in livers from spent laying hens, a little calf liver might be a preferable treat.

There are several freeze-dried, organic-meat, liver and wild-salmon treats available, such as Stella & Chewy’s, that your dogs will enjoy.

The varieties of good-quality foods for dogs and cats are increasing in many grocery stores. But you might find a better selection at a health-food store or Whole Foods, including PetGuard, Evo, Organix, Evanger’s and Wellness.

HELPING TO MOURN

Dear Dr. Fox:

We have had two indoor brother and sister cats for more than 16 years. Recently, the male had to be put down. The female has been grieving ever since then. She howls at all hours. How can we deal with this?

A.S., Kitty Hawk, N.C.

DF: Helping animals that are grieving the loss of a companion can be challenging, especially when they are constantly searching and calling out.

Some animals can be helped to overcome the sense of loss by allowing them to see the body of the deceased. Dogs and cats seem to have some concept of death. Not seeing the body might lead to searching behavior, as though the dead animal was lost or hiding somewhere in the house.

Your veterinarian can prescribe medication to help alleviate your cat’s anxiety. Catnip herb as a tea, or mixing dry herb in her food, might help because it has some calming Valium-like properties. Possibly for genetic reasons, some cats have no reaction to catnip.

Give your cat treats, lots of petting and grooming, and try enticing her to play or do anything to help re-motivate her and get her out of her sense of loss and mournful depression.

Some readers have adopted an older cat as a replacement for one that died. But there is no guarantee that this will help your cat.

CHANGED DOG

Dear Dr. Fox:

I have a Grand Champion Shetland sheepdog. I recently went on a trip and left him with a friend.

She was walking my dog when another dog came over without a leash. She asked the owner of the other dog to put it on leash, but he didn’t. My dog got overly fearful and squirmed his way out of the collar and ran away. He was gone for about two weeks. We finally trapped him almost 10 miles from where he started, in another township.

When I got him back, he was covered with ticks. I took him to the vet, and they shaved him. In this condition, you could see on his skin that he had bruises. This happened in July 2009.

Ever since, he has been a changed dog. I’ve taken him to classes, but he’s afraid of people coming up to pet him. He makes it look as if I’ve hit him. When I take him to shows, I can barely get him to stand still. He used to be just fine at shows and would let anyone show him.

What can I do to get him back to his more trusting self?

C.A.S., Norfolk

DF: Your poor dog is suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). As with humans suffering this affliction, treatment includes the judicious use of anti-anxiety drugs, such as Valium and Xanax, and total immersion/intense exposure to the fear-invoking stimuli or gradual repeated exposure of increasing duration and intensity.

Verbal praise and treats for staying calm help dogs dissociate from conditioned fear to positive expectation when, for instance, they are trained to sit and stay still while people walk by or while they are watching children playing. Keeping your dog in a harness while on the leash might provide more comfort and better security than a collar. A few drops of lavender oil on a bandanna around his neck might calm him, and the dog-appeasement pheromone might be worth a try.

Remember, he is sensitive to your reactions. Ignore his cowering, and don’t tense up or try to force him to be friendly, which should come with time and patience.

ROAMING CAT

Dear Dr. Fox:

I have a 2-year-old longhair tabby (mix of Persian and Himalayan). He would always sleep with me at night. I would never let him go outside unless I was with him. But we recently moved, and I am now letting him go outside whenever he wants. Since then, he doesn’t sleep with me anymore.

When he’s hungry, he’ll knead and knock on my bedroom door, but he won’t go any further. How can I get him to sleep with me again?

J.C., St. Charles, Mo.

DF: Regrettably, you have given your cat a second taste of life outdoors, and he likes being outdoors at night.

Try treating your cat as you would a dog, having him always under your supervision. Walk him with a harness and a leash, allowing him to explore for about 30 minutes every evening. Play with him indoors, and give him a light meal before you turn in. Then keep him in your bedroom with the door closed, and set out his snacks and the litter box at the foot of your bed. He might yowl and pace for a few nights, but a little catnip might calm him down.

It is unnatural for cats to go off and roam; they are a domesticated species and do not ecologically belong in such places.

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, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.

2010 United Feature Syndicate

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