washingtonpost.com  > Columns > Animal Doctor


Tuesday, February 15, 2005; Page C09

Dear Dr. Fox:

I have a 5-year-old male German shepherd dog. When we first got him he was fearful and skittish, and would run away from anyone who came near him. He is much improved now, and protective of my husband and me. However, he is frenzied during thunderstorms. He jumps on sofas, hides under tables and in closets, or follows me at my side as long as the stormy weather continues. I understand that as a puppy he was kept alone in a pen, outside and in all weather.

Our veterinarian prescribed acepromazine (25 mg) for storm anxiety. I don't like giving him this as it makes him so groggy. The dosage is one pill twice daily, as needed. I give him only half a pill, and it still takes him a day to recover.

Do you have any suggestions to help him feel secure and get him playing and running outside in good weather again?

R.E.B., Houston

"Thunderphobia" is a common canine affliction. My best advice is to turn up a battery-operated radio during a storm (as a sound barrier), cover your dog in a blanket close by your side, and have your veterinarian prescribe 0.5 mg of Xanax (alprazolam) that you, ideally, will give to your dog 30 minutes before a storm comes.

Get him outside on a regular basis to meet other dogs, and hopefully meet up with a buddy dog who is friendly and easygoing. It's amazing how a calm dog can help allay the fears of a shy, phobic dog, and provide security and reassurance that we humans (no matter how hard we try) cannot always give.

Dear Dr. Fox:

I have four adult cats, all of which have been neutered or spayed. They range in age from 2 to 6 years. I feed them dry Purina Cat Chow and plenty of water.

Recently, I've heard of so many cats getting diabetes from their diets. What causes diabetes in cats? Can I avoid it, and what kind of food is better for cats? My own mother had diabetes, and it's no fun.

S.K., St. Louis, Mo.

Diet does play an important role in the development of diabetes mellitus in cats (and humans).

A high-carbohydrate diet is a major culprit. Most dry cat foods are too high in starches and low in quality protein and fat. This, coupled with cats not having a strong thirst mechanism to compensate for a water-deficient, all-dry cat food diet, can set off a string of health problems from cystitis to obesity.

Encourage your felines to drink milk- or fish-flavored spring water, and eat moist canned cat food (not from flip-top cans) or home-prepared cat food. The recipe on my Web site at tedeboy.tripod.com/drmichaelwfox/id19.html can be given as a supplement with dry food, or make up a cat's entire daily ration.

Write to veterinarian Michael Fox in care of United Feature Syndicate, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016. The volume of mail received prevents personal replies.

© 2005, United Feature Syndicate Inc.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company