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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Dear Dr. Fox:

We have a 9-year-old Shih Tzu that gets really ugly come sundown. If he is awakened from a sound sleep (at any time), he will bite hard on whatever he can find, including hands and arms. He growls and snarls until he can be calmed down. We have had him since he was 6 weeks old. He is also very afraid of loud noises, and he does not enjoy being around children. Otherwise, he is very friendly and runs to meet visitors on their arrival. He lies on my lap when we are watching television or reading the newspaper. Sometimes, at night, if I pick him up, hold him and pet him for a while before putting him on the bed, he seems okay.

Do you have any idea why this is happening?

C.M.

Granbury, Tex.

Your dog has developed a conditioned emotional reaction that is timed with altered brain function associated with the post-sleep arousal mechanism. In other words, his brain chemistry is off-kilter, possibly associated with low serotonin levels.

You need to discuss this with a veterinarian who could prescribe and monitor various supplements and herbs, notably melatonin, L-tryptophan and valerian. In the interim, you may want to try putting a drop or two of lavender (L. angustifolia) on a bandana around his neck before he naps. This essential oil can have a dramatic calming effect on dogs.

Dear Dr. Fox:


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