Animal Doctor

Animal Doctor

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Dear Dr. Fox:

Our family adopted a 2-month-old mixed-breed dog, Sandy, more than 11 years ago. I moved my father into my house several months ago because of illness. He is bedridden and on oxygen therapy 24 hours a day. A few months ago, our dog woke me up during the night when my father was calling for me. She went upstairs (my father sleeps downstairs) and was pawing at me while I slept. He needed my assistance. Since then (although it is tiring), she wakes me up if he is calling me, if he becomes confused, if his blankets fall off, etc.

The unusual thing is that she greets everyone in our home but isn't close to my father. She keeps her distance from him. I think she is fearful or concerned about him. Do you know of similar cases of dogs' reactions to a sick person in the house? My father's hospice physician says we are truly lucky to have a dog so attuned to the family. He said he has heard of stories such as ours, but only from cat owners.

D.L.

Chantilly

Thanks for the account of your "nurse dog." Some dogs are highly empathic, to the point of taking on the role of protector. Like your dog, they let others know when help is needed. Several dogs have made the news helping owners who needed emergency care. Dogs serve as aides for people suffering from various chronic maladies, and can sense when medication or other measures are needed. Some dogs become fearful when a family member becomes physically handicapped or develops dementia. They seem to recognize that something is wrong.

Dear Dr. Fox:

My female cat has suffered with feline acne for several months. The vet gave us Z97 Derm (neutralized zinc) to apply twice a day. When it didn't clear up, he gave her an antibiotic shot, which didn't help. Another vet suggested the acne might get better when the weather got cooler.


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