Dear Dr. Fox:
I have a kitten that is less than a year old. He is very affectionate and healthy. However, I believe he was weaned too early because he has become a biter.
He bites when he is playful, but he also bites when he's relaxed and being petted. He seems to bite no matter what his mood. He has many toys to chew on and play with and he sometimes acts like he's trying to nurse from larger toys, like teddy bears. I wonder if his oral fixation has anything to do with being weaned too young.
Is there anything you can suggest to resolve this issue?
F.L., no city given, Va.
You are correct -- many kittens weaned too soon become "nursers," sucking on soft toys, blankets, and peoples' ear lobes, arms, fingers and hair -- and even their own paws, flanks and tails. Cats who have been declawed often become more oral, possibly as a compensation, and tend to bite a lot during play as well as become more aggressive.
You can train her not to bite too hard while playing, just like a mother cat would. Loudly hiss, shout "No!" and tap her on the nose. Then ignore her briefly before you let her play again -- ideally from a distance, letting her chase and "kill" a stuffed toy or sock you animate by pulling a string.
The best solution is to adopt another young cat. Two cats together are generally healthier and happier than those who live alone.
Dear Dr. Fox:
My reason for writing concerns carsickness.
My dog becomes ill on even moderate vehicle rides, whether on level ground or in mountain areas. We have tried Dramamine therapies and, more recently, 25 milligrams of Chlorpromazine about 40 minutes prior to travel -- both without success. Our local veterinarian is without further suggestions as to how to overcome this problem.
We are retired, travel often and could spend more quality time with our dog it we could find a solution to the motion-sickness problem. Please advise.
A.B., Fresno, Calif.
I sympathize with you and your dog's predicament. Dramamine helps some dogs, while Xanax (given one hour before a trip) can help reduce anxiety associated with being in a car and experiencing motion sickness.
Part of this problem is reflexive, and relates to associated conditioning -- being in the car, the dog remembers being sick and is more than likely to become sick again. So you must desensitize and decondition your dog.
First, just sit with him in a stationary car, at times turning the radio as well as the engine on. Pet your dog and offer treats. Do this for two to three weeks. Then, for another couple of weeks, just drive slowly around the block with your dog -- making no sudden stops or acceleration. (Dogs do pick up on drivers' tension.) Next, go for longer rides. If your dog "regresses" and gets panicky or carsick again, go back to step one and have your dog pre-medicated with the two drugs I mentioned above every other day for one to two weeks.
With patience and persistence, many dogs have overcome their motion sickness. Some actually just grow out of it, which is natural desensitization and habituation.
Dear Dr. Fox:
We have a 16-year-old male Lhasa apso. He still has many good days left, and we'd like to keep him going as long as possible. We're hoping to get your thoughts on the following:
He began coughing (almost gagging) a few months ago. The coughing sounds deep and sometimes he coughs nine or 10 times in a row (the last cough is a wet cough). We visited a few specialists who were unable to diagnose the condition (partially my fault, since we do not want to put him through a tracheal wash procedure at his age). We've tried Theodur (100 milligrams a day), but discontinued it since it didn't appear to help after a few weeks. We've also tried prednisone for a week or two. He is currently on Hycodan (25 milligrams a day). The coughing can be bad, but the unusual thing about it is that it generally only occurs during the night when he is sleeping (there may be an episode or two during the day, but it's constant at night).
We were hoping this pattern might indicate something to you.
D.R., Washington Township, Mich.
Have the veterinarians ruled out congestive heart failure? This is the most common cause of fluid buildup in the lungs and chronic coughing.
Chronic bronchitis is compounded by constriction of the trachea or windpipe in smaller breeds and blunt-faced (brachycephalic) dogs and can be difficult to clear up, but periodic treatments with antibiotics and expectorants can help. Do not use over-the-counter human medicines since these can be harmful to both dogs and cats. Presumably, you don't smoke -- second-hand smoke can harm animals.
An air purifier and a humidifier in the winter will help ease your dog's condition. And a vaporizer dispersing essential oils (like eucalyptus, sandalwood, oregano and frankincense) may also provide considerable relief in his sleeping area.
(c) 2005, United Feature Syndicate Inc.