Some readers were unhappy with my response to an 89-year-old reader who is unable to take her 8-month-old poodle out and "can't get her to use papers" indoors. She got the dog soon after her husband died, and wrote, "I already love her so much."
I would like to remind all readers that "love" is not enough, and that it can be purely selfish when an animal is simply kept as a source of emotional gratification without prior consideration of the animal's basic needs, quality of life and future. Too few people make provision for their young animal companions who are likely to outlive them. I wish that the elderly would avail themselves of their local animal shelter adoption and home-placement services, so that their ability to care for an animal can be assessed and they can be matched with a compatible, easy-to-care-for dog or cat.
As I advised this reader, an older, house-trained cat can be ideal for a housebound elderly person, as can an old dog -- provided there is a neighbor or relative willing and able to walk the dog at lest three times a day, or a professional walker can be hired.
Dear Dr. Fox:
I adopted a 3-year-old male mixed-breed dog from a shelter nine months ago. The animal has behavioral problems, i.e., separation anxiety and fear of other dogs, although we have a female rat terrier at home, too.
We cannot walk this animal if there are other dogs outside, even with a gentle leash on -- he foams at the mouth, moans and tries to bite the leash to get out of it. I've called the shelter and a trainer the shelter suggested for help. The trainer thinks the dog should either be sent to the University of Pennsylvania or put on drugs.
Can you suggest any homeopathic medication that can be used to help him calm down? We can't even keep the blinds open in the house, because if he sees another animal he claws at the windows, moaning and shaking. Please help!
M.S., Brick, N.J.
I have found that alpralozam (Xanax) works well for a variety of anxiety-related disorders in dogs. The dosage is 0.5 milligrams per 10 pounds of body weight twice daily for 5 to 7 days.
Research in Europe has shown that dogs suffering from separation anxiety benefit from having the synthetic formulation Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) spread in their home environment by an electric diffuser. DAP is derived from the skin glands around the mammary area of female dogs who are nursing. Check with your veterinarian for the above possible remedies.
Dear Dr. Fox:
My niece's dog had been suffering for years with severe itching on her belly or inner legs. It got so bad that the dog had to have injections as well as all kinds of pills. Nothing helped.
Then my niece decided to redecorate her living room, pulled up the carpet and installed beautiful hardwood floors. Almost instantly, the dog's problems went away! Obviously, she was allergic to the carpet. Too bad the vet had no knowledge of this. Thousands of dollars and years of suffering could have been avoided. Maybe you can pass this info on.
A.S., Westchester, N.Y.
Thank you for the reminder to all dog (and cat) caregivers whose animal companions have chronic, unresolved skin problems. One test -- after conducting diet-ingredient deletion and substitution trials to rule out a food allergy -- is to either remove carpets or put down cotton sheets over the carpets (and upholstered furniture that the animals lie on). Also, remove any synthetic or wool blankets that the animal uses.
Of course, there are many other allergens (mold, pollen, dust mites, fleas, etc.) and factors in animals' environments that weaken their immune systems that a holistic approach to treating chronic skin allergies will address. Seasonal allergies are often alleviated by giving dogs locally produced honey and bee pollen -- about 1/2 teaspoonful of honey and a pinch of pollen per 30 pounds of body weight daily in the dog's food.
(c) 2005, United Feature Syndicate Inc.