Dear Dr. Fox:
I have a Rottweiler who chases shadows obsessively. She is a 1-year-old rescue dog and is in a house with many other dogs. She is very loving, but is becoming increasingly more impatient with the other dogs and loses sleep because of this.
We don't want to put her to sleep, as she is so young and very willing when you can get her attention. We have to drag her outside many times, though the other dogs are all excited and running for the door. The dogs are getting more intense in their behavior and even harm themselves.
Please help. We rescue many dogs and keep them in the house with us until we adopt them out.
S.J., Ventura, Calif.
Rottweilers and Doberman pinschers are particularly prone to developing the obsessive-compulsive behavior that you are experiencing with your dog, regardless of stimulation and the companionship of other dogs.
This shadow-chasing obsession, which borders on a hallucinogenic/epileptogenic syndrome, calls for a holistic approach. This should include a natural, whole-foods diet -- ideally one that's organic and home-prepared. Avoid the use of flea- and tick-preventing drops, sprays and dips, as well as all unwarranted "booster" vaccinations. Have serum/blood titers taken to determine the dog's immune status and, for good measure, have a full thyroid function performed.
Consult with your veterinarian and put your dog on a trial with an anxiety-relieving psychotropic medication like Valium, Xanax or Prozac; adjust the dosage so that it does not overmedicate the dog, but takes the edge off of her quasi-psychotic state. This way, she can be effectively given behavior modification treatment that consists of basic obedience training to develop self-control and enjoyment of games and physical activity outdoors.
Dear Dr. Fox:
I am the owner of an 8-month-old male kitten who loves to bite. He will be very loving then, all of a sudden, he will attack. I don't do anything to provoke these attacks. I often think he does this for attention, even though it is negative attention that he gets. He is a very smart cat -- he knows what "no" and "no bite" mean, so I don't understand why this behavior continues.
I've tried to ignore him when he does this. I've also tried squirting him with a water bottle and making loud, startling noises. None of these methods have done any good. I am at my wits' end, and need to know if this behavior can be changed.
Please help. I love my cat (he is sweet most of the time) and I don't want to have to get rid of him, but I'm afraid I may have to if this doesn't stop.
L.H., Las Vegas
You didn't mention ever playing with your cat, or how and when he plays. You may be mistaking his "attack" behavior as aggression when all he wants is to engage in rough-and-tumble play with you. Cats learn to be gentle through this kind of play-fighting. When they bite or scratch another cat too hard, they get reprimanded and rebuffed. They also have fun playing together -- chasing, ambushing, wrestling, and giving each other inhibited bites and scratches, and sometimes emitting loud yowls and giving back-arched "Halloween cat" displays of mock terror and rage. In my bachelor days I used to play-stalk my young cat at night, and his sport was to hide, then leap out from behind furniture in full back-arched display, crab-walk toward me, hiss, and leap onto my back and gently bite my ear lobe. Then he would purr in my ear, jump down and start the game all over again.
Let your cat wrestle with a stuffed toy that you animate by pulling a string tied to it. Also consider getting another cat a few months younger as a companion and playmate for your feisty feline.
Dear Dr. Fox:
My family has a 21/2-year-old American bulldog named Sophie. She is all white with a pink belly.
The problem is that she has very dry skin with dandruff that gets all over the house. We have tried everything from putting a supplement in her water to a special shampoo for dry skin, but nothing works. What can we do about this, and what causes this dry-skin condition?
R.D., Allenhurst, N.J.
You didn't mention anything about her diet. Dry dog foods often mean dry dogs with poor coats and dandruff. A dog's coat is a reflection of diet and overall health.
Check my Web site (tedeboy.tripod.com/drmichaelwfox) for a homemade dog diet, and add the following to Sophie's diet: 1 tablespoon of safflower or canola oil, or 1 teaspoon of flaxseed oil plus 1 teaspoon each of nutritional yeast and powdered seaweed (kelp). Also, give her one human multi-mineral and multivitamin tablet daily.
Write to Dr. Michael Fox, a veterinarian with doctoral degrees in medicine and animal behavior, in care of United Feature Syndicate, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016. (c) 2005, United Feature Syndicate Inc.