Dear Dr. Fox:
My question is about my rescued Jindo dog, Angie, who is 12 and has been in the family for 10 years. I am a very gentle and patient owner, and I let her walk me for as long as she wants. She enjoys being off the leash with her doggy friends.
When frightened by lawn mowers or an aggressive dog (she was brutally attacked by two off-leash dogs), she has twice bitten me. These were serious bites that drew lots of blood. She has no clue. I treated the wounds myself, so I would not have problems. The vet put her on a daily dose of fluoxetine, and she has not bitten me since.
Why did this little Jindo girl bite me twice?
DF: What you experienced was a fear-biter’s defensive behavior being redirected. Quite often, when two dogs that live together are barking at another dog on the other side of their fence, one of the two dogs might lunge at and mock-attack its companion, and in some instances actually bite and start a fight. This is also seen in cats that are upset by a cat outside.
Experienced animal handlers are aware of such redirected or “spill-over” aggression and take precautions when a situation could arise in which such a reaction might be triggered.
It is not rational behavior, and in that panicked state, the animal cannot be reasoned with until it calms down. The medication your veterinarian prescribed essentially dampens the panic reaction, which is more likely to occur in animals that suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or specific phobias.
The municipal water and public health crisis of tap water contamination with lead in Flint, Mich., was a wake-up call that underscores a 2017 report from the Natural Resources Defense Council, which said that U.S. residents have a 1-in-4 chance that their tap water is either unsafe to drink or has not been properly monitored for contaminants. Visit nrdc.org/sites/default/files/whats-in-your-water-flint-beyond-report.pdf for more information.
I am especially concerned about cats and dogs drinking unpurified tap water and standing water outdoors, both of which can make them seriously ill. For details, see my article “Pure Water for Cats and Dogs and All,” posted on my website, drfoxvet.net.
Michael W. Fox is a veterinarian with doctoral degrees in medicine and animal behavior. Send letters to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, Mo. 64106.