Dear Dr. Fox:

My friend’s dog came from a shelter and must have had some terrible experiences. At times, and for no reason that I can understand, when I am around the dog, he will charge me. I do not understand what I am doing.

It seems to happen when I am close to my friend. At other times, he will come to me for petting, wagging his tail. He has some other issues — flashing lights, thunder, charging when someone is picking up something off the floor, when I get close to his food bowl, mail trucks, mail carriers and other odd things.

Why is he acting strangely toward me at certain times? I’m baffled.

N.L., the District

DF: You have every reason to be baffled by this bipolar dog. He is showing classic signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.

You must learn to initiate interactions around such an animal only after you have made eye contact with him and when he signals he wants interaction. Put away all expectations you’ve learned from your previous experiences with friendly dogs.

You need to empathize with his need for space and control; fear and aggression are triggered when he feels threatened or blocked. Try motivating him with toys that might appeal to him, such as a ball, squeaky toy or rope.

Initiate the interactions by letting him have his way at all times. Such engagements might lead to play therapy, enabling him to gain trust and self-confidence.

Get him used to enjoying being groomed, and eventually massaged, which can result in miraculous transformations in such dogs.

controlling fleas

Dear Dr. Fox:

What’s the easiest and fastest way to get rid of fleas on my three dogs?

They haven’t had fleas in several years. They’re inside dogs that are walked in the morning and evening. But evidently this is a bad year for fleas.

You’ve mentioned diatomaceous earth and borate powder but fail to mention where to get these items.

G R., Arlington County

DF: Please read my report on controlling fleas and ticks posted my Web site,

It is a detailed report on an integrated approach to keeping these noxious insects at bay. Essential tools include weekly vacuuming of the house, especially where pets sleep.

Whole Foods and some pet stores might carry diatomaceous earth, or go to For borate powder, go to The former you rub into your pets’ fur; the latter you sprinkle in cracks and crevices around the house.

I also endorse the new quassia-based, safe and effective herbal spray from PetzLife called Complete Coat. This product kills fleas and ticks and is harmless if the pet accidentally swallows a small quantity.

In addition, buy a flea comb to do daily coat checks. Give your dogs a daily dose of brewer’s yeast with food (a teaspoon per 50 pounds of dog). Brewer’s yeast is also good for cats (about half a teaspoon daily for an average-size cat).

giardia facts

Dear Dr. Fox:

I have a question about giardia. If a dog is a carrier, will that preclude the dog from being put up for adoption?

That is the rumor going around at a shelter in St. Louis. I would like to know the facts.

H.S., St Louis

DF: Giardia can be a problem in animal shelters. The first step to containing it is steam cleaning and the use of diluted bleach (one part bleach in 32 parts water) on kennel floor surfaces.

Shelters should quarantine all incoming dogs and examine three fecal samples over a six-day period. If the dog tests positive, it should be treated with Fenbendazole. All dogs should be bathed to remove any fecal residues that might contain this parasite.

Outdoor exercise areas should be considered infective if an afflicted dog, even one that could be a carrier yet shows no symptoms, has been out there. Such contaminated areas should be off limits for four to six weeks.

Because this intestinal parasite can infect many different species (deer, cattle and other domestic livestock), I would act on the assumption that all dogs coming into shelters — especially rural ones — could be carriers, and, under the stress of being caught and held at the shelter, will likely develop symptoms.

Strict hygiene, quarantine and testing are the best steps to prevent the spread of this infestation.

food hypersensitivity

Dear Dr. Fox:

My 16-year-old pug has anal gland and ear problems. She has had her anal glands drained twice in the plast six months, but she still scoots when I take her outside and scratches her ears.

She eats Rachael Ray’s Nutrish (beef) mixed with cooked carrots or green beans. I give her Special K cereal for a snack. Can these products be causing her discomfort?

L.W., Chapel Hill, N.C.

DF: I checked on the basic ingredients of your old dog’s food: beef, chicken meal, ground rice, brown rice, soybean meal, whole grain corn, corn gluten meal, poultry fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols) and dried plain beet pulp.

The brand claims “no beef byproduct meal, fillers, wheat or wheat gluten,” but what is beet pulp if it is not filler?

Stating that there is no wheat or wheat gluten but including lots of other gluten from corn, plus whole-grain corn and soybean meal, is disingenuous at best. I would not recommend this food when there are better formulas on the market. Try my recipe for home-prepared dog food and treats.

Anal gland and chronic ear and skin problems are often associated with food allergy and hypersensitivity.

Michael W. Fox, author of a newsletter and books on animal care, welfare and rights, is a veterinarian with doctoral degrees in medicine and animal behavior. Write to him at United Feature Syndicate, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, Mo. 64106.

2013 United Feature Syndicate