Dear Dr. Fox:

Is it bad for dogs to sleep under a blanket and comforter at night? It seems to me that the oxygen supply would get pretty low after a couple of hours.

Q.C.C., Central Point, Ore.

DF: Many dogs, and cats too, enjoy having their own blanket to snuggle under.

Although an animal that begins to experience oxygen deprivation will eventually get out from under the covers, I consider it unhealthy for an animal to keep breathing the same air in a limited space for any length of time. Dogs with pushed-in (or brachycephalic) muzzles, windpipe/tracheal weakness and those with incipient respiratory and heart conditions are particularly at risk.

Encourage your dog to sleep on the top cover of your bed under his own light cotton blanket or bath towel.

diet scams

Dear Dr. Fox:

I took my cat to an animal behaviorist because of inappropriate marking. We went through all the causes, and I have changed a few things.

The cat is neutered. The vet recommended Royal Canin Calm. I purchased the dry cat food, and noticed it has corn and wheat products. I also feed my cats canned food, which I believe is better for them. I have also been feeding them Merrick Before Grain dry food.

Do you have any suggestions for a dry cat food that would be similar to the Royal Canin but with better ingredients? What about giving cats milk? Does milk have a calming effect?


DF: These specially formulated, prescription-only diets are part of the new wave of adding various supplements to manufactured pet foods and deleting other ingredients. The formulations are marketed as holistic veterinary medicine and nutritional therapy.

Although some of these special diets can provide some benefits, many are a moneymaking scam.

The special diet to which you refer, which is also formulated for dogs, has added tryptophan, vitamin B3 and hydrolyzed milk protein as claimed calming ingredients. Tryptophan is what makes people drowsy after a meal of turkey. A glass of warm milk before bed can help people sleep better.

I would opt for a healthy raw food diet for your cat, or use turkey as the single protein in my cat food recipe posted on my Web site,

There are many reasons dogs and cats can become anxious/fearful, and these kinds of remedial diets do not address the root cause unless a nutritional deficiency in the regular food has been proven. Catnip can be a great feline calmer, and Feliway spray can work wonders for some cases.

For many dogs, a bandanna with a few drops of lavender oil on it tied around the neck can be calming, especially when riding in the car.

wormy stray

Dear Dr. Fox:

A year ago, I decided to take care of a stray cat in my back yard. When I saw him running around with a piece of bread I had thrown out for the birds, I knew there was a problem.

I would put food down in my garage, and it would be gone the next day. This went on for several days until I finally got to meet him. I call him Jack.

Jack has been with me ever since. But there are two problems.

First, he’s a feral cat that has pretty much reverted back to the wild. Second, he has worms. I’ve observed this from his insatiable appetite and his hyperactive behavior. I also saw a worm he passed.

I’ve called several animal clinics, and they all want me to bring Jack in for tests and the works. I can’t afford to do this. Also, I could never get Jack into a pet carrier.

J.M., Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

DF: You do not give enough details in your letter as to what kind of worm you saw Jack pass. If it was long and thin, it could be a Toxocara roundworm. If it was a white, oblong, rice-grain-sized wiggly thing, it’s a tapeworm segment. If that’s the case, he’ll need to be treated for fleas, which carry tapeworm eggs.

Although it might seem shocking that no veterinary hospital will give you some worming medicine to put in his food, without a stool sample and/or a sample of the worm you saw, the proper treatment cannot be determined. Get these samples, and you won’t need to take Jack in unless it turns out he requires flea treatment.

Because Jack hasn’t had a rabies vaccination, the clinics worry about dealing with him. Rent a humane trap to catch him and take him in. He might need to be neutered, which will make him easier to handle.

If you have a spare room, put him in there when he’s given a clean bill of health, and he may soon become sociable.

diy solution

Dear Dr. Fox:

I enjoyed your article about the cost of wart removal. My yorkiepoo had one under his jaw by his neck. The vet charged me $1,000 to remove it. I was upset, but the doctor said I should have it removed.

My dog got another one by his eye, and I put Polysporin on top of it, and within two days it was gone. Some vets know how much you love your pets and will take advantage if you are a sucker.

P.H., Brick, N.J.

DF: I share your incredulity that some members of the veterinary profession have evolved in parallel with some human doctors who put profits before ethics. Some even put their patients at risk by doing unwarranted, but profitable, diagnostic tests and “supportive” and “preventive” procedures.

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