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Published October 08, 2010, 12:00 AM

Pet Care: Caretaker pets bring the love

Dear Dr. Fox: I’ve had numerous animals all my life. At one time, I had three cats, eight kittens, four hamsters, two dogs, a tank of fish and a canary.

By: Dr. Michael Fox, INFORUM

Dear Dr. Fox: I’ve had numerous animals all my life. At one time, I had three cats, eight kittens, four hamsters, two dogs, a tank of fish and a canary.

A while back, I came home from the doctor’s office with an ear infection. The doctor had poked around in my ear, making it worse. After I got home, my cats and I went to bed with one cat on either side of me and one at the top of the bed. They kept rotating and softly purring until I was completely relaxed. I felt so much better.

Another time, my dogs Chubby and Bear stayed next to me all night long after I came home from a surgery. They wouldn’t let anyone near me, except for my uncle and son, who were taking care of me. The dogs could sense when I wanted to get up and out of the recliner and would get help. Chubby and Bear also were caregivers when my uncle was dying of cancer. They would take turns alerting me when he would wake up. – J.H., Park Hills, Mo.

Dear J.H.: Thanks for the vivid descriptions of your cat and dog attendant “nurses.” It is remarkable how attuned animal companions can be to the suffering of their human family members.

Several readers have shared similar experiences in their letters about their caregiver dogs and cats that leave no doubt about animals’ ability to empathize and express loving concern, even facilitating the comfort and recovery of their loved ones. Our body language tells them we are suffering, as well as our tone of voice, our crying and possibly even the changes in our body odor and normal routines.

Dear Dr. Fox: I have a 3-year-old golden retriever. She is shy, sweet and submissive, and gets along with all dogs and people. She has always had car phobia (vomits, drools, etc.) whenever we take her in the car, unless someone is sitting with her.

My current problem is that she has started throwing up, retching and acting frantic. This began a couple of months ago and occurs about every seven to 10 days. Other than this, her personality is the same; eating habits and bathroom are fine as well. These episodes usually happen in the middle of the night when she wakes up or is startled, after drinking water or playing rough with a toy. I can often calm her down if she is dry heaving by taking her for a walk outside. When this first started, we did an X-ray and blood work and nothing abnormal was found.

We have switched her to Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach, twice daily. We also give her 15 mg of Pepcid AC twice a day and limit her water at mealtime. Her vomiting/retching has improved somewhat but still occurs every few weeks. At times, she also has a runny nose. Do you have any suggestions for this otherwise happy and healthy dog? – S.D., Oakton, Va.

Dear S.D.: Your dog’s symptoms are relatively nonspecific at this stage and could get worse, with actual epileptic seizures developing or more serious gastrointestinal or hepatic (liver) problems.

Sudden arousal and fear/anxiety seem to be trigger factors. I advise close monitoring and a preventive approach. I would begin with transitioning to a canned or raw, dairy-, corn-, soy- and wheat-free dog food, or use the recipe at my



In addition, give the dog 1 teaspoon of finely chopped ginger (from fresh root) in her food, which has many beneficial effects, including anti-nausea. Also add the supplement tryptophan (500 mg daily). This can have a calming effect. Calming herbs like valerian, hops and chamomile tea may also help.

PetzLife calming support for pets, called @-Eaze, comes in a gel and contains L-theanine, chamomile and other beneficial ingredients that may prove effective for your dog’s condition.

Lavender oil is wonderfully calming, and two or three drops on a strip of cotton around your dog’s neck may help calm her down, especially during car rides, along with a piece of ginger given 30 minutes before the ride. Some dogs relish crystallized ginger, which works well as a stomach-calmer.

It would be wise to avoid giving your dog any vaccinations or anti-flea drugs until she is clear of the episodes of distress and sickness.

Send your questions to Dr. Fox in care of The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns. Visit Dr. Fox’s website at www.twobitdog.com/DrFox.