AAHA ’09 Q&A

By Steve Dale

Phoenix, AR. These reader questions were answered at the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) Conference, which supports excellence in veterinary care. The conference was held at the Phoenix Convention Center, March 26 to 29.

Q: Our 10-year old Labrador does the strangest thing. She gets under the table and just stands there in a dream-like stance for two or three minutes. During this event, she pays no attention to her surroundings. What’s going on? J. A., Caribou, ME

A: If this is a new behavior, St. Louis, MO-based veterinary behaviorist Dr. Debra Horwitz says, “Then, see your veterinarian to answer the question, ‘why now?’ Why is this new behavior occurring at this time? A physiological explanation needs to be ruled out. Another rule out is dementia, which is very possible. Older dogs do these sorts of strange things.” The good news is that changing diet, perhaps to Hill’s BD, one drug in particular (called Anipryl) and perhaps supplements can help.

Strange as it sounds, another possible explanation for your dog’s under the table trance could be that it’s an attention seeking behavior. “It would be interesting if next time the dog does this, you just say ‘let’s go’ and walk into another room,” says Horwitz. “I wonder if the dog would follow you. If so, you found your solution.”

Q: I have a 2-year old deaf female Pit Bull who I rescued from death row. I was born deaf myself. I have four others dogs, and they all got along well until we adopted a puppy. Now, the deaf dog has become vicious. I have used a drug called imipramine for the deaf dog, and tried to keep the deaf dog and the puppy safe. But my deaf dog has become so aggressive around other dogs, now she trembles and shakes when we go on walks. I want her to live a nice and normal life like any normal dog. M. R., Chicago, IL

A: Your dog is a normal dog, more so than you might think considering her disability. It sounds as if your deaf dog adjusted well to your home, until you added the puppy. “Your deaf dog learned to understand the signals from the other dogs as individuals, but her lack of experience with puppies threw her,” says St. Louis, MO- based veterinary behaviorist Dr. Debra Horwitz. “Or the dogs she knows she’s fine with but is discriminating about adding new friends. Deaf or also blind dogs sometimes have difficulty adjusting to change. None of this is abnormal. Some people like to constantly add new friends, some don’t " it’s no different with some dogs.”

It may be especially difficult for lots of adult dogs to deal with unruly puppies. Meanwhile, this poor puppy isn’t being socialized to other dogs as you want her to be.

Your best bet is to speak to a veterinary behaviorist to help you find a long-range solution, as well as a better pharmaceutical than imipramine (for this purpose).

Q: My husband and I feed a long-haired cat twice daily that lives between two university residence halls in our town. We think the cat was abandoned and has been panhandling from students for three years. This is a friendly cat who loves to be petted. I am thinking about taking the cat into our home, but worry that he may not adjust to being inside. Of course, we’d have the cat examined by a vet. Are there any pitfalls to doing this? S. K., Macomb, IL

A: “What a wonderful idea,” cheers Dr. Jane Brunt, a feline veterinarian in Baltimore, and past president of the American Association of Feline Practitioners. “It’s best to place your new cat in one room, so if he becomes frightened and finds a hiding place, you can find him. And you can provide that hiding place with a spacious carrier and with a soft blanket.” Place the food on one side of the room, and the litter box on the other. When you visit, don’t force your new friend, let him come to you on his own terms. One tip is to read a children’s book. Perhaps, it’s the raised voices and sing-songy patterns that are often calming. You can also plug in a Feliway diffuser, that’s a kind of aromatherapy for cats.

If you do have existing cats, the answer includes a gradual introduction to those other cats. Lots of resources exist to describe how to do that, including Pam Johnson-Bennett’s “Cat vs. Cat” (Penguin Books, New York, NY, 2004; $15). And, as you mention, visiting a veterinarian to check for fleas, feline leukemia, the feline immunodeficiency virus or other potential issues is a good idea. Also, Brunt points out, your cat may require flea and heartworm preventatives, as well as vaccines.

Brunt, who is also the executive director of the CATalyst Council announced America’s cat friendliest cities at the AAHA Conference. Since dog friendly cities are typically cited, the idea is to celebrate the bond people have with cat too. Tampa, FL was named the cat friendliest city, followed by Phoenix, AZ. Rounding out the top-10, San Francisco, CA, named the third cat friendliest; followed by Portland, OR; Denver, CO; Boston, MA; Seattle, WA; San Diego, CA; Atlanta, GA and at number 10 Minneapolis, MN.

Considerations for the tabby friendliest include available quality veterinary care, cat ownership per capita, number of cats microchipped and cat-friendly local ordinances. “Cats really are America’s number one companion,” says Dan Kramer, senior marketing manager of industry relations for Pfizer Animal, and a chair of the CATalyst Council. “Our goal is to recognize and celebrate why cats are such popular companions.”

Brunt adds, “Our goal is to educate people about what cats really are about. And to talk about subtle signs of illness in cats, to begin a conversation that it’s all about the cat.”

CATalyst is a unique coalition of veterinary medicine (including the American Veterinary Medical Association, American Animal Hospital Association, American Association of Feline Practitioners and others) working together with shelters, animal control, industry, nonprofits, and academia. Learn more at www.catalystcouncil.org.

(In full disclosure, Steve Dale is on the Board of the Non Profit CATalyst Council)

©Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services


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