Q: During Hurricane Sandy, our Labrador-mix acted agitated, crying at times, too. It was really our dog who convinced us to evacuate, which turned out to be a wise decision because our street flooded. What did our dog know? Was the dog warning us? -- V.D., Rehoboth Beach, DE
A: Some dogs are anxious during any thunderstorm. They are fearful, or even downright terrified themselves, so a reaction such as you describe is not likely a selfless warning as much as an expression of fear. What you suggest, however, is that your dog actually went above and beyond, intentionally warning family members about the danger.
Some animals do seem to have a beat on Mother Nature, sensing something about changes in the weather, for example, though we're not sure what that something might be. I don't believe our pets have ESP, per se. Still, I'm not sure how to explain why some animals do exactly as your dog did. Another question you might ask is: Was your dog warning you, or was the pet's reaction more about self-preservation?
I receive many emails such as yours describing pets' behavior preceding disasters. It's interesting that before the Asian tsunami of 2004 many animals fled to higher ground. How did they know what was coming? How do some animals get the message while others don't? And what exactly is that message? In the case of Hurricane Sandy, it might have had something to do with the record-setting low pressure as the storm approached.
At some point, learning how animals are able to determine when super-storms are on the way could save many human lives. I'm glad you listened to your dog!
Q: Dy-No-Mite, our 9-year-old neutered male bloodhound, recently had a seizure at a boarding kennel while we were out of town. Our vet gave the dog a clean bill of health, suggesting this was a one-time event. Then the dog had a second seizure, once again at the kennel. I phoned the veterinarian, who suggested we change kennels. Frankly, though, the dog seems to enjoy his regular kennel -- and made about 100 visits without seizures. I'm worried that new surroundings might cause him even more stress.
Dy-No-Mite has also experienced weight loss, going from 23 pounds to 105 pounds in about 18 to 24 months. The veterinarian isn't concerned about this, but I am. Any advice? -- L.S., via Cyberspace
In my experience, when pet owners are concerned, they generally have good reason to be.
Chicago-based veterinary neurologist Dr. Michael Podell notes that for a variety of reasons some dogs are more prone to seizures than others. For many dogs, being boarded at a kennel is at least stressful enough to potentially lower the seizure threshold. Some dogs have idiopathic epilepsy, which means there's no real explanation for their seizures, though even a reasonably mild stressor may increase the odds of a seizure.
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