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My Pet World: Can compression vests help nervous dogs?

By Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Much as weighted blankets comfort people, compression vests, like Thundershirts and Anxiety Wraps, have proved somewhat effective for anxious dogs.

One of my dogs was terrified of thunderstorms, and it required multiple strategies to calm her. This often required her wearing two compression vests at the same time, along with a pheromone collar and using white noise to mask the sound of the storm. She still trembled during the storm, but at least she would be calm enough to sit next to me rather than climbing the furniture like a mountain goat.

With any dog, you have to look for that special combination of things that will help them manage their fears. Definitely try the compression vests/shirts on your golden retriever.

Dear Diane,

Cats have thresholds for touch. You can pet some cats all day long, but some cats will only accept a few strokes before letting you know they have had enough. It's important to know and respect your cat's limits.

Having said that, you can improve your cat's tolerance for touch. This involves first putting your cat in the right frame of mind. Because the aggression is severe, talk to your veterinarian about medication. Medication can be used during the training process to make it easier for Rowdy to learn. You also can use feline pheromones at the same time. Put a feline pheromone collar on Rowdy and spray your hand with feline pheromone spray before petting him.

Once you have created this cool vibe, begin training your cat to accept more touch. If your cat always attacks after two strokes, only stroke your cat once and stop. Offer a treat if your cat will accept it. Wait a few minutes and pet again, building your cat's tolerance to multiple strokes over time.

I have found that even with this training, most cats still have their limits. When that happens, just lay your hand on the cat and don't move it. Cats often seem comforted by it, perhaps because it adds weight, like the compression vests mentioned above.


Dear Readers,

As some of you may have seen in the news, a tiger named Nadia from the Bronx Zoo tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 in people. Researchers around the world continue to investigate whether dogs and cats can be infected with the coronavirus. The consensus among these experts is that humans with COVID may expose dogs and cats to the virus, but dogs and cats appear to be "dead-end hosts" and are unlikely to pass anything on to humans, according to Dr. Oscar Chavez, chief medical officer for Just Food for Dogs.

Dr. Sandra Newbury, director of the Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Wisconsin, echoed that same sentiment in an interview with The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement. She said, "There is no sign at all that animals are playing a role in the epidemiology of this disease," and that "we can always trace the transmission of this disease to human travel."

She also said there was not a single instance of a pet cat or dog being taken to the emergency room with the respiratory illness. In essence, she says, "there is no reason to panic at all." But she recommends that we practice safe social distancing with our pets to reduce their exposure to humans with the virus. If someone in the home is diagnosed with the virus, keep your pets away from them, too.

Something you should be concerned about, though, is who will take care of your pet if you get sick and are hospitalized. Be sure to establish a network of friends who can help each other with pet care or identify a local kennel or pet sitter willing to take care of your pet until you are home again. We should include pets in our emergency planning to ensure their well-being, too.


(Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.)




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