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My Pet World: Helpful tips for addressing dog anxiety during transitional periods

Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

I have been separated from my Shih Tzu, Sam, since October. I am in a nursing facility awaiting hip surgery and my cousin who lives nearby is taking care of my dog. He is a seven-year-old, neutered, house-trained dog who is regularly walked. However, he is pooping in her house every day. He never did that at my house. What can be done to stop this behavior?

— Myra, Mechanicsville, Virginia

Dear Myra,

Given your separation, it's understandable that Sam may be grieving or feeling anxious. Consider getting him a pheromone collar to wear and adding some calming chews into his daily routine.

You could also try an Anxiety Wrap® or Thundershirt®. If he wears one and keeps it on, it might provide him with some comfort during the day; it's like getting a big hug.

For cleaning up his accidents, get a biological enzymatic cleaner for your cousin to use to remove all traces of waste to prevent him from returning to the same spot repeatedly. Then, purchase some puppy pads and ask her to use them in areas where he tends to go to see if that helps keep accidents on the pads and not on her floors.

In addition, Sam will likely benefit from having at least two 10-minute play sessions daily to keep him mentally and physically stimulated. Chew toys, like Kongs with added treats, can be introduced as one of the play sessions, but one session should be interactive with your cousin. Does Sam fetch? If so, that is an easy game for her to play with him.

Sam will also benefit from petting, affection, and a more structured routine so he knows when he'll have opportunities to go outside and relieve himself. If your cousin is gone a lot, consider hiring a pet sitter who can come by to let Sam out during the day and play with him.

Finally, if your cousin lives nearby, perhaps she could drop Sam off at your place while she runs errands and pick him up later, which could prevent accidents in her house and give Sam some familiar comfort time with you. Or maybe your cousin would be open to you hiring a pet sitter who could come over a few times a week to play with Sam and let him out for a potty break.

Your cousin's role in caring for Sam has to be such a help and relief for you. By implementing these suggestions, she also can help Sam better adjust during this transitional period, which may reduce or eliminate the accidents.

Just remember this is a temporary circumstance, and you two will soon be together again. Your cousin's support until then is invaluable in ensuring Sam's well-being.

Dear Cathy,

Several years ago, our son found a four-week-old kitten cat in the woods. Since then, Mr. Destruction has made it his goal to destroy our house. Nothing is safe. He climbs on all the furniture and tries to knock down our hanging plants and pictures on our walls.

We spend a lot of time playing with him to tire him out, but that is not working. He is up to date with his vaccines and is neutered. He seems to be worse in the evening when we are all together watching TV. Any ideas on what we should do to calm him down?

— Donald, New Hyde Park, New York

 

Dear Donald,

Sometimes, cats need more than just physical play to wear them out.

Have you tried incorporating some interactive toys or puzzles into his playtime to mentally stimulate him? Additionally, providing him with plenty of vertical space, like cat trees or shelves, might redirect his climbing instincts away from your furniture and hanging plants. He obviously likes to bat things around, so you might try a laser pointer light he can chase or wire toys he can bat to help him lose interest in your plants.

You could also consider a pheromone collar and feline calming chews to ease any anxiousness or use deterrents like double-sided tape or aluminum foil on surfaces you want him to avoid. If the behavior persists, it might be worth consulting with a veterinarian or animal behaviorist to rule out any underlying health issues.

Dear Cathy,

The last time I howled on a flight, I had some head congestion. Bernice in New York should have a vet check her schnauzer for a sinus or ear problem.

– Jerry, New Britain, Connecticut

Dear Jerry,

I totally dropped the ball. There is a definite connection between take-off, sinus problems, and discomfort on a plane. Thank you for keeping me in check.

_____

_____

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(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 cathy@petpundit.com. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.)

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