Pet care: Dealing with pet PTSD

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Nov 22, 2013 in Rat Answers | Subscribe

Dear Dr. Fox: Last June, we had a fire in our home while we were at work. There was a leak in the bathroom that flooded the floor and seeped into a basement light socket. Our 11-year-old German shepherd, Lucy, was found trapped in the bathroom on the flooded floor, unresponsive. The firefighters were able to save her, thank God, and she is now doing great. We have been living with my mother during the renovation.

When I have taken Lucy back to the house, she doesn’t want to be in there. I truly believe she has post-traumatic stress disorder. We will be moving back in next week. My plan is to wait until Friday night to take her home – that way I can spend three full days with her to keep an eye on her. Is there something else I can do to ensure her being comfortable again? Thank you for your advice. – P.S., Granite City, Ill.

Dear P.S.: What a terrible ordeal poor Lucy went through. She is most certainly suffering from PTSD. Before taking her back to your restored home, have her seen by a veterinarian who can prescribe anti-anxiety medication such as Xanax for a couple of days before you take her back, and continue with the medication until she settles down, decreasing the dose if she becomes too much of a groggy doggy.

If she has a good buddy dog in the neighborhood to come over and visit, that could have a calming effect. She may never want to go near the floor where she was trapped, so make her bed downstairs and be prepared to sleep with her for the first few nights. Good luck to you and Lucy!

Dear Dr. Fox: We have a female Hemingway (polydactyl) cat with seven toes on her front paws and six on her back paws. She was fixed at 2 months old. She was given to a person in Key West, Fla., who wanted her to catch large water rats under her house. This is where the problem must have started.

We got her at 6 months of age. She is now 3 years old. She always eats dirt, string and broom straw – anything she can find, really. She’s well fed and always has plenty of water. Her penchant for eating almost anything is upsetting because she then gets sick.

How can we cure her of this bad habit? I think she might have been deprived of food so she’d be hungry and motivated to catch rats.

Please help if you can.

– H.A., Long Beach Township, N.J.

Dear H.A.: One of our formerly feral cats exhibits the pica – or depraved appetite – that your cat displays. This vice can have various origins, including starvation that triggers the urge to ingest anything that might kill the hunger pangs.

Cats, dogs and other animals will engage in this behavior when their digestive systems are upset, when they have an inflamed mouth or are experiencing nausea and eat grass, string, leaves and whatever they can find to induce vomiting. The underlying trigger in some cats can range from fur balls in the stomach to anemia and feline leukemia.

I advise a full checkup for your cat to rule out any physical/medical causes. She may simply want more fiber in her diet and will enjoy nibbling on a box of sprouted wheat grass or alfalfa.

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 Web site at

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