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Dr. Michael Fox, Published June 14 2013

Pet care: Can dogs use a blanket?

Dear Dr. Fox: I have been wondering if it’s bad for dogs to sleep under a blanket and comforter at night? It seems to me that the oxygen supply would get pretty low after a couple of hours.

What is your outlook on this? – Q.C.C., Central Point, Ore.

Dear Q.C.C.: Many dogs, and cats too, enjoy having their own blanket to snuggle under. While an animal who begins to experience oxygen deprivation will eventually get out from under the covers, I consider it unhealthy for an animal to keep breathing the same air in a limited space for any length of time. Dogs with pushed-in (or brachycephalic) muzzles, windpipe/tracheal weakness and those with incipient respiratory and heart conditions are particularly at risk.

Encourage your dog to sleep on the top cover of your bed under his own light cotton blanket or bath towel.

Dear Dr. Fox: I took my cat to an animal behaviorist because of inappropriate marking. We went through all the causes, and I have changed a few things.

The cat is neutered. The vet recommended Royal Canin Calm. I purchased the dry cat food, and noticed it has corn and wheat products. I also feed my cats canned food, which I believe is better for them. I have also been feeding them Merrick Before Grain dry food.

Do you have any suggestions for a dry cat food that would be similar to the Royal Canin, but with better ingredients? What about giving cats milk? Does milk have a calming effect?

I have five cats, all fixed, and I do animal rescue. I do not intend to foster any more cats. Right now my cats just tolerate each other. – E.P.

Dear E.P.: These specially formulated, prescription-only (i.e. available at a marked-up price from a veterinarian) diets are part of the new wave of adding various supplements to manufactured pet foods and deleting other ingredients. The formulations are marketed as holistic veterinary medicine and nutritional therapy.

While some of these special diets can provide some benefits, many are a moneymaking scam.

The special diet to which you refer, which is also formulated for dogs, has added tryptophan, vitamin B3 and hydrolyzed milk protein as claimed calming ingredients. Tryptophan is what makes people drowsy after a meal of turkey. A glass of warm milk before bed can help people sleep better. I would opt for a healthy raw food diet for your cat, or use turkey as the single protein in my cat food recipe posted on my website, DrFoxVet.com.

There are many reasons why dogs and cats can become anxious/fearful, and these kinds of remedial diets do not address the root cause unless a nutritional deficiency in the regular food has been proven. Catnip can be a great feline calmer, and Feliway spray can work wonders for some cases.

For many dogs, a bandanna with a few drops of lavender oil on it tied around the neck can be calming, especially when riding in the car.

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 www.twobitdog.com/DrFox.