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Dr. Michael Fox, Published January 06 2014

Pet care: Dog den or prison?

I have received letters from some readers whose dogs refuse to go inside their crates. When the dogs are forced inside, they fight to get out and even bare their teeth.

While a few dogs will never accept being shut inside a crate, most will tolerate short periods of confinement once they feel the crate is a pleasurable refuge. Many will also use the crate as their den while the door is kept open so they can enter and leave as they choose.

The trick is to make it rewarding by putting a familiar smelling towel or blanket in the open crate and laying out a trail of treats leading into the crate. Eventually, the dog will willingly go into the crate to reach a treat or favorite toy tossed inside.

Close the door for a few seconds to begin with, and give the dog a food puzzle toy or hollow rubber toy stuffed with cream cheese or peanut butter. Habituation and creating rewarding, pleasurable associations is the key – as they are to most dog-training activities.

Dear Dr. Fox: We have a 10-month-old Pomeranian, weighing 10 pounds, who becomes very anxious when she goes in the car. She starts to hyper-salivate before we even start moving, and she vomits about a mile into the ride.

Our vet gave her Cerenia, which did not work. We tried a Thundershirt for anxiety – not good. The vet gave us Xanax and told us to give her Dramamine, but that did not work, either. He then upped the dose of Xanax to no new results. I have tried Benadryl and ginger. We do not feed her the day of travel.

We are at a loss for what to do. We have tried short trips to the mailbox or around the block, but nothing seems to work. Any ideas? I am thinking of changing vets because he does not know what to do for her. – C.R., Arlington, Va.

Dear C.R.: First, stop all medications and simply sit in the car with your dog for short periods – around 10 to 15 minutes – several times a day for as many days as you can until she is more settled. This will desensitize her to the now-conditioned anxiety and associated nausea of being in the vehicle while it is in motion.

Read a book, have the radio on (try some CDs from “Through a Dog’s Ear”) and give her a few treats. Keep her in a safety harness at all times.

Once she stops drooling and showing signs of fear/anxiety, switch on the engine and let it run for short periods while you are in the car with her. The next step is to slowly drive a few blocks so she gets used to the motion of the car.

Before you start this, get some organic essential oil of lavender and make an emulsion in warm water. Spritz it inside the car or put a few drops on a strip of gauze and hang it inside the car. Also, put a few drops of this calming oil on a bandanna around her neck.

PetzLife dog calming natural product @-Eaze may help you at this stage and at the very beginning of the desensitization process if she really hates getting into the car.

Dear Dr. Fox: I have an 8-year-old spayed female cat who I have a problem with: All of a sudden she poops on the living room carpet.

She still goes in her litter box, but at random intervals, she will poop (but not pee) in the living room in the middle of the night. We haven’t changed her litter box or location, and she has plenty of room in the box. It is also cleaned after every time she goes.

It seems to happen when she sleeps in the living room in the night. Could she be doing this while sleepwalking like a human might?

She has a sister who we have no problems with, and she is in no way preventing her sister from going in the box. – D.F., Bethel, Conn.

Dear D.F.: Your cat is young to be showing signs of feline dementia, which can, as with humans, lead to incontinence. But I would not rule that out if there is no other evident physical cause, which your veterinarian can check for. These include painful impaction of the anal glands and constipation, which is very common in cats being fed conventional manufactured kibble.

Getting your cat used to a few drops of fish oil and some mashed green or lima beans for soft bulk fiber in her food may prove to be the best solution. You can also try feeding her a good-quality canned cat food, as posted on my website, DrFoxVet.com.

Send all mail to animaldocfox@gmail.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. 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 website at DrFoxVet.com.