Q: We're planning a driving trip in January with our Standard Poodle, who's very nervous in a vehicle. How can we calm her? -- D.M., Clayton, WI
Q: My Sheltie, Joey, once had a problem riding in the car. We bought Meclizine at our local grocery store for less than anything the vet sold us, and that helped. Unlike with other products, Joey didn't act drugged. All my Shelties got car sick. Are Shelties more likely to get sick in cars? -- K.W., Brooksville, FL
dogs are anxious about car travel because they've learned that they don't feel well on such trips -- just as people do who suffer from motion sickness. Other dogs are merely either unaccustomed to traveling in the car (because they don't do it very often), or when they do go places in the car, the destination is not fun: a veterinary clinics, boarding facility, or groomer. In these cases, motion sickness is not a factor, but the anxiety causes similar symptoms. Still other dogs are nervous in cars because they previously had a bad experience, such as a car accident.
It's rare for a dog to be upset about car rides strictly because of motion sickness; usually there's an anxiety component. The solution might be as easy as slapping on an Adaptil collar (a copy of calming pheromone is released from the collar, and eases anxious dogs) and offering Anxitane (L-theanine, manufactured for dogs to also ease anxiety). However, while these products (and others, including the Thundershirt) do help, many dogs also need a course of counter-conditioning and desensitization.
Here's what you do:
Take your dog (with that Adaptil collar and perhaps a Thundershirt) to the car with a favorite toy. Open the back door to the back seat and periodically toss a favorite toy inside. Feed your pup from the back seat. When the pet's anxiety fades away -- which can take days or even a few weeks -- go on to the next step.
Before you actually drive anywhere, you'll need to provide a medication for motion sickness. Meclizine, also called Dramamine, can help dogs with motion sickness. However, if dogs are feeling ill due to anxiety, this drug won't help. Dosage is important. While K.W. apparently got the dosage right, don't just guess; ask your veterinarian. Finally, some dogs do seem "drugged up" on Dramamine. Instead, consider asking your veterinarian about Cerenia. This drug is specifically designed for dogs, and will deal with that upside-down tummy, regardless of whether it's due to motion sickness, anxiety, or both.
Next, try actually driving with your dog. Give your pet a Kong toy stuffed with low fat, low salt peanut butter (as a distraction) and drive down the block. The trip should last, literally, less than a minute. When you return home, offer your dog a meal (so the pet associates the car ride with something positive). Once your dog's anxiety eases, you're ready to drive a bit farther. Gradually work your way up to about two miles. Once you've driven this distance without your dog expressing anxiety, head for somewhere fun, such as a park, or the home of a friend with a dog.
I don't believe specific breeds are more likely to be carsick.
Q: I'm thinking of adopting a 10-year-old cat from the local animal welfare society. He tested positive for FIV. I've read that this disease is not contagious to humans or dogs, but I still have reservations about the adoption. I'm not a cat person, but I fell in love with this guy! What do you think? -- M.O., Cyberspace
A: I think you're a hero, and Dr. Colleen Currigan, who has a Cat Friendly Practice in Chicago, enthusiastically agrees. "Go for it! Adopt this cat -- he sounds great," she cheers.
While the feline immunodeficiency virus (or FIV) is often referred to as feline AIDS, dogs and people are not susceptible. You didn't mention if you have another cat, but though FIV cats can transmit the disease to other cats, increasingly shelters are adopting FIV cats into homes with other cats.
"The disease is primarily transmitted through bites," Currigan explains. "When care is taken, cats are introduced to one another very slowly, there are lots of resources and there aren't too many cats in too small a place, fighting rarely occurs."
Currigan, a board member of the American Association of Feline Practitioners, points out that FIV cats can be more susceptible to illness, and sometimes chronic mouth, ear, or skin problems. With twice annual veterinary exams (which all cats should have anyway), preventive care often precludes problems before they occur. Many cats with FIV live a long life, succumbing to illnesses associated with old age, not FIV.
"FIV cats (usually they're male cats) tend to be the friendliest cats; they make wonderful affectionate pets," Currigan adds.
Q: Is it true that that the black cat used in the work of French artist Matisse actually belonged to him? Do you know other artists who painted cats from the Renaissance onward? -- S.C., El Cajon, CA
A: Some of the greatest artists of all time adored felines, including Leonardo daVinci, who once declared, "Even the smallest feline is a work of art."
The book "99 Lives: Cats in History, Legend and Literature," by Howard Loxton (Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA, 1998; $17.95), is a great source. Loxton confirms that Henri Matisse called the cat you referred to his "devoted companion." No one seems to know for sure if the cat actually belonged to the legendary artist.
In 1526, Francesco Umbertini painted a rare portrait of a young woman with a cat. Michaelangelo depicted cats in some of his work. The first artist to make cats a major subject was Gottfried Mind in the 18th century. Mind's favorite cat was named Minette; the artist would reportedly hold long conversations with Minette while he worked! More recently, an artist named Jim Davis created Garfield.
"The Encyclopedia of the Cat," by Dr. Bruce Fogle (DK Publishing, New York, NY, 1997; $34.95), also has a nice section about cats in art.
(Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is http://www.stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.)