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Dr. Pawz answers your pet questions: Separation anxiety, life-threatening illness

Thursday - 10/24/2013, 11:38am  ET

WaldoT.JPG
This is Waldo. He likes to eat furniture when his owner goes to work. Dr. Katy Nelson has some tips on how his owner can curb some of Waldo's nervous energy. (Courtesy Waldo's owner)

WASHINGTON - Dr. Katy Nelson is at it again -- taking your pet questions and offering advice and best practices.

Do you have a question about your pet? Dr. Nelson (a.k.a.: "Dr. Pawz") is here to help. Email your questions to Dr. Nelson for free pet advice from a local veterinarian.

This week's questions from readers address separation anxiety and a severe health issue.

Question from Yasmine: Good morning Dr. Nelson, I'm contacting you from Orlando, Fla., and I have a question about my red nose pit bull. According to the Internet, all her symptoms show she has gangrene mastitis. I wish I was fortunate enough to take her to the hospital; I'm trying to get money together as we speak. I used a breast pump on her engorged breast: blood came out first and then milk. Will she be better now that the breast isn't engorged?

Response from Dr. Katy Nelson: Please note: Dr. Nelson does not encourage emails about life-threatening situations. If your pet is experiencing a serious health situation, take the pet to the veterinarian immediately. Dr. Nelson was able to respond to this question within five minutes, but making an immediate trip to the vet is ideal.

Your pup has a life-threatening condition that needs to be seen immediately by a veterinarian. If you cannot afford at this moment to have her seen, I would call a local veterinarian and ask if they can set up a payment plan for you or if they offer credit options.

There are companies, such as CareCredit.com, that lend small amounts of money at a time (from $500 up to $10,000), specifically for people who are in a position such as you.

Also, many local shelters have veterinarians and offer care at significantly reduced fees, so call a few of them to see if that is an option for you. Please do not use the breast pump on her any more -- it is likely extremely painful for her.

This condition could rapidly develop into a systemic infection, if it hasn't already, so please have her seen as quickly as you possibly can.

Question from Weston: My name is Weston, and my best friend's name is Waldo. We are attached at the hip, the only problem being when I leave for work he chews on the furniture. And when I say chews, I mean destroys.

I've spoken to my vet about the problem and he was able to offer little advice. When I'm around, Waldo listens to my every word. When I leave for work, he starts destroying things and it's generally within the hour that I first leave.

I have tried everything that I have read and that I can think of, yet nothing has worked. Waldo is a husky/wolf mix. I understand the breed is a little high strung, to say the least, but if you could offer any advice, I would greatly appreciate it.

I have attached a few pictures if his destruction. I would appreciate any advice and I think it could make for a very interesting/informative show about separation anxiety and the breed as well.

Response from Dr. Katy Nelson: Wow, your boy has done some damage, alright. You have a few things to consider: genetics, environment, training and possibly pharmaceuticals. But let's start from the top.

Genetics: Waldo is definitely a breed that is prone to separation anxiety. He is a working breed, therefore inherently intelligent, active and in need of lots of mental stimulation. He needs a job, if you will.

During your time at home, you need to be working with him and showing him what is acceptable, and what isn't. He also needs large amounts of exercise. He was bred to pull sleds through the Arctic, he's an "endurance athlete!" So you need to find creative ways to wear him out!

Running, swimming, doggie daycare, hiking, fetch -- all of these are great options for giving his body (and mind) the exercise that he needs to feel calm.

Environment: He does not need to be left to his own devices in your apartment; you see the results of that. You need to have a secure crate for him to not only protect your belongings, but to protect him from himself.

I have seen many animals over the years that have lacerated their mouths and feet, required surgery to remove large amounts of pillow/couch stuffing from their GI tracts, and even had to be hospitalized for days on end due to ingestion of medications or other toxins, while they were on their "rampages."

By creating a safe, quiet and calm environment in his crate, this will become HIS space (remember, dogs are "den animals" and like to be in an area where they feel protected).

Never use the crate as a "time out" area, or associate it at all with punishment, or you will defeat your purpose of making him feel safe and calm by putting him in his crate.

Training: Again, since he is of a breed that craves mental stimulation, engage a professional trainer to help you give him direction. Harness this brainpower for "good, not evil!"

Not only will you gain more control over his behavior, but it will also let him know without a doubt what it is that you want from him. You could even consider doing some more advanced kinds of training with him. Things like "nose work," or scent detection training, or working towards his Canine Good Citizen distinction, would give you both something fun to do together and help to point him in the right direction.

Pharmaceuticals: Finally, if you have truly "tried it all," some pets benefit significantly from medications that help them to stay calm.

There are numerous types of medicines that are used for separation anxiety, and all of them have been extensively tested for safety. There's no shame in reaching for a medication if it will help you both to live more harmoniously together, and prevent him from coming to harm.

Dr. Katy Nelson is an emergency veterinarian in Alexandria, Va. Tune in to "The Pet Show" with Dr. Katy every Saturday at 11 a.m. on Washington D.C.'s News Channel 8, and listen on WTOP for her Dr. Pawz segments every two weeks. Have questions for Dr. Katy? You can follow her on Twitter @drkatynelson, on Facebook or email her at askdrkaty@wtop.com.

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