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How to help your dog enjoy car rides

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How to help your dog enjoy car rides

By Steve Dale

Q: We are planning a driving trip in January with our very nervous dog. Do you have any suggestions on what we can give her to calm her down? – S. C., St. Paul, MN

A: Some dogs are anxious about car travel because they’ve associated motion sickness with the ride. If you realized that you were going to get sick from doing something, you would avoid doing it, right? While dogs are either unaccustomed to traveling in the car because they don’t do it often or they associate travel to destinations they don’t like, such as the veterinarian or a groomer, and then are very anxious from the get go. 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 strictly upset about car rides because of motion sickness alone, usually there is an anxiety component. The solution might be as easy as slapping on a Adaptil collar, which emits a copy of a calming pheromone, and offering Anxitane (L-theanine, a nutritional supplement manufactured to ease anxiety). However, while these products, and others – including the Thundershirt, which dogs wear, do help, many dogs also require a course of counter-conditioning and desensitization.

Here’s what you do:

Take your dog (with that Adaptil collar and perhaps Thundershirt) to the car with a favorite toy. Open the back seat and periodically toss a favorite toy inside. Also, feed your pup from the back seat. When your dog’s anxiety seems gone – which can take days or even a few weeks – now move on to the next step.

Before you actually drive anywhere, you may need to add a medication for motion sickness. It’s difficult for dog owners to tease out, where anxiety ends and motion sickness begins.

Ask your veterinarian about a drug called Cerenia, though Dramamine can also help. Cerenia, is more expensive, but made specifically for dogs – and can deal with a nauseous dog, even if the upset tummy is caused more by anxiety than motion sickness.

Now, you can actually drive with your dog. Start off using a toy stuffed with low fat low salt peanut butter inside it (to distract), and take your dog down the block just down the driveway and back. The trip should literally be less than a minute. When you return home, offer a meal (so the dog associates the car ride with something positive). Once your dog expresses zero anxiety, you’re ready to drive a bit further. Gradually work your way up to a mile, then a few miles. Once you’ve driven this distance without your dog expressing anxiety, head for somewhere fun – such as the park or a friend’s house with a dog, whatever your dog will like.

Q: I am thinking of adopting an older cat from the local animal welfare society. He tested positive for FIV. I’ve read that this disease isn’t transferred to humans or dogs, still though, I am having reservations about adopting Clarence. I’m not a cat person but I fell in love with him. What do you think? – B. H., Cyberspace

A: I think you’re a hero, and so does Dr. Colleen Currigan, who has a certified cat friendly practice in Chicago and is the incoming president of the American Association of Feline Practitioners. “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. FIV cats can transmit the disease to other cats, though increasingly shelters are adopting FIV cats into homes with other cats.

Currigan explains, “The disease is primarily transmitted through bites. When care is taken, and cats are introduced to one another very slowly and there are lots of resources (toys, places to snooze, scatchers, etc.) and there aren’t too many cats in too small a place, then fighting rarely occurs.”

Currigan, president of the Board at Tree House Humane Society in Chicago, points out that FIV cats can be more susceptible to illness, and sometimes chronic mouth, ear or skin problems. However, not all FIV cats have these issues. With twice annual veterinary exams – which all cats should have anyway – preventive care often precludes problems before they become bothersome. Many cats with FIV live a long life succumbing to illnesses common to old age, not associated with FIV.

Currigan adds one more point, “FIV cats (usually they’re male cats) tend to be the friendliest cats – they make wonderful affectionate pets.”

Q: I can’t find this information anywhere else – perhaps you can help me with my art history class. 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 great artists of all time adored felines, including Leonardo da Vinci, 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 resource. This book confirms that Henri Matisse called the cat you referred to his “devoted companion.”

In 1526, Francesco Ubertini painted a rare portrait of a young woman with a cat. Michelangelo depicted cats in some of his work.
However, according to Loxton, the first artist to make cats a major subject was Gottfried Mind in the 18th century. Mind’s favorite cat was Minette; the artist would reportedly hold long conversations with her 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.

(Write to Steve at Tribune Content Agency, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 154, Buffalo, NY. 14207. Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state.)