Everyone knows a thunderstorm horror story. A terrified dog leaps off a balcony or breaks through a plate glass window before jumping a fence, running into traffic, and meeting an unhappy fate. Or the animal simply disappears and is never seen again. More common and just as distressing are the panic attacks that overcome stay-at-home dogs when thunder roars or the neighbors light firecrackers. Conventional veterinary medicine treats thunderstorm and other noise phobias with powerful tranquilizers or psychoactive drugs, none of which cure the patient and all of which have adverse side effects.
As unlikely as it sounds, one of the most effective treatments for thunderstorm phobias may be an over-the-counter hormone used by humans to prevent insomnia. Melatonin, produced by the pineal gland, sets the body’s internal clock in response to exposure to light. The body creates melatonin only in total darkness, for the pineal gland stops production when any part of the body, even the back of the leg, is exposed to light. In people, melatonin has been shown to calm the nerves, reduce anxiety, relieve panic disorders, prevent migraine headaches, facilitate deep sleep, and, according to some researchers, help slow the effects of aging.
Hannah was a normal, healthy Labrador Retriever puppy: happy, boisterous, playful, and always willing to eat. Hannah’s owner, Connecticut resident Anne Hassett, bought Hannah when the pup was seven weeks old. Hassett trained, socialized, and loved the golden pup. A field-line Labrador, Hannah hunted on the weekends and enjoyed the comfy life of a companion Lab weekdays. Hannah was well known in hunting circles for her steady, easy-going temperament, the coveted hallmark of the Labrador breed. Hassett considered breeding her, and had the dog examined and tested for genetic diseases.
Have you ever looked up suddenly and seen your dog staring at you intensely, longingly – a look that grows no less pleading when you offer treats, a walk, or a scratch behind the ears? Or perhaps you’ve seen your dog leap up at some seemingly nonexistent noise, sniffing and whining for no reason you can imagine. Have you wished that you could know what your animal wants, understand what he’s thinking? Or have you ever wondered, when your dog mysteriously disappears at bath time, if he knows what you’re thinking?
A reader wonders whether her aggressive dog could have been saved.
Help! My dog has the most disgusting habit: eating feces! She’ll eat her own, that of other dogs, cat poop, you name it. It’s gotten to the point where I can’t take her off leash at the park; she spend her whole time trying to find some to eat, and scarfing it down greedily when she sees me running to stop her. What is UP with this?
I first met Lucy at my local monthly “My Dog Can Do That” competition in January of 1998, at the SPCA in Monterey, California. She was easy to spot – a merle Great Dane with lovely natural ears, who literally towered above the competition. Lucy was attentive, responsive, performed even the most advanced MDCDT behaviors with ease, and consistently placed in the ribbons. It surprised me, then, when a few months later I heard Lucy had started threatening humans, and her aggression was escalating. This was not appropriate behavior for any dog, but particularly disturbing in one of Lucy’s size, with her potential for causing serious harm.
Stress. Everyone knows what it feels like. Tight shoulders. Headache. Insomnia. Upset stomach. Everyone knows what can trigger it. Rush hour traffic. Deadlines. An insensitive boss. A toddler having a day of tantrums, unexpected bills, or taxes. We also know that too much stress can actually make us ill. Ulcers and high blood pressure are prime examples. A recent study noted that 19 percent of employees who call in sick on any particular day do so because they simply felt they needed a day off.