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Pet Happenings - March 2001

Traveling with Your Pet? Common Ailments and How To Treat Them

If you’re getting ready to make your vacation plans and they include traveling with your pet; or even if you’re just taking mini excursions around the area with your pet, here are some common ailments that pets seem to get and some household, and over-the-counter remedies for treating them.

 ALLERGIES: The fastest and easiest remedy is to give your pet a cool-water soak. Bathe your pet for about 5 to 10 minutes in cool bath water, since warm water aggravates the itch. To make the soaks even more soothing, vet’s sometimes recommend adding colloidal oatmeal (such as Aveeno) to the bath water. It gives the water a smooth, silky feel that will help calm the crankiest skin. If you don’t have colloidal oatmeal or an oatmeal shampoo, you can substitute regular oatmeal from the kitchen. Take an old sock and fill it with oatmeal. Tie the sock over your bathtub spout so the water comes through the oatmeal.

Additionally, you can help bring allergies under control with antihistamines. Lowell Ackerman D.V.M., PhD, a veterinary dermatologist in Scottsdale, AZ, says your vet may recommend an over-the-counter drug such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine). The typical dose is one to three milligrams for every pound of pet, but you should ask your vet for precise dosages. For best results, don’t give the antihistamine only when itching flares. It should be given throughout the allergy season.

To help calm itchy skin, try giving your pet fatty acid supplements, which are also used for relieving mange and other skin disorders, advises William H. Miller, D.V.M. of Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. The supplements come in capsules and are available from veterinarians and some pet stores. Ask your vet which dose is right for your pet.
The capsules may be a tricky thing to get your pet to swallow, an easier way is to take the capsules apart and squeeze the oil onto your pet’s food. They’re effective in about 20% of dogs and 25-30% of cats. They taste fishy, and cats especially like them.
Dogs with allergies occasionally suffer from itchy feet and soaking them in Epsom salts can be a big relief. Fill the tub with just enough cool water to cover your dog’s paws. Dissolve several cups of Epsom salts crystals in the water. Stand your dog in the tub for 5 to 10 minutes, then gently dry her feet. Don’t let her drink the water, though, since Epsom salts can act as a laxative. (This remedy is for dogs only.)

Some pets also acquire an allergy cough. If your pet is coughing more than once an hour, he can probably benefit from a cough suppressant. Use a product containing the active ingredient dextromethorphan, such as Robitussin Maximum Strength Cough Syrup. Ask your vet what dose is right for your pet. Be sure, however, to pick a product that contains only the active ingredient you want. Some cough medications also contain drugs such as aspirin or acetaminophen, which can be dangerous for pets.

 BURRS: When a burr is really tangled in your pet’s fur, applying a little vegetable oil will help get it loose. A spritz of detangling spray, available at pet stores, can also help. If you’re buying a detangling spray for your cat, make sure it’s feline friendly.

If you can’t get the burr out by coming or with your fingers, you can cut it out with a pair of blunt tipped scissors to avoid gouging your pet. It’s best to cut perpendicular to the mat, not parallel to it. Just make sure you’re cutting hair and not skin.
And, for just plain matted fur, a light sprinkling of cornstarch makes stubborn mats easier to pull apart. It helps the hair glide out of the mat. As you work deeper into the mat, add more cornstarch as needed.

 CAR SICKNESS: Oddly enough, the same drug that works for people to ward off motion sickness–also works for pets, says James B. Dalley, D.V.M. of the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Medium to large dogs should be given 25 to 50 milligrams of Dramamine (dimenhydrinate) at least an hour before traveling, says Dr. Dalley. Cats and small dogs should get about 12.5 milligrams.

Dramamine is available in 50-milligram tablets that can be split into quarters to provide the right dose for your pet. Vet’s say it’s safe for most healthy dogs and cats, although pets with glaucoma or bladder problems shouldn’t take it without a vet’s approval.

 DEHYDRATION: Dehydration can cause your pet to lose electrolytes, minerals such as potassium and sodium that transmit electrical impulses throughout the body.
While giving plain water will replace most electrolytes, you can help your pet recover from lack of water even more quickly by giving her an electrolyte-enriched drink such as Pedialyte. You can buy electrolyte solutions at grocery stores and pharmacies.
If your hot dog or cat seems reluctant to drink, try tempting her with an electrolyte-containing sports drink like Gatorade. Some pets have a thing for sweet, fruity flavors, and they enjoy Gatorade.

Pets that have gone a long time without water may have trouble keeping fluids down. A helpful alternative is to give her an ice cube. As she licks it, she’ll slowly hydrate her system. This also works well for a pet that is recovering from diarrhea or vomiting, since dehydration is a concern with both of these conditions when keeping anything down may be problematic.

 INSECT BITES AND STINGS: Making a paste of baking soda and water to apply to a bite or sting several times a day can help ease discomfort, says Larry Thompson D.V.M. at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. The alkalinity helps relieve the itch. A dab of calamine can also help.
Another remedy is applying milk of magnesia to the sting. It contains magnesium hydroxide, which will also help reduce the itch and irritation. You can apply it with a cotton ball several times a day.

Meat tenderizers contain enzymes that help break down the poison in insect stings, which reduces the irritation. Make a paste by adding water to the tenderizer. Then apply it directly to the sting. Repeat as often as needed.

Experts aren’t sure why it works, but ammonia helps cut the pain of bug bites and stings. Dab it on the bite or sting with a cotton ball.

Aloe vera is good for skin irritations. Applying a thin layer of gel from an aloe vera plant will help ease discomfort and possibly speed healing. If you don’t have an aloe vera plant, you can buy the gel in health food stores.

For areas that are sore and irritated, try applying a thin layer of hydrocortisone cream. Use Cortaid or another cream with 0.5 percent hydrocortisone.

Applying a cold compress to stings helps take the swelling down and dulls the pain. Wrap a handful of ice cubes in a washcloth or small towel and hold it on the area for at least 5 minutes–longer if your pet will hold still. It might help calm your pet, too.

And, just as in allergies, a cool soak in an oatmeal bath can help insect bites and stings as well. (see allergies).

 PAW PROBLEMS: Like people, pets occasionally suffer from dry, cracked, callused skin on the bottoms of their feet. To keep the pads protected, try applying a moisturizer. The same stuff you use on your hands will work for your pet. Vitamin E oil, available in drugstores, also works well. Once you’ve applied a moisturizer, the big trick is to keep them from licking it off. Put the oil on at mealtime. They’ll eat first, so the oil will have some time to soak in.

While giving your pet an occasional moisturizer will help make her feet more comfortable, getting them too soft makes them vulnerable to injuries. So don’t use lotion for more than a few days in a row.

Although the standard remedy for a pet getting “skunked” is tomato juice, there are some other remedies that work just as well if not better. If you want to try the tomato juice, wash your pet first with soap and water. Then pour on the tomato juice. Make sure the juice saturates his coat and let it soak in for 10 to 20 minutes. Then rinse him off and wash him again with his regular shampoo.

The over-the-counter medicated douche known as Massengill has long been a favorite of pet groomers, and is supposed to work miracles. For small to medium pets, mix 2 ounces of Massengill with 1 gallon of water. For large dogs, you’ll want to double the amount of water and Massengill. Pour the mixture over your pet until it really soaks in, and wait 15 minutes to rinse it out. Then wash your pet with his regular shampoo and rinse thoroughly.

A shower of vanilla can help sweeten your stinky pet. Douse your pet with 1¼ cups of vanilla extract mixed in 1 gallon of water. Let it soak for about 10 minutes, then wash him with his regular shampoo and rinse thoroughly.

According to chemist Paul Krebaum of Lisle, Illinois, you can make an excellent de-skunking formula by mixing ¼ cup baking soda and 1 teaspoon liquid soap in a quart of hydrogen peroxide. Work the solution into your pet’s fur, then rinse well.

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