Cabin Fever

About this time in Wisconsin we’re all going a little stir crazy and feeling cooped- up indoors. As a veterinarian, I see the adverse effects of this on my patients. Dogs and cats need an outlet for their nervousness and boredom. Some resort to self- mutilation; others participate in destructive or otherwise inappropriate behaviors. Dogs, some breeds in particular, chew on their extremities to produce what we call lick granulomas.

Dobermans and retrievers are notorious for this. These, sometimes raw and calloused appearing lesions, can be extremely difficult to treat. In my treatment protocols, as a holistic veterinarian- always considering the mind and spirit, not just the body, I realize we need to stimulate the mind and soothe the spirit of these dogs who are bored with winter. A topical ointment is an inadequate “band-aid.”

Summertime “good” dogs can become wintertime “bad” dogs when they think chewing on furniture or barking incessantly is an appropriate outlet for their cabin fever frustration.

Even cats can become annoyed when their routine of sneaking outdoors or sitting in a sunny window cackling at birds has been altered. Cats like to express their dissatisfaction with a situation by inappropriately urinating.

So what are we to do? Here are some fun, local and easy suggestions to re-connect with your pet during the cold, dark months of winter.

Think Pawsitive and K-9 Splash in New Berlin has an indoor pool for dogs! They boast a 37,000 sq. ft.building with 17,000 sq. ft. of indoor, artificial turf. Todd Oilschlager, co-owner and “swim coach” says, “We promote our facility as a canine sports center for agility, flyball and in the future, frisbee!” No experience is necessary to try it out.

My 13 year old terrier acts like a puppy when he finishes his swim session!

Patty Muraczewski, owner and trainer at For Pet’s Sake in Mukwonago offers a plethora of dog activities including reward-based training, agility, fly ball and puppy socials. She encourages doggy day care such as is provided by the Central Bark franchises in our community. Patty is also the founder of Bichon and Little Buddies Rescue. She is familiar with an objectionable and painful behavior unique to bichons called fur pulling. A nervous Bichon grabs his own fur with his teeth and rips a strip out, like “waxing”, ouch! I have been a witness to this when I first rescued my own bichon frise.

At my practice, I advise distraction techniques and an oral Chinese herbal called Shen Calmer. “Shen” means mind. My Bichon loves fighting with squeaky toys, but only if I get up off the couch and onto the floor and play with him!

It’s easy to ignore a lazy cat. Sometimes excessive petting actually annoys them. You may not realize, just as some of us suppress our feelings, cats can internalize their boredom or frustration and become depressed or resort to excessive fur licking. This actually has been given the name, psychogenic neurodermatitis.

Providing a new cat tree or new bed can thrill a cat. Stimulate your cat with flippy toys, glitter balls and crinkle toys. Outdoor cats are able to keep busy stalking mice, pawing at bugs, and sniffing flowers. Wal-Mart has a unique “cat toy”- a collection of imitation insects in mason jars. They sparkle and flutter like the real thing! There are two varieties, a butterfly or a firefly. This innovation can puzzle and entertain your feline.

Did you know that you can schedule an appointment for a professional massage for your pet? Massage is “petting with intent”. When appropriate techniques and pressure are applied, a massage can be just as relaxing for your dog or cat as it is for you. In the right setting, it’s a mini-vacation!

When all else fails, bundle up and head outside! Manufacturers make strollers for cats, and coats and boots for sensitive little bodies and paws. A little fresh air is good for everyone!

#swimming #shencalmer #boredom

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