A Trip to the Doctor means Managing Travel Anxiety

Question:
We have an older female German shepherd that for the past couple of months has ‘matter’ in both eyes off and on. I wipe off the material and rinse the eyes with “Eye Relief’ but in a few days it returns. She is terrified to leave the yard and go in a car so I hate to cause her the stress!

Dr. Nichol:
With the summer wind, mixed with dust, pollens, and occasional wildfire smoke, there are plenty of dogs with the same symptoms. The pink tissues beneath your shepherd’s eyelids (conjunctiva) are downright irritated. Continued abuse from the fine airborne debris assaulting those delicate membranes can lead to low-grade infections and even damage her eyes.

Your veterinarian needs to examine this good dog. A fluorescent stain applied to her eyes, and then illuminated by an ultraviolet light, will help demonstrate any damage to her corneas – the clear outer surfaces of her eyeballs. If infection is also ruled-out, simple eye cleaning – just what you have been doing – may be all your dog needs to get her eyes safely and comfortably through the rest of the summer. Doggles, a stylin’ canine accessory, can provide excellent protection. Available in multiple sizes most dogs accept them readily.

Your dog’s travel anxiety is also important; ignoring it would allow it to worsen. Trembling with the tail tucked, hiding behind the seat, or even trying to escape the car, it’s miserable. You can reduce your girl’s fear with a chewable amino acid supplement called Anxitane. You can start it just 12 hours before hopping into the car. Your dog also needs canine-specific leadership. Avoid comforting – that would inadvertently reinforce her fearful emotions. And don’t scold – you could scare her even more.

Make it easy for your dog to relax. Lead her quietly to the parked car and play or feed her dinner. Gradually share more good times inside the car before starting the engine and finally driving slowly. She’ll need consistent management, including careful, steady driving. This is a repetitive process that could take a few weeks or longer. Twice daily Anxitane, given throughout training, will make it much easier for your dog to lose the heebie jeebies.

Dr. Jeff Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). He cares for the medical needs of pets at the Petroglyph Animal Hospital in Albuquerque (898-8874). Question? Post it on facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by US Mail to 4000 Montgomery Blvd NE, Albuq, NM 87109. Unpublished questions may not be answered individually.