The Norman Transcript


August 29, 2013

Elders should consider age of adopted pet



I advise in-home cat sitting rather than boarding a cat. I am in total shock at what seem to be the standard cat boarding facility cage and “condo” dimensions. These range from 3 by 4 feet to 4 by 6 feet floor space with heights varying from 3 to 4 feet.

I found only two places in the area where I live (Minneapolis) where I would ever consider boarding a cat — the better ones have windows and lots of space, including stand-up room for a human. I wonder why such small spaces are considered acceptable for cats but not for dogs?

Dear Dr. Fox: I have a 15-year-old black and tan longhaired dachshund who does this strange thing out in the yard. He has a figure eight worn into the grass, and he walks it constantly. He is losing weight from all this walking. He’s always hungry, but seems fine for a 15-year-old dog. Do you have an explanation for his behavior? I would love to hear what you think.

— J.W., St. Charles, Mo.

Dear J.W.: What you describe is an obsessive-compulsive behavior more commonly seen in caged zoo animals and breeding sows in pig factories confined in narrow crates their entire lives; it is called stereotypic behavior.

Repetitive movements may be self-comforting and result in the production of natural opiates in the body, which, in turn, give the activity an addictive element. The underlying cause in your dog could be some discomfort, which he is trying to relieve. This discomfort could be physical, as from chronic bowel inflammation or a brain tumor, or from increased anxiety.

A full veterinary check-up is called for, and if he is in good physical health — and I would not advise costly tests, considering his advanced age — a very light dose of alprazolam (like Xanax) to see if it is anxiety-related may be the best treatment option.

You can also give him a higher fat and protein diet with supplements to help improve his physical condition — provided his kidney function is good.

Send all mail to or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. Visit Dr. Fox’s website at

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