A Dog with the ‘Zoomies,’ Fear, and Breathing Issues

By Cathy M. Rosenthal | January 25th, 2023

Advice from animal advocate Cathy M. Rosenthal

blur of dog running, by Brett Critchley. Dogs with ‘Zoomies,’ Fear, and Breathing Issues.

“Help! Our dog acts like a maniac!” Pet advocate Cathy M. Rosenthal addresses a dog with the “zoomies,” another who fears thunder, and one with breathing problems.

Dear Cathy,

We have an adorable eight-month-old Havanese. She is sweet and lovable most of the time, but then she has a daily episode in the late afternoon when she acts like a maniac. She runs, jumps, growls, shows her teeth, and tries to nip and bite us. It lasts for about an hour. We usually put her in her crate until she calms down. She then returns to her charming self after the episode. Our trainer has called this behavior the “zoomies” and thinks she will grow out of it. Any suggestions on what we can do?

— Michael, Port Jefferson, New York

Dear Michael,

If your dog has a clean bill of health from your veterinarian, then your trainer is probably right; your dog has the “zoomies.” Zoomies is a term used to describe the frenetic behavior that occurs when a dog (or cat) has pent-up energy and literally “zooms” all around the house. It is more common in younger dogs and cats because they naturally have more energy than older pets.

Your puppy may or may not grow out of it, though. Dogs can have the zoomies well into their adult lives. But there is something you can do. Recognize it as a sign that your dog (or cat) needs more playtime and exercise. If you know this happens every day around the same time, you can preempt this behavior by taking her for a walk or playing with her for at least 30 minutes. If you offer playtime and exercise before she gets the zoomies, you will help burn up some of that youthful energy before she has to try to do it herself.

Adopted dog has adjustment and ‘zoomie’ issues

Dear Cathy,

We love our dog dearly, but he is terrified of thunderstorms and barks when they occur. We have tried Thundershirts®, pheromones, CBD oils, and tranquilizers. Harley is 10 years old but has been reacting to storms since he was six when we adopted him. Please help. We don’t know what else we can do?

— Phyllis, Las Vegas, Nevada

Dear Phyllis,

I have had three dogs in my life with noise phobia and know how stressful this is for any family with a dog afraid of storms and fireworks. You’re trying all the right things, but sometimes you must combine some of these things simultaneously to reduce her anxiety. In other words, one thing may not help, but two or three things combined may be what she needs. So, you may have to try a Thundershirt®, a pheromone collar and/or spray tranquilizers, and sound therapy – like providing white noise or keeping a radio or TV on – to help drown out the noise.

While you can reduce her stress when storms occur, you will never completely eliminate her fear and anxiety. Keep looking for the right combination of things that will, at the very least, reduce her overall reaction to storms.

A vet who lacks empathy for a pet’s end-of-life process

Dear Cathy,

In the Arizona Daily Star on Dec. 16, 2022, you had a question about a nine-year-old terrier mix with breathing problems. We had a lab mix years ago who had breathing problems and was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. She would tilt her head back to breathe, and if she tried to lie down, she would get back up immediately. Despite medication, we lost her when she was 13 due to her heart condition.

Our last dog, “Gracie,” also had a breathing problem. Her problem was different. We had taken her to an oncologist for mast cell tumors. At the time, we had just started noticing she was having difficulty breathing. When I asked the vet about it, she said it sounded like laryngeal paralysis. At 10 years old, Gracie had surgery to address it, and it significantly improved her life. We hand-fed her in small amounts to prevent aspiration. We lost her at age 13 due to bone cancer in her lower left jaw. It was devastating.

Diane’s story said she had been to three vets. That’s unacceptable; she needs to try a different vet, perhaps at a specialty clinic. I wish her luck.

— Pat & Bill, Tucson, Arizona

Dear Pat and Bill,

Thank you for sharing your story. As pet owners, we are our pet’s best advocates. Even if three vets said her dog was OK, if she (or any pet owner) sees their pet struggling to breathe or having any other major health problem, they should return to their vet or find yet another vet to get to the bottom of what’s happening.

Pet owners can also look for a holistic veterinarian for complementary and alternative therapies to traditional veterinary medicine.

Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist, and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. She addresses reader questions as diverse as outdoor cat safety to bizarre dog behavior. Send your pet questions, stories, and tips to cathy@petpundit.com. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.

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