Behavior – How to treat an animal that has been badly abused

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Dear Your Own Vet,

I am trying to find out what to do about a dog that has adopted us. The poor little guy must have been seriously abused because although he can be fed and will try to play some he refuses to get close enough to put flea and tick treatment on him. I know most tranquilizers are prescriptions and we can’t get him loaded up to take to the vet to be dipped and stuff. Basically I am trying to find out if there is something we can give him to sedate him so we can put drops on him and allow us to remove the ticks off of him. We don’t want to hurt him or anything just try to put some medicine on him or possible give him a pill that will eliminate the fleas and ticks if that exists.

How to get ticks off a dog that won't be touched

Ticks and fleas are always found on abused animals

We have the dog in question here and he is a beautiful dog and if we could ever get him to relax I think he would be a wonderful pet. He has been with us for over a year now we basically feed him and give him a place to sleep he runs at us and plays around us. I have been able to feed him from my hand but as soon as I move my hand he jumps away, we have two other dogs as well and they jumped on him in the beginning when he got close to us. I don’t know that has any impact on his not letting us be near him but I thought it might. I have given him calming tablets but I just got those from Wal-mart because we haven’t been able to take him to the vet so our vet won’t prescribe anything for him without him being there. I gave him some Benadryl yesterday trying to calm him enough to be able to get the ticks off and put medication on him but it didn’t work.


Pam and Ruth

Emaciated dog that hasn't been cared for

Abused animals are often difficult to rehabilitate and treat


Dear Pamela and Ruth,

There is a pill called Capstar that will kill the fleas, but not the ticks unfortunately. You can put it in the food. It kills all the fleas that are on him at the time, but doesn’t have a residual effect. There is another pill called Program that you can feed him once a month that makes the fleas on him sterile so they can’t breed.

A product called Dectomax (Moxidectin) – used in some Heartworm medications and also as a sheep and cattle product can be given orally. It is usually used for internal worms but does have some effect against external parasites as well. Use with care in collies. Your vet should carry it. You can also try putting flea powder on his bedding, which would treat the environment he sleeps in as well as some parasites on his body of the  so he doesn’t keep getting reinfected.

Many vets do carry natural calming pills – products like DAP (which you can plug into the wall or spray) release calming chemicals that will be inhaled by your pet. You should also be able to purchase these over the internet – I know that some of the people that advertise on my site carry these drugs.

Fleas on abused dogs

Use Capstar or Program to control fleas orally

Also homeopathic preparations such as “rescue remedy” or herbal products will be carried by your vet and/or your pharmacist.

I will send your email to our behaviorist who may be able to give you some tips on how to calm him down or get him to trust you more.


Dr. Claire Demmer

BVSc (Hons)


Hi Pam and Ruth,

It is always very sad when a dog is abused and it can take a very long time to get the dog to trust a human again. I would suggest that you could get some homeopathic medicine to calm the dog down. Rescue remedy is good and there is a product here in South Africa called Eco-Fear. It is liquid so you can put it in the dog’s water and it will be taking it every time it drinks. Rescue is also liquid but there are pills as well. Nutricalm or Mello Mutts are both homeopathic products that help to calm dogs down.

If you can sit on the floor and using food get the dog to come to you and feed it to gets its trust. Then when it is ok being close to you, you can slowly rub your hand over the dog. When it is calm with your rubbing your hand you can maybe get the dog to sit quietly when putting the drops on the dog.

Dog appeasing pheremone

DAP is a natural calmer in a spray or diffuser form

It is not a quick process and you might consider getting a very strong sedative from the vet to knock the dog out completely and while it is very drowsy put the medication on the dog. This way the dog really won’t know what is happening and then you can win its trust for the next time to need to do the treatment.

It’s  a pity that your dogs jumped on him when he came close – they were telling him that they are higher in rank and now he knows this he is reluctant to come close (hierarchy in dogs is absolute).

Is there any chance that your vet would come out to see the dog and help you this way. I have a very good relationship with my vet and he comes to my house when asked – recently my GSD collapsed and the vet came and saw her and then took her to the vet to put her on a drip. Perhaps ask your vet and see if he/she is prepared to come out. I really believe that this dog needs to be really tranquilized and then seen to.


Kathy Clayton

Accredited Companion Animal Behaviourist &Professional Dog Trainer
011 783 3042 082 454 1750

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