Pet-icillin? Plying your pup with pills


Q. You see your doctor for a checkup, you take your dog and cat to the vet for theirs. Could you all wind up taking the same medicine? –D. Peppard

 A. Sure, many medicines have the same active ingredients across species, often under a different name, says Texas A&M University veterinary medicine specialist Dr. Deborah Kochevar. Or the vet may use the human product because an appropriate pet product is not available. Many human conditions like diabetes, arthritis, allergies are also common in pets, though atherosclerosis and heart attack are exceptions.

"But dogs and cats are not just like little humans, and you should always consult a veterinarian before medicating any animal," she says. For one thing, doses may differ. Cats, for example, lack a certain liver enzyme for helping clear aspirin from the bloodstream, so they can only be given small amounts once every 2-3 days. Tylenol may outright kill them.

And on the psyche side, many people with compulsive behaviors, such as hand-washings every 15 minutes, get depressed from the lifestyle disruption, says John Dworetzky in Psychology. In the 1970s the new anti-depressive drug clomipramine was found to help these depressions, and then strangely, often the behaviors themselves disappeared. Later, Judith Rapoport looked at "acral lick dermatitis" in dogs, where they keep licking their paws so much the skin wears away and bones may show through. Usual treatment has been to wrap paws in bandages, says Dworetzky, but today "something else also works– clomipramine!"

Q. Given Tyrannosaurus rex's massive head, dagger-size teeth and colossal haunches, its tiny arms (forelimbs) seem almost comic. At least from a safe distance of 65 million years! What function did they serve? –V. D. Milo

A. Scientists have been kicking this one around for a century, starting with the arms-aided-sex theory, later the pushup-theory (to help get its 6 tons up from a prone position) and the prey-skewer theory, says Florida State's Gregory M. Erickson on the Scientific American website.

All was free-floating speculation until the recent Northern Montana find of full-and-intact T. rex forelimbs, permitting biomechanical analyses that showed no way the hands could have even reached the mouth. The elbows just wouldn't bend in that fashion. But the arms were likely strong, able to curl 400 pounds, though with limited range and weak wrists, says Erickson. In fact, evidence shows they were broken and then healed in some specimens, suggesting the diminutive arms were poorly suited for whatever they were used for, and that life could go on for months without needing them.

On the question of how the beasts got themselves up, one idea is their huge tails acted as counter-balances, "10,000-pound walking teeter-totters." Thus instead of pushing, they "swung" on up! Pathetically armed, but still mighty dangerous.

Q. A bruising football linebacker specializes in goal- line stands where he dives up and over the line to collide with the running back, who is also trying to dive up and over– for a touchdown. Usually there's little gain, lots of pain. So now the linebacker wonders proudly, what's the measure of his stopping power? –G. Marchetti

A. Football physics says linear momentum = mass x velocity, or for this 100-kilogram (220 pounds) guy launching himself at 5 meters per second (18 km/hr; 11 mph), that's 500 kilogram-meters per second of body momentum, say Jerry D. Wilson and Anthony J. Buffa in College Physics.

Not bad, and analogous to a 1-kilogram artillery shell leaving the barrel at 500 meters per second (1800 km/hr; 1100 mph). It too has momentum of 500 kilogram-meters per second. So if the guy wore a full-body bulletproof energy- absorbing "jacket" and soared high not into an oncoming opponent but into an artillery projectile instead, there would be quite an impressive midair momentum standoff! CHEERS from the duly-impressed spectating crowd.

Q. We've all witnessed streaming through the clouds the unforgettable "Rays of Buddha," aka "God light," "sun drawing water," "sunbeams" or– officially– "crepuscular rays." Under what conditions are they seen? –J.M.W. Turner

A. These brilliant rays of light emerge from the setting sun, fanning out across the western sky, says Jearl Walker in The Flying Circus of Physics, with Answers. The display results when clouds or mountains block part of the sunlight, creating the dramatic heavenly rays-and-shadows effect. Not as frequently, you will see the rays converging to the antisolar point in the east; or rarer still, see them emerge from the solar point in the west, arc up across the entire sky and converge to the antisolar point in the east. Breathtaking!

One amazing fact is that the fanlike rays are actually parallel to one another, says Walker. Their apparent meeting in the distance is an illusion, much as two parallel railroad tracks running off straight into the far distance seem to converge at some point on the horizon.

Send Strange questions to brothers Bill and Rich at