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Ask the Veterinarian/Anxiety dog acting weird after big dog altercation



I took my dog to the vet today for this issue, but I wanted to get another perspective and was hoping you might have an opinion on this issue.

My dog is a five year old toy fox terrier named Bella. She has always had some anxiety, which has progressively gotten worse. I attribute this to the fact that my husband and I move around a lot. Our vet recently prescribed Xanax, which turned out horribly. She was extremely drugged and kept running into things. My husband ended up staying up with her all night to make sure she was responsive.

Last Friday night, the neighbor's large breed dog became jealous when Bella was being petted by her owner. The other dog grabbed Bella's head before my husband could get her away. I couldn't see exactly what happened, but my husband says she was not picked up by the head or shaken. She had a slight scratch, but blood wasn't drawn. We cleaned it with peroxide and didn't think anything else about it.

For the last couple days, she has been acting kind of strange. She has been yelping at things that normally wouldn't bother her - my husband's leg hit her face, I patted her on the butt, etc. She is also acting like she can't jump on the bed or couch. Sometimes she'll do it (once she tried and didn't quite make it), but she mostly just sits on the floor and stares, wanting you to pick her up. This isn't something she's ever really done before. She abruptly lost interest in the squirrels living in our wall (long story, we're moving), which she has been obsessed with for weeks. She's been walking very tentatively, like she's nervous about something. I've been kind of concerned that something happened to her internally - brain damage or something.

The vet spent a lot of time feeling her legs (he found that her kneecaps move in and out) and stomach and listening to her chest and didn't find anything concerning. He said she's probably just traumatized and is fine. He didn't recommend any further testing, but prescribed her a different anxiety medication and said to follow up in a month. She doesn't have any symptoms like fever, vomiting, or diarrhea. As far as I can tell, she's eating, although she'll skip one day and eat a lot the next.  

I'm so worried by all these weird things she's doing! Sometimes she acts normal - excited, playful, etc. But most of the time she just sits around shaking. I know you can't diagnose anything, I'd just like to know what your thoughts are on this situation.

Thank you,

Hi Tracy,
You must be very worried about her, poor little Bella! Did your vet check to see if she had any neck or back pain? Hope so. You have given me a great summary there of her history, so thank you very much. As soon as I hear about dogs that are sitting shaking and are reluctant to jump I worry about back or neck pain. Does she seem to be reluctant to turn her head? Does she yelp when you touch her around the head or neck?

It could be that she is traumatised. This does seem like a scary incident for a little girl. There are some other options that can be used for anxiety that shouldn't lead to excessive sedation, and I assume that she has started on something like that?

I think in terms of brain trauma, this can be difficult to detect. As can the psychological effects of such an attack. I'm sure if she was a person she would be diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder or something.

In some cases using Adaptil (a pheromone collar that can be used with any other medications) and lots of treats and training can help her get over any fears she has. If you are at all concerned this is psychological a veterinary behaviourist might be useful. A good basis for increasing confidence can be this program:

If she doesn't improve I would definitely go back to your vet and get her checked over again for anything physical and perhaps he/she could put her on some pain medications to see if that helps.

I think you are right to be worried and certainly don't feel as though you can't question your vet if she isn't improving (I like to know when my patients aren't getting better!), or as I say perhaps seek the assistance of a veterinary behaviourist.


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Eloise Bright


I am a vet with a special interest in dermatology, particularly allergic dogs and cats, behaviour and acupuncture. I work mainly with dogs and cats. If you are wondering why your pet is still itchy, despite good flea control, or why your dog licks his feet, I may be able to give you some solutions. I'm currently very passionate about behaviour and am doing some further education in this area. So if you have a troubling behaviour with your dog or cat, such as barking, leash reactivity, anxiety or a dog who is a little wild and difficult to control, I may be able to help you with some solutions.


I work in an area of Sydney where we see lots of allergic pets. I think behaviour problems are very common and I help a number of owners find solutions that will restore peace to them and their pets. Currently I enjoy answering questions, providing advice and writing pet care articles for

I graduated as a vet from Sydney Uni in 2006 and have since been completing my Masters in Small Animal Practice and am also updating my skills with a behaviour course through Sydney Uni.

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