Canine Behavior/My dog won't let me sleep.
I have a female dog, age 12. She is a collie/shepherd mix and in relatively good health. She currently takes Proin for incontinence, fish oil for dry skin, and a special digestive health food for her sensitive stomach. She has been on this regiment for more than a year and sees the vet 1-2 times a year. She has a good temperment and has some energy for play. Usually about 5-10 mins a night. After that her back legs start to get a little tired. My husband and I have a schedule for feeding and potty breaks for the dog. Before bed, usually 8-9 pm. We take the dog outside. Then upstairs to our bedroom where we lock her in, because she barks throughout the night otherwise. We give ber a treat to get her upstairs. At 2-4am my husband gets up for work. He takes her outside, then feeds her. Before I leave for work, at 7:30am, she goes outside again. Then gets a small treat. When my husband returns home from work 1-2pm, he takes the dog out. She gets dinner around 5pm. Occasionally she will go out one more time, if she asks, around 7pm. This has all changed now. About a year ago the dog started waking up in the middle of the night and pacing. We have hard wood floors so this was keeping us up. So we decided to let her out of the bedroom. When dhe leaves the bedroom she gets a big drink of water. I assume because she pants alot at night. She does not hsve Cushings. About 3 months ago this behavior escalated to it's current state. Around 11:30pm she wakes me up to be let out of the room. At 1-1:30am she wakes me up to take her outside. She thinks she will then get her breakfast, but I think it's too early so I ignore her. At 2-2:30 she wakes me up to feed her. Then, sometimes she will wake me up at 4-4:30am to go outside again. This is driving me insane! There have been no external changes that I can think of. Same house, same people, same routine- except for her changes. What is causing this and how can I make it stop?
Thank you for your question. Your dog is well into her senior years and, like many humans, she is susceptible to a form of dementia. It's called Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD). My own rainbow bridge dog suffered from this during her last 4 years.
It's a condition that is diagnosed by excluding other potential medical conditions that can have similar symptoms, so you'll need to have a detailed discussion with your vet.
Some of the symptoms include (but are not limited to):
* changes in sleep/wake cycle with nighttime pacing
* excessive panting (a sign of stress which may be brought on by confusion)
* soiling accidents in a previously well potty trained dog
* confusion - this can manifest by the dog getting "stuck" in corners or behind furniture, going to the hinge side of the door looking to get out (when they used to wait at the edge that opened), forgetting to use their doggie door, seeming to not recognize people they've known well for a long time and other signs that suggest confusion
* changes in appetite
* changes in attention seeking (formerly aloof dogs may get clingy while formerly cuddly dogs may stop seeking interaction)
* seeming to forget how to play (if they used to play fetch, they may chase the ball and then stare at it or interact with it but fail to actually pick it up and bring it back)
* increased startle response - being frightened by noises or circumstances that didn't used to bother them. This may manifest with defensive behaviors such as growling, snarling, barking with ears pinned back and the whites of the eyes showing (whale eye), or it may manifest with the dog cowering or shutting down - choosing to avoid interaction altogether.
* staring at walls - sitting or lying down facing the wall rather than facing/engaging the room.
* deeper sleep during the day, harder to rouse them - they don't respond as quickly to human arrivals or doorbells, etc.
This is not an exhaustive list, but covers the most common behavior changes we see in CCD.
Make a list of all the behavior changes you're seeing in your dog. She may not have all of them and she may have some that are atypical. You know your dog best so you will know what's different for her, even if it doesn't fit neatly into the criteria for the condition. Arrange a vet visit for a complete medical workup, including blood work. Discuss the possibility of CCD with your vet and the use of the drug selegiline hydrochloride (veterinary brand name: Anipryl). This is the same drug used in humans for Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's. It can't reverse the damage already done to the brain, but it can slow the progression and this can often reverse, or at least reduce, some of the behavioral changes. It's not 100% and some dogs will show little to no improvement. It takes several weeks to ramp up to a therapeutic dose to determine if there is going to be improvement or not.
In my dog's case, her behavior was considered atypical and I saw two different vets and then paid a fortune to have a veterinary behaviorist drive 3 hours to see my dog because the 2 vets refused to prescribe the drug for me.
The most common behavioral sign is failure of potty training. My dog continued to be successful with her potty habits, and because of that and her ability to discern which edge of the door to wait at, the two local vets where I was at the time didn't believe she was suffering dementia. But, my dog was showing an increased fear response with a defensive aggressive display, she was getting stuck behind furniture which made her frightened, she seemed to not recognize myself or my husband at times and she was significantly clingier to me than she had been earlier in her life (she was a bit of an aloof pup). The vet behaviorist agreed that some of her behavior was atypical to the standard symptomology, but agreed that I knew her better than anyone else. We put her on the meds and I got my dog back. I got nearly 4 more good years. Her last year she declined again and began the panting and pacing, deeper daytime sleep, and confusion again. Her appetite changed in that she was always hungry, but would get distracted and walk away from her food and I had to sit with her and remind her she wasn't done eating until her bowl was empty. She also developed a fecal incontinence about 4 months before we said goodbye.
I'm not a vet and I haven't excluded a host of other potential health problems in your dog, so I can't tell you that this is in fact what's happening with your dog. But it does have some of the hallmarks that suggest this diagnosis is worth considering.
No matter what the diagnosis is, please remember that your dog is old. Her needs are changing and she's not doing any of this to irritate you. It is frustrating, especially when it interferes with your sleep. But try to remember that she needs your love and tenderness and patience now more than ever because she's aging and declining, and just like our grandparents, needs extra attention rather than less.
Good luck. Please feel free to followup if I can be of further assistance, of if you'd like to share the outcome after discussing with your vet (or a local veterinary behaviorist).
Jody, CPDT-KA, APDT
Los Angeles Behaviorist