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Canine Behavior/doggie dementia

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Question
Peppie is a 16 year old lab/great date mix. He was always a very calm soul and preferred to spend his days quietly at the side of people. Lately, unfortunately, we believe he has developed a dog form of Alzheimer's. He is easy distract when a schedule changes. He cannot be left alone without becoming upset. He no longer understands when we call his name. Etc. This would not be so bad if he hasn't gotten into the habit or destroying any paper items we leave near him while we are not watching. He has gone into my sisters closet (she is away at university) and ripped through books and dvds left in the floor. He also ripped up her prom gown as it was long enough to reach the floor. He also ripped up a paper box containing important bills. This dog has a lot of anxiety. He does not eat regularly though we offer him soft food. He drools everywhere (a habit he has just picked up). My mother is at her wits end with him. She is afraid of what he will destroy next. We have to lock him in a small room when we leave the house or at night. We put old newspaper and boxes along with blankets for him to rip up. Our other dog is just as old and other than be overweight, she is a lovely tempered dog. Though we do separate them at night because she can snap and peppie if he lays on her blankets. What can 2 do with peppie to make him calm down? Why is he ripping things up? Should we have more patience for him? Or hold him accountable even though he isn't sure where he is?

Answer
Your dog appears to be suffering from a loss of cognition, I suggest he may also be in considerable pain (drooling: extreme tooth pain, orthopedic, etc.) He cannot be disciplined, he is not "doing" anything at all, he is responding with high anxiety to something occurring biologically.

You need a very qualified veterinary internist or veterinary behaviorist.  There is medication available to help dogs suffering from true loss of cognition but first this quite elderly dog requires a full workup, perhaps even including (along with complex blood chemistry) a full body x-ray (dependent upon his ability to tolerate anesthesia, given his age).  A general veterinarian may not have the skill required.

To find a veterinary internist or veterinary behaviorist closest to you, contact the veterinary teaching college in your geographical area.  You can also try the following sites:

http://www.veterinarybehaviorists.org/
http://www.avsabonline.org/avsabonline/

One thing we must address as a dog ages is quality of life.  This dog is suffering.  There is a strong possibility his suffering is due to physical cause and must be addressed immediately.  If he is found to be in very good health (including his teeth), then the emotional aspect of aging must be addressed both with medication and behavior modification (meaning: report back using followup feature after you have seen the veterinarian).

IF for some reason this dog must be euthanized, this will seriously effect his companion dog for several weeks and that must be addressed as well.

Remember: he has been a lifelong loving companion.  His life has great value as does every life.  We do not repay our loved ones with our anxiety regarding their physical and mental illness or emotional dysfunction.  He must be given affection, a safe place when no one is home, and a great deal of compassion at this point. At age 16, he most likely will not live much longer and I can tell you from personal experience that how you (and I) attend to our aging dogs and care for them is a matter of our (yours, mine, everyone's) character and something no one forgets should they manage it incorrectly.  As a loving owner, you will do what has to be done and you will know you have given your dog the very best care he deserves.  

Canine Behavior

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.

Expertise

I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.

Experience

30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for ThePetChannel.com for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, K9Shrinks@egroups.com. Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Organizations
Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Publications
Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Education/Credentials
Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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