Canine Behavior/Dog Anxiety
Four months ago my boyfriend and I adopted our senior Pit-Plott Hound mix Daisy, from a near-by kill shelter. She is about 9-10 years old and (now) a healthy 61 pounds. After Daisy's first vet visit we discovered she has Lyme Disease and canine Ehrlichiosis. She has been on an alternating medicine schedule, rotating between Amoxicillin, Doxycycline and Flagyl. She has been responding beautifully to treatment and her blood work always comes back perfect!
She also had a preexisting leg injury (which the shelter stated caused her no pain, they were wrong). Her back right leg is stiff, arthritic and has caused muscular dystrophy. She rarely puts any weight on it. She also has a very healed scar on the right side of her face, we believe she might have been hit by a car at some point in her life. We have been treating that with Dasuquin and weekly glucosimine shots. We are saving up to get her X-rays and a full orthopedic exam.
Over all, Daisy has had a rough life and no one looked after this sweet girl. We want to provide her the best most comfortable home in her golden years. This brings me to my question for you- how do you go about helping a dog with anxiety derived problems when you do not know her past? Daisy has thunderstorm and weather anxiety- hot and humid weather or a brief shower can cause her the same reaction as a huge thunderstorm. She also has a serious balking problem. We cannot seem to figure out her triggers, but when walking she will unpredictably stop and refuse to move. I do not believe in aggressively pulling my dog by the collar when I know she is scared, so it becomes this came of me gently pulling her leash in every direction to see which way she is comfortable with. We try and keep her walks short and sweet because of her leg problem, so I'm not sure if pain is the issue. She takes frequent trips to my parents farm (she loves the car). They have many dogs and she adores the company and attention from my family. She always is excited, hops right in the car and perks up as soon as we pull in the drive way. Once she is inside of their house, it takes an ARMY to get her out. We try and lead her out of every door, exits with and with out stairs, on a leash, off a leash, we have picked her up and she just turns around and walks right back in. She will ONLY go out there when she is in dire need of eliminating, which has led us to take less frequent trips over night as I do not want her holding her bladder for that long. She is prescribed acepromazine for immediate relief from storms(which I try and use as sparingly as possible, because she remains slightly out of it for the following day) and she has been taking Fluoxetine for about 3 weeks. I know this medication takes a few weeks to build up (I take it myself), but her problems have been escalating. More balking and more unexplained anxiety (panting, pacing, drooling and shivering) indoors when it's a beautiful day.
Sorry for my lengthy question, she just has quite a history! Please let me know what you think and your suggestions. Daisy and I really appreciate it!
First: allow me to congratulate you for being a superlative Human being.
Now: GET HER OFF THE DOGGY PROZAC TOMORROW. Fluoxetine increases anxiety in Humans, I know, I tried it about two months ago, FORGET IT! My anxiety went through the roof and I began to develop paranoia and I am not mentally ill!! STOP NOW. Also: Ace for anxiety? NO, NO NO.
Your veterinarian is not up to speed, sorry to say. Is her "balking" on walks related to pain....most likely, yes. For an orthopedic exam you need a veterinary Orthopedist; your general veterinarian has already made a serious error with both the Ace and the Doggy Prozac. I suggest you begin with a Veterinary Behaviorist who will be able to prescribe appropriate medication(s); there is a simple pheromone based medication in use right now that can be worn as a collar (and I believe there is also a spray). Thunder jacket should be tried during times of stress because of weather; this should help to some degree, especially with the anxiety reducing collar. There are other medications that can be used immediately when a storm begins and they do NOT cause lethargy or confusion (Ace DOES and is very outdated). NO SSRIs or such medications; the dog is not depressed, she is aging, she is hurting, and she is making an enormous adjustment to a normal life. You can find a Veterinary Behaviorist by calling the Veterinary teaching college in your geographical area or on this site:
Daisy is in constant pain from that complex leg injury; use a harness (not a collar) when walking her. If she stops going forward, do nothing. Turn your back to her and wait. No matter how long it takes, she will come around to face you; carry high value food reward (string cheese in tiny bits), pop one into her mouth (she will now be inquisitive, relaxed, and looking at you for the next move, so you will not be rewarding whatever has stopped her forward movement). THEN, circle slowly like following a huge hoola hoop, right, left, stop, when she looks at you pop treat into her mouth and go forward (or back toward home). Each time she stops, until we have an orthopedic evaluation and appropriate pain medication and/or surgical treatment, let us err on the side of caution and say the dog is reacting to pain much as you or I would if we had sciatica (you just CANNOT keep walking if you are in serious pain you must stop to rest). You will not be rewarding her "balking",you will be rewarding her full attention to you and her following you in slow circles. (Circles change brain waves, engage cognition). As you circle, have a quiet little "party", sing a little song,talk to her in baby talk, make it fun.
Once you have seen the Veterinary Behaviorist or a veterinarian referred to you by the teaching college, continue with treatments if necessary and ask for referral to an orthopedic specialist. At your parents' home: pick her up, walk out the door, hold onto the leash, and wait (just as instructed above). Eventually she will learn to come around and look at you for her treat at which point you can slowly proceed to your car. Do not let this dog jump in or out of the car or go up and down stairs until you know how serious the orthopedic condition is; put her into the car and "jackpot" treat her (handful of string cheese, tiny chicken hot dogs bits). She will slowly learn that when it's time to go, it's time to go. What her reluctance to leave your parents' home means I cannot explain since too many questions would be involved. Let's just try to fix it.
There's much more we can do with and for this dog. Find the Veterinary Behaviorist if you can and a more sophisticated veterinarian. Remember: you have paid a lot of money so far for her treatment, her medical records are YOURS and MUST be given to you should you request them (the entire file, photocopied) as well as faxed or emailed to a new veterinarian. Don't worry about hurting your vet's feelings. He's doing fine. We worry about the dog.
PLEASE keep the email containing the link to this answer. As soon as you have made changes in veterinary care and have some answers, refer to the email, go back to this answer, scroll down to "Ask a Followup Question" AND ADVISE ME of Daisy's progress, changes in meds, orthopedic evaluation results, etc. I ask people to followup quite a lot and very few do it. I can help you make Daisy's remaining years brilliantly happy, and this would give me great pleasure. God bless you for your loving heart!