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Dogs/Elderly Dog Growling & Biting


My dog, Lilia, is a Schnauzer/Terrier mix. She is 11 years old. Lili has always been territorial and aggressive, but now she has started biting me hard enough to draw blood. My Mom passed away from Alzheimer's, and Lili seems to be showing some of the same signs of dementia. Lili has had a big wad of poop hanging from her butt for about 3 days now. I used to be able to brush/trim them off, but now she won't let me brush, use wet wipes,nothing. She snarls, growls, and has bitten me hard enough to draw blood and leave bruises on my hands and arms. I called the vet, it will be a new one as her regular one moved away and retired. They want to see her before they prescribe anything to make her sleep so I can put her in a crate. I can't even put a collar or leash on her now, let alone a muzzle. I know she is in pain, so am using baby aspirin doses as previously recommended and benadryl (she has allergies, and it does not help her sleep). I am at my wit's end. I don't want to put her to sleep, as other than her mind she is healthy. How can I help her? What was a minor rare problem is today horrible and heartbreaking. Please advise.

Hi Jane,

Because Lilia has a resistance to Benadryl and it doesn't make her drowsy, ask your vet to give you a single Vallium tablet to give about 45 minutes prior to leaving for the vet appointment. If you can't give her a pill, you can crush it into a powder, mix it up with some honey, and smear it on her tongue (she might just lick it off your finger).

An alternative to Valium is the herb that Valium is derived from, namely Valerian root. Valerian root is often recommended as an herbal treatment for anxiety in dogs (and people), it is non-habit forming and can even be used daily. It has a calming and sedative effect. You can use Valerian made for humans, when giving a human preparation to a dog, convert the dosage dividing your dog's weight in pounds by 150 (using 150 lbs as the average weight of an adult), giving you a percentage that you can use to determine the proper dose. If your dog is 30 lbs., dividing 30 by 150 gives you 0.2, or 20 percent. You would then give your dog 20 percent of an adult dose of the Valerian preparation . A liquid tincture may suggest a dose of 30-40 drops for an adult, so a 30 lb. dog would get 20 percent  of the lower amount (always erring on the side of caution), or six drops.
There are also preparations made specifically for dogs, a good one that I've given my dog is one called Happy Traveler.

Older dogs can develop something called Cognitive Disfunction Syndrome (CDS) which is the dog form of Alzheimer's Disease, but aggression isn't usually a symptom. Still, it's something you should discuss with your vet because there is medication for it. The more common symptoms of CDS are:

General confusion or disorientation
Wandering and/or pacing
Restlessness, sleeplessness at night
Acting "dazed" or staring off into space
Getting "stuck" in corners or small spaces
Seeming to be lost in familiar places
Going to the wrong side of familiar doors
Not responding well to his name or to commands he once knew
Acting withdrawn; interacting less with familiar people and other pets
Forgetting housetraining; having "accidents" in areas where he never did before
Less enthusiastic about games, toys or foods that used to create excitement
Other behaviors that are unusual for your dog

Often pain or another medical problem can be a reason for increased aggression in dogs. This would be something for your vet to rule out.

If it turns out not to be a case of CDS and Lilia doesn't appear to be in any pain, then putting her on a daily dose of Valium or another anxiety medication could improve her quality of life without making her drowsy. Prozac, Zoloft, BuSpar, Elavil and Anafranil are all prescription medications typically used to treat behavior disorders that include aggression in dogs. You could also use a Valerian Root preparation daily, as needed (but NOT with the prescription medications I just mentioned!). Along these lines, there is a amino acid supplement called L-theanine that is recommended for use in treating anxiety in humans. There is very pure veterinary version of L-theanine called Anxitane which your vet could prescribe. It would need to be given daily for at least a month before it's effects might be seen. You can read more about Anxitane here:

There is a pure form of L-theanine made for humans called Suntheanine, which is sold "over the counter" without a prescription. You can use it on dogs, the dose is 50mg (half a 100mg tablet) twice daily. It will take at least a month of daily dosing before it's effects might be seen.

Another thing to consider is a dog pheromone product. Dog appeasing pheromones (called DAP) have a calming effect on adult dogs with aggression being one of the things it can help. That said, they don't work on every dog. It might be worth it to try, if it happens to work on Lilia it could be worth it's weight in gold! Adaptil and Comfort Zone are two brands I have experience with (and luckily work on my dogs). DAP comes in the form of a spray, plug in diffuser, and embedded in a collar. DAP products can be used along with the prescription medications I mentioned earlier.

I hope I've been a help.
Feel free to get back to me if I can be of further help.



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To date, I've owned 7 dogs, all of which have lived into old age. Having cared for them in all stages of life, I feel I can offer sound advice to other pet owners, and people considering getting a dog. I am knowledgeable about the AKC (American Kennel Club) dog breeds, training and exercise, caring for sick and elderly pets, feeding, as well as many holistic treatments pets can benefit from. My only request is that you write me using standard English and punctuation.


My life experience in this field is more like "on the job training" rather than an actual degree in animal welfare. You may benefit from my experiences over the past 30 years. Aside from the dogs I've owned, I'm also involved in "breed rescue" and have fostered several dogs, all of which have been adopted to wonderful "forever homes". I find helping people who want a dog very rewarding.

Real life experience, based on over 30 years of dog ownership.

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