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Dogs/14 yr. shih tzu howls at night!


Ms. Patti, My dog is 14, yes he is blind and can not hear. In the past 2months he has decided to just start howling. Our vet gave us "composure pro" which does nothing. He also takes vetsulin twice a day. Do you have any advice you may be able to give me for my pet. Thank you for your time.

Hi Carleen,

I'm sorry to hear about your dog's nighttime howling!

Composure Pro can be helpful in some dogs, but not all. It's main ingredient L-Theanine is an amino acid found in green tea that has documented calming properties. It may be that your particular dog needs a higher dosage to see results. Virbac Anxitane is another over the counter L-Theanine supplement, but contains a higher dose (50mg in the small dog sized tablets), while Composure contains 21mg.
The L-Theaninein used in Anxitane is 99.95% pure.
You didn't say how long your dog has been taking the Composure Pro, but it (and Anxitane) it can take 3-4 weeks of twice daily usage before it's calming effects may be seen.

Does your dog have Cognitive Disfunction? It's similar to Alzheimer's disease in humans. A dog doesn't need to have all of the symptoms to be considered as having this condition. Some of the symptoms include:

Barking (or howling) in the middle of the night, or for no particular reason
Dog may seem to get lost in the yard or house, and could seem as though he doesn't always recognize you
A previously housebroken dog soiling in the house
Changes in activity and sleep patterns

You can read more about Cognitive Disfunction here:

If Cognitive Disfunction sounds like a possibility, you might want to speak to your about a medication called Anipryl.

If your dog doesn't have Cognitive Disfunction, you might want to try using a Dog Appeasing Pheromone (also called DAP) to help control the howling. Like Composure Pro, DAP is an over the counter calming remedy. Unlike Composure Pro, DAP doesn't go through the digestive tract to get into your dog's system before going to work, it's breathed in, so it's calming results take place within 10-15 minutes. DAP is based on the calming pheromones released by a puppy's mother, and that calming reaction is retained by adult dogs when they encounter the pheromone. You can read about the effectiveness of DAP here:

DAP is available in the form of a collar, a spray, and a plug in diffuser. Brands of DAP to look for are Comfort Zone, Adaptil and Sentry Good  Behavior. Only the Sentry product has an odor and that's added for you, dog pheromones are odorless to humans. Adaptil used to be called "D.A.P" (made by Ceva), you might still find that online or in stores. I've used the Comfort Zone spray form of DAP to calm one of my dogs on long car trips, and it worked amazingly well. You can find DAP at larger pet stores, and online. You can use either the Anxitane or Composure Pro along with DAP.

Lastly, is your dog is howling in order to receive your attention? If this is the case, he should be ignored because you do not want to reinforce the howling.  It may be helpful to use a "remote correction",  such as a spritz of water from a water pistol or spray bottle to startle him and stop him from howling. He should not associate you with the correction. The moment he's quiet, give him a small treat.

If your dog's howling at night isn't due to a medical condition such as cognitive disfunction, medications might be helpful at least for the short term, to help break him of the howling habit. Amitriptyline (and other medications) are used to treat behavioral problems, such fear and anxiety in dogs.

I hope I've been a help.
Best of luck,



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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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