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Old 07-19-2011, 01:48 PM
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I figured I'd share this in case anyone else has a dog with apparent schizophrenia or other form of psychosis. Please jump in if you can relate.

I've mentioned Winnie a little in previous posts, but here's her story in a nutshell: Last September a little white dog was run over by a hit & run driver right in front of my boyfriend. She was alive but howling and screaming, and Animal Control said they would have her euthanized. Boyfriend and I decided that instead, he would race her to the vet emergency center, and we'd see if she was "saveable." I decided if she could be fixed up, if she was young, and if she could have a decent quality of life, I'd pay for them to save her. Turns out she was just under 1 year old, she had no organ damage, and her shattered pelvis could be bolted and screwed back together, with a very good prognosis.
She pulled through physically. No owners ever came forward, and the vets said she was likely a stray, since she was flea infested and appeared too have had no training. She quickly bonded with both of us.
We brought her home and she progressed very well physically. But she's very hyper (understandable for a 1-2 year old), but also very disorganized in her behavior. She can run in hundred different directions, when we take her for walks, she doesn't know how to mark her route, so always seems "lost" and doesn't realize we're near home until we hit the yard. She tried on several occasions to climb a tree and bite a tree. She is sweet and playful most of the time--the play can get a little too rough, with both humans and with the other dog, and she never learned at an early age to not "mouth" everything, so we're struggling with that now.

But the worst is that she'll suddenly go into "snarl mode" with the unearthly snarling noises, biting and snapping, when something scares her, or in response to ther seemingly unrelated triggers, with no real pattern.
She's bitten me pretty badly twice: one in "snarl mode" and once when she was just out of control and not controlling her mouth. She quickly calms down and is friendly again within seconds.

Decided our own training was not progressing well, and started looking for obedience schools. Most only cater to "normal" dogs with normal obedience needs, not behavioral problems.
We found a few that have experience with severe behavioral problems, and two I consulted with said she may very well need meds in order to even benefit from the training (like many of my mental health clients can't benefit from therapy until they get on meds). She cannot do a training class, with the distraction of other dogs, so we'll be starting private lessons soon.

I talked to my vet about behavioral meds, and did some online reasearch, and it appears the two major psych meds prescribed for dogs are fluoxetine (Prozac) and Clomipramine (and older antidepressant/anti OCD drug known as Anafranil). The indications pointed more toward clomipramine, as this is not simple anxiety or compulsions, which the fluoxetine might help. But the vet needs bloodwork first, so we can monitor liver & kidney functioning while she's on meds (just like with people).

Last week, I took her in, and she couldn't even be examined. The vet tech, the vet, and I couldn't even get the muzzle on her. So we rescheduled for last night, and decided that vet appts for her would entail my dosing her with 20 mg of acepromazine one hour before the appointment. This is the max dose indicated for a 20lb dog. Acepromazine is in the same family of older antipsychotic drugs like Thorazine, that people with severe schizophrenia started taking in the 1950s, up until the 90s when the newer drugs became more widely used.

She did get a little dopey, kind of like she was drunk, and she was wobbly in the car. Got her into the waiting room, and since she was dopey, I was able to get the vet's muzzle on her. Got into the exam room, and it still took 2 vet techs and me to hold her so that the vet could take blood, examine her, and cut her nails.

Three grown women to hold down a 20 pound dog on a major tranquilizer. Snarling, growling, squirming, she was like Linda Blair in the Exorcist. And when she gets like that, the sounds she makes are not of this world. As soon as the vet was done, I took off the muzzle, and she was perfectly happy and friendly again, albeit a little groggy.

Clomipramine supposedly helps separation anxiety, compulsive behavior, anxiety-related aggression, and other more severe behavioral problems.
I'm now thinking that even though we'll give the clomipramine a try, she may just end up on the antipsychotic meds (a smaller dose) daily.

For anyone who might think it's horrible to put her on meds:
1. I work in the mental health field, and have seen meds transform many human lives for the better, and I understand the risks & benefits.
2. She clearly cannot benefit from training until she is able to calm down & focus at least a little.
3. Almost anyone else would have had her put down. So to me, "better living through pharmaceuticals" is preferable to the needle.
4. We won't give her up, as she would not be considered adoptable, considering her behavior.

I'll keep this thread updated on how she does on the meds, in case anyone else has a mentally ill dog and has given up hope. Please share if you've had similar experiences.

Last edited by Tracysherm; 07-19-2011 at 02:44 PM..
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Old 07-19-2011, 02:01 PM
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yanno, this may sound really dumb, but if it were me, I'd contact Ceasar Milan and write him my story. He might be able to help better then anyone, sounds like she was hugely tramatized by not only the accident, but also, the vet...she was very young, and you know how dogs never forget the vet smells and some even shake prematurely, however, I would definately write him...

I remember hearing a story about a dog a woman raised from a puppy, and could not understand why the dog went bazerk everytime the phone rang, until she finally remembered, when the dog was a pup, the phone rang, she ran to pick it up and in the process stepped on the dog.

Good luck...and bless you for what you did for that poor little girl.

My little guy was older when I adopted him. He was taken to a kill shelter, and they called the rescue. He was taken there for agression, my guess is, his owner/s passed away, however, he was very agressive and still is, but a lot of love and patience has bought him around in a big way. He still must be muzzeled when he's veted and his nails are clipped during grooming, and he's become very aggressive with his groomer, but at any other time, he is a sweetie. He was beat, I k now that b/c twice I moved to fast and he ducked...he breaks my heart to know that he was hit so....
His foster mother was a trainer...and yes, they do have mental problems, but sometimes they can be fixed, and me, I'd trust the Dog Whisperer, his theories make sense.
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Old 07-19-2011, 02:04 PM
Location: St. Louis, Missouri
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my goodness.... you DO have your hands full with that poor little thing.... and you are right... most would have put her down by now..... i tip my hat to you for not giving up on her and for doing whatever it takes to give her a good life....

i happen to agree with you about the better living through chemistry.... if a treatment is available to help with an illness or injury, i see no reason AT ALL to forego it...... it is not macho or tough or cool to "not take pills" when they can alleviate pain and suffering, be it physical or mental.....
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Old 07-19-2011, 02:16 PM
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Wow thanks for the validation! I was expecting the first few responses to be anti-meds people. I'm sure they'll be along shortly; they might be busy right now, advising people to not have their kids vaccinated or catching up on Tom Cruise movies.

I'm not too keen on Cesar Milan, I'm more of a Victoria Stilwell (It's Me or the Dog) fan. She's more into the positive training, and Cesar seems to be more into the "dominating the dog" thing. Still, they've both had good results with lots of problem dogs. I realize I can't be too picky at this point.

Here's the thread with Winnie's pictures:
Our Dog DNA Results
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Old 07-19-2011, 03:14 PM
Location: Asheville
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Oh, I think tranqs as needed would be okay, just the regular kind like Valium. When you and husband walk your dog, I think it would be a very good idea to RUN your dog part of the way, keep him behind you so he knows that he is to follow you or go right next to you, that IS his place instead of wandering everywhere. Smaller dogs have lots of energy and it must be expended daily, with a run included in a long walk. Get a tennis ball and in the house or yard, spend time each day throwing it and having him bring it back to you, another way to expend energy and bond with the dog, too. These are non-threatening ways to show your dog who is the leader, and this will lessen his fear-induced crazy behavior everywhere. Make him sit for his food, keep treats around and teach him tricks and reward him, another way to be his leader, which will give him confidence.

Now, we were taught this in a training class, and it comes in handy when in a vet office, and that's to occasionally lay the dog down on the floor, lay your arm from shoulder to hip, holding him down so he cannot get up, and just hold him there a couple minutes beyond what he wants, he'll struggle and carry on, but you just keep him down, and eventually he'll calm down, and when he is perfectly calm, then you immediately release him and give hm a treat. That way, when you get in the vet office, he MAY do a little better at being held down. I think he does all that stuff at the vet because of his injuries from the hit and run. That was a scary, painful time, so naturally he doesn't want to submit when he's there, because he's so afraid. But your holding-down training should help that somewhat. You could even add a command when you do the hold-down practice, "Calm," or "Still" should do it, and use it when you're at the vet.

On the biting, he must be stopped and told "No" as soon as he does that, that's how we've done all our puppies over the years, eventually they realize our hands are not chew toys. Oh, and one more thing, if you have to leave him for long periods of time in the house, to prevent him from getting bored and then restless and then creating bad behaviors to cope, get one of those hard red rubber pyramid-shaped but round toys, they are treat holders with holes on either end, you put peanut butter inside it, and he spends hours trying to get it out. Also, most dogs like to chew on carrots, which Nylabones are the same idea, and give your dog either one of those to chew on, another stay-busy item. Hope some of these tips help you out.
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Old 07-19-2011, 03:46 PM
Location: zone 5
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Is it possible she had head trauma in the accident? Some of the things you mentioned sounded like a physical problem with the brain, like a tumor (which could well be benign), or some other kind of damage. Perhaps you could consult a specialist in this area?
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Old 07-19-2011, 04:04 PM
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She had X-rays of every part of her body after the accident, including the skull. No head trauma. My boyfriend witnessed the actual incident and saw the tire run over only her lower body.

But yes, I often wonder if she has some kind of brain damage.

No I don't want her on a benzodiazepine like valium, because those are habituating. she would gradually require more and more to get the same desired result, and if it's ever stopped abruptly, she would have withdrawal. I don't want her on anything "addictive." Benzos are fine for single-use, occasional things, but not daily. She'll end up trying to by them on the street.
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Old 07-19-2011, 04:08 PM
Location: Massachusetts
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I think most people would normally steer you away from meds b/c a lot of people use meds inappropriately and/or unnecessarily. However, in your case, it sounds as if the meds are absolutely necessary, so don't feel badly about that. When meds are about maintaining a dog's life, they are a good thing.

I also agree that it sounds as if she has been traumatized by a vet and her accident. Is it possible for the vet to make housecalls? You might get a different reaction from her.

I also agree that it sounds as if something more major is going on. One thing about dogs is that their tails are connected to their spines, which are connected to their brains. It's possible she suffered nerve damage (her tail was most likely involved in the accident) and/or a concussion that was overlooked or not noticeable during her initial diagnosis.

If it were me, I would get a second opinion, perhaps from a specialist, if possible. And thank you for saving this dog's life and for giving her a good one to boot!
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Old 07-19-2011, 04:13 PM
Location: Andrews Texas
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Thank you for giving this baby a chance!
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Old 07-19-2011, 04:39 PM
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Hmm, I never thought about the spine/nerve damage thing. I guess it's because physically, she's better than good. We call her the Bionic Dog (among other less G-rated nicknames).

She can run like a bullet around the yard, and she can jump every safety gate were put in our doorways. We eventually had to stack two baby gates one on top of the other. She's given no signs of being in pain, though I know animals are good at hiding it. But jumping on and off the deck and on top of the picnic table and dining room table make me think otherwise. Still, I guess it is worth checking, at least maybe a basic neurological eval. I'll also go back and read the hospital records from last year--she saw so may specialists, she may have had some neoro testing.
I can't see getting into MRIs and such, when she's showing no motor or balance problems.
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