Thursday, June 25, 2009

100th Post - Probert Problems

Wow, our 100th post! Well, funny that it is more of a serious post today. It is something that has been kicking around in my brain and our lives here for a while, though I haven't been sure how much of this I would share with the world because these kinds of decisions are often criticized by people, but here we go.

(In case people are jumping to conclusions already: no, I am not getting rid of any of my dogs.)

Probert came into our lives about 3 years ago now. He was a sweet, but skittish dog with a lot of issues stemming from his puppyhood. He had been severely abused by his previous family and was likely taken away from his mother and littermates too young. He never learned the right way to be a dog, how to interact with other dogs, and overreacted about mundane situations that he perceived as threatening.

For a few years, we were able to deal with his quirks, but in the past year he has gotten distinctively "worse." He is escaping his crate in a panic on a regular basis, becoming destructive in the crate (moving the crate to pull items in, destroying the crate itself), having obvious anxiety/panic attacks, and has attacked Wrigely and Addy with no provocation on seperate occasions. Something needed to be done.

So, a few weeks ago I called up a new vet and asked the receptionist if the doctor was OPEN to the idea of medication for these kinds of issues. I did not want to make the decision right off the bat that Probert needed to be medicated, but I at least wanted to speak to someone who considered it an option. I did not want to see a doctor who gave me the shoulder shrug and the explaination that "some dogs just don't like the crate." Our problems were bigger.

Our vet visit was on a weekday afternoon. Brown Dog Dad brought Probert and I took a late lunch at work to meet them there. We had a nice long meeting with the doctor who fully grasped the magnatude of our problems with Probert. She agreed that in order to teach Probert appropriate behavior, we needed to reduce his anxiety. A dog who is having an anxiety attack does not listen and can not learn to respond properly in any situation.

At that visit, the doctor determined that Probert likely has anxiety as a result of his experiences as a puppy. Having talked to a (human) friend who has similar anxiety about past abuse, I was surprised by how much she could relate to him. He senses something that triggers a memory about his past and he panics and disassociates. He loses all sense of his body and the present moment. Additionally, it is very likely that he was removed from his mother and littermates much too young as he doesn't know how to interact with the other dogs appropriately. He often seems to us like a "loner," when really he is not sure what the right interaction is. To add to all of that, he also shows signs of OCD, which we are trying to break (he will run around the house collecting every shoe he can find and pile them all up in the living room happily).

And so, after that vet visit and a 7-page questionnaire, we have been given our treatment program. On the surface, it is an 11-point program that involves medication, behavior modification, and lifestyle changes for Probert. We also have a big packet of papers that I have to tackle and follow their instructions. Probert started his medication this week. He is currently on a clomipramine, a medication for his anxiety that will not take full effect for 4-8 weeks and another sedative medication called lorazepam which is used during "scary" situations like storms or fireworks and is also used in the short term during those times that Probert is home without human supervision.

Some of the other items involved in the program are daily exercise and "pack walks" (walking with one of the other dogs to establish a sense of being in the pack), which are going extremely well. We will end up having to relocate Probert's crate once we determine a good location and need to work on a NILIF-type obedience program. Probert is also not allowed off-leash around the other dogs while on the lorazepam, as one of the potential side effects is "diminished inhibition" and he has a history of biting other dogs. Fortunately, we have the pack walks and he and Maizy do go out together in the morning and the evening when he hasn't taken his pill or it has worn off. Another feature, which an online friend has reported success with for her anxious dog, is that during anxiety attacks, Probert should be put in a tight tshirt to give him a feeling of his own skin as a reminder to come back to his body. We don't currently have any tshirts for him (need to shop for bully-body friendly shirts, any suggestions?), but do have the previously pictured hoodie and have been using it for now (luckily, the house is air conditioned).

Overall, I am confident that is a good prgram and is the best thing that we can do for Probert. I know that there are going to be some growing pains, but I am hopeful that we can get things under control and get our pack back in order. We are fortunate to have found a great and supportive vet and also to have loving friends and family who are wishing us the best. Thank you all so much for caring about my brown (and not-so-brown) dogs!!!

(We will make the 101th post a little more light hearted, I promise!)


Pug(s) and Bugg said...

I commend you for doing what you can to help your dog. It is a shame that you can't do therapy with them like you do with people- I think understanding is half the battle. On the radio once I heard about someone who put down their dog who had severe anxiety- it bit/chewed off its own tail. I remember thinking how many more avenues there would be to help that dog. I think it is so great that you are so devoted to this- not to make YOUR life easier, but to better HIS life. It really touches my heart! Also about the body wraps, I know a friend of mine sells some on her website, 4 Wee Beasties, the link is on the sidebar of my blog. She is very nice and great to work with. I've heard great things about the body wraps. Good luck and keep doing amazing things for your pups!

Chris said...

Kudos to you for doing all you can for your dogs. Sometimes it's not easy having pets, but we all make a commitment and they in turn rely on us to keep it.
A lot of people would just have dumped poor Probert by this time. You are special people! Good luck!

Nicole said...

Thanks very much for your kind comments! It makes the process easier knowing that there are people who support us. Plus, Probert is worth it, he's a sweet sweet dog. :)

Thanks for the advice about the body wraps, as well. I will look into those!

eednic said...

awww! poor probert! i'm sorry you guys are going through so much and that he has been suffering from anxiety, etc. it seems to me ya'll have made very good, educated, caring decisions regarding his care and training. most people really wouldn't make the effort or take the time. but you know he has a good heart and needs love, kindof like how i know the same about Clementine. she's got some issues too but i do what i can to protect her as well as other dogs. and as she is aging, she is doing much better. she was a stray so there's no telling what she went through before i got her. anyways. i think you are doing a great job with probert and best of luck as you pursue these new avenues for him.

Flo said...

I am rooting for you guys with this. I really feel it will help. He is a survivor! I know it!
He is pretty adorable in that shirt!!

Princess said...

It's wonderful that you and Brown Dog Dad did all your research and interviews before making a decision and I think it's safe to say you make the best decision for Probert and ya'll. Good luck with everything, he's already off to a good start with ya'll as his parents and guardians. Keep it up!
~P's Mom

Nicole said...

Thanks everyone for all of your support and kindness. :):):) We are rooting for your dogs, as well. :D

MJ's doghouse said...

Way to go brown dog mom and dad...too easy for people to just say ...lets get rid of it...i understand the whole lorazepam thing...i take it when i am in stressfull situations...mostly hope things start working out for him soon...but at least he has alot of love to help him through

laura said...

i take lorazepam as needed when something triggers my anxiety or when i know something is going to trigger it like a dentist visit. it takes effect quickly, and wears off in 4 hours or so (at my dose, dont know about doggy dosages). i cant think clearly to do anything to calm myself when i'm flipping out having a panic attack. the lorazepam calms me enough that i can think and get control of the situation. the longer i've had it, the more confidence i've gained in managing my anxiety. i can recognize it coming before it gets out of hand, i've learned tools to help self calm, and i couldnt have learned these things without the help of the meds knocking the anxiety down a few notches so i could think.

Murphy Dogg said...

Wow, you and Brown Dog Dad really love those pups. I can sympathize with Probert, when Mama and Dad adopted me I was having very similar problems and destroyed 3 wire crates before they got me one that looks like a giant plastic cat carrier. That one makes me feel more like I'm "in a den," and I didn't wreck it.
I still have some problems with random aggression towards other dogs, but it's nowhere near as bad as before. They've had me for almost 7 years now and I'm really happy they stuck with me, so I know Probert must be really happy that you're sticking with him too.
If you want a shirt for Probert, check out my website We make big-dog size shirts and I'd be happy to send one to Probert for free to help him out. Just let my Mama know what style you like and Probert's approximate chest girth. You can email her at colleen(at)punkrockdogg(dot)com.
Murphy Dogg

Nicole said...

Thanks very much for the continued comments, everyone! It is GREAT to hear from people who take these drugs because it gives me a better idea of what Probert may be going through even if he can not articulate it to us. So far, things are going very well. I am sure I will post an update soon.

Also, Murphy Dogg, your mom is SO NICE. We will email her this week!

Take care everyone!!

Daisy Dog said...

You are so lucky to have found a vet to work with you in this situation. Probert is lucky to have you. I am sure you will have sucess, I am keeping pawsitive thoughts going!