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Trying to make sense of foster dog's odd behavior


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I've posted about this foster dog a couple of times, but I'm at a loss on how to deal with one of his most difficult behaviors.

 

A little background:

 

He's an owner-surrender, purebred BC, just over two years old. He was diagnosed with epilepsy when he was about 6 months old. He has been on seizure medicine since then. He's currently on KBr, though with my vet's guidance, we are trying to wean him off of it. He is crate-trained and house-trained, but his house manners are not good. He cannot be left unattended in the house with out you being able to keep an eye on him, or he will get into trouble. In some ways, he's relatively obedient - you can put him in a sit at a distance - but he mostly ties to push the envelope all the time. His off switch is pretty much non-existent, so he gets a lot of crate time in the house. Otherwise, he'll just pester us non-stop, even if he has had quite a lot of exercise that day. It just doesn't seem to matter. He was a pretty bad demand-barker initially, but we've managed to get that under control, for the most part. He has a lot of weird OCD-like behaviors. For example, every time that I sit at my computer, he immediately starts going in circles around my legs. When he starts it, I make him stop. But, sometimes he's so insistent on doing this that the only way to make him stop, is to put him in his crate. The other OCD-like behavior that he does is to pace up and down along the wall in the computer room, with his nose to the floor. He does this primarily on the wall perpendicular to the wall with the door. He goes behind the door and sort of presses on the floor with his paws like there's something there. He becomes especially intense when he comes to the point where the wall comes to a corner behind the door. He'll actually kind of attack the corner. He did this once so hard that he head-butted the corner. Then, turned around and looked at me with this surprised expression, like, "why the heck did I just do that?" The other thing that he does is attack the fridge door. If he thinks you are going to open the fridge, he will race into the kitchen and sit, wide-eyed, staring at the fridge. If I don't tell him to "stay" and "leave it, " he'll attack the door when I open it. But, I've seen him attack it even when I wasn't opening it, but I was standing in the kitchen preparing some lunch.

 

OK, that's just a brief peak into his strange world. I give all this background because I want you to see that he is a very odd dog. I'm at a loss because I don't know if his issues are more a product of nature or of nurture. If they are nurture, then there may be some hope to rehabilitate him to some degree. If they are primarily nature, then I'm not sure what I should do to help him. The number one behavior that we are having the toughest time with, though, is his inability to sleep through the night on most nights. Initially, I thought that it might be a side-effect of the seizure medication, so I would get up to let him out to go potty. But, when he started doing this 3 or 4 times during the night, it was apparent that he wasn't waking up because he had to go potty. He can be crated for 9.5 hours during a work day with no problem, so I figured that he should be able to go 7-8 hours at night without needing to go out. So, I stopped getting up to let him out when he would begin whining, then barking. He usually goes to his crate without a problem and stays quiet for most of the night. But, almost inevitably, he'll wake up somewhere around 3 or 4, sometimes even earlier and he'll start whining. We've figured out how to make him stop, but he'll usually do it 3 or 4 more times until we finally get up around 6 AM. It always starts with him pacing in his crate. Usually, I'll hear that and it will wake me up and I'll just wait for the whining, because I know that this will be next. In the 3 weeks that he's been here, I would say that he's slept through the night maybe 3 or 4 times. The amount of exercise that he gets doesn't seem to have a lot to do with whether or not he sleeps through the night, either. Last night he never started to whine. But, I heard him pacing in his crate several times during that 3 - 6 AM window. On weekends, we can get up at 6 or so, let him out, feed him, and put him back in his crate and he'll remain quiet until we finally decide to get up a few hours later.

 

He only lasted a month and a half in his last foster home, mainly because he wouldn't sleep through the night. She just couldn't take it any longer. I'm not sure what to do to get this problem under control. I've had foster dogs that protested a little about having to sleep in a crate at night, but they usually get over it pretty quickly when they realize that they don't have a choice. This dog has used a crate all of his life, so it's not new to him. I just don't know if there is something neurological going on that is preventing him from sleeping through the night. Or, if this is all still part of his lack of an off-switch in the house.

 

Sorry that this is so long. I'm at a loss, though, and not sure where to go for help for this dog. The problem is, this dog is going to be really, really difficult to adopt out anyway because of all his other issues, but no one is ever going to agree to adopt a dog that is going to wake them up 3-4 times a night nearly every single night.

 

Any thoughts, suggestions, advice?

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I just don't know if there is something neurological going on that is preventing him from sleeping through the night. Or, if this is all still part of his lack of an off-switch in the house.

 

Dogs generally do not sleep all through the night. They sleep for periods and are awake for periods. The problem is not that he isn't sleeping; it's that he wakes you up. My dog starts applying the "wet nose test" from 2 - 3 in the morning. It seems to me that he is fed up with being alone and in his crate. Is there some way you can secure him at night without using a crate?

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Dogs generally do not sleep all through the night. They sleep for periods and are awake for periods.

 

My personal dogs sleep through the night. They may get up to change locations of where they are sleeping, but they go right back to sleep.

 

Is there some way you can secure him at night without using a crate?

 

We've thought about this, but I'm not sure where I could put him that he wouldn't get into trouble. We had a pen set up for him initially, but he would constantly paw at the pen. I'm afraid he'd escape a pen at night.

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Can you pinpoint what was different on the nights that he did manage to sleep through the night?

 

Tempe had an issue for awhile sleeping through the night. She was fine for 6-7 months then all of a sudden it changed. At first we thought she would need to potty but learned that was not it. My husband figured out that she needs a night light at night. Don't ask me why but as long as we left the light on above the kitchen sink she sleot through the night. We can turn off the "night light" but we leave it on just because it is easier if we do need to get up and one of the dogs out in the middle of the night.

 

I would try crating the dog in another room and if needed get a no-bark collar so that he learns to be quiet. Restlessness is one thing but barking would get annoying.

 

Maybe he needs a night light too :rolleyes:

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I'm thinking the opposite. Can you crate him close to you so you can tell him to lie down before he gets to the pacing part of his night time ritual? Sounds like he's trying, cause you say you hear him pacing instead of whining now. Like he knows you don't want him to whine but he doesn't seem to get the lay down and wait quietly part of the behavior that you want.

He's board and he's doing what's worked for him before. But I see him as trying to do what you ask, he hasn't figured out the whole picture yet.

 

My dogs sleep through the night too. but they have their internal alarm set to get up with my son at 5:30 and that's not my time to get up. So they are a bit restless but will wait till I stir before I get the wet nose treatment. It's what they've learned to do. I've not bothered changing it because it would involve changing my sons behavior and if he's getting up that early without my help, I don't want to rock his boat.

 

His OCD behaviors sound allot like a dog I knew that was all AKC show lines. If left on his own, he would circle around something, a table, a person, a dog, whatever. It was always the same direction. He'd do this no matter what, if you left him to his own devices. No amount of exercise tired him out of this behavior. So his owner never left him a choice. I do think it was the conformation only breeding that had shorted his wiring out a bit. I think these behaviors can be brought on by things like laser lights or confinement to long, it’s like they have to find some outlet for their over active brain.

 

Good luck and thanks for trying with this boy.

Kristen

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Right now he is crated in the dining room/living room area. It's kind of a small house, so no matter where I put him, he's never going to be too far away. We've actually thought about moving him into the bedroom to see if that would help. But, I'm just afraid that he'll still move around in the crate and it will be even more disruptive.

 

I've yet to be able to pinpoint anything that seems to help or hurt his ability to sleep through the night. He's covered with a very lightweight sheet and I try to limit light pollution. But, there's been times that I've left the light on outside all night by accident, which allows a lot of light into the living room because I have double glass sliding doors. But, it doesn't seem to matter whether its darker or lighter at night. We were leaving the glass door where he slept open about six inches at night because we were afraid that he might be getting too hot, and I thought that was working at first. But, I think it was just coincidence.

 

He can't wear a bark collar at night because he has seizures and I don't want the collar to shock him for having a seizure. We are able to get him to stop when we tell him to, but he'll start up again a little while later.

 

Like I said, I don't know if this is a behavioral problem or if there is some organic brain issue going on that requires a different approach to just correcting the behavior.

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I do think it was the conformation only breeding that had shorted his wiring out a bit. I think these behaviors can be brought on by things like laser lights or confinement to long, it’s like they have to find some outlet for their over active brain.

Kristen,

I'm not sure what you're trying to say here. There are certainly plenty of conformation-bred dogs that are perfectly normal. I'm guessing you might mean that the particular dog was very closely bred or inbred, and if that's the case it happens in situations other than just conformation breeding. I happen to have a dog with odd OCD type behaviors. He's strictly from working lines (and well-known ones at that), but he's one we like to say has no branches on his family tree. So I'd agree with you if what you meant was that the dog might be so inbred as to have issues, but where I disagree is that conformation (or any other type of) breeding automatically implies that.

 

J.

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According to Nicholas Dodman, OCD and seizure disorder may be related. I would wonder about your doctor's advice about reducing the seizure meds. If you are concerned about side effects, can you look at going to another med, or reducing the dose? He also, if I remember, combined this kind of medication with anti-anxiety meds. This might help some - at least according to what I've read.

 

I'm not really the first person to look at a behavioral issue and go for the medical cabinet, but to me there's a lot of red flags here that point to a physiological problem. Is there any way to get her to a behaviorist/vet with experience along these lines? As far as the cost, I'd be willing to donate to such an effort - I frankly see a dog with no other options for life, just as if she'd been HBC and needed emergency surgery of some sort.

 

Dogs like this really break my heart. I'd love it if her story had a happy ending. And thank you for your patience with her. :rolleyes:

 

ETA: Um, "He" throughout. Sorry.

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A neighbor has a beautiful black shepherd mix who has both epilepsy and symptoms that sounnd like your dog's. The dog will keep them up all night with whining and pacing. She seems to think he's absolutely anxious, and that the seizure meds have a lot to do with it. Worse, the dog used to get lots of exercise with a large yard in the country, but his whole life changed with a marriage, move to the city, and new job for mom.

 

This was a rescue dog - I'm guessing he probably got left at the rescue because he was so incredibly hard to live with. This woman has gone above and beyond... and yet she still has this dog who's horrendously tough. She's thought about putting him down because his seizures can be so bad sometimes.

 

Good luck!

 

Mary

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After getting our seizure dog put to sleep last April (due to a total lack of control of all her bodily functions), I realized I had not slept through the night since she started having seizures in February of 2005. She either woke me periodically because of pacing or woke me because she had involuntary leg movements that made me think she was going to have a seizure. This is not a good way to go through life and I truly didn't notice until it wasn't happening anymore.

Barb S

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Well, Koda slept through the night for the past two nights in a row. But, this afternoon, he started having cluster seizures. So, he is at my vet's right now, doped up and on 24-hour seizure watch. He obviously cannot go without his medication, so we are going to get him back up to his previous levels. Unfortunately, my vet is concerned that there may be some swelling in his brain because his pupils are tightly constricted and not really reacting to light changes. I'm pretty upset about all of this. He's a tough dog to live with, but he's a good boy and doesn't deserve to have all of this happening to him. So, please send good thoughts for his recovery.

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Our thoughts go out to you. It was rough on all of us last summer when we lost Kris. Our best wishes for a much brighter outcome for Koda!

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Yeah Popcorn is also epileptic. He was up and down all night too. Sometimes, I too get that cold nose at 3am. :rolleyes:

 

Some of it is him just checking on me, but I also think part of it is that the epilepsy scares them and they dont want to be alone. :D So we put dog beds in our bedroom, by our bed. This helps.

 

 

However, I just pull up food and water at 8pm anyway, and close the door to where their food is.

 

Both pups go out for their last time team pee, between 11pm-midnight. :D

 

After I started doing all that Poppy started sleeping through the night. Because he learned he wouldn't be going out again until between 4- 5am.

 

 

Now if it is an emergency(say vomit, or diarrhea) he lets you know. Trust me.

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Mary,

 

I'm sorry you and your foster dog is going throught this. The vision should reappear after the swelling in the brain subsides. It may take up to three weeks, though, to return to normal.

 

OCD issues aside, epilepsy seems to be harder to control when it starts young. Instead of reducing the KBR, perhaps you should be adding phenobarb as well? You might also need to have on hand rectal valium, to be used as a cluster buster, to stave off status epileptus.

 

Frankly, Mary, I wouldn't take on this dog and all of the future heartache and expense with dealing OCD behaviors on top of a complex epilepsy diagnosis. Dogs like this will absorb all of your time, energy, and resources, and the outcome is rarely successful. I know that may sound cold, but I have been through epilepsy and I choose not to do so again.

 

That being said, if you are committed to this dog for life, then I would suggest that you visit the www.canine-epilepsy.com website and related email group: epil-k9. There are many that are dealing with the issues that you describe. I would also recommend that you see a veterinary neurologist to help treat the epilepsy. The foster dog has a very comlex case which might be over the head of a general vet. Also, as it has been mentioned, anti-anxiety drugs may make some of the OCD liveable.

 

Good luck to you and keep us updated.

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So sorry you are going through this. My aussie has seizures and it is really difficult to watch. Cluster seizures can be life threatening. Each time they seize it seems to take forever even if it is just a few minutes. I hope the vet can get them stopped for you. It may turn out for the better if you switch to another seizure medication. The potassium bromide usually causes sedation, however it can cause hyperactiveness in some dogs. It may be beneficial to switch to something else such as phenobarb- although it has side effects too - but drowsy may be beneficial. In addition, there are several medicines available for anxiety/OCD. A behaviorist vet can help you work through the specific behaviors. My border collie mix is on a generic prozac. It is working very well to improve his various behaviors and noise phobia plus we do behavior therapy. He has been sleeping through the night for about 3 months now. I was up at least 1-3 times a night for the first 2 and 1/2 years of his life. Initially, I thought it was just part of his breed and being a puppy. Then I realized not all border collies are neurotic insomniacs. He tried clomicalm first but too many side effects and not very effective. Not impressed with clomicalm - it is still available for humans in generic form (much cheaper), but no one prescribes it because of the side effects and tends to make people feel "edgy" after a few months. I feel it is an example of the pharmaceutical industry trying to re-invent an ineffective med for use in a population that has difficulty giving feedback. I have an aussie with seizures on Kbr who is improving, however she does not have the OCD/anxiety issues. The behaviorist vet will need to make sure any med used for OCD does not worsen seizures or interact negatively with the dog's seizure meds.

 

Mel, Bonnie, and the Baxter

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That being said, if you are committed to this dog for life, then I would suggest that you visit the www.canine-epilepsy.com website and related email group: epil-k9. There are many that are dealing with the issues that you describe. I would also recommend that you see a veterinary neurologist to help treat the epilepsy. The foster dog has a very comlex case which might be over the head of a general vet. Also, as it has been mentioned, anti-anxiety drugs may make some of the OCD liveable.

 

Good luck to you and keep us updated.

 

I second that recommendation. When I had Mickey, who had epilepsy, as a foster, being a member of that group was very helpful.

 

Something you might ask your vet about is melatonin. I used that with Mickey, who was on phenolbarb for the seizures, to help him rest at night. I used to let him sleep in the master bath with the door open because he liked sleeping on the cool floor, but sometimes he would get up in the night and move bathroom items (shampoo bottles, bubblebath, etc.) into the bedroom. The melatonin helped with that a lot. It's worth asking your vet about.

 

I wish Koda the best.

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I picked up Koda after work today. I now have a huge hole in my pocketbook where money used to be. The college were I got my undergraduate degree made the mistake of calling me tonight to try to solicit money. . . bad timing. Anyway, Koda is doing well. They told me that after 30 minutes of oxygen therapy last night, he started to show some improvement in his mental status. He was apparently pretty restless through the night. I felt so bad for the vet tech who had to stay with him. I don't think she got any rest last night. But, he's not had any seizures since yesterday. They've kept him on valium and he'll be on valium for the next few days until we can get his KBr back to therapeutic levels. When I picked him up, I was very concerned because he seemed even more neurotic than normal. I was sure that he had suffered brain damage and was going to be even more difficult to deal with. But, once I got him home, he was acting pretty much like his old self. I think he was pretty wound up because he hadn't had any exercise for the past day and a half, but he's not acting any more strange than usual. Right now, he is attempting to circle my legs because I'm sitting at the computer.

 

When I picked him up, they handed me a pamphlet for a veterinary animal behaviorist in my area. That kind of made me chuckle. I had planned to ask them for a reference anyway, but they beat me to it. I think they realized, after spending a day with him, how odd and how difficult he can be. So, I'm planning to get him an appointment as soon as I recover from his recent vet bill.

 

I like the idea about melatonin, too. I've heard about this being used with good results in people, so I guess it could work with dogs, too. Is this a prescription drug?

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