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Behavior changes in older dog


Laurae
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Many of you know my ten-year-old border collie/aussie mix Sophie has been undergoing chemotherapy treatment following the discovery and removal of a mast cell tumor on her leg. She is almost finished with her treatment (she has undergone ten of twelve treatments--every two weeks for the past five months, with one more IV chemo appointment next week and one more oral chemo pill taken at home at the end of September to go). She has tolerated the chemo very, very well--her counts are good, she has lots of energy, and she doesn't seem to be ill or in any pain. In addition to the chemo, she is also taking predinsone.

 

Sophie has had some side effects from the prednisone (I think it's the pred anyway). Her appetite increased, and she has developed some incontinence, which is managed with Proin. But she has developed a few additional behavior changes that I am wondering about. For instance, she has started counter surfing, which I think was due initially to her increased appetite. She has never counter surfed in her life before, but I made sure anything remotely edible was put away and started providing two smaller meals a day instead of one larger one. Since then, she has become a terrible rummager--finding anything she could tear apart, such as paper, tissues, etc. I often come home to a mess of chewed up paper products these days, something she has never done in the past. In frustration, after I discovered the last mess this morning (she is now taking books off my bookshelf and tearing them apart), I threw her in a crate. Sophie has never been able to be crated--she panics, barking and scratching. But today, she went in just fine and was calm, cool, and collected in there. Not a peep out of her. I took her back out after an hour or so, and she was totally fine about all of it. This is obviously great, but it's weird--she is like another dog. In addition, she has always been a fantastic puppy raiser, helping to raise Taz and many of my friends' dogs. She has always seemed to really enjoy the pups, playing with them, correcting them when appropriate in a very appropriate manner, etc. Well, she has wanted nothing to do with Meg since I brought her home in May. I initially thought it was maybe that she didn't feel so good with the chemo, but she seems to feel fine in all other aspects of her life (hiking, hanging out, backyard play, and so on).

 

Does anyone have any idea what's going on? Could it all be related to the prednisone or chemo? Will she go back to normal once she is finished with her treatment? I miss my Sophiegirl and am ready to send this destructive, puppy-ignoring imposter back to wherever she came!

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Oddly enough, I was just Googling (that's a word, right?) Proin today. I believe I read that irritability and restlessness are possible side effects, although rare. It's probably a long shot, but an idea to consider?

 

I'm glad to hear that physically she seems to be handling her treatment well and is almost done!

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Many of you know my ten-year-old border collie/aussie mix Sophie has been undergoing chemotherapy treatment following the discovery and removal of a mast cell tumor on her leg. She is almost finished with her treatment (she has undergone ten of twelve treatments--every two weeks for the past five months, with one more IV chemo appointment next week and one more oral chemo pill taken at home at the end of September to go). She has tolerated the chemo very, very well--her counts are good, she has lots of energy, and she doesn't seem to be ill or in any pain. In addition to the chemo, she is also taking predinsone.

 

Sophie has had some side effects from the prednisone (I think it's the pred anyway). Her appetite increased, and she has developed some incontinence, which is managed with Proin. But she has developed a few additional behavior changes that I am wondering about. For instance, she has started counter surfing, which I think was due initially to her increased appetite. She has never counter surfed in her life before, but I made sure anything remotely edible was put away and started providing two smaller meals a day instead of one larger one. Since then, she has become a terrible rummager--finding anything she could tear apart, such as paper, tissues, etc. I often come home to a mess of chewed up paper products these days, something she has never done in the past. In frustration, after I discovered the last mess this morning (she is now taking books off my bookshelf and tearing them apart), I threw her in a crate. Sophie has never been able to be crated--she panics, barking and scratching. But today, she went in just fine and was calm, cool, and collected in there. Not a peep out of her. I took her back out after an hour or so, and she was totally fine about all of it. This is obviously great, but it's weird--she is like another dog. In addition, she has always been a fantastic puppy raiser, helping to raise Taz and many of my friends' dogs. She has always seemed to really enjoy the pups, playing with them, correcting them when appropriate in a very appropriate manner, etc. Well, she has wanted nothing to do with Meg since I brought her home in May. I initially thought it was maybe that she didn't feel so good with the chemo, but she seems to feel fine in all other aspects of her life (hiking, hanging out, backyard play, and so on).

 

Does anyone have any idea what's going on? Could it all be related to the prednisone or chemo? Will she go back to normal once she is finished with her treatment? I miss my Sophiegirl and am ready to send this destructive, puppy-ignoring imposter back to wherever she came!

The counter surfing is very likely due to the pred. I've heard lots of stories from owners who's dogs become ravenous for both food and water when pred is introduced.

 

It's difficult to pinpoint the rest other than to say that any drug has side effects, and when it comes to dogs, we have really no idea what they are. Particularly when it comes to how the dog is feeling.

 

We don't really have any idea hoe our dogs are tolerating things, because they don't come out and say things like "this chemo crap is really making me feel crappy, painful, and irritable. I'm hungry all the time and that yapping little pain in the arse that you brought home isn't helping."

 

Behavior, in my opinion, is the only thing we really have to go on. Given that her behavior has changed rather dramatically, I would guess that the way she's feeling has changed in kind.

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Not to be an alarmist, but Jazz started counter surfing about 5 months before he was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma. He never had did that in his life until then. (He was almost 11) He wasn't on any type of medication since I had no idea he was sick. He wasn't on prednisone long enough (only 4 days) to know if it increased his appetite.

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Not to be an alarmist, but Jazz started counter surfing about 5 months before he was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma. He never had did that in his life until then. (He was almost 11) He wasn't on any type of medication since I had no idea he was sick. He wasn't on prednisone long enough (only 4 days) to know if it increased his appetite.

Something like hemangiosarcoma could be affecting the way the body is processing nutrients. The body may be ravenous for nutrients despite having made no changes in feeding/environment.

 

Any drastic change in behavior is a signal that something else is going on.

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Sophie isn't ravenous. Her appetite did increase, but feeding twice a day seems to have done the trick on the counter surfing for food. What she looks for now is paper/tissues. Paula, I never thought about the proin causing side effects. Hmmm. It's a bummer, as this month I am traveling a lot to trials and other people will be watching her. I can't have her being destructive in other people's homes, so I guess it's a good thing she seems to be okay with being crated now. I am just hoping these behaviors will go away once she is off all the meds at least. (Hopefully her incontinence will resolve itself when she is off the pred.) And try to be very patient in the meantime...

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Sophie isn't ravenous. Her appetite did increase, but feeding twice a day seems to have done the trick on the counter surfing for food. What she looks for now is paper/tissues. Paula, I never thought about the proin causing side effects. Hmmm. It's a bummer, as this month I am traveling a lot to trials and other people will be watching her. I can't have her being destructive in other people's homes, so I guess it's a good thing she seems to be okay with being crated now. I am just hoping these behaviors will go away once she is off all the meds at least. (Hopefully her incontinence will resolve itself when she is off the pred.) And try to be very patient in the meantime...

Shredding could be anxiety based. As could her new found fondness for the crate. Any of the drugs she's on could be causing anxiety.

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I do believe Sophie is quite anxious these days. She is less reactive to certain stimuli that normally make her crazy (e.g., bikes whizzing by on a trail--we never used to be able to hike on multi-use trails but strangely have been able to do so this summer, which I optimistically attributed to her "finally growing up"--at 10!). However, she is much more reactive to other things that never used to bother her. For example, she lets out a series of high-pitched alarm barks whenever Craig corrects Meg (which is often). This is not like her--she generally controls the situations with the other dogs, rather than react with any kind of fear or nervousness. She also does the alarm barking whenever I slap at a mosquito or raise my voice at all. This is totally out of character for her, and I guess I can see it a bit clearer now. My poor girlie :rolleyes:

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Paula, I never thought about the proin causing side effects. Hmmm. It's a bummer, as this month I am traveling a lot to trials and other people will be watching her. I can't have her being destructive in other people's homes, so I guess it's a good thing she seems to be okay with being crated now. I am just hoping these behaviors will go away once she is off all the meds at least. (Hopefully her incontinence will resolve itself when she is off the pred.) And try to be very patient in the meantime...

 

I really think it's just an outside chance that the Proin would cause any behavioral side effects, but I wanted to mention it. (Lilly is about to get started on it, if her bloodwork comes back normal today). I think Sophie is most likely just feeling off with her treatments and all the medication. She's not feeling herself, so she's not acting herself. I bet she'll be back to normal soon!

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While I was reading the OP, my first thought was that the cancer had spread to the brain. I also thought of the medicines she's on. Chemo drugs are poison. They do their job and kill off the bad cells, (and some of the good cells, unfortunately) but they are still poison. Meds can alter behavior, and as a human who has gone through chemo, I can say that chemo drugs can alter personality. These changes may or may not be permanent. Also, keep in mind, as PSmitty said--she's not feeling well. After she is off everything, and the meds clear her system--then worry about the changes. Meanwhile, try to keep her comfy and happy. And please give her an extra pat from a fellow cancer survivor!

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I agree wholeheartedly with the potential side effects of the chemo drugs. I know that the literature says that chemo doesn't affect dogs in the same way it does humans, but never the less, it is something different in their systems, as is the disease itself, and the effect of the chemo is cumulative...add to that the effects of the other medications, and well, there are bound to be some changes... I did well on my chemo -- I didn't loose much my hair, my blood counts stayed up, I didn't even loose much weight, everyone thought I looked great, but inside I felt terrible and I wanted to growl at everybody....and oddly enough my hearing became incredibly sensitive, which made me very jumpy....though one of the side effects of the drug I received can actually be a hearing loss, which could also be giving her more of a startle reflex if she's not expecting a sound.

 

So more hugs to Sophie...and to you.... another month of treatment and a few months for the effects to subside and then you'll have a better idea of where she's at.

 

Liz

 

 

 

While I was reading the OP, my first thought was that the cancer had spread to the brain. I also thought of the medicines she's on. Chemo drugs are poison. They do their job and kill off the bad cells, (and some of the good cells, unfortunately) but they are still poison. Meds can alter behavior, and as a human who has gone through chemo, I can say that chemo drugs can alter personality. These changes may or may not be permanent. Also, keep in mind, as PSmitty said--she's not feeling well. After she is off everything, and the meds clear her system--then worry about the changes. Meanwhile, try to keep her comfy and happy. And please give her an extra pat from a fellow cancer survivor!
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I do hope all these negative issues resolve with the drug reduction/cessation. That would be soooo much better!

But just another weird case report....I had a 75 pound malamute/GSD/something mix, who started chewing books and other odd things at an advanced age. It was months before we discovered his oral melanoma. Something about the tumor starting to grow caused him to seek "satisfacttion" by chewing. So, you might get Sophie's mouth checked too. Hope it is just the drugs & reactions though! (Curiously, my big guy's best dog-buddy was named Sophie, who eventually developed hemangiosarcoma....not a nice coincidence, just a curious one....).

 

Good luck to you both!

 

diane

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I agree with the other posters that many of the side effects you are describing can be attributed to the high dosage of prednisone Sophie is getting. My brother had to take pred. for his asthma and he not only gained weight, but was really crabby too. The vet also usually tells you that one of the side effects of the drug is increased hunger and thirst.

 

The chewing things up could also be due to increased anxiety, either from the pred or the chemo drugs. It can also be due to old age according to what I have read about older dogs. My girl is 14-years-old and I see all sorts of behavioral changes in her. She too quit trying to chase roller-bladers, jogger, bikers, etc. a few years ago (for which I'm grateful). She is on Proin for incontinence which works great and I haven't noticed any side-effects.

 

Best of luck with the treatment and I hope Sophie lives cancer-free for many more years.

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