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Sudden onset idiopathic aggression (rage syndrome)


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My 4 yr. old BC has been presenting with "episodes" of rage since she was quite young, but I did not know that it could be SOIA until a few weeks ago when it was becoming too much and too often to deal with. I had up to then been trying to train her out of her behaviour, but have realized that when she is experiencing an episode, she can not even hear me. She presents classic symptoms, with the pupil dilation, biting and attacking whatever is close ( such as my leg or hand, or the cat or other dog), slavering and growling/barking. The rage usually lasts anywhere from 30 seconds to just less than a minute. When she "comes out of it", she is confused as to why I am so upset, and acts just like a normal dog I am giving her an anti-anxietal which seems to help regulate some of the triggers that used to often put her into a full blown rage somewhat; she still exhibits the aggression episodes with no discernible trigger unpredictably. If anyone else has had to deal with these symptoms, here are a few questions:

 

Has anyone had any underlying issue such as a thyroid abnormality or blood sugar regulation diagnosed as a causal factor?

 

What medications have been prescribed for SOIA that have shown reasonable efficacy?

 

What has been the progression rate of the symptoms?

 

Does anyone have any other information or advice regarding what to do with my dog besides euthanasia?

 

I am hoping to be able to soon afford the blood tests in order to hopefully find a treatable, underlying cause, as the Vet has suggested that there may be something else going on? Please share any information from your experience with this.

Thank you.

 

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I have no experience with this, so I can't offer any advice or suggestions.

 

But I do want to say how sorry I am that and your dog are dealing with this. I wish you all the best as you try to get it sorted out, and hope you're able to find some ways to help your girl.

 

Thanks for sticking with her.

 

roxanne

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We don't have such specialists up here, but in my Vet's experience, and from the research I have been doing, she exhibits classic symptoms. As I have learned, it is rare, but not so rare as top not have some information about it available on line. It used to be called "Cocker rage" as it was observed predominately in Cocker Spaniels in the 60's and 70's. It has been diagnosed more frequently now in Bernese Mountain Dogs and a few other breeds, including BC's. A few decades ago people would not "diagnose" it as such, just put down the dog as unpredictably aggressive. There is some theory that it is seizure-like in appearance behaviourally as well as in brain scans, but anti-convulsive medications for epilepsy have not been shown to be effective.

 

I am hoping that someone has experienced some success with some treatment that I can also try, as I really do not want to lose her. At this point I am monitoring her behaviour, watching for specific triggers and looking for any other correlative situations. Also, now that I know what it looks like when she is having an episode as opposed to a jealous or stimulus reaction tantrum (like her consistent hatred of the tea kettle), I do not try to do any training/discipline or interfere unless there is an imminent threat of injury to one of the other animals, or to myself. Now that I know NOT to interfere and just monitor, I have had a lot less bites. The main concern I have is that she severely injures one of the other pets or a visitor, my daughter or dog sitter.

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Are you working with a veterinary behavior specialist? True rage syndrome is considered to be a form of a seizure and needs to be treated appropriately. It's not something that training fixes.

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If it "needs to be treated appropriately", treated how? That is what I am trying to find out. Until all possibilities are exhausted, until I know there is no treatment, until I am sure there is no underlying cause that could be treated, I am not putting her down. I posted to get help and information, not judgment.

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Are there certain times or conditions that you have noticed that correlate to these episodes? For instance, they happen more often when she's asleep, etc. If so you, I would keep her separated from your other pets and people during those times to prevent bites. On a normal basis I would keep her separated from anyone but you while you are seeking treatment.

 

Here are vet behaviorists listed by state: http://www.dacvb.org/resources/find/ Like others have said, if you are not working with one now you should be they can prescribe medication and help with management techniques so you can better try to keep yourself, your others pets, and your BC safe. Even if you have to travel a bit to get to one it is definitely worth it.

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I had a bitch that had episodes from puppyhood. It was diagnosised as a seizure disorder. I wish you luck and sympathy as it is hard to deal with. Mine was also extremely sound sensitive. She was spayed at an early age and found no correlation to hormones.

I was able to deal with episodes for a number of years but they became more frequent as she aged. Her rages were never towards a human until she was six. I had to make the decision to put her down when she was dangerous for people to be around.

She was on Xanax and we had tried seizure medication. The Xanax actually worked better.

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We had a line of Springers in our area that came to our office for a while. We never found anything that helped them and each one of them was eventually put down because they were so unmanagable and most of the owners had children.

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No judgment here, but questions you have to answer: First, are you willing to live with this dog for the remainder of it's life? Are you going to ALWAYS be around when this dog has an episode? Are you capable of and willing to cover any damages to people/property if this dog has an episode when you are out in public (and handle the humiliation such behavior can/will cause)? Will you be able to give this dog a quality of life?

 

Now as others have said, go to a vet behaviourist, make the tough decision if needed, do some soul searching for this dog.

 

I do not see any judgments on you as a person, only in regards to the dog and it's quality of life for the future. Sadly not all dogs are mentally healthy. (same for people, but we are forced to let them live even if miserable lives :) ). You can often reason with a person when they have some mental problems, you cannot 'reason' with a dog in the same way. Medications can help the dog cope, but consider the dog's life and it's lack of comprehension, it's hormonal state during and after such episodes and figure out what YOU have to do.

 

I wish you and your dog the best.

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Thank you all for your responses, I apologize for being touchy.

 

I live in Canada, in Northern Ontario. No behaviorists here. I will ask my vet if he can consult with one from down South. I am really struggling with the idea of putting her down, and you're right, Pam, I need to ask myself those tough questions. Can I live with this for her whole life and watch it get worse? Can I risk someone or some thing getting injured? My vet has told me about some medications that essentially act like lithium in humans - stops the episodes but flattens them out to almost comatose. I don 't want that for her either. Again, I am still looking for any possibility of hope that there is an underlying, treatable issue that causes these symptoms.

 

She was spayed as a pup, so it is not likely hormonal. Has anyone heard of a thyroid imbalance as a causal factor?

 

I am keeping a log of her behavior and episodes now to determine any patterns, how many episodes occur, etc. to chart if there will be a lessening of episodes since going on the full dose of anti-anxietal med.'s. It is interesting that sound sensitivity was mentioned - she is VERY sound sensitive. For a long time she would get upset when I washed and dried lettuce, got a new milk bag out, etc., now it's the tea kettle and the microwave (only after 9pm), snow coming off the roof etc. She is also very dominant with the other dog (mutt) and frequently, her issues with that send her in to full blown rage.

 

Thank you for your input, all. I will consider all of your ideas and advice. My soul is still hurting from losing my 11 yr. old Siberian Husky just a month ago, I am sure that has some effect on my reluctance to let my BC go right now. If you think of or hear of anything new - like medication or other causes, please post.

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Underactive thyroid -- hypothyroidism -- is a known cause of aggression. It would be a really good idea to look into sending a blood sample to HemoPet in California. It's not outrageously expensive, and Dr. Dodds is very experienced in interpreting the results, more so than many general practice veterinarians, and she is very accessible.

 

My sincere sympathies on the loss of your Husky. Some pet sitting clients just lost 2 dogs in less than a 2 month span, and they -- and even I -- are devastated. I can certainly understand you reluctance to lose another so soon.

 

Best wishes figuring this out.

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I don’t have any experience with this “rage syndrome,” so I can only offer my sympathy for the OP’s heart wrenching situation and also losing her other dog. This is really rough stuff to be going through. :(

 

While I hate to go off topic on an important subject, I do want to respond to comments in a couple posts about mental illness in people since I work in the mental health field. There is a lot of stigma that brings pain to those who have mental illness and can even keep them from seeking treatment for their conditions.

 

Many people, the majority of people with mental illness, can have fulfilling and productive lives with appropriate treatment and support. Admittedly, some of the medications currently available have a number of undesirable side effects, but no one should be almost comatose due to their medications. I wish the OP's vet hadn't made that analagy, whatever his/her experience medicating dogs with this problem. While Bipolar disorder presents many challenges, people with that illness can be extremely high functioning.

 

Mental illness is not a rare problem that only afflicts a few people. Studies indicate that each year, nearly one in five Americans experience mental illness ranging from mild to moderate to severe. That means that plenty of people you know, some you love or even you yourself may have mental illness. There is treatment and services out there that can be very beneficial.

 

Ok, sorry for the completely off topic Public Service Announcement. And to the OP, again, I am so sorry that you are faced with such a worrisome, dangerous behavior in your dog. I wish I knew more about this issue or mental illness in dogs to be of some assistance.

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I completely agree with you. I also work and help with people with MI; the analogy was made as a worst case comparison. I have had a few experiences with people who have serious and extreme illness and who have been medicated to the point of debilitating lethargy and completely flattened affect (patients with Schizoaffective Disorder, various Psychosis, Schizophrenia and some concurrent disorders). It is very heart rending and one of the reasons some people refuse to take the medication. Luckily there are better medications out there for most people which allow them to function wonderfully well. Unfortunately, there aren't many choices for dogs. There aren't enough choices for people, either - and until the stigma of mental illness is educated out of the general public, there will never be the funding necessary for research to find better medication that has less severe side effects. I was raising money for the Defeat Depression Campaign in October and it was really surprisingly difficult to get sponsors! People raising money for other illnesses had no problem making their goals. I am glad that you made the public service announcement. Someday I hope we will know enough about treating mental illness in humans to be able to also treat our best companions.

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Many human drugs are used in dogs. I have one who was treated for severe PTSD with a cocktail of human meds. The pharmacists used to freak out when I picked up his drugs. "Oh! Wow! You can't get pregnant or drive a car when you are taking these meds." My response, "If my neutered male dog gets pregnant or drives a car, I am calling the national news."

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