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So some details to start - and we do have a vet appointment tomorrow in the morning. 10 year old Westie/mini schnauzer cross, name Finn. He has been diagnosed with a minor weeping valve in his heart, which i have been told is common and it has been monitored since discovered. He also has a slowly collapsing trachea, also can be common and it hasn't harbored him much (got sick once a couple years ago for a week) - other than that he snores..

I walk him every night/day.. in some capacity but mostly it is in our neighborhood, one of a half dozen different directions.. usually a half hour walk.

He has always been one of the dogs that is timid/wimpy around some of the different sounds, smoke alarm, oven (ticking), and fireworks (not thunder though and never traffic). Randomly through the years at certain times of the year fireworks have caused him stress - usually turning the walk into an ears down/tail parallel gotta get home. so we come to this - i will do this point form to shorten it up a bit.

- Oct. 29th - walk around neighborhood, about half way fireworks, close and far (halloween parties) - and he didn't want any of it. it started with the usual no sniffing stopping, head down just focus on getting home, but 5 blocks away he actually started trying to run, which was a first

- couple nights later - walk around the neighborhood, he did not/would not go the same way that lead to the street where he heard the fireworks, stopping, unsure of where he wanted to go, wouldn't go up a parallel street. got him to engage and backtrack on a farther loop home

- next couple walks he would not go down the street we usually start on, like stop, nope not happening. went other way and eeked our way through. then he just started not wanting to go at all, he would be happy to 'go for a walk', get the harness and leash on etc.. but then either to the garage/street, across street then nope. no direction, just back to front door.

- tried him in the daytime next, which went ok for a couple days but then turned into the same thing, get a few blocks away then nope.. get a half block away then nope. then didn't want to go at all.

- last thursday my wife drove me and him into the next neighborhood over to give him a fresh environment, but close enough to walk home. he did fine, meeting dogs along the way, and even meeting dogs in our neighborhood and fine.

- next night tried regular walk - nope.

- saturday, got dropped off in other direction at a golf course (path around you can walk with a field at the start) and close enough to walk home. started out ok.. got through the field, back to the path and leash on, first hill we got to he did not want to go up, so we backtracked and ended up on different path, cut through the course and all the way back to the start he was fine. got to the intersection, crossed fine, couple blocks to street we needed to turn down fine, and a couple blocks in it started. would stop, cross the street, stop, would move a bit when coaxed. at one point crossing back across the street he stopped in the middle and looked at me like 'i don't like this'.. it was heartbreaking. we slowly slowwwly made our way down this street to the next main one we had to cross - i carried him across. then he didn't want to move again, so i carried him up a block and into the street a bit (which is a block behind our house), set him down and he started walking fine again, not 100% normal, but moving along. went up through a cut through behind houses, through the path, got back to our street and then home fine. tried him later that night to see - nope, would not go down the stairs.

sunday - we took him out to a dog park near the water. large area up top with stairs down to the shore you can walk along. got him inside the fence and perfectly normal, saying hi to the dogs, trotting along, down to the water, walked along the coast and back up the far end, and to the jeep and fine. had a good time. tried him that night - nope

today - drove him up to that same spot we started from last thursday. didn't even get a block, and wouldn't go, back to the jeep. drove him to a nearby schoolfield and got him out. seemed normal, walked around the field, not 100% normal but fine. got back to the school, decided to take him out to the street opposite to where i parked, go around the block (quick from this position) and back to the jeep, i wanted to see how he would do transitioning to a sidewalk. get down the first stretch ok, turn down the little side street, halfway down stops. wants to cross, we cross, get to the intersection and have to cross back. he does it, then stops. he wants to cross and go another way, (at this point we are heading towards the jeep) - but he won't move. i carry him to the jeep.


now a few things in all this, i have to be careful in trying to analyze him at home, because i am now paranoid and i am overanalyzing everything, but at home and in the backyard he appears fairly normal to his routine.

  • he is eating and drinking fine - i 'think' he's drinking a little bit more than normal, but again i might be paranoid
  • he is going out back with me to do landscaping, he loves it out back and gets amped, he loves digging rocks in his corner. i throw them back there for him and he runs, pounces, jumps, digs, pulls, groans, barks at them.. he is a twit, and that still happens, we were out back today this morning and he had a good time.
  • he is still having plays with his stuffies, we throw them for him from the living room in two directions and he runs / pounces and brings it back.. can be 5 minute plays or 20 minute plays.. but he is still doing that
  • it APPEARS he is getting tired sooner than he used to, but that could just be age / trachea - again i'm not sure what i am overanalyzing
  • when he does come in from a failed walk attempt he seems depressed initially, to me anyhow
  • he still comes to whomever, any room when we are dealing with food, seeing what we have and begging for some, sitting and watching us eat.


i think that's it for now.. and sorry for the long long read - just looking for anyone with some insight or thoughts, as i am not doing well with this. i lost my other dog three years ago and still miss him, he was only 6.

few things i am worried about with Finn

  • brain / tumor
  • eyesight (couple self tests he seems fine - can catch a mushroom in his mouth from 4 feet away)
  • confidence? he seems broken in this
 

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I hope your vet visit goes well.

I'm not a vet but if it was a tumour, I imagine his behaviour would be more consistent - you wouldn't get the playing in the house and yard.

I'm nor sure if I'm seeing a pattern, but it seems his anxiety is in built up, urban areas; and he reverts to normal in areas like the waterside, the golf course before you got onto the street (I got a little confused about where his reluctance started there though) and the school yard. So those sound, to me, like open spaces. It's just a guess, but I wonder if the fireworks unsettled him and he is more relaxed in open areas with good peripheral vision?

Subject to what the vet says (because he is seeing him, we can only speculate) I'd suggest you don't walk him for about three days. The stress hormone cortisol builds in the body and is topped up with every stressful episode. So if it's already at a high level, it doesn't take much for a little thing to add to it, and cause a reaction. If you can imagine a bathtub, with buckets of water being poured into it with every stressful event - it fills faster than the water can drain out until it spills over the edge in a meltdown. An event that might not bother him on a good day could be enough to upset him if his 'stress tank' is already almost full. Studies in dogs are inconclusive but it can take several days to dissipate, so give him a break from stresses and set you both up for success by starting over on an empty cortisol reserve.

Then, I'd start by walking in the places he is least likely to get upset, to rebuild his confidence and show him that you aren't forcing him to face his demons. If he has any doggy friends, ones he already knows, it might help if they came along too.

You might find a pheromone collar helpful too. These carry a scent that replicates the one a lactating bitch has, and have a calming effect on dogs.

Please let us know how you get on.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I hope your vet visit goes well.

.............

Please let us know how you get on.
First of all i appreciate the response, and the very reasonable ideas. The vet rescheduled until tomorrow morning early as she was out sick today. i agree with a bit paranoid on the brain thing as the behavior is not consistent. i also have that paranoia feeling over dementia but again don't see any 'pattern' to suggest it rationally.

to address a couple things, after the golf course walk, we walked approximately 2.5 blocks 'urban sidewalk setting' before it started, including a busy street, an intersection crossing, and meeting a dog along the way.

the stress buildup makes good sense, appreciate the write up and very reasonable. also, the fireworks because he did not no 'where' they were coming from is likely not helping while he is in the urban parts, with driveways/bushes/corners etc.etc.etc..

there is one detail i did forget to add however, and i have noticed him doing it after the 'incident' - he is going into openings/walkways leading to house doors quite a bit, like checking everyone, 'visually' appearing as if he is checking 'is this my home - nope'.. that is definitely a new behavior.. he has ALWAYS randomly checked driveways/walkways of course, and even has his few where he goes in a few extra feet - but this is visibly different, it isn't about sniffing the smells, it's like he's checking each house.

appreciate the advice on the after vet visit walking places too, thank you
 

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I've noticed my boys are a little more on edge right now. Both of them have recently done a spook and scoot due to the sound of someone slamming a car door. I think it has to do with the change of seasons: people are adding holiday decorations, wildlife is more active, the wind is chilly, the landscape looks and smells different.
 

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there is one detail i did forget to add however, and i have noticed him doing it after the 'incident' - he is going into openings/walkways leading to house doors quite a bit, like checking everyone, 'visually' appearing as if he is checking 'is this my home - nope'.. that is definitely a new behavior.. he has ALWAYS randomly checked driveways/walkways of course, and even has his few where he goes in a few extra feet - but this is visibly different, it isn't about sniffing the smells, it's like he's checking each house.
This sounds a bit like confusion. The basis of which could be either mental (looking for familiarity, similar to what some dementia patients do), or physical (perhaps he's losing sight or smell). Either way, I'd direct the question to a vet.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
so, a bit to update here. apologies for the gap.

the vet appointment basically yielded blood samples/urine samples came back with the only notes:
"2 items that are slightly outside of normal values are:
  • his blood glucose level, which is slightly low. Sometimes we can see this is blood that has been sent away for testing, so we will usually follow it up with an in clinic blood glucose test to confirm if the value is actually truly low or not.
  • one of his liver values is very mildly elevated. Elevations this mild are common and fairly non specific. If a value is abnormal once, we will often recheck liver values in 2-3 months to see if everything is back to normal, or trending upwards.

It sounds like that was Finn's first urination of the day, in which case I would expect it to be more concentrated than what we are seeing. Had he eaten breakfast and had a great big drink of water before his first pee? If not, this does suggest that he is either drinking more water than is typical, or he is not concentrating his urine well. Some bacteria can cause this, and we did see some bacteria in his urine. We have not yet fully ruled out a Urinary Tract Infection.

The episodes you describe sound similar to those described at his examination, with the new behaviour being inconsistent between locations.

Options to consider are as follows:
  • a urine culture on a new urine sample. This would tell us for sure if he had a urinary tract infection or not, and if so, what bacteria is causing it and what antibiotics should be used to treat it.
  • a recheck of his blood glucose and liver values. It sounds as though you would like to monitor this, so I will enter a reminder for 2 months from his initial labwork. We will call you to book Finn in for that. We could consider rechecking a first morning urine sample at this time as well.
  • if we are quite concerned about the behaviour changes noted, we could consider looking for conditions that are difficult to detect with examination and baseline blood work by doing chest x rays and an abdominal ultrasound (so looking for things such as asymptomatic pancreatitis, cancer, fungal infections, etc), or even referring you and Finn to a neurologist, where they may recommend imaging his brain."


So after the actual visit..i think it was the friday i took him to a completely new park inside a neighborhood. he had a good time, met other dogs, acted normal. then into the weekend (sat or sun) we took him up to a mountain park with a trail system, and took him on a big up and down walk, he loved it and had a great time, again meeting dogs as normal, running, going into the bush on his own and exploring.. normal. then over the next week i started taking him to to different parks, but the behavior started creeping in.

  • I took him back to the park i just mentioned in the neighborhood, did a lap and tried him on the street - he didn't want to and looked unsure and didn't want to do anymore.
  • i took him the following night over to a school that has a HUGE field, see if he could let loose and run. we got going from the parking lot and he was bombing around going good, until he heard a whistle from the gym (60/70 yds away at that point) - and about 4 or 5 whistles later he was done, was nervous and wanted to go back to the jeep.
  • i took him to a completely different park the next day, again in a neighborhood, lots of dogs were there i was hopeful. we get going from the one end, going through the trail part of it first, and then started to head towards the open field with the dogs - in the distance there were a couple bangs (like someone hitting a piece of metal with a hammer 5 blocks away) and that stopped him, and he wanted to go back to the truck
  • i took him back the next day to the park i first mentioned, try it a third time.. he kind of did a normal lap, and only perked up when we came across two dogs playing. said his hellos, but carried on and finished the walk. definitely not the energy or interest showed under past normal circumstances
  • couple nights ago - took him over to that school with the huge field (whistles from before) later, parked on the other side. it started ok, but about 50 feet in he stopped and same stuff.. we headed back
  • last night i was going to try him at a different school. ask him if he wanted to go for a ride in the jeep and go for a walk, he was excited and got ready. the leash was in the jeep, we walked out and he just kept walking past the jeep like we were going on a normal walk. i grabbed the leash, told him to wait, put it on and we carried on across the street and down the street perpendicular. i was stunned but just went with it - about 4 houses in.. he stopped. we went back... i put him in the jeep, tried him at a different school, big field etc... seemed to start out good, did one side of the school, sniffing/trotting/looking, but as we got to the end of the building into the field, again it was over, we headed back
  • just now - tried him back at that mountain park from last week. he wouldn't even start down the path this time, out of the jeep, walk to the path, stop and nope like a forcefield was up. put him back in the jeep and tried another nearby hilltop trail system. this time he wouldn't even get out of the jeep - when i went to grab him he was going to jump over the seat, i had to tell him it was ok and stop and he sat back down, but would not jump out. went and sat at a bench for about 10 minutes, and he just sat there, sniffing the breeze, listening to the sounds and looking for things moving.. but not getting out.

and yet he still every night around normal walk time asks for it. take him out back and he is a crazy as ever with energy.
when it is walk time and you don't mention a vehicle, he isn't even going out the front door now but if he was out back playing with me, he will come out the side gate with me around front to say HI to someone happy as can be..

i am so confused.. and am battling what is logical here. is it something in his own head (anxiety/fear/construct) associating with walking only, or is it something medical being illuminated by anxiety of the walk and the behavior in comfort areas (backyard/inside etc..) he is calm and it doesn't present.
 

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It sounds like noise triggers perhaps? The whistle, the banging?

If that's the case, you can't avoid noise forever. I'd try a calming pheromone product first - these mimic the scent of a lactating bitch and have a calming effect, or alternatively a product like skullcap and valerian; then maybe work with a behaviourist who can actually see him. Not someone who bullies him into facing his fears head on - that's never helpful - but someone who takes the time to help him learn gently that things aren't so scary after all.
 

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Agreed, it sounds like noise is the trigger. I might ask the vet about hyperacusis (a.k.a. noise sensitivity). They may be able to test the hearing or rule out some of the known causes (such as head injuries, viral infections, TMJ disorders, Lyme disease, and diabetes).
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
It sounds like noise triggers perhaps? The whistle, the banging?

If that's the case, you can't avoid noise forever. I'd try a calming pheromone product first - these mimic the scent of a lactating bitch and have a calming effect, or alternatively a product like skullcap and valerian; then maybe work with a behaviourist who can actually see him. Not someone who bullies him into facing his fears head on - that's never helpful - but someone who takes the time to help him learn gently that things aren't so scary after all.
my mistake leaving that one out - we got him a collar, he's been wearing it a week and a half. we got it the night after the great walk in the mountain park, stopped at the pet store and got him a bone and a collar. he came into the store and was perfect..

Agreed, it sounds like noise is the trigger. I might ask the vet about hyperacusis (a.k.a. noise sensitivity). They may be able to test the hearing or rule out some of the known causes (such as head injuries, viral infections, TMJ disorders, Lyme disease, and diabetes).
appreciate the suggestions, thank you. this is also what is confusing me a bit - i mean these noises occur around our house as well, when out in the backyard they don't affect him. BUT, yes this is a safe zone so to speak. but when he runs out either gate with me to go to the garage to get something, then back to the backyard, same ambient noise. runs out a side gate with me to greet someone at the door he's normal, same ambient noise.. there are these things that present with his mind is screwing him up and he's fine when he doesn't think. but again, thank you for the suggestions, will do.
 

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i mean these noises occur around our house as well, when out in the backyard they don't affect him. BUT, yes this is a safe zone so to speak
I've got some experience with noise sensitivity myself, and it's been my experience that familiarity with the environment can make a lot of difference. With noise sensitivity, it often feels like it takes extraordinary effort just to mentally process normal sounds. In a familiar environment, most noises are a recognized part of the background, so that processing can be focused on anything new or unusual. Being in an unfamiliar environment means that every sound is 'new or unusual', so it's much easier to get overwhelmed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I've got some experience with noise sensitivity myself, and it's been my experience that familiarity with the environment can make a lot of difference. With noise sensitivity, it often feels like it takes extraordinary effort just to mentally process normal sounds. In a familiar environment, most noises are a recognized part of the background, so that processing can be focused on anything new or unusual. Being in an unfamiliar environment means that every sound is 'new or unusual', so it's much easier to get overwhelmed.
interesting stuff - thank you
 
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