Dog Forum banner

1 - 10 of 10 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,901 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
...how do you determine when you can start actively training again?

Obviously, Chisum is reactive. Some of it is fear, some is frustration (he has a very high prey/chase drive), and some is probably a mixture of both.

He is currently taking 75 mg of Trazodone 2x a day (vet upped the dose). He has Xanax as-needed. I'm not thrilled with either med. The Trazodone just makes him sleepy more than anything, and only for a little bit, and the Xanax does absolutely nothing.

I called the vet, told her this, so she upped the Trazodone from 50 mg to 75 twice daily, suggested lavender oil, and an Adaptil collar and diffuser. He also has a thundershirt. Today I noticed he uses one of his favorite balls as sort of an "anxiety pacifier" to chew on and release energy, so I'm working on encouraging that as well. We've also been working on BAT when we can at the lake, capturing calmness, and mark and move type stuff with things that he just really wants to chase and then reacts to.

I'm supposed to call the vet with an update in about a week. I really think she's going to go for the prozac, but we'll see. She was hesitant at first as she thought it was a more extreme place to start, but we may need it, if it works.

Beyond that, though, how do you know when it's time to start really, REALLY training again - particularly on the fears? I'm on AD medication myself and have been for a few months and only now feel like it's kicking in with any reliability. I do know that there's a side effect window where his anxiety could increase and that it's best to wait a little bit to let the stuff kick in BUT I also know it's not a "magic" pill and that training is required as well.

When I refer to training, keep in mind I'm talking about hiring a trainer again and working on his reactivity. We did that last year and there was a bit of improvement but it didn't really "stick" in his mind - he started over every. single. time. I'm hoping with some med help he'll be less on extreme edge during the entire session. Maybe.

So...any advice or words of wisdom? I'm trying to do what's best for him and I'm not always sure that I am.

I've been told he'll probably never be a friendly dog...and I'm okay with that. My goals are adjusting. Right now, I want him to be nearly anxiety-free while at my parent's house...on a farm...with no strangers around. I'd also like for him to be able to settle somewhere, even in a totally different room, if people come over. If we can accomplish that, we'll go from there.

I'm going to tag some people I know have been down this road, even though I know many don't come on here anymore, but really, anyone and everyone can chime in! @kmes @TiggerBounce @Laus2002 @HaydenK @LaylaBird @KayWilson
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,485 Posts
Hey PoppyKenna :)

Good question, and I'll try to remember enough to answer it. We went through this 2.5 years ago.

A few questions:

How long have you been working with your current drug regimen? (Sorry if you said that and I missed it)...

Have you seen any tangible improvement from your current regimen? Doesn't really sound that way but I figure I should ask.

When we went through this, we started with fluoxetine. My vet had seen Layla at her worst so when I asked him he was more than happy to write the script.

Our first three or so weeks were very hard with bad side effects. I stuck it out because I know it might be that way but I can understand why some people who are not prepared would want to yank their dogs off the meds.

Anyway for us, it was very easy to tell when she "came out the other side." First she was, well, what she was - ansxious and reactive. Then she was worse - then much worse. Then, she was better - and not just back to normal but actually better. It happened right around that 3-week mark that all the literature talks about and it was evident. That's when we started working again.

If you're not really seeing noticeable benefits, I would suggest you focus first on the meds and figuring that part out.

Also, for what it's worth, Layla is now on trazodone and fluoxetine. I added the trazodone after a few months of just fluoxetine and I love the combination. She's definitely lazier than she would be, but it's worth it. She's a happy dog and while we definitely know she's still an anxious dog, many people who meet her would have no idea. And if I miss a dose of traz (or just dose a few hours late), we notice. If you guys decide to try fluoxetine (I strongly hope you do), I'd start at a very low dose of it, but I think it would be wise to keep the trazodone in the mix (assuming your vet agrees). Maybe gradually titre down with the trazodone, but I'd definitely consider keeping it in the mix. The fewer changes the better right now - and you can try weaning off later if you decide to.

My thinking is that you should KNOW when it's time to start working again because you can see a change in your dog from the meds. Meds will only get you so far on their own, but you should be able to see some real improvement in my experience, even if the improvements you see would seem tiny to someone else.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
442 Posts
I haven't had a dog on behavioral meds (other than Bus when he melts down at noisy times of the year), but I would think there's probably not much point in trying to do any sort of training until you've seen a difference in his "baseline" behavior (ie: if he's still freaking out about everyday stuff, you're not really in any better position for training than you were without the meds). Many of the behavioral meds have a loading period of around a month, so it's not uncommon to not see much change until that point, but you should probably be seeing some sort of changes by then if it's going to help.

You might also look into/ask your vet about 1. Composure chews- these have L Theanine and some other stuff in them that have been featured in some recent behavioral articles. I haven't used them, but have used some other supplements by the same company with good results. 2. Zylkene- was looking at this for my parents' cat who is an inappropriate pee'er (she's been on most behavioral meds- no help :( ), have heard a few decent anecdotal reports, but not much about it. I'm not sure what sort of contraindications either may have with other meds/supplements, so ask your vet first for sure, but they might help tip the scale in your favor, even if they don't make a huge difference on their own.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,485 Posts
I would think there's probably not much point in trying to do any sort of training until you've seen a difference in his "baseline" behavior (ie: if he's still freaking out about everyday stuff, you're not really in any better position for training than you were without the meds). Many of the behavioral meds have a loading period of around a month, so it's not uncommon to not see much change until that point, but you should probably be seeing some sort of changes by then if it's going to help.
Agree with this completely :)
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
11,911 Posts
I haven't gone through this personally with my dogs. I've only worked a bit with a couple clients (so not an expert by any means). I left the meds half to the vet. On the training end we basically ^^^. A ''Cortisol vacation'' while getting meds sorted. Once sorted we resumed training. :)
Posted via Mobile Device
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,901 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
Thank you for your answers, both of you :)

The trazodone may help minimally, but I don't see any real, concrete improvement. The vet did say we'd add something to the trazodone, so I don't think she wants to take him OFF of it. Her main concern was that Prozac would lower bite inhibition and turn him into a biter, but...I think we need to way risk vs. reward. He's not a biter now.

I was talking to my mother about it, since she's home all day with him and I wanted a second opinion -- I am TERRIBLE at making decisions. She says he has certainly improved since he first came home, and he has, and that he doesn't show any major anxiety symptoms during the day; he just naps.

Problem is, from my POV he is very, very quick to react to "changes" in his environment so I think that even when he appears calm, there is underlying fear there. For example, he was chilling on the couch the other day and my brother stepped on a spider - total meltdown (barking, lunging, etc.). If a box comes into the house, if a bag comes into the house, if he thinks he smells something strange, if someone closes a door....again, meltdown.

To say nothing of getting into a car or trying to take a walk. He LIKES going to the lake, as long as there aren't any people around, but there is a LOT of anxiety involved. I also think he's got some insecurity around our other two dogs, especially our larger Aussie mix.

Anyway...I guess what I'm getting at is that I really appreciate the extra input :) It's very hard for me to make decisions, partially because I want to be right all the time and also because I don't want to be judged. That's just MY anxiety. Which is getting help :) Honestly, my dog and I are quite a pair!

I'm thinking next week sometime I'll call the vet and see what she thinks. I do agree his baseline needs to change...he exemplifies trigger stacking on just an average day for sure.
@busannie - we have tried some supplements in addition to the Adaptil, thundershirt, and lavender. Not much difference.
@LaylaBird - thanks for your input and good to see you on the boards again!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,661 Posts
I never used the meds, I got the script, but never actually got myself to fill it. Tessa's reactivity has subsided with age thought, so that's a positive.

I do know of some owners that do have their dogs on fluoxetine and their experiences are similar to @LaylaBird's. Basically, you just know. It could be 3-4 weeks.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,485 Posts
Her main concern was that Prozac would lower bite inhibition and turn him into a biter, but...I think we need to way risk vs. reward. He's not a biter now.
This is a valid concern but definitely has not been my experience. I know it can lower inhibition in a bad way, in some dogs - but that really doesn't mean it would do the same for him. Layla's bite inhibition is very good still. Is it AS good when we play together? Not sure.... Would I trade it? HELL no. Especially since I've done zero to discourage mouthing.

Thank you for your answers, both of you :)
Problem is, from my POV he is very, very quick to react to "changes" in his environment so I think that even when he appears calm, there is underlying fear there.
That will always exist to some extent in my opinion. When I first read this, I thought about Layla. She's still at her root an anxious dog. Drugs can't make a dog something they are not. The question is, how anxious, and how much does it take to trigger it, and how long does it take to recover.

For example, he was chilling on the couch the other day and my brother stepped on a spider - total meltdown (barking, lunging, etc.). If a box comes into the house, if a bag comes into the house, if he thinks he smells something strange, if someone closes a door....again, meltdown.

To say nothing of getting into a car or trying to take a walk. He LIKES going to the lake, as long as there aren't any people around, but there is a LOT of anxiety involved. I also think he's got some insecurity around our other two dogs, especially our larger Aussie mix.

...he exemplifies trigger stacking on just an average day for sure.
When I read this stuff, I thought 'yeah this is a dog who would be helped by fluoxetine (or another SSRI)." Layla still gets wound up if, for example, we're packing to go somewhere. She will bark at certain noises. But her reactions are not meltdowns. They "normal" anxious reactions - panting for example. I think you'd see improvement in this area with a different drug regimen, and I think your boy would find some relief from the constant anxiety. Their lives are short.

With that said, hard to say if/how his feelings toward the other dogs might change. Layla continues to be horrible with other dogs who are on her "property" but is overall decent (other than reactivity) with dogs who she meets off-leash in neutral territory. She will never be a dog, in my opinion, who thrives sharing a home with another animal. Sharing is NOT her thing.

EDITING to add that while she will never be good at sharing, she's definitely very polite and appropriate with other polite dogs in public, and I've absolutely seen this improve with fluoxetine.

Anyway...I guess what I'm getting at is that I really appreciate the extra input :) It's very hard for me to make decisions, partially because I want to be right all the time and also because I don't want to be judged. That's just MY anxiety. Which is getting help :) Honestly, my dog and I are quite a pair!
I hate to break it to you, but the first few months (possibly longer) of starting these meds will be challenging. You will probably see side effects that make you want to stop. There will always be people who think you're just 'doping up' your dog. And playing with doses is really tricky, especially when your vet is kind of clueless (no offense meant to your vet - nearly all of them are when it comes to this stuff and I'm very happy you're vet is working with you on this).

Do your research. I read human forums about the same drugs. These drugs have been extensively tested on dogs first, and later humans. When you read people's experiences, it helps you understand what your dog is experiencing. It's terribly hard for a person to stay on a drug willingly that makes them feel like **** when they are aware of it and free to stop it. And it's hard to keep your dog on it, but perhaps you have that perspective to understand what's happening in a way that a person (who's also the patient) would not.

YOU have the ability to keep them on the meds through the crappy side effects (and reduce the dose to ease the transition if necessary). You're your dog's ambassador and guardian and you can make that decision for him far more easily than many humans can make it for themselves. In that way, it's actually a blessing that he won't understand. Because when he comes out the other side, it will be worth it (and many humans have experienced that too - read their accounts - public forums are wonderful things).

Ignore the people who don't understand mental illness, and who don't value quality of life over judgment and stigma. I've had people laugh that my dog is doped up. I've had educated people encourage me to get her off drugs and try acupuncture (wtf - where are the studies?). People have a lot of stigma about this stuff, even when it comes to other humans. People assume you're not training and using drugs as a crutch.

You cannot change any of that except by proving it wrong. And denying your boy relief does nothing but waste time. His life will be (if you're lucky) a full dog life, but even with a long-lived dog there's not a lot of time to **** around.

Sorry for being so long-winded...
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,901 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
@LaylaBird - no apology needed - I love your input!

I'm actually on an SSRI myself (Lexapro, not Prozac) for long-lasting anxiety that was starting to wind into depression and I wasn't able to get out of bed. I do know that side effects can be bad for a while. I got lucky I think, and definitely tapered up slowly, but even I had all kinds of extra anxiety and weird side effects too. I still have two major ones: extra thirst and super vivid dreams. I can live with both if it means my anxiety is stabilizing.

I think the hardest for me is when my family tells me he's "not that bad". It makes me feel like I'm perceiving things wrong, but in my gut I just know this is the right move.

Anyway, I'm overthinking. I'm going to call the vet first thing next week (I think the one we usually see is out until then). You're right - it isn't easy to find a vet willing to help. I went through three before I found this one and even she's wary...though she does consult with a vet behaviorist in Ohio so she does have good resources. I'm betting there's not a lot they learn in vet school about this kind of thing. Not surprising; when I went to my doctor he was super supportive but admitted first thing that while he could prescribe me Lexapro, he was going to give me a very low dose because he wanted an experienced psychiatrist to make that call.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,485 Posts
@LaylaBird

I think the hardest for me is when my family tells me he's "not that bad". It makes me feel like I'm perceiving things wrong, but in my gut I just know this is the right move.
I told myself the same thing about Layla. Layla wasn't that bad in some ways. But her condition was bad enough that she was suffering, and she deserved relief.

Most dogs "could be worse." Imagine someone saying that to a person suffering from depression - oh well you're not suicidal, it could be worse, you shouldn't really need meds. The stigma is obvious - people feel meds are extreme tools only for otherwise lost causes.

Meds are not and should not be treated as a last resort to be used only in extreme cases and when all other options have failed. I was that person, who wanted to try every unproven thing first before "resorting" to meds. Not anymore! I wish we'd started them earlier now.

I'm glad to say that we've figured out the meds and dosing/timing that works best for us (that took awhile and can be stressful), and that it's affordable, there are very few side effects now (and none that matter), and that Layla will never come off her meds for the rest of her life.

I'm excited for you guys :) Also I'm so glad to hear your boy will have the benefit from your own experience and understanding.
 
1 - 10 of 10 Posts
Top