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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
First off, I realize seeing a vet may be the best option for this situation. However, the issue isn't surely an emergency, and I thought it might be worth seeking information from anyone with a similar experience in the meantime. We've searched online, but haven't found anything describing this particular behavior, at least with a particular thing about it.
My mother has a dog that she's owned for years. I'm not quite sure at this time of his exact age, but he's not very young. For a while now, he's been acting differently at random times, doing things that stand out as odd to her, which she has been assuming may be due to possible dementia. However, he has also now developed a new behavior/symptom that has been more worrisome. The less worrisome things include behaviors such as laying down in odd places, where he never has before, and staying there for a while. At other times, when outside, even when he's been out for quite a while, she'll have a hard time getting him to come back in, which isn't usually the case, but now and then has been happening. Then, once back inside, he'll go and try to get through a window to get back out, which was also never an issue. Some or all of the time when doing these things, he'll also seem kind of 'out of it,' she says, not himself, kind of lost.
The newer, more worrisome behavior, which she said has been going on for a while now, and I have witnessed, is episodes of trembling. His whole body shakes (not jerking or anything violent), during which he also acts differently. He'll lay beside you, or partially in your lap, and just go through a series of trembling, then still, then trembling, then still, a few seconds in between each, and this will go on for at least 10 minutes or more. She hasn't noticed anything directly causing this to happen, it appears random. Normally, he's very responsive to your voice when you talk to him, and when you pet him. He's very friendly and fairly energetic. During these shaking episodes, however, he'll just sit or lay there, even if with you, he is mostly unresponsive, no excitement, no reaction to your voice or anything. He doesn't appear to be in pain. His eyes are open, but he's not himself. So, we've just sat there with him, petting him and trying to soothe him... But then there's something else that makes it hard to understand as well. He'll be completely unresponsive to you the whole time, unless you say one of a certain few words that he associates with something really exciting, such as 'ride,' as he loves to go for car rides. If you say that, he'll stop the trembling and pay attention, if you say it again and in the right way, his behavior turns around completely. He'll jump up and wag his tail, move around and be extremely excited, ready to go. Since he's moving around, we're not sure if he's still trembling, but his behavior has entirely changed, gone back to normal. This has been tested several times. She hasn't noticed any other changes for sure. Witnessing these episodes, I thought something must be wrong. Yet it's hard to understand what it means that he'll come right out of it if you say a certain thing. Normally he'd respond to you talking to him in general, or trying to excite him, but during this, it seems it can only be done with a few words.
If anyone has had any experience with this, we would be interested to hear about it.
 

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Get him to the vet as soon as you can. It doesn't sound like an emergency, so if he were mine I'd not be rushing to the e-vet, but I would be scheduling an appointment and get the dog in within the week.

It sounds like either seizures or mini strokes to me, but I got my certificate to practice veterinarian medicine out of the Cracker Jack box, so I may be completely wrong.

During one of the episodes is his eyes rapidly moving back and forth?

My elderly dog had what looked like small seizures but they happened so quick and he seemed perfectly normal after one of his episodes that I wasn't sure. He had two or three of them over a few months time, he'd be laying down and seem to start shaking but it only lasted for a few seconds and like I said afterwards he'd be fine. After the last one I was going to mention them when I took him to the vet around 2 weeks later for his annual checkup and shots. Unfortunately before I could get him in he had a very large stroke. I'll always wonder if it could have been prevented had I gotten him in when I first noticed the shaking.

Somethings going on with your boy, don't put off bringing him in to the vet because he snaps out of it and seems fine afterwards, you don't want to connect the dots afterwards and wish you had gotten him in sooner.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thank you for your response. I hadn't noticed anything going on with his eyes during this, and my mom never mentioned that either. I witnessed this at least a couple times within a few days while visiting. The shaking is more like trembling, all over. I'm not sure if it qualifies as a seizure or not. No drooling, no loss of consciousness, no odd movement. His head doesn't move around. And he still seems to have control of his body. But, obviously I don't know what it is, and don't have the experience to say.
I understand it'd be best to take him to the vet and see what they say, which she may be doing soon.
Sorry to hear about your dog. In your situation, waiting sounds like it was a reasonable thing to do. I understand that doesn't mean you won't wonder if it could have been prevented.
I'll see how things go after she has taken him to the vet. Just wondering if others have experienced this specifically.
 

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It does very much sound like mini-seasures.

However, there's just a bit of doggy manipulation. Does the dog ever have these tremors when he's not on her lap? Does he tremor for other people?

My dog had a really hard time adjusting to being outside. She was in a shelter from 6mo to 2yo. When I got her she had her first time out playing in the snow, of course I played with her. Fast forward about a year when it was snowy again. The novelty had worn off and I made the mistake of babying her when she was shivering. What started as shivering turned in to a whole-body tremor complete with pathetic, randomized vocalizations. I though she was cold, was very careful with her outside but this never seemed to happen unless she was bored. Mind you she's not a mini poodle, she's part German Shepard.

So she did this all winter, we'd go out, I'd head out to shovel and about 20 minutes in she'd pull the full on body shake by the door to the house. I though she must be freezing. Except for it didn't end. Spring came and more shakes. Then one day it was nearly 80 outside. I was gardening and sure enough she started shaking all over, as if she was in the tundra with the most pathetic vocalizations you've ever heard, eyes glazy, ears back. I was really worried.

Then we went to the vet. He had me wait outside rather than the waiting room to see if we could "trigger" an event. Sure enough....another "seizure". He laughed when he saw it and she jumped....breaking her show.

She was faking! He told me to give her some over the counter calming meds, and ignore the behavior. It too about 6 months but the behavior has now completely stopped. She will try to pull it on dog sitters, even years later.

If a vet has cleared the dog, especially if he witnessed an episode, Id contact a trainer to see if you can work out a way to not "trigger" this behavior.
 

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Dogs don't fake or manipulate. The do make associations that can fool us into believing that they're faking. A dog may shiver because it's cold or fearful. We let dog inside or in some other way alleviate the problem that caused the shivering. Dog learns that by shivering they can get relief from the physical or emotional discomfort.
 

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I think Rain got it right, sounds to me like mini-strokes. Hopefully your Vet, and you do need to get him to a Vet, can come up with a reason for the behavior, and a treatment plan.
 

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Definitely have him seen by a vet, as potential medical causes could be neurological (seizures or other) or pain, both of which you would want to address ASAP.

That said, my dog Bus has similar behavior in response to certain noises which scare him, and as he's gotten older, it has become a stronger fear reaction and a longer list of things which cause it to happen. Others I know who have noise phobic dogs have reported similar increase in severity as their dogs age as well. His biggest fear is the smoke detector/CO detector- and anything that causes them to go off- people showering, burning food, etc; but he also is afraid of fireworks, the vacuum attachment scraping the floor and other things that make loud banging/screeching sounds. Unfortunately, my parents (whose house we spend a lot of time at) have a parrot who loves to mimic those sounds, so even if we avoid doing it, he still sometimes gets inundated with scary sounds.

His normal response is to initially pace back and forth, then he'll either crawl under the loveseat (not a large enough space, he has to lay on his side and get in that way), or will sometimes get on the couch beside someone and try to squeeze under the throw pillows or between them and the couch- he feels safer if he's being tightly squeezed- we joke that he seeks people out to be "smashed" :) . If he can't get under the loveseat and no one will smash him, he will pant, shake, pace, and try to get out of the house if at all possible- he's knocked the screen door open and headed up to my house (same lot, their house is behind mine) or to the car before. We've tried several different "natural" meds and also some prescription ones as well as thundershirt/cotton in ears to dampen noise with varying levels of success, but since we can't really predict when his biggest triggers will occur (thank you, Bird), it is hard to prevent his initial fear reaction to it.

The behavior you describe sounds similar to his behavior when something has happened that scares him, and less like that of my senile old dog, Annie, who tends to pace aimlessly, stare into space, and sometimes get herself into tight spaces she has trouble getting out of. She does shake at times, but she's a dog who gets cold easily, and it doesn't usually happen if she's wearing a sweater. Granted, different dogs will develop different behaviors as cognitive function declines. He could still be having some other neuro episode, so it is wise to have him checked to make sure it isn't caused by that, or by some sort of pain.
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
Thank you for sharing your experience, seashoreduck. My mom had come across suggestions of 'faking' online. But, as Grabby mentioned, even if it's an associated behavior, perhaps it's a bit more, as something may be causing the discomfort or issue initially. Or, it could be something else, and in either case, a visit with the vet would hopefully help.
That's good that in your case it sounds like it just became more of a behavior, and not a bigger problem, and interesting to know that it stopped after you continued to ignore it. Hopefully that's due to there not being an issue.
As for who he does it around, he's done it around her and me, and I'm not sure yet if he's done it around anyone else. Though she was always around when it happened around me, too. I think at times the trembling starts before he's in your lap, but we'll call him to it or he's eager to lay on it during. He may usually start out when nearby you, though. I'm not sure, but that's when we'd notice while I was there. Each time, he got comforted, cuddled, covered up, and pet. He surely doesn't lack attention otherwise, but maybe that doesn't mean that he couldn't feel at random times that he wants more, and use a possible associated behavior to get it, unless that's incorrect, and there always has to be some other cause for doing it. Either way, hopefully we find out what's going on.
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
Grabby, I'll suggest she try to video it. I had thought that may be useful as well. I'm not sure how well it may show up, but we can try. Thanks for your replies, and the link. I'll pass it along to her.
 

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I think Rain got it right, sounds to me like mini-strokes. Hopefully your Vet, and you do need to get him to a Vet, can come up with a reason for the behavior, and a treatment plan.
Thanks for the response. Yes, hopefully the reason can be found, and taken care of. She hasn't taken him in yet, but hopefully she'll be able to soon.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Definitely have him seen by a vet, as potential medical causes could be neurological (seizures or other) or pain, both of which you would want to address ASAP.

That said, my dog Bus has similar behavior in response to certain noises which scare him, and as he's gotten older, it has become a stronger fear reaction and a longer list of things which cause it to happen. Others I know who have noise phobic dogs have reported similar increase in severity as their dogs age as well. His biggest fear is the smoke detector/CO detector- and anything that causes them to go off- people showering, burning food, etc; but he also is afraid of fireworks, the vacuum attachment scraping the floor and other things that make loud banging/screeching sounds. Unfortunately, my parents (whose house we spend a lot of time at) have a parrot who loves to mimic those sounds, so even if we avoid doing it, he still sometimes gets inundated with scary sounds.
Thank you for your response. I understand this could be caused by several different things. Hopefully we'll find out what. In his case, we haven't noticed anything in particular environmentally that could be setting it off, though it could still be something we haven't taken notice of, if that were the cause. What you said about aging affecting how much something may bother them is something to keep in mind, though, too. Or maybe it could cause something to be a bother that wasn't before. I'm not assuming it is something environmental triggering it, just wondering at the possibility, and combining that with some of his other different behavior mentioned.
That is unfortunate, that the bird makes it harder to avoid those noises that scare your dog. Hopefully, while exposed to things that scare him, your dog finds enough comfort at least.
Hopefully we'll know soon what's causing the issue for my mom's dog and take care of it.
 

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I had a Scottish Terrier growing up. Towards the end she wanted to be outside all the time. When she was taken to the vet and had an xray it showed her chest full of small tumors. She was taken in because she wasn't eating and that was her favorite thing, she was such a pig. But she wasn't coughing or anything that would suggest she was having a hard time breathing. She just wanted to be outside, I guess the cold air felt better than the heated home. I'm not sure. But having a chest xray done isn't a bad idea IMO. Though it sounds like there is more going on here.
 

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I had a Scottish Terrier growing up. Towards the end she wanted to be outside all the time. When she was taken to the vet and had an xray it showed her chest full of small tumors. She was taken in because she wasn't eating and that was her favorite thing, she was such a pig. But she wasn't coughing or anything that would suggest she was having a hard time breathing. She just wanted to be outside, I guess the cold air felt better than the heated home. I'm not sure. But having a chest xray done isn't a bad idea IMO. Though it sounds like there is more going on here.
Thank you for the information. Sorry to hear about your dog. It is unfortunate that some health conditions don't always indicate themselves in obvious or very detectable ways for so long. I hope that she did as well as possible for the remainder of her time.
In the case of my mother's dog, it seems that his problem has been gone for a while now. That's not to say there's nothing wrong, or that it won't return. But for now, I'm told all seems well. She may still get him in for a check up in the near future.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Update

Just as an update, I have come to say that I have been informed that the situation with my mother's dog seems to have improved. The issue mentioned seems to have ceased, and all seems well. I know this doesn't mean nothing could be wrong, or that problems won't resume, but it is at least something that nothing further or worse has occurred. She may still take him in for a check-up in the near future, at which time I would provide an update.
Thanks again for all of the replies and information.
 
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