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Dr. Kara
Dr. Kara, Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 14829
Experience:  Over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.
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I have a 9 year old bichon frise. She has a story of anxiety

Customer Question

I have a 9 year old bichon frise. She has a history of anxiety and when something upsets her world she chases her tail and bits it til it bleeds. Continuously runs in a circle. I have used Prozac in the past to get this under control and only had to use the medication when these episodes arose. She recently started doing this but this time didn't respond to the dosage of Prozac. The vet is dead set on putting her down because it is "seizures" and they can't be controlled. But yet they've dond no catscan or mri to show me she has this lesion of tumor on her brain. What should I do?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Kara replied 1 year ago.

Hello, my name is***** and I have over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian. I am sorry that you have been waiting for a response, but your requested expert isn't online which delayed your question coming up on the list for all to answer. I would like to help if you are still interested in an opinion.

I am sorry to hear about Sasha's behavior and I understand that she is no longer responding to Prozac.

She fits the diagnosis of a dog that has anxiety related obsessive compulsive behavior.

Can you physically stop her or distract her when she is behaving this way or does she seem mentally unaware of what is going on around her and unable to stop, even when physically interrupted?

If she is mentally unaware and cannot be stopped this may be an atypical form of seizure, but it is worth trying medication then to help. I would recommend trying a course of phenobarbital. Prozac can potentiate seizures in a dog that is predisposed, so if it isn't helping anyway I would not give any further doses.

Seizures are rhythmic, repetitive, muscle movements which the dog is unable to control and often loses consciousness during. Many dogs will repeatedly have chewing motions and/or leg motions and can lose urine and stool control.

There can be several reasons for seizures.
The most common is idiopathic epilepsy. That means that we don't know why but a circuit of sensitive neurons in the brain gets stuck repeatedly firing. Epilepsy occurs most frequently for the first time in dogs 6 months to 6 years of age so she is a bit old for epilepsy to be the cause of her seizures now. We do believe that there is a genetic basis for dogs to have epilepsy as certain breeds are more commonly afflicted and siblings will often have them as well.
Other causes for seizures are viral, bacterial, parasitic or fungal infections, toxin exposure, metabolic diseases leading to waste products building up and affecting brain chemistry, low blood sugar, or even granulomas or masses in the brain.

Most of the other disease processes that cause seizures cause other symptoms, those dogs are sick or abnormal other than during the seizure. How is she between these episodes?
Some dogs with lower than normal seizure thresholds will seizure in response to being exposed to artificial colors, preservatives or gluten. So you might wish to feed her a diet without artificial dyes or flavors and one that is wheat free. Blue Buffalo purports to produce these sorts of foods.

Decreasing stress is also a way to avoid seizures so if you know an event will be stressful for her avoid it if possible. You can also use calming sprays such as DAP (dog appeasing pheromone) or pheromone impregnated collars to keep her calm.

Exercise should be kept at normal levels. Exercise is a great way to naturally relieve stress and increase positive endorphin levels in the brain.

In a patient with seizures I would examine her, focusing on her neurologic system, check a biochemistry profile to look at organ health and a complete blood count and thyroid profile. We do want to make sure there are no underlying problems.

Certainly in an older patient primary brain disease is possible, an MRI or CT scan may help diagnose that. But if you know brain surgery isn't an option that is more for information purposes, and may not change therapy anyway.

If she seems herself between episodes and is bright and happy think before giving up I would try medication. It cannot hurt and it may give her a good quality of life for a while.

Please let me know if you have any further questions.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
When she has these episodes she's unresponsive to other stimuli. However when she is not having an episode she acts like a 6 month old puppy. We have done all the bloodwork and there are no thyroid or underlying issues. Currently she is on phenobarbital and Valium and has been for about 10 days but they have her sedated at the vet because she is not responding to it yet. I just can't put her down and be at peace about it that she has a tumor without proof when otherwise she is a perfectly healthy girl.
Expert:  Dr. Kara replied 1 year ago.

Thank you for the further information.

I would have expected some improvement by now.

If she has not responded within 10 days then they either need to increase her dose of phenobarbital, add another drug (like Keppra), and/or refer you to a specialty clinic for an MRI.

I understand that it is very hard to let go without a firm diagnosis.