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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 27354
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 44 years of experience
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We have a Bernese Mountain dog. He's 18 months old. He has

Customer Question

Hi, We have a Bernese Mountain dog. He's 18 months old. He has been very 'testy' shall we say. Really trying to show dominance in the family but we are trying to work on this all though it is hard. He has always barked a lot but recently it has been out of control! And now he looks like he is seeing things on the ground. You can see him looking at something on the ground and barks at what he can see and runs away barking and going crazy! What could it be?
JA: I'll do all I can to help. What is the matter with He 's?
Customer: Hi, We have a Bernese Mountain dog. He's 18 months old. He has been very 'testy' shall we say. Really trying to show dominance in the family but we are trying to work on this all though it is hard. He has always barked a lot but recently it has been out of control! And now he looks like he is seeing things on the ground. You can see him looking at something on the ground and barks at what he can see and runs away barking and going crazy! What could it be?
JA: Where does He 's seem to hurt?
Customer: hes not hurt
JA: OK. No obvious pain. The vet is ready to answer your dog question. Is there anything else you want him to know?
Customer: no
Submitted: 7 months ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Customer: replied 7 months ago.
He had an ear infection recently can that cause him to see things? Or maybe ticks or worms? Or could it be something more serious?
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 7 months ago.

You're speaking to Dr. Michael Salkin. Welcome to JustAnswer. I'm currently typing up my reply.

Customer: replied 7 months ago.
Ok
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 7 months ago.

Thank you for the nicely thorough history you've provided. The confluence of being testy/barking/behavioral issues and his "hallucinatory" behavior shouldn't be overlooked. His looking at the ground and barking is akin to air-snapping and star-gazing in our dogs - hallucinatory behavior thought to represent obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) by behaviorists and partial seizure activity by neurologists.

OCD is defined as mood/behavioral disorders characterized by repetitive, invariant, patterned behaviors that are exaggerated in intensity, frequency, and duration given the inciting stimuli (i.e., expressed out of context). The behavior interferes with health and well-being. Earlier in the course you may have been able to stop the behavior, but that may not be the case at this time. he may hide (to perform the behavior), become aggressive when you attempt to stop it, or may begin avoiding you.

His staring at the ground and then barking may suggest partial seizures or, at least, dysphoria (a state of unease) and so, consultation with a specialist veterinary neurologist (please see here: www.acvim.org) should be considered. All cases of OCD warrant intervention which is individualized and based on frequency and severity of clinical signs. Treatment is usually a combination of behavioral and environmental modification and psychotropic medication. The goal is to minimize and if possible eliminate bouts of compulsive behavior and the concomitant anxious states that accompany them.

In general, we need to identify and eliminate trigger events/situations. No punishment should ever be used since it can heighten anxiety and worsen the problem. If possible, these pets can be redirected to an alternative and incompatible behavior (such as licking food from a toy instead of licking the skin) if the redirection doesn't make the pet more anxious. Pets should be calmly rewarded for any spontaneous calm behavior. Keeping a structured daily routine helps decrease anxiety. The most successful medications used in the treatment of OCD in people include SSRIs such as fluoxetine (Prozac) and clomipramine (Clomicalm). Typically, psychotropic therapy is necessary for longer periods of time than other anxiety-based disorders (months to years depending upon severity and how long the disorder has been ongoing). Lifelong medication use isn't unusual in severe cases.

Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.

Customer: replied 7 months ago.
I'm not actually that surprised. Two nights ago he barked for 8 hours straight. Nothing I did would stop him barking
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 7 months ago.

Oh my goodness. That certainly represents a mentation (mental status) change strongly suggestive of complex partial seizure or OCD. See if you can video events for his vet or a specialist who will look at him. A picture is definitely worth a 1000 words in these patients. Please continue our conversation if you wish.

Customer: replied 7 months ago.
Do you think he is safe around children?
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 7 months ago.

Has he shown evidence of aggression to people?