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Ask Dr. Kara Your Own Question
Dr. Kara
Dr. Kara, Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 14864
Experience:  Over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.
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My 14 year old pit has recently become very anxious. She she

Customer Question

My 14 year old pit bull has recently become very anxious. She she barks and whines for extended periods of time. Before she almost never barked. She is dear and has cataracts . Is there something I can give her til she can get in to vet? She weights 55 pds
Submitted: 1 month ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Kara replied 1 month ago.

Hello, I'm Dr. Kara. I have over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian and I'd like to help. Please give me a moment to review your concerns.

Expert:  Dr. Kara replied 1 month ago.

I am sorry to hear that Skye has become very anxious, whining and barking excessively for long periods of time and refusing to settle.

I understand that she also is deaf and has cataracts. Both of these are likely contributing to her anxiety greatly. She has lost external stimuli and cues about her environment which help her feel more comfortable and moderate behavior.

Is she eating and drinking normally?

Is she able to get around comfortably?

Any difficulty urinating or defecating?

Any change in appetite?

I do believe that a thorough physical examination and a geriatric blood profile may be helpful in figuring out why she is behaving the way she is. Many laboratories offer a mini panel that hit the highlights and allow you to see if her organs are functioning normally for a reasonable price.

As some dogs as they age their organ systems don't work as well as they once did, and waste products that their organs usually filter out build up in the blood stream and that affects brain function. They may behave much differently because their brain function isn't normal.

Of course if she is painful then settling may be hard for her. For many dogs during the day, or when owners are home and she can be distracted by activity she may not complain so much or be as anxious, but at night when she is tired but cannot comfortably sleep or when she is alone then he may lose patience, or panic and vocalize more.

If her physical examination and blood tests look relatively normal for a pup her age then this may be more of a cognitive age related problem. At your her age this may be related to "sundowner's syndrome" or beginning senility. Their symptoms often tend to occur at night when they are sleepy and more easily confused. It's dark and if they awake they may not remember where they are or what they are supposed to do. As dogs age, just like people, they tend not to sleep as soundly and as such may wake multiple times a night. For dogs that lose vision and are deaf we see these symptoms throughout the day too as they lose environmental cues about time of day, which is even more anxiety producing.

In some cases they are over-tired and cannot fall asleep they are so upset. It is common for these pups to pace and they may sometimes vocalize or stumble too in their confusion. They can even forget their housebreaking habits as things progress and eliminate in the house.

I recommend leaving a night light on all the time to use whatever vision she has left to help her orient herself. I'm sure it will help to speak calmly to her, rub her gently and resettle her. Many dogs use their owners as a comfort to help them feel more confident in their environment, which has become so confusing for them.

Sometimes changing the diet to one high in antioxidants and brain supportive nutrients helps. B/d diet by Hills Prescription Science diet products is an excellent one.

A medication called Anipryl (l-selegilene) can also be very helpful. It increases brain neurotransmitter chemicals.

I would call your veterinarian and describe what you have been noticing. They may be willing to prescribe Anipryl if she has been seen within the past few months given her symptoms. If not you can at least purchase the b/d diet from them and see if it helps.

In the meantime you can also try a supplement called Melatonin. This is a naturally found hormone in dogs and people that helps regulate the sleep/wake cycle and is involved in seasonal shedding in dogs.

This is a medication that we do use sometimes in dogs to help them relax and sleep, and in cases that have abnormal shedding patterns related to seasonal light changes or abnormal growth hormone fluctuations. The usual dose in dogs is 2mg to 12mg per dog every 12 to 24 hours. Make sure to give a dose 2 hours before bedtime.

Make sure to read the label and DO NOT use the fast dissolve tablets of Melatonin with xylitol as xylitol is toxic for dogs.

To help calm her I like DAP (dog appeasing pheromone) diffusers or collars very much. This is a synthetic analog of a calming pheromone a nursing bitch produces when nursing. These can be used along with a homeopathic, such as Bach's rescue remedy. This is a calming drop which can be added to food or water.

If none of this seems to be working antihistamines often have the side effect of making a dog sleepy. If she does not have any history of glaucoma or heart disease you can give her Benadryl (diphenhydramine only don't use the combination products with decongestants or acetaminophen as they can be toxic for dogs) at a dose of 1mg to 2mg per pound of body weight or one 25mg capsule per 15 to 25 pounds of body weight orally every 8 hours.

Please let me know if you have any further questions.

Expert:  Dr. Kara replied 1 month ago.

Hello, I wanted to check in and see if you had any further questions after reading my response. If you do please feel free to respond with them. If not I would appreciate an update on your pup, thank you, ***** *****