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Doug Nieh
Doug Nieh,
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 16
Experience:  Veterinarian at Northeast Veterinary Hospial
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My 7 yr old Eskie has always loved everyone she meets -

Customer Question

My 7 yr old Eskie has always loved everyone she meets - always full of kisses and had never bit anyone. Happy healthy little dog. All of a sudden she started attacking and biting me for no known reason. She wakes up from a sound sleep and attacks me, biting me wherever she can; she fights with my other dog who she has grown up with; in the car she goes berserk at all the activity and attacks and bites me when I shift gears. Both dogs have been through training and have been around people all their lives and have always been friendly. I have never struck my dogs - I am gentle and loving with them. They have both been well socialized. I have taken my little dog to two vets and neither one knows why she is attacking and biting now. there is a behavior specialist but is so expensive and so busy I don't think I can wait for help. I have gotten a clear message from both vets that my dog's aggressive behavior might lead to needing to have her euthanized and while I understand, it just breaks my heart. She attacks me without warning, biting any part of me she can get her mouth on, and then when she stops it's as if she doesn't even know that she has done it. Any suggestions? I love my dog with all my heart.
Submitted: 4 months ago.
Category: Dog Training
Expert:  Doug Nieh replied 4 months ago.

Hello - my name is***** - sorry to hear about Eskie - can you tell me if she has had any changes to her hearing or vision lately?

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
no, she hasn't
Expert:  Doug Nieh replied 4 months ago.

Ok - just checking often times older dogs with sudden aggressive changes are getting "spooked" because their vision or hearing has decreased so they get suprised more easily.

If her vision and hearing is fine - is she acting painful anywhere? Does she have problems getting up after laying down, etc?

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
No, she seems quite healthy physically. We have moved recently but her behavior is way over the top.
Expert:  Doug Nieh replied 4 months ago.

Here is what I would recommend - seeing a board certified behaviorilst would be ideal. If that isn't possible, speak with your vet about trying a 1 week course of pain medications (like carprofen- an anti-inflammatory- and tramadol) to see if it helps and to ensure it's not related to pain. If they feel she is not painful, then my concern would shift towards canine cognitive dysfunction or a condition like sundowner's syndrome (a type of periodic dementia).

I would talk to your vet about trying medications like Prozac (fluoxetine - for aggression), selegeline (for dementia) and denamarin (an antioxidant that helps with sundowner's) - until you can make it in to see a behaviorist.

For your safety, I would recommend purchasing a basket muzzle (which allows her to breath fine and won't cause a problem if she vomits, but still protects you) until the condition has improved.

Expert:  Doug Nieh replied 4 months ago.

Does this answer your question to your satisfaction?

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
She has been on Prozac for about two months now. She was also prescribed a sedative but that made her more aggressive so that was discontinued. I have taken her to two different vets and they can find nothing physically wrong with her. One vet said she might have a brain tumor but beyond that he was not aware of what might be causing her behavior. Both vets pretty much suggested she be put to sleep as this is very serious and dangerous behavior and quite out of character for Rosie.
Customer: replied 4 months ago.
The vet behaviorist can't see her until August and I don't think it would be wise to wait that long.
Expert:  Doug Nieh replied 4 months ago.

A brain tumor is possible as well but I would definitely have sundowner's syndrome and canine cognitive dysfunction at the top of my list. If the prozac has not helped, I would probably stop it now and try the other 2 medications I mentioned above as long as your vet feels it is safe to do so.

Expert:  Doug Nieh replied 4 months ago.

A board certified neurologist is also an option, and they will probably be easier to find and more accessible than a behaviorist.

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
Okay - I will talk to the vets about the other two medications. My mom had Alzheimers and suffered from sundowners but it seemed to occur only at a certain time during the day. Rosie exhibits her aggressive behavior at any time of the day. Does that matter?
Expert:  Doug Nieh replied 4 months ago.

So I would make an appointment with a neurologist and try to start the selegeline and denamarin with your vet if they are ok with it.

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
Alright. Thank you.
Customer: replied 4 months ago.
I was under the impression that I would be discussing this problem with a behaviorist through this service. I know it is not a dog training issue. I have had dogs my whole life and am pretty knowledgeable about these sorts of things.
Expert:  Doug Nieh replied 4 months ago.

Anytime - glad I could be of assistance - veterinarians deal with behavior issues often - board certified veterinary animal behaviorists are few and far between and as you had mentioned, they are generally overbooked and would be considerably more expensive and would generally not consult in a forum like this.

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
Thank you for your time and suggestions.
Expert:  Doug Nieh replied 4 months ago.

Another recommendation would be increasing her exercise and keeping her mentally stimulated - dogs that are under-stimulated can become hyper-reactive to stimuli. If the behavior cannot be attributed to a disease/condition, then a behaviorist would work with you to train her to be calm on command to manage her reactivity and also work on densensitizing her towards motions or conditions that are associated with aggressive behavior.

Try the selegeline and denamarin, increase excercise and games and then if you aren't seeing an improvement you can see if you want to take it to the next level (MRI's, neurologist or behaviorist consults)

Best of luck - Dr. Doug

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