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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 24379
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 44 years of experience
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My dog has had eye allergies and is now snapping at air

Customer Question

hi my dog has had eye allergies and is now snapping at air could he have floaters
JA: I'm sorry to hear that. What is the dog's name and age?
Customer: mac age 12 male border collie mix we are on an island north of toronto
JA: How old is mac?
Customer: 12
JA: Is there anything else the Veterinarian should be aware of about mac?
Customer: nope he is just itching a lot and began the snapping two days ago after a very allergic eye his eye has calmed down
Submitted: 4 months ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 4 months ago.

I've often considered floaters because I have them and occasionally notice them. Thankfully, my brain has adjusted to their presence and mostly "ignores" them. I suspect that the same thing happens with dogs but I don't now of any scholarly studies involving floaters so that must remain conjecture at this time. We believe that you're describing obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in Mac - 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. Mac may hide (to perform the behavior), become aggressive when you attempt to stop it, or may begin avoiding you.

His biting at the air (and staring?) may suggest partial seizures or dysphoria (a state of unease) and so consultation with a specialist veterinary neurologist (please see here: www.acvim.org) might be considered. All cases of OCD suggest 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.