My poor old boy is stressed at night and I'm worried

(16 Posts)
Topsyturvyland Thu 12-Jun-14 12:22:35

I wonder if any of you can give me some advice, please. My 13 year old dog has increasingly been getting very stressed and anxious when we go to bed at night and leave him downstairs. He has always slept on his rug downstairs in one room, but for the last month or two, he whines a bit and bangs on the door after he we go up to bed, and at times throughout the night too.

We heard him again last night, and then came down this morning to diarrhoea all over the carpet.

I know this might be a one-off, but I've suddenly started worrying that maybe he's just not feeling very well and it might be nearing his time. I hate even thinking about it.

He has been arthritic for years, and has been on medication for it. He seems to want to be outside all the time, and just lies about sleeping for most of the day. He does still get excited when we go for his walk, although he is very slow at this stage.

He's eating fine. In the summer he likes to be outside for most of the day, and then come in and sit with us in the sitting room at night. But recently he spends a large part of the evening restless and wanting to go out again.

Does anyone have any advice or thoughts? I am keeping an eye on him today and if any more diarrhoea will ring the vet, but am stressing myself out at what they might say.

Apologies, this has ended up being quite a long post!

hellymelly Thu 12-Jun-14 15:12:18

My old doggie got very anxious at being left at home in his last year or two. He howled and was generally much more bothered than he had been prior to that. I think old dogs feel their own vulnerabilty and need to know that their companions are close- but that is just my theory. My dog was also in long term pain, which didn't help. The diarrhoea might be anxiety or he might not be well. Maybe he wanted to go out? I would take him straight to the vet and have a full check up, (my dog had this every 6-12 months after aged 10.) Could you also have him on a rug in your bedroom now, so he knows you are close?

Molotov Thu 12-Jun-14 15:22:46

My 10yo female Staffie got like this earlier this year. She started panting heavily around noise and defecated if I went out.

I identified the things that were bothering her:

Being left alone in the kitchen
Sudden, loid noise
Continuous loud noise (both my children, aged 5yo and 2yo, cause this)
Fireworks
Thunderstorms (inc. build up. Dog seems to anticipate storms).

She's no longer left in the kitchen. If the children are noisy, dog is allowed solace upstairs. She is allowed to bed down in the understairs cupboard during storms/fireworks. She is now on 2 SereneUm dog tablets per day to help her anxiety.

She's a happoer girl who no longer poops in the house smile

AcrossthePond55 Thu 12-Jun-14 16:47:33

Our late and still lamented darling lab got this way, too. Is your doggie crate trained at all? We found that if Lizzy (starting around age 13, we lost her at 14) was left out to sleep as we usually did (she had a choice of beds, either in our room or the living room) she would get 'edgy' & whine, wander from bed to bed multiple times, and we would sometimes wake to piddle on the floor. We started to crate her when we went to bed and for some reason it stopped the whining and calmed her & she was able to settle down for the night. We can only surmise that she felt 'safe' in her crate (i.e. like a 'den' to a wild canine) and didn't feel the need to be 'on guard' during the night.

Obviously, if your dog isn't already crate trained, at age 13 I wouldn't start it now. It would probably be too distressing.

MitchellMummy Thu 12-Jun-14 17:55:14

Aww, sorry to hear this. In your position I'd sleep downstairs with him. If the tummy doesn't clear up by tomorrow I'd certainly take him to the vet. Hopefully it's just a one off. In fact I'd probably take him anyway - any marked changed in behaviour could mean a problem. My boy has had arthritis and has been on painkillers for years - he does sleep upstairs, though he went through a poorly patch this year when I slept downstairs for two months with him. I hope you can get him over the current problem. It's heartbreaking having older dogs, but they can surprise you, as my boy did!

Topsyturvyland Thu 12-Jun-14 19:00:06

Thank you so much, everyone, for your replies.

I wouldn't mind him upstairs, but his back legs couldn't get him up there I'm sad to say! He's a hefty Golden Retriever.

Molotov, my dog is the same re fireworks, thunder etc. He gets totally stressed, it's awful. I did try to introduce him to our understairs cupboard to use as a den when he was upset, but he was not interested. Old dog, new tricks and all that.

I will take him to the vet tomorrow and will enquire about those sereneum tablets.

And unfortunately, not crate-trained! AcrossthePond, that is exactly his behaviour at night - edgy, restless, pacing and whining.

I could try sleeping downstairs with him, though at the moment he's just generally being unsettled in the house, even when we're with him in the same room! He seems most relaxed just lying out in our garden. DH suggests letting him sleep out there, but I'm not sure if it's a good idea or not?

Thank you all so much again. I appreciate all your advice. It's awful when they're at this age, isn't it? You start to worry that this could be the beginning of the end. Horrible.

Molotov Thu 12-Jun-14 20:28:33

I agree Topsy, it's tough once they get to 10+. You're kind of on the look out for anything that could be wrong/a signal for the end sad

I got very upset when our girl started behaving peculiarly. I happened to be watching Derek at the time (Ricky Gervais sitcom); when the dogs visit the old people's he and it just clicked in my mind that I'd never give up on her; never push her away, never rehome her.

She's just been the best dog.

Two babies of mind later and all she's ever done is been their beat companion.

Sorry, got tears on my eyes now.

You don't need to see the vet for SereneUms - they're available at pet shops. By all means take your dog to see the vet if you want him checked out. Hopefully it will all be okay smile

Molotov Thu 12-Jun-14 20:29:54

Some awful type-o's there blush

Hope that post made some kind of sense!

Topsyturvyland Thu 12-Jun-14 21:09:33

I've tears in my eyes reading your post too, Molotov!

Googled SereneUm and yes, I see that I can get it in plenty of places. Fab, definitely going to try that.

My fellow is in normal enough form at the moment so really hoping it was just a blip last night and can get him sorted.

Thank you again for the helpful words!

Chocolategirl7 Thu 12-Jun-14 21:09:41

Oh this is all very interesting - I came on here to look to see if anyone had any advice about this.
Our 12 yr old lab can't get through the night without my DH coming downstairs to her-started whining and barking at dawn ( currently about 3.30am). She goes out and then has a handful of biscuits and then is fine. She used to sleep shut in the kitchen quite happily but then we had mice(now gone) and we thought the scratching was waking her and so she got the run if downstairs. She sleeps on the sofa - where she spends most of the day.
Wondering whether to start shutting her back in the kitchen.
What do you all think?

Topsyturvyland Thu 12-Jun-14 22:07:46

Chocolate, do you think it's a separation anxiety thing, or her just needing to go outside more often now that she's older?

Definitely with my retriever, it's mainly a stress/separation anxiety thing. So am going to give the tablets that Molotov recommended further up a try.

Might be worth trying your lab out in a more confined space (like the kitchen) where she feels more secure, rather than her having the run of downstairs? Isn't the theory that dogs prefer somewhere more like a den if they're getting anxious? But honestly, I haven't much of a clue, as my fellow isn't happy wherever we put him at the moment.

Chocolategirl7 Thu 12-Jun-14 22:14:42

Thanks Topsy, she doesn't see that worried about separation during the day/ evening as will quite often take herself off to the sofa if I'm pottering in the kitchen. I worry a bit that she's bored - we don't walk nearly as much as we used to ( she gets really worn out) but will try the kitchen and then the product recommended and see how that goes hmm

AcrossthePond55 Thu 12-Jun-14 22:20:50

I think senior doggies are like old people. The hearing starts to go, the memory starts to go, and they are stiff and sore. Their instincts are to 'guard' and take care of us, their humans. But at night, they can't hear the noises they used to hear, they know that they should be watching out for us, but aren't sure how. Their joints get stiff even with the best cushions. And they don't have the ability to reason these things out. All they know is that something isn't right, but they don't know exactly what. And that results in distress and restlessness.

It still brings me to tears. They would lay down their lives for us, but it seems there just isn't much we can do to soothe their fears and confusion. Our Lizzy had a bed right next to ours and still she would pace and whine, so I'm not sure that even sleeping downstairs with your old fellow would help. You can surely give it a try, though.

I'd take him in for a thorough check up to rule out anything physical & to see if the vet has any recommendations.

Topsyturvyland Fri 13-Jun-14 09:58:36

Just to keep you posted, my dog seems in good form today and back to normal. smile

Will be trying those anti-anxiety tablets and will let you know, Chocolate, if they do anything to calm him at night. Hope you manage to get things sorted with your lab too. I wonder could you try a very short walk later in the afternoon/evening. Think I read something online yesterday about changing their routine a little bit if they've been getting anxious at night. Best of luck.

Thanks everyone again for your replies. I was in a bit of an emotional state for most of yesterday and they all really helped. Fine again now!

moosemama Fri 13-Jun-14 09:59:57

A few things to consider here.

Firstly, any sudden change in behaviour of any dog, but particular a senior one should merit a trip to the vets for a full health check. There can be all sorts of causes, from fairly benign but uncomfortable to things we'd rather not consider, but we owe it to them to make sure they aren't suffering in any way, so a vet appointment to have him thoroughly checked out should be your first port of call.

Secondly, there have been quite a few posts about dogs waking in the night recently - it's the time of year when there's a lot of nocturnal animal activity that can disturb them, so that's worth considering. My pup started waking in the small hours this week and we think it's our local hedgehog snuffling outside the window.

Finally, there is such a thing as late-onset Separation Anxiety, often for the reasons AcrossthePond55 mentions above. One thing that's helped our dogs in the past is using a baby monitor - placing the parent/listening unit close to where the dog sleeps, with the monitoring end in our bedroom. This seems to reassure them that we're close by and means we can speak to and reassure them if they do start to become distressed and vocalise. This worked really well for our older Lurcher when we lost our other dog last year and we actually used it last night to reassure the pup when our hedgehog friend came to visit in the wee hours too.

If the vet doesn't find anything, you could try an Adaptil/DAP diffuser or collar, serenum or Zylkene supplements, some rescue remedy at bedtime or even some Dorwest Herbs Valerian Compound, all/any of which may help to relax him.

It could well be that he is just a bit under the weather, with a bit of a stomach bug and will settle down once he's feeling better, but it's definitely worth getting him a full check-up just in case.

Topsyturvyland Fri 13-Jun-14 11:21:29

Thank you Moosemama. He is due is annual health check anyway so will be taking him to the vet for that shortly.

That late-onset Separation Anxiety sounds pretty spot-on. Need to work on sorting that. The baby monitor is a great idea!

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