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Urgent behaviour advice needed

(21 Posts)
Empusa Mon 25-Jul-11 15:31:28

Brief history. Archie is a rescue dog, he's 12 years old. He has a history of cancer, he has arthritis (not surprising at his age), a heart murmur and seems to have an upper respiratory problem. So he's not a well dog.
When we got him he had been neglected, his previous owner had left a massive tumour and a skin infection untreated. He also appears not to have been socialised with other dogs.

We've had him 4 months now. He was a very friendly, soppy dog, and would insist on going everywhere DH went (he'd whine and cry if DH went out). But in the last month he has started growling at DH when he goes near him. He still follows him everywhere and whines when he so much as leaves the room.

We've been utterly confused, it never seems provoked. And he tends not to growl at me.

I've just been sat with him, making a fuss of him, he's been being playful and kept trying to lick my ear. Then suddenly, without any growling, he snapped at my face. Narrowly missing.

We've stuck his muzzle on him, and shut him in the bedroom for now. I'm quite shaken and not sure what to do.

NevermindtheNargles Mon 25-Jul-11 15:36:31

I would take him to the vet asap. Unprovoked snapping could be a sign he's in pain. (More than usual). I'm glad there are people like you who are willing to give homes to dogs like this, good luck with it. (I'm sure someone more helpful will be along soon)

MotherJack Mon 25-Jul-11 15:59:07

Message Minimu1, Empusa. She is a behaviourist.

I would also normally support a trip to the vet, but the dog's behaviour towards DH sounds a bit weird... unless DH had been somehow inadvertently hurting the dog when he was giving him attention?

moosemama Mon 25-Jul-11 16:09:04

Agree, first stop the vets. If they can't find anything wrong, I would recommend finding a good behaviourist (preferably someone from the APBC) to help you work out what's wrong.

Depending where you rescued him from, the rescue centre should be willing to work with you to help with any behavioural problems. Its not uncommon for there to be a sort of honeymoon period where a dog is perfectly behaved when first rehomed and then for problems start surfacing a few months down the line. Any good rescue will be aware of this and want to work with you to sort it out - they are in the business of finding dogs their forever homes and should want to make it work, rather than end up with him being returned to them.

You did the right thing in removing him from the situation and ignoring him for a while by the way. Non-attention is far stronger at reinforcing the message that his behaviour was unacceptable than lots of remonstrations and tellings off. As long as there are no children around, he's being calm and not aggressive, I would let him out of the bedroom, but keep things calm and low key, rather than too much fussing or interaction. He will have forgotten by now what he did to get locked away and leaving him muzzled and on his own is likely to stress him out, potentially making things worse.

Action plan - call the vet, then the rescue where you got him and if you still don't have answers or some support/help contact an APBC member.

Empusa Mon 25-Jul-11 16:31:21

Right, got a vets appointment booked for tomorrow.

He's now laid out on the sofa, fast asleep.

MotherJack Not that we are aware of, he's been extra careful as we thought the same as you. But it's made no difference.

moosemama Mon 25-Jul-11 16:39:39

To be honest, if it isn't a physical/pain problem, I think the dog sounds as confused as you are about it all.

There's a possibility it could be someting like an attachment issue, especially if he follows your dh everywhere and can't coping with him leaving, but it would be wrong of me to try and guess where the problem lies without seeing the dog, knowing more of his history and seeing how he interacts with you both at home.

The vet, then rescue/behaviourist is your best bet for getting to the bottom of things.

Empusa Tue 26-Jul-11 19:41:34

Just got back from the vets. They've put him on anti-inflammatories to see if it is the arthritis bothering him. So hopefully we'll see a difference.

Empusa Tue 26-Jul-11 22:00:48

He's now started whining loads sad

At first we thought it was because he wanted to go to the loo, or for a walk, but we'll get back from the walk and he'll start whining again straight away.

He's not eating all his food, so he isn't hungry. He has water and is drinking.

We're at a total loss sad

moosemama Tue 26-Jul-11 22:35:26

What did the vet check Empusa? Did they give him a thorough medical?

Does he normally have a good appetite and finish his food?

What's he like on his walks, I mean, is he only whining when he's in the house?

It could be his arthritis and if so, it will take a couple of days for the meds to kick in properly.

Its impossible for us to tell really, from just reading about him on here, because it could either be behavioural - possibly some sort of anxiety - or physical, depending on how thoroughly the vet checked him over. He could even be picking up on your anxiety, which is then a bit of a cyclical problem, as you worry about him and he gets stressed from picking up on you worrying.

Another quick question. What do you do when he starts whining? Do you respond straight away every time and try different strategies to work out what's wrong?

Empusa Wed 27-Jul-11 10:49:05

They checked his heart and his temperature. Normally he wolfs his food down then goes looking for more!

He's only whining inside, same with growling at us. On walks he is fine.

We try all sorts when he whines. Giving him attention, attempting to distract him, ignoring it, etc. He just carries on whining.

It's really strange.

moosemama Wed 27-Jul-11 11:39:50

Didn't the vet check his ears, eyes, mouth and limbs? I would think they'd be a good place to start. Eyes and ears in particular - eyes because inside the house, in dimmer light, he could be having vision issues - especially as he's not a spring chicken - and ears because its easy to miss ear infections and in some cases the first sign of an infection is a grumpy/snappy dog. His mouth should be inspected for broken teeth, lodged sticks, abcesses etc - especially with him not eating normally.

Other than that, by giving him attention and trying to distract him and work out what's wrong, could you be reinforcing the whining?

Any attention is worth having for many dogs, so if him whining gets your attention and provokes activity, it might just be rewarding in itself. Alternatively, it could be that all the activity when he whines makes him more anxious, hence more whining.

I know you said you've tried ignoring it, but you need to do it consistently for a while for him to get the message. If you think he needs to go out, get up and let him out, but calmly and quietly without any fuss or chatter, no "what's up Archie, do you need to go out ......?" etc.

One idea is to give him a non-attention signal eg hanging something on a door handle in his line of vision and then completely ignore him, starting with a few minutes and gradually building up the length of time. Eventualy he'll learn that when the signal is hanging up it means no attention and hopefully will start to relax and maybe just settle down in his basket at those times.

If he's not doing it when he's out and about and distracted and is happy to run around as usual, then that makes it less likely that arthritis pain is at the root of it, but doesn't rule it out completely.

Appetite changes are often an indicator of a problem, but again, could be anxiety or physical.

I think at this point, I would try the anti-inflammatories and if the vet hasn't done the other checks, I'd go back and ask for him to do them. I would also make enquiries for a behaviourist, as they will be very experienced with dogs and may be able to spot something both you and the vet have missed, be it physical or behavioural.

Empusa Wed 27-Jul-11 21:47:41

Moose Thank you for all that advice!

He seems to be better today, has eaten all his food, has been exceptionally cuddly (he even tried to sit on my lap earlier shock - he's an overweight pointer cross!)

He growled for the first time today a few minutes ago, but we presume the anti-inflammatories are starting to wear off.

MotherJack Wed 27-Jul-11 21:58:54

I would say he needs more investigation then. If he has improved with anti-flimflams to an extent then I would say you need to find out what it is and target it. My old boy started to go downhill aged 5 and his pain was not controlled, despite being given painkillers - they were not initially the right ones. I never let up and found out exactly what was wrong with him a year later and he lived til nearly 12, mostly pain free, and died of something totally unrelated... and happy.

What painkiller have you been given, and for what.. or has it just been the initial suck it and see? Good on you, Empusa, for hanging on in there with him. But I have to say.. number 1.... you need to get his weight under control. Excess weight can add pressure to joints and increase pain.

Empusa Wed 27-Jul-11 22:04:58

He's lost weight since we've had him grin not bad for 4 months.

He's on carprogesic(sp?) for his arthritis, we've been given a week's worth to see if it helps.

MotherJack Wed 27-Jul-11 22:21:58

Brilliant. Keep it up, whatever it is you are doing! He is so lucky to have found you as it sounds like you don't want to give up on him.

Carprofen includes rimadyl, which was useless for my dog, as was previcox which is a different family. It was only when I got a diagnosis from a ortho specialist vet that we tried metacam, and I can tell you now, it changed his life. We did have issues with tummy problems due to long term use and he was sensitive in that area anyway, but strangely, when I had to take it out of his regime to allow his tummy problems to sort themselves out (which were probably all down to his allergy to chicken as I later found), it turned out that it was so good at doing it's job and relieved his long term inflammation, that he didn't need it anymore, anyway.

Go back to the vet and ask him about the different painkillers available. Cynical (moi?) side of me wonders if some vets are swayed by mark-ups on certain painkilling drugs, just as they are by certain pet foods. NOT ALL!!! (before I get leapt on by vets... although give me a kicking if I deserve it as I would really be interested in why certain painkilling drugs are prescribed first)

Scuttlebutter Wed 27-Jul-11 23:01:07

Empusa, slightly off topic, but for getting weight off and helping with the arthritis, have you thought about hydrotherapy, with appropriate physiotherapy? It's great for arthritic or obese dogs since it's non weight bearing. If you have insurance, you could well be covered.

Empusa Wed 27-Jul-11 23:06:05

No insurance. So expensive for a 12 year old, plus he had so many pre-existing conditions that it just wasn't worth it.

chickchickchicken Wed 27-Jul-11 23:06:17

dog2 has hydrotherapy and i can highly recommend it

he is very lucky to have you. you have done an amazing thing to give him a home at this stage in his life

chickchickchicken Wed 27-Jul-11 23:11:16

empusa - the rescue organisation pays for dog2 to have his hydrotherapy. we couldnt get insurance to cover this either as it was a pre-existing condition

a friend of mine does a few hours admin work for a hydrotherapy centre in exchange for her two dogs having weekly hydrotherapy. not sure if you could look into that but would definitely recommend you check if the rescue can afford to pay for it. our rescue is a big national one so may be different if a local struggling rescue. even if rescue cant pay they may be able to advise of a company which could help, i know of another one which will give extra free treatments to rescues

Scuttlebutter Wed 27-Jul-11 23:16:58

To give some idea of cost, our local one is £60 for initial consult plus a course of 12 at £30 per session. Obviously I don't know your financial circumstances, but if this is something the vet recommends, maybe the rescue where he came from would be wiling to at least contribute?

Empusa Fri 29-Jul-11 00:31:40

I think hydrotherapy is a bit out of our budget unfortunately sad

The rescue we got him from is already doing quite a bit for us, and testing every new lump he gets. He seems to get a new one every couple of weeks, luckily all benign so far. So I'd feel awful putting more financial burden on them.

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