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Rebecca, Dog Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 16811
Experience:  Veterinarian for more than 30 years
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My retriever, Ben 4yrs old and has a brother. Ben sleeps soundly,wakes

Customer Question

My retriever, Ben 4yrs old and has a brother. Ben sleeps soundly,wakes suddenly,growls and usually sniffs around his stomach area/penus and leaps up and goes for his brother quite viciously, it seems for no reason. The vet cannot find any reason for it,unless we do scans etc. Could be prostrate problem,but appears to have no other symptoms.Sometimes Ben has a green discharge from his penus,which he had today.Tonight he woke suddenly and flew at his brother and tore his ear quite badly. He has not actually hurt his brother before.Ben has not been castrated,his brother has. Can you come up with some ideas. Don't want to castrate Ben and find he is still doing this rather frightening aggression. Ben is the softest,kindest,most gentle dog you could find.
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Rebecca replied 4 years ago.
I am sorry to hear about this problem with Ben.

You mention that it could be a prostate problem. Did your veterinarian check his prostate, or do a urinalysis to see if that is the case?

The green discharge is common to see in male dogs that are not neutered.

Does he not do anything aggressive to his brother other than when he wakes suddenly like this? When they are both awake do you ever see things like Ben lifting his lip, or not let his brother go through a doorway first, or growl at him?

There is a condition when dogs sleep called Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep disorder. WIth this disorder, body movements are not suppressed as they usually are during dreaming, and so the dog "acts out" his dreams. Some dogs will move, and cry, and whine, and shake. Others with the disorder are more violent, and owners have been bitten while the dog is asleep or coming out of sleeping.

There is another similiar disorder called RBD, similar to night terrors seen in children that has been described in dogs. These dogs can also wake up and do violent things.

It could also be some unusual form of seizure.

If he were mine, and the prostate check, physical exam, urinalysis and maybe some basic blood tests are all normal, I would consult a veterinary neurologist next.

There is no cure for the sleep disorders, just make sure when the dog sleeps he is kept in a place where he can't hurt anyone.

Siezures usually respond to medication.

Interesting unusual case, and sorry it is Ben who is such a sweetheart otherwise.

Please let me know any other questions you have, or if I can help with or research anything else.