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Doc Sara
Doc Sara, Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 952
Experience:  I am a dog and cat veterinarian with a lifetime of experience in our family veterinary hospital.
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We have a 131/2 year old collie cross that is now completely

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Hi, We have a 131/2 year old collie cross that is now completely stressed whenever we leave him if it rains or any extreme weather change. We are all depressed watching him this way, he is constantly licking his arthritic paws and wets the floor in stress. We have struggled since the start of winter and have tried a storm jacket, making a den, a calming plug in, calming drops, calming collar and all have failed. We had a lot of his teeth removed and thought we would see an improvement after that but he is getting worse every day, please can you help.
Hi there, I'm Dr. Sara. I'm a licensed veterinarian in the US who works exclusively with dogs and cats. I'm sorry to hear that your guy has been having such a difficult time in his "golden" years. It's not unusual at all for anxieties that they had as younger dogs to intensify as they age or for them to pop with new anxieties. It could be that they are more prone to fear as their senses aren't as keen as they used to be. I frequently see dogs who either never had issues with storms or had mild issues who become far worse when they get older. I'm going to include my general suggestions for dealing with fears and phobias, even though I know that you've already tried some of these things (or all of them, actually). After that, I'll include some additional thoughts since you've already tried a lot of what I'm discussing. Fear of loud noises like thunderstorms and fireworks is a very common complaint among pets. I've actually got two dogs who lose their minds with fear every Fourth of July when my town showcases the big fireworks display right across the road from my home. Here are some steps that I take to help my dogs relax: During a storm or "scary" time, try to minimize the visual stimulus by placing them in a room with no windows or one with thick blinds that can be closed. The less they see, the less they have to fear. Great places for this tend to be basements (if it's finished or the dog is otherwise familiar with the basement), bathrooms, or bedrooms with thick curtains or blinds. For us, it's my master bedroom. We have three windows with very heavy blinds. Next, decrease the sound by playing some white noise such as a white noise machine (many smart phones have white noise apps - although you'll need to hook the phone to a suitable set of speakers to make the noise loud enough.) For us, the window air conditioning unit in the bedroom is quite loud and sufficient to drown out fireworks.After doing a physical exam, your vet can recommend herbal calming products like Composure Pro or Adaptil. These can work quite well in combination with the above mentioned strategies to head off anxiety before it starts. It's important to give the product and start the coping strategies before the anticipated event, as it's easier to prevent anxiety than to stop it once it gets rolling. Thunder shirts are also fantastic for situational anxieties like storm and firework phobias as well as car rides and other travel situations. In severe cases of anxiety I have prescribed alprazolam to use in times of need. It's likely that your vet would be willing to do the same after examining your guy and discussing his anxieties. For my patients, it depends on the level of anxiety that they are experiencing and how successful (or not) I think the above strategies will be. Alprazolam can be used on an "as needed" basis, meaning that if you think he's going to experience a trigger, then you give the drug before the fear sets in. Another medication to consider if he's having more "round the clock" type of anxiety would be a maintenance anti-anxiety medication like fluoxetine. Fluoxetine generally doesn't change anything about their attitude or overall behavior (ie: it doesn't make them drugged or spacey, usually - and if it does, then we stop using it), and it can have a potent anti-anxiety effect when the anxiety is "all day long", and it's especially helpful for separation anxiety issues. It sounds like he has some separation anxiety based on your description, which is a bit more difficult to deal with, especially if it's severe. Medications like fluoxetine can take the edge off and help him be more open to behavioral modification exercises that would lessen his separation issues. Sometimes with separation there's also some trial and error to see where the pet will be most comfortable when you're away - for instance - is he more comfortable in a crate, a bedroom, baby gated in a kitchen or bathroom, or free in the house or garage?Here are some excellent articles on separation anxiety and aging: Here are some links to products that I mentioned: You also mentioned that he wets the floor - I would have your vet check a urine sample to be sure that there's not a medical issue causing this. It certainly could be just stress, but it could also easily be a sign of a urinary tract infection, diabetes, or kidney issues. I hope that this info is helpful - please let me know what other questions I can answer for you.~Dr. Sara ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------My goal is to provide you with the most complete and accurate “five star” answer. If my answer isn’t what you were expecting, it’s incomplete, or you have more questions PLEASE REPLY to let me know what information you are looking for BEFORE giving me a negative rating! If my answer has been helpful to you, please show me by giving me a favorable rating. Thank you so much :)
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Thank you for your reply. Yes we have tried the darkened room with television on, he has had all the usual urinary checks. He has had free run of rooms in the back of the house and nothing has changed. We have tried all the adaptil products and thundershirt, so I guess we have nothing left to try. The vet did suggest a behavioural specialist but I feel they wouldnt come up with any answers we havent tried already! Thank you anyway
You are quite welcome - don't underestimate the power of medications combined with the behavioral modification techniques. Ultimately I want my patients to be happy and have a good quality of life - if this means that they're taking fluoxetine daily and possibly alprazolam occasionally, so be it. I've got many older dogs who need some medicinal help to keep them happy. The medication can also make your other calming techniques like the thundershirt, adaptil, and darkened rooms, etc, much more helpful. The combination of multiple techniques is far more likely to be helpful than any one technique by itself. For instance, if I have a bad day, I can go home and drink a glass of wine - OR - I could have that glass of wine, get in the hot tub, and play some nice music. The second option is more likely to make my day better than the first one.I hope that you're able to find a combination of management and other techniques that work for you and him - please let me know if I can answer any other questions :)~Dr. Sara
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