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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 32803
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience.
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My Chihuahua has been acting strange. She's been looking up

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Hi my Chihuahua has been acting strange. She's been looking up and sniffing. She can be distracted by noise aversion. Is this normal? She's had blood tests at vets which was normal but they want to refer her to a neurologist but we are worried as we cannot afford the fees. Shes doing it a lot less since the weekend.

I'm sorry to hear of this with Maizie, Nicola.

You've described obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in her- 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 be able to stop the behavior (by noise aversion at this time) but that may not be the case in the future. Maizie may hide (to perform the behavior), become aggressive when you attempt to stop it, or may begin avoiding you.

Her staring up and sniffing at the air may suggest partial seizures or dysphoria (a state of unease) and so, yes, consultation with a specialist veterinary neurologist (please see here: should be considered. All cases of OCD warrant 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.

I understand your financial constraints and so I believe that it would reasonable to use a "response to therapy" trial at this time. You might first see how a psychotherapeutic drug affects Maizie such as the fluoxetine or clomipramine mentioned above but if these drugs aren't helpful, then see how an anticonvulsive drug such as levetiracetam, zonisamide, or imepitoin affects her.

Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.

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Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you so much for your reply. I will take her to her neurologist appointment on monday.

You're quite welcome. I'm pleased to hear of this. Thank you for your kind accept. I appreciate it. I can't set a follow-up in this venue so please return to our conversation - even after rating - with an update at your convenience. You can bookmark this page for ease of return.