Saturday, November 12, 2011

Bender's experiment with Mind-Altering Drugs

I have written before about Bender's fear of percussive noises. It probably started about 3 years ago and has gotten progressively worse with each exposure. Now he can hear a distant car backfiring and freak out. It's not an issue when we are at home but it effects his behaviour when we are out on walks, as he shuts down and goes into flight mode, pulling as hard as he can on the lead to get home as quickly as possible.

N took him to the vet a few weeks ago for his shots, and they discussed his problem. The vet is a friend of N's and is very fond of both the dogs. Her advice was that an anti-depressant may help him cope with his fear, and working with a behaviouralist will probably help too - but that most behaviour specialists won't work the dog unless it is medicated to start with to take the edge off.

He is now on amitriptyline tablets (brand name, ENDEP 50), he's started with 100mg, to be reduced to 50mg in a week's time. The only side effect is that it makes him a bit more sleepy than usual. I've also noticed him drinking more and seeming more hungry. He stares at his food bowl from about 5.30pm now, when his dinner time is 6pm. I have never really known him to ask for his dinner unless we go past his regular meal time. Barbie won't let us forget when it's time for dinner (or walks) anyway....

He still has a phobic reaction to unfamiliar noises on walks, but it does seem to me that he can recover a little better instead of just being shut down for the rest of the walk until we get back to the house. I have been able to get his attention back at times, asking him to heel and giving treats liberally. We are also doing more heelwork any way on walks so that he gets into the habit of doing it when he is relaxed, so that it is easier to get him to heel when he is stressed.

Last night we had a really long and loud fireworks display happening near our house. We had just gone to bed when it started, and Bender got on the bed and curled up between us where he felt safe. We ignored him til it was over and then kicked him out. I mused I should be thankful that he doesn't turn into a destructo-dog when his phobia is invoked. Really, in terms of impact on our lives, his noise phobia isn't that bad. He's not digging through walls or keeping us awake by barking at the thundergods.

The hope is that once the medication starts working then we can start working with the behavioural side of his phobia. I have a feeling it will be a long road but I really just want my boy to enjoy his walks again.

He is due for a follow up appointment with the vet in a couple of weeks so I will update more about it then.
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