Monday, 20 May 2013

Dog stress

This is going to be yet another dog-heavy post, infertility friends, and I apologize.  It's just that I'm clearly clueless about anything to do with dogs and I can't quite figure out our new friend Buddy.  Obviously, I should have stuck to becoming a crazy cat lady (which I had to give up when I married my allergy-laden husband).  Cats are easy.  Feed, scratch, play, scoop.  Done.  Our dog, by contrast, is stressing me the fuck out.

It seems like the Fantastic Exploding Dog Adventure (as I'm now referring to our last road trip with Buddy) was the start of downward spiral gastro-intestinal wise.  While he was ok for the next week or so, this week we returned home three times at the end of the work day to find our kitchen (where we baby-gate him during the day for exactly this kind of reason) filled with puddles of vomit and diarrhea.  For a number of reasons (including the fact that less than a month ago he got a clean bill of health from the vet), we don't think this is illness related.  We think it's due to stress and separation anxiety.  Dr. Google (hey, it's not just for infertility anymore!) tells me there is something called stress colitis which this totally sounds like (I'll spare you the gory details).  Other evidence supporting this conclusion:

- He goes absolutely batshit crazy when we get home.  He barks his head off for about 10 minutes (during which we ignore him, as per online instructions to not make coming home a big deal and hence something he anticipates all day).
- He's stopped eating his morning meal.  I suspect this is because I put it down just before I leave the house, in order to distract him from my departure.  Unfortunately I think it may have had the opposite effect, and that he's now either to depressed about my impending absence and can't eat, or won't eat because he feels somehow it causes me to disappear.
 - When we leave the house to run errands (and don't baby-gate him) he's up in the front window within seconds of our departure, despite having been given a tasty peanut butter-filled Kong to enjoy.  He starts barking and we have no idea how long it takes him to stop, since we're not there.  This is especially concerning as we live in a semi-detached house and share a wall with a neighbour.

There are lots of resources online about dealing with separation anxiety in dogs.  It's mostly desensitization, including things like putting on your shoes but not leaving, or leaving for 5 or 10 minutes only.  Since this weekend was a long weekend in Canada, we tried to put a bit of this into practice.  Instead of going for two or three hours and doing all our errands at once, we split up our trips into shorter ones.  He still barked when we got home, but for a bit less time and no accidents in the house.  On the down side, his diarrhea is still there.  It can apparently take a while to resolve.  And we have no choice but to go to work again tomorrow, which means we have to leap into 8-hour absences again without totally resolving the problem.  I'm also intending on switching him to a bland diet (boiled chicken and rice instead of his usual kibble and wet food) but since supermarkets are closed today that will have to wait until tomorrow as well.

Guys, getting a dog was supposed to be awesome and fun.  And I knew there'd be work, but I didn't realize it would be so stressful.  I just want Buddy to be happy and healthy, and knowing that our leaving is the cause of him being sick and anxious is not a good feeling.  It makes me wonder if this is the reason he ended up in a dog rescue in the first place.  Not that we'd ever consider sending him back.  We'll put in the work and get this thing right.  But it's definitely a lot harder than I thought.  I know a lot of you have dogs, so I'd welcome any advice you might have.  Feel free to put it in the comments or send me an email at infertilesmurf at blogspot dot ca.

Apart from our Buddy woes, it's been a great long weekend.  The weather has been awesome, meaning that we got a shit ton of long-overdue garden work done and our backyard now kinda, sorta looks like it doesn't belong to drug dealers.  I planted a bunch of flowers, even I know NOTHING about gardening so my plant choices may have been a little manic.  But it's fun and colourful and pretty and I like it.

I leave you with a pic I snapped yesterday of our two boys, sitting together on the couch.  This is pretty much the first time they've ever done this, as Leon the asshole cockatiel tends to hiss and  spread his wings and frighten Buddy away when he sniffs too close.  Hope you guys had good weekends too!

30 comments:

  1. Hi,
    I've never commented before but we've got a dog who had bad separation anxiety and the thing that works for him is being crated. He much prefers that to being left in a big open house or in our back yard, and now actually puts himself in the crate when he can sense that we are leaving instead of pacing around starting to freak out. He also prefers to sleep there at night and puts himself to bed around nine every night:) Such a creature of habit! It obviously takes time to get them used to the crate (leaving them there for short periods while you are home, hiding treats, let him sleep there with door open etc) but it's been a lifesaver! We've put in in a quiet room at the back of the house so he can't see outside or hear too much from there, which might make a difference.
    -Stina

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    1. See, I wasn't sure about the crate thing initially. I felt bad leaving him in this little box all day. We tried to go the halfway route by baby-gating him in the kitchen, which is smallish but still has room to move around, eat food, play with a chew toy, what have you. But I'm starting to realize that maybe he might prefer being in a smaller, den-like space. Do you leave your dog like that all day? We're gone 8 to 5, so it's a long day in a crate.

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  2. Bird used to have serious separation anxiety, but he would express his feelings by peeing or pooping IN THE MIDDLE OF OUR BED, which everyone agreed was very, very bad and proved that he thought he was boss. The weird thing was that he actually slept in bed with us, so he was Shitting where he slept. That did not make sense. I think he was just expressing his displeasure that we weren't home.

    Again, with Bird the biggest thing was time. He needed to adjust and as one book said, had to feel like he was "part of the family unit." Some dogs just suffer serious abandonment issues, especially rescues. It sounds like you're doing all the right things (did you try the TV trick yet?)

    Now, Ryder is a Golden Retriever with an incredibly sensitive stomach. I started out buying cheap-o dog food since I had two canine mouths to feed, but would often come home to diarrhea in the kitchen (which we knew was Ryder since Bird was crated at that point). Once we switched to the more expensive, corn-free food these incidents stopped completely. You mentioned you give Buddy wet food. Have you tried changing to some other brand, or giving him dry food? It made all the difference for Ryder.

    Hope that helps. I enjoy your dog posts because I feel nominally qualified to offer advice, whereas I'm totally clueless when it come to infertility.

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    1. We'll be trying the TV trick next. That and a homeopathic remedy that my mom's friend recommended, which is some drops with chamomile that are apparently good for anxiety and motion sickness. As for the food, we give him a mix of dry and wet food. He absolutely WILL NOT eat kibble by itself. We tried that, and he went a few days and was eating grass and puking bile. Very stubborn, so we started mixing the two. After we get his stomach settled on a bland diet I'm going to try a new brand and see how that goes.

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  3. What a cute picture! I can totally relate to this, because we had a greyhound with horrible separation anxiety. I know this might be a stupid question, but have you though about getting a second dog for him to keep him company? If that isn't possible, crating could be a good idea, plus, the "leaving for a few minutes at a time." Is there anyone who can come see him during the day when you guys are gone?

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    1. The idea of getting a second dog came up this weekend. I kind of think that, since we have one, two isn't much more work. They'll both get walked and stuff at the same time. But it was such a huge leap to get one, and I just don't know if we can handle another one who may have totally different issues! We might also hire a dog walker while we're gone, but I'm worried that would just lead to a second freak-out when the walker drops him off again and leaves. Still, it's something we're considering. Don't want to make too many changes at once!

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  4. I have 2 words for you... Doggie Daycare. Best invention ever, especially for beagles who are notorious pack animals. Failing that I have to suggest a second dog, before we had 2 beagles we were never able to leave the one by herself. I will discourage the crating thing, diarrhea + crated beagle= diarrhea covered beagle. That means nightly baths plus all the other cleaning. Also our beagle was allergic to grain and chicken. No diarrhea since switching to a potato and fish formula.

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    1. Oh God I didn't think about diarrhea covered dog! Not good. I'm hoping we can figure it out with food...otherwise I'll have to start looking into doggie daycares in my area. I don't even know where to start!

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    2. We came home to that for a month before our puppy was old enough for daycare. Not cool. Our doggie daycare is awesome. The dogs are tired when they come home which is nice because we sure are! About 25% of the dogs at our daycare are beagles, I think its definitely a beagle thing.

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    3. I also had poop covered dog when we tried crating her when we first left her alone. It wasn't good.

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  5. Oh my gosh, that is e cutest picture ever!! I'm so sad for Buddy that he is going through this while you guys are gone :(. My dog definitely barks like crazy when we get home, but she's used to being alone during the day. I wonder if it's because we got her as a puppy and that's just how she was trained?? Poor Buddy... I wish I had some advice, other than i bet all the love you give him while you are home is what makes him so sad while you're away.

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    1. Aww, you're so sweet! Maybe we should start kicking him and pulling his ears, and he'd be happy when we're gone. ;)

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  6. Just make sure it's not the food you're feeding him. We had a bad bag once that gave our dog the "runs" from both sides too.

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    1. Hopefully once we switch to bland food we'll figure that out. Thanks for the suggestion!

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  7. Consider asking your vet about Doggie Antidepressants. A year and a half ago, my dad can to help us with some renovations and the combination of new person/lots of loud noise/ moving his litter box was too overwhelming for my cat A, and he started spraying all over the house. We initially gave him some catnip (AKA kitty pot) which decreased his spraying, and then we tried every natural spray or difuser. Finally, when we couldn't stand the smell of cat pee, we asked my vet for kitty Elavil. It worked and he stopped spraying a few days later. We use the meds on occasions of anticipated stress. Interestingly, he started spraying again, but stopped once his diabetes was diagnosed. I'm sure we'll make great parents -the ones who go right for the drugs.....

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    1. It's definitely on the list if we can't figure this out quickly. There's a homeopathic thing we're going to try first, but I'm not above medicating him if it makes him happier.

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  8. Limited ingredient, GRAIN FREEEEE dog food. Orijen and Acana is made in Canada I believe? It might be too rich, though, for your guy. Especially if he has a sensitive tummy. We feed Taste of the Wild and it has completely transformed our anxiety ridden, runny butt rescue. Yes, he still poops in the house....but thank goodness it's solid. I'd rather pick up solid turds with my bare hands (I almost wrote "my mouth", but figured they was taking it a bit too far) than clean up dog vom and diarrhea. My best friend owns a pet and wellness store here in Minnesota. I help out occasionally, and have learned so many valuable nuggets of dog wisdom. I promise it gets better. Bobo would poop in our house so much that it looked like he was chasing his tail and spraying poop at the same time. Super NOT awesome. I cried so much. But. It totally got better. And now we love that little F'er. ;)

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    1. I would bathe in solid turds at this point, I'd be so happy to see them.

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  9. Oh, that photo is the best!! Poor little guy, I'm sure it's not easy on him (or you guys)... sadly, I have zero experience raising or training dogs. My parents have one, and unfortunately he also gets majorly depressed whenever ANY of my family members leave the house. It doesn't lead to pooping or throwing up, but it's so crazy that he becomes that overwhelmingly upset. Hope you resolve this soon -- and let us know what works!

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    1. Will do. If anything ever works!

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  10. 1. Yes to the bland diet. My big old newfie cross had diarrhea issues with traditional dog food and required a special diet. Most of the time I just ended up cooking his food myself. If that's something you think you might want to try, there are some great books out there with recipes for dogs. (I think Better Food for Dogs is one them.)

    2. The above mentioned newfie cross also had pretty severe separation anxiety (he was also a rescue). I believe that two things helped us work through them. One was crating. It kept him from going completely ape-shit when I left and kept him safe (he liked to eat electronics when I was away). Slowly, over time, I would let him out of the crate while I was away - for a few minutes to begin with and then gradually increasing the length of time. The second thing that probably helped: second dog. Some dogs just need company, whether it be human or canine.

    3. I suspect this is the naturopathic item suggested to you, but...Rescue Remedy. I know a lot of people swear by it. It helped one of my dogs with her car anxiety.

    Good luck and keep us updated!

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    1. As a native Newfoundlander, I hereby object to your use of the term "Newfie". ;) The homeopathic thing is something called Calm Stress, but I'm sure there's a few others out there. It's supposed to be great for car anxiety, so maybe it works for this too. Apparently if you can get past the first 20 minutes or so you're on the way to fixing it.

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  11. One of our dogs (a rescue) had horrible separation anxiety when we got her (she was a puppy). We also put up baby gates to keep her contained in a small area during the day. I put a crate in that area, in case she wanted to be in it, but left it open. We crate-trained her at night because she's cat-obsessed and I didn't want to wake up with my cats eaten.
    Whatever food you give him, make sure you stick with it. Changing their food too often usually leads to stomach issues. We use Blue Buffalo food, which has a line for dogs with food sensitivities.
    The desensitization eventually worked for us. It takes a while. Buddy will eventually realize you're always coming back for him. Not making a big deal when you leave (like saying good-bye, kissing him, etc.) is usually recommended for separation anxiety too.
    Another dog might help! You're right that you'll have a lot to deal with at once, but most dogs love the company of another dog.

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    1. We haven't changed his food since we got him, but he seems to go on and off it for no reason we can figure out. We're also doing well trying to ignore him when we leave, but we have to at least call him to get him into the kitchen and then I give him a Kong and leave with no further fuss. Hopefully he'll get used to it before long. Another dog is definitely a last resort!

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  12. OK. I had serious separation anxiety problems with my dog. I also am pretty sure that's why she was taken to the shelter. We tried pretty much every remedy we could find online and nothing worked. Hired a bunch of trainers (one even refused to charge me for her time because I had already done everything she suggested). Basically, what ended up working, in the beginning while we were both at work we had to take her to doggie daycare. It was great and helped socialize her and she came home exhausted. When I had extended time off from work I made it my job to get her over the anxiety. I did the whole leaving for short periods of time then gradually increasing it. who knows what my neighbors thought! I would leave for a minute, come back in. then 5 minutes. Just gradually increasing. I tried to never come in the house while she was barking (because that was her thing) so she wasn't "rewarded" for it. Eventually we were able to go to a movie without her barking (we set up a tape recorder so we would know) and now we can leave her all day. she does sit at the window most of the day waiting for us and she won't usually eat while we are gone, but now she sometimes actually relaxes and naps. she is still crazy excited when we come home and we wait until she calms down to pet her. the crate didn't work for her even though she sleeps in it and loves to be in den areas. I think she is way more comfortable being able to watch for us.
    We did also use prozac. It hasn't gotten rid of her anxiety but it focused her enough that she could be trained. It is meant to be temporary so it's something to consider.
    this was a very brief description of what felt like a very long hell where we couldn't leave our house. It was so incredibly stressful. email me if you want more details :)

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    1. Thanks for this. Unfortunately we don't have the ability to be off work ourselves for extended periods, but seeing that it can at least get better makes me happy. I think some of our plans for summer activities (camping, day trips) will be curtailed unless we can take him with us, though. I'm sure I'll be emailing you for advice when I'm at my wit's end!

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  13. Poor Buddy. I don't have a dog and therefore no helpful suggestions, but it sounds like you guys are doing everything you can to make him feel better. That picture is just adorable!

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  14. Super cute! I love doggie photos. :)

    I don't have anything new to add, but will give a bit more support to some of the other suggestions. We have a Swiss Mountain Dog named Lilly who had horrible separation anxiety AND a ridiculously sensitive stomach. Here's what we did:

    1) Put her on a ridiculously expensive easy-to-digest prescription dog food (Purina EN). We've tried to switch it to something cheaper, mixing the food like they say and everything...Don't ask!

    2) Crated her during the day. When she was a puppy, we paid someone to walk her in the middle of the day, but now she hangs out all day in the crate. I felt bad about this at first, but she always seems happy to go in there. I think it's psychologically different from baby-gating, because it's like her little secure nook - like her little cave where she is safe and warm, and where she can imagine that we are waiting for her just outside...actually, I think she just sleeps all day. (After all, that's what she does all day in the living room on my days off...)

    3) We got a second dog. We got a pug who had already shown that he gets along well with big dogs. They are in love with each other, and go in the crate together all day. (An added reason I don't feel bad leaving them in there all day.) Two dogs is definitely not twice the work of one. Winston (the pug) is more naughty than Lilly (more accidents, food break-ins, etc.), but has no medical issues, and is less anxious. And the two of them are totally hilarious together. We can't imagine having just one dog now!

    Oh, and in general, I just want to say YAY DOGS!! My plan is to become a crazy dog lady if ART doesn't pan out...

    Hugs, and hoping you find a solution that works for you and Buddy very soon!

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  15. Aww poor Buddy.

    The crate idea is a good idea. If you are worried about leaving him there all day while you are at work, get a dog walker. The person could take him on a walk halfway through the day to get him out and get some exercise. Or, our dogs don't have separation anxiety, but LOVE doggie daycare. They come back exhausted and still get socialization both with the humans working there and the other dogs.

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  16. I cannot imagine having to clean up vomit and diarrhea every night coming home from work. I admire the both of you so much for your commitment to sticking it out. I have no doubt you will figure out the solution. Poor Buddy. It must be awful for him as well to feel so poorly!

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I'm needy and your comments validate me. Help a sister out!