Hi, I have a ~13 year old border collie named Sox. He has always had issues with anxiety and reactivity -- mainly centered around noises. I dealt with it by giving him xanax during storms/fireworks/etc and redirecting his attention with treats. As he has gotten older, he has become almost completely deaf, which has ironically worsened his noise anxiety. He doesn't hear much anymore, and when he does hear something -- he absolutely freaks out. I live in the south and this time of the year it storms every singly day. It has been awful. I've been having to take days off work because I don't know what else to do -- he panics when crated or locked in a room, but when he's loose in the house when it storms he tries to go through windows or dig his way out of the house. I can't redirect his attention anymore, and xanax doesn't seem to have any effect anymore. I have to physically hold him to keep him from hurting himself. He used to "recover" from episodes of anxiety fairly quickly -- going back to baseline as soon as the storms or fireworks were over, but now he remains panicked for hours after the trigger has stopped. In addition to this, he has other behaviors that I'm not sure are side effects of his increasing anxiety or maybe the beginnings of canine cognitive disorder. Sometimes during the night he wakes up in a panic and won't calm back down, so I have to stay awake with him. He is a lot more dog reactive and barks at things he never used to (trucks, birds, cats, the wind), and he no longer "settles". In the evenings when my fiance and I settle in on the sofa to watch TV, he begins pacing and panting and barking at us, and I have no idea what he wants. He doesn't want to play, go outside, or work on a kong -- he just will pace and pant endlessly. Other than these behaviors, he acts normal -- still completely house trained, completely healthy physically (he just had senior blood work and everything looked great), he still knows all his tricks. His anxiety just seems to have increased astronomically and I feel really bad that he's panicked so much of the time, and it's also been really hard on me and my family -- my mom and I have been taking turns having him at each of our houses because it becomes really exhausting. My vet didn't have much advice, but we decided to start him on Fluoxetine and see if that helps. He just started the meds yesterday, and I know it can take a couple months before the effects are known. I'm nervous because I've been googling and reading about people's success stories with fluoxetine and it mostly seems like the success stories come from people with young dogs, and the fluoxetine helps take them down a couple of notches so they can be more effectively trained. I know old dogs are obviously still able to be trained, but he doesn't have as much interest in food anymore and just doesn't have the "drive" to learn new things anymore, even when he's not anxious. It's disheartening that the things that have become such huge triggers and issues for him, are things that he's struggled with his entire life; things that I have been trying to desensitize him to via positive reinforcement for 13 years, with no improvement. So it's hard for me to be hopeful that I will be able to improve his anxiety through training now that he is much older and less clear-minded.
I'm really not sure what my goal by making this post is, or what kind of advice I'm hoping to receive -- but I just have been really sad and nervous these past few months as he has gotten worse, because I know if things don't get better I'm probably going to have to make a really tough decision because I don't feel like his (or my) quality of life is ideal as things are. I don't want to have to make the decision to have him put to sleep because of his mental health, because he's still in such great health physically. I've had him since I was 10 years old and I honestly can't imagine my life without him, and I feel so guilty because he's always been my best friend and been by my side through everything in life, and now when he's struggling and having a hard time -- I become so frustrated and sort of resentful towards him. I look forward to getting a break when he's at my mom's house, and that makes me so sad. It just feels like a full time job keeping him safe from himself
Has anyone went through a similar situation with their senior dog, and did medications seem to help at all? Are there different techniques when training senior dogs?
Thanks in advance