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Hi, I am new to this forum - seemed to be the best place to start. I have a 13 year old Chocolate Lab. She is has been an AWESOME pet and we all love her very much, however, over the past several years her behavior (or better defined - fears and neuroses) have gotten worse and she is now driving us nuts. We are all so sad about this because we love her so much, but these behaviors are ruining our memories of her when she was younger. She is a remarkably healthy dog, we have fed her high quality food for the majority of her life, she is NOT overweight, my husband is a runner and she - again, for most of her life - went with him, running an average of 25+ miles each week. She has always been a little high strung, but witha lot of work she has always been well behaved and adjusted.

For the sake of time and space, I will summarize two of the worst issues - but there are plenty more. All she does all day long to go in and within 5 minutes or less (no exaggeration) she will scratch the door to come in. This continues constantly until I yell at her and tell her to take a nap. She will sleep for a while and then begin all over again. Also, just this year she has developed a HUGE fear of thunderstorms. This has NEVER been an issue until this year and now I'm surprised that she hasn't gone into cardiac arrest. she pants, shakes, tried to crawl into my lap, follows me everywhere. I feel so bad for her. Several people have asked if she has alzheimers. :) Don't think dogs can get that, but really... this is affecting our lives to the extreme. Does anyone have any advice or know of something (ecomomical) that we can give her to calm her down? We need to do something and my husband is getting to the point of giving an ultimatum - which he really doesn't want to do, but she is causing a lot of stress because of these and other issues. Thank you to any of you who can shed any light or help on the subject.
 

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There are medications available for doggie Alzheimers (yes, they can get it. I think the proper name is Canine Cognitive Disorder or something like that). I'm not sure of the costs but you should talk to your vet about what can be done to help. An extra sedative especially for thunderstorms might also be a good idea.
 

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Rocky, my black lab, was the same way. Always a nervous dog, the last few years of his life, he was terrified of everything. I got him a prescription for xanax and it helped tremendously. I gave it as needed and it's a good drug IMO because it doesnt dope them up, but just takes the edge off and makes them more comfortable. Just a thought.
 

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First, the bad news - there is no universal proven cure for thunder phobia, so you'll have to explore what works with your Lab, the various drugs should help take the edge off.

Now a little better news - your dog may not have cognitive disorder, which can be hard to treat. She may simply be losing her sense of hearing and sight. This sounds worse than it is, because dogs don't depend on these as much as we do. My dog is ~ 10 yo and he is losing his sight - he cannot catch anything smaller than a tennis ball, not even a golf ball. So, he tends to bark at more shadows and things that blow in the wind, until he gets close enough to determine that it is harmless. I had another dog who lost his hearing at age 15 and developed a thunder phobia, because I believe he could feel it rather than hear it, and didn't know what it was.

Ask the Vet about these possibilities and he should be able to help with the right meds. You might also try some of the conventional desensitizing exercises, which may help her get used to declining senses.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thank you to all of you who answered my question so quickly!! All gave great advice. I will try the vet again, unfortunately when I first brought it up, their response was simply she,s just getting old, nothing can be done. :-( I'll try again and depending on their response I may need to consult a different vet. Labmom4, for the xanax - do you need a perscription for that and did you get it through your vet?

Willowy,I never knew that dogs could be affected by cog. disorder! Are there symptoms or a way to confirm this at all??

Hanksimon, as for the loosing of the senses, I know her sight is gone, to what extent, it has been hard to tell. We know that in the dark she really struggles, but when she is outside she can see tennis balls fly and will chase after them as if she is a puppy (but pays for it later - very stiff) She also can follow popcorn in the air, but can't catch it anymore, but at night she needs to be led downstairs or help to begin going up if it is dark - go figure?

You mentioned conventional desensitizing exercises? What are those, is there a website that shows what they are or how to do them? Her hearing appears to still be very good - I've done some simple tests here at home just to see, but there are various degrees of hearing loss, so any advice on these exercises would be very helpful as I know nothing about them. Thank you!

As with any child and their various cries, dogs have different barks as well. Her barking is simply I want out, I need something, pay atention to me...not an alarm-type bark because she see's something and doesn't know what it is, but I have noticed that not only does she pant when she is nervous, but also when she has exerted herself and am wondering if she is developing something in her lungs as sometimes her breathing is raspy and even her bark at times. She doesn't seem to be under any breathing stress or in any pain though.

After a while, you begin to wonder is there something wrong or is it simply old age? You can go to a vet and open a 'can of worms' and walk out with $1000's in bills simply to be told that it is old age - that is why I came here to begin. Especially after I got the 'brush off' from one of the vets at the clinic. (As I said in my first post - it is complicated! :) I feel so bad for her.

Again, thank you
 

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Try a Thundershirt (google it). It helps many and they offer a guarantee.
Try Melatonin before thunderstorms. Dose is 1 mg per 20 lbs up to a total of 3 mg. Be aware that the pills are sold in both 1 mg and 3 mg strength. I had really good luck with Melatonin, and it has no side effects, and didn't "dope" them up, yet made my dog not care about the thunder.

Can you get a doggie door, if your yard is fenced so the dog can go in/out as needed? If you're keeping the dog outside and she wants in, then maybe consider giving her a little space in the house? When they get older they can get more insecure and need the company of their family.
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
Can you get a doggie door, if your yard is fenced so the dog can go in/out as needed? If you're keeping the dog outside and she wants in, then maybe consider giving her a little space in the house? When they get older they can get more insecure and need the company of their family.
OK - her goes more of her neuroses - we have a screen that she is able to go in and out of. She is such a great dog, that she never leaves our yard, so this is not a problem. She 'forgets' to use this (when the weather is warm - we live in Michigan) other times she refuses to go out any door but the front door, or if we let her out the back, she will simply go immediately to the front and bark to come in. There are other times when we will let her out the front - in the winter - because the steps to our deck are full of snow and ice and at her age she can't negotiate the stairs with out slipping through the holes and she is in and out simply because she wants to go to the back yard but won't walk around the house herself - she needs to go through the back door directly to the back yard. Wish I was Dr. Doolittle so I could talk to her and figure out what she wants or how wacky she has become in her old age!

oh - btw, thanks for the melatonin tip. Do you get that at a pet supply store, or can you get it in the health/vitamin section at a grocery store?
 

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She sounds so much like Rocky. :(
The vet prescribed the xanax. It's quite inexpensive and I just called in a refill whenever he needed it.
Good luck. It's hard when they get older.
 

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She sounds so much like Rocky. :(
The vet prescribed the xanax. It's quite inexpensive and I just called in a refill whenever he needed it.
Good luck. It's hard when they get older.
Yes it is, I feel so bad for her and then other times I want to ring her neck - especially when she wakes us at 3am to go to the bathroom and simply wants to sniff the air and gaze at the moon. I will try the xanax.

Noticed that you live in southern cal - lucky lady! My sis just moved there 2 1/2 yrs ago and they love it. Sounds especially good right now as I think Michigan is in a new ice age - so cold and wet - I miss the sun!
 

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You can buy Melatonin at the grocery store in the supplement/sleep aid section. It's marketed for people but fine for pets. Try to give it at the first sign of a storm.

Might also want to pick up some Glucosaming/Chondroitin/MSM pills (at grocery store, in joint section), to help with her stiffness/arthritis. Do the adult (person) dose each day (usually 2-3 pills...I wrap my dog's in cheese, and they eat them that way.)

You still may want to talk to a vet about Canine Cognitive disorder. The pills for that may help some of the other stuff.
 

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Yes it is, I feel so bad for her and then other times I want to ring her neck - especially when she wakes us at 3am to go to the bathroom and simply wants to sniff the air and gaze at the moon. I will try the xanax.

Noticed that you live in southern cal - lucky lady! My sis just moved there 2 1/2 yrs ago and they love it. Sounds especially good right now as I think Michigan is in a new ice age - so cold and wet - I miss the sun!
I completely understand. I felt so bad for him, but when he'd be standing at my bedside in the middle of the night, freaking out over nothing/anything, it did drive me nuts. And the thunderstorms were the worst. Thank goodness we dont get them often here in SoCal, but boy when we did... He was also afraid of my camera (the flash, I think), guns or anything resembling one, any loud or high-pitched noise; once, the battery was low in a smoke detector and was doing a 'beep' every so often. It took me awhile to hear it, but he was absolutely losing his mind. Poor ol' Rocky. I miss him.
Yes, the weather here is nice. I lived in Wisconsin for a bit as a kid and I really dont like the cold and snow. I freeze if it gets below 60 ;)
 

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>>> she can see tennis balls fly and will chase after them as if she is a puppy
Dog can lose acuity, but their motion sensing can remain OK, if there is enough light.

>>>You mentioned conventional desensitizing exercises?
If your dog is reactive to sounds , you can start desensitizing her with a low volume, recordings of the sounds.

See: http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?c=1+2174&aid=2545

>>>she pant when she is nervous, but also when she has exerted herself
This sounds like normal old age to me. Lungs lose capacity... Interestingly, a little extra water can sometimes help her breathing a bit. Mild dehydration can affect energy level and breathing. It's a long shot, but will she drink more, if you make a point of letting her drink from the hose ? I do this in the hot summer for my dog.
 

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hanksimon;1000962This sounds like normal old age to me. Lungs lose capacity... Interestingly said:
That is a relief to know. She drinks all the time - she always has, so much that I had her tested for diabetes when she was younger. We make sure that she always has access to water on both levels of the house and outside when it is hot. She is afraid of the hose - again another neruosis. I really am making her out to be quite psychotic, but she is such a gentle, sweet dog, just afraid of everything.
 

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That is a relief to know. She drinks all the time - she always has, so much that I had her tested for diabetes when she was younger. We make sure that she always has access to water on both levels of the house and outside when it is hot. She is afraid of the hose - again another neruosis. I really am making her out to be quite psychotic, but she is such a gentle, sweet dog, just afraid of everything.
Have you had her tested for Cushings recently? It'll cause panting, drinking a lot of water, can cause loss of eyesight.
Also can cause pacing/restlessness. She's at the right age to get it.
 

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Have you had her tested for Cushings recently? It'll cause panting, drinking a lot of water, can cause loss of eyesight.
Also can cause pacing/restlessness. She's at the right age to get it.
I will talk to the vet about it. I have made an appt. for her and will let you all know what they say. Thank you all so much for all your suggestions, adivce and help!

You are a wonderful group of people.
 

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Let us know what the vet says.
I just got back from the vet. She suggested starting off by trying some wholistic over the counter products like DAP, Comfort Zone, or Quiet Moments that are either a spray or suppliment that you would put in her food. She said if they were to do anything, it would be immediate. The next step would be anti-anxiety meds. She discouraged checking for Cushing's because of her age as it is so expensive and she is 13.5 years old. She didn't think Cognitive Disorder was an issue because her behaviour was so structured and not bizarre like pacing in circles, staring at a wall and barking... but didn't rule out senility. Her last suggestion was (and it was not stated in a flippant way) that she wouldn't look badly at us if we chose euthanization based on her age, that fact that she simply isn't the same dog and how disruptive it has become to our lives - namely the waking us up at 3am everynight but not always needing to go out, etc.

I'm not sure I'm ready for the last step yet and it definately will need to be a whole family discussion/decision - could be dicey with 5 kids. I will start out with the wholistic route first and we will see what happens over the next few months.
 

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Yes, try the holistic meds and hopefully that will help. I wish my vet had tried a more conservative approach with Rocky too, before he jumped to the 'hard' stuff. Sounds like you have yourself a good vet :)
Let us know how the meds work.
 

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Yes, try the holistic meds and hopefully that will help. I wish my vet had tried a more conservative approach with Rocky too, before he jumped to the 'hard' stuff. Sounds like you have yourself a good vet :)
Let us know how the meds work.
Thank you - I wasn't sure how the euth. remark would be accepted :) I appreciate it too as economically it will be a help. You never want to boil your pet's life down to economics, but with 5 kids, just coming off a lay-off for my hubby's job, the salary is significantly much lower than his old job and me not out there working for a salary - you have to prioritize :-(
 

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I went back and re-read, and realized that I made the assumption of a mental problem ...

Does she still run 25 miles a week ? Is she still able to ?
 
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