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Luigi's Separation Anxiety... Can I Ever Leave The House?


Guest GeekyLyndsay
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Guest GeekyLyndsay

Luigi is an almost 6 year old retired racing greyhound. He has always been a bit anxious but the recent move into an apartment building has made his anxiety problems more difficult.

How his anxiety manifests right now:

-Luigi gets very worried when one of us leaves the apartment. He was whining at the window and pacing, but that behaviour has improved somewhat. It still comes back from time to time. He will be hypervigilant about the windows and sounds outside when one person is gone. He pants, his nose drips, he paces and he drinks a lot of water.

-Luigi is very aware of what is going on outside the apartment building. Any time someone walks by our windows or makes noise he is listening and alert. I feel that if we are away, this is probably far more extreme. He listens intently to all outside noises.

-If left in his crate alone, Luigi is fine with a frozen peanut butter kong. As soon as the kong runs out, he panics. If given a less desireable treat (such as a bully stick) Luigi will ignore the treat, instead whining, barking and howling in his crate. I know this from using an IP camera when we go away, and because we return to frantic barking which we can hear from the parking lot (he cannot hear or see the car when we pull up). He has not yet been self-destructive but I worry that's just a matter of time.

-Luigi was previously crated for about 6 hours at a time. Some days, I would return to find he had urinated, defecated or vomited in the crate. If left alone again, I feel this would be likely in time.

-Luigi is always worried or scared. Anything unusual that happens near him is frightening. He is afraid to go on furniture because a remote slid onto his back while he was on a couch in August. He won't go on any furniture since then.

What we do for his anxiety right now:

-Every morning, Luigi has 15mg melatonin and 2 valerian root tablets added to his food.

-In order to tire him out he gets half hour walks (long walks for a retired racer) and part of his meals in one of three puzzle toys

-Any time we leave, the curtains are closed, music is put on and he has a frozen peanut butter kong. When we return the kong is taken back, so he only has it when we're away.

-Working on alone training. Opening doors, jangling keys, trying to decontextualize the signals of people leaving. This took a long time and had to start with only one of us practicing, because when we both did he would become frantic.

Progress so far:

-Luigi is now less likely to panic when only one of us leaves the house, but sometimes he still needs a kong to calm him down. Generally he gets the kong only BEFORE exhibiting anxious behaviour, so that it is not rewarded

-When left with a kong, when we return to the apartment (less than 15 minutes) he will stay laying down and relaxed in his crate, rather than frantically greeting us.

Challenges and Expectations:

-Currently, we cannot go anywhere without leaving someone with Luigi or bringing him with us. If we go out for dinner, there has to be a patio we can bring him to.

-I would like to be able to go out for 3-4 hours without being worried that he is in a panic and potentially hurting himself or disturbing our neighbours.

-Eventually, I would be pleased if Luigi could be in his crate for 6 hours so that when I return to work I know he will be okay.

All in all Luigi is still a very anxious dog. He will stay calm and be kind of okay when left with a kong, but as soon as it has run out and he is alone, he panics. He is also still anxious when only one of us is home. We are unable to go anywhere just the 2 of us due to his anxiety, and progress has been made, but there are anxiety reactions that are difficult to train on (panic when the kong runs out).

I'm going to take him to a vet and ask for medication, because I feel at this point it's his best bet for building more "I got left alone and I was ok" memories.

Your reward for reading all of that is a picture of the cute goober.

 

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There is light at the end of the tunnel, but you may have more difficulties before you see the end. I agree that medication might be the best way to go from here. His brain needs to be calm to accept the desensitization training you are doing. Your vet will likely begin with Clomicalm or Prozac, because these are the most familiar to vets. But they may not be effective. You may need to try a couple different drugs and//or classes of anti-anxiety drugs before you find one that is effective for your boy. Don't give up if the first one doesn't work. Unfortunately, most of these drugs need a week or more to build up to the right dosage. You might ask if you can begin with a faster acting drug like valium or xanax, or even a drug like trazadone (that many of us have had good success with).

 

There are quite a few threads here regarding medicating for SA, if you want to search them out.

Chris - Mom to: Lilly, Felicity (DeLand), and Andi (Braska Pandora)

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Angels: Libby (Everlast), Dorie (Dog Gone Holly), Dude (TNJ VooDoo), Copper (Kid's Copper), Cash (GSI Payncash), Toni (LPH Cry Baby), Whiskey (KT's Phys Ed), Atom

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Hi from a fellow Calgarian. That is a fantastic picture! I have no advice for the separation anxiety per se as I have not experienced it, but I will comment that a 1/2 hr walk is not a lot of exercise...I think the "couch potato" description has been over sold. There are quite a few people here in Calgary with advice for SA issues. They often come out to the Calgary Greyhound Walking Club get togethers, and you can check them out on Facebook, should you be interested.

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Guest GeekyLyndsay

Hi from a fellow Calgarian. That is a fantastic picture! I have no advice for the separation anxiety per se as I have not experienced it, but I will comment that a 1/2 hr walk is not a lot of exercise...I think the "couch potato" description has been over sold. There are quite a few people here in Calgary with advice for SA issues. They often come out to the Calgary Greyhound Walking Club get togethers, and you can check them out on Facebook, should you be interested.

Hey! I forgot that I'm still listed in Calgary. I've moved to LA since. My Calgary vet was actually really terrible :( she told me that with all this info by wanting meds I wanted Luigi to be a zombie.. Omg no!

 

For luigi, a half hour walk is more than enough. He's tired and wilting - it's all he can stand. He gets walked til he is very tired and the panic still happens. Even if we cruised the streets an hour, it's the same. Poor guy just needs some better experiences being alone.

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Just an FYI--Valerian Root made my Greyhound's liver enzymes elevate dramatically in a very short period of time, and if you do some Google research, you'll see it's contraindicated for anyone with a compromised liver since this is a known side effect. "Natural" does not equal "harmless."

 

I'd ditch the "natural" solutions and try some actual medication. Also, 30 minute walk is really nothing for a professional athlete. Particularly given the pace at which most of us allow our dogs to walk. I know it must be cold as can be up there right now, but try adding a bit more exercise if possible. And finally, my Greyhound was 100x worse IN his crate than out when he had SA. You might just try a day out of the crate, drapes OPEN (if he wants to look out, you might as well let him), music on, and something non-sugary in his Kong (I figgured out after many years that peanut butter actually made my anxious dog have to pee!).


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Susan,  Hamish,  Mister Bigglesworth and Nikita Stanislav. Missing Ming, George, and Buck

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Guest GeekyLyndsay

Just an FYI--Valerian Root made my Greyhound's liver enzymes elevate dramatically in a very short period of time, and if you do some Google research, you'll see it's contraindicated for anyone with a compromised liver since this is a known side effect. "Natural" does not equal "harmless."

 

I'd ditch the "natural" solutions and try some actual medication. Also, 30 minute walk is really nothing for a professional athlete. Particularly given the pace at which most of us allow our dogs to walk. I know it must be cold as can be up there right now, but try adding a bit more exercise if possible. And finally, my Greyhound was 100x worse IN his crate than out when he had SA. You might just try a day out of the crate, drapes OPEN (if he wants to look out, you might as well let him), music on, and something non-sugary in his Kong (I figgured out after many years that peanut butter actually made my anxious dog have to pee!).

He does waay worse out of the crate, and won't settle with a Kong at all that way. Just howling at the window.

 

Like I said in the post above yours, for him, half an hour is more than enough. At the end of his walk he is panting and pausing to rest because he's tired. Longer walks don't help here. Walk up and down a fun busy street for 1.5hrs with lots for him to do and see same problems. Same with a trip to an off leash park. Heck, same with a day at daycare. There is no tired enough in this scenario at this point.

Edited by GeekyLyndsay
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We had our second grey, John E, on a low dose of prozac for the last years of his life. The older he got, the more anxious he became. He was not zombie like and if you didn't know the dog before, you would have had no idea.

 

I don't know why some vets, just don't like to prescribe meds for pain or anxiety. If you go the prozac route, you will start at a low dose and increase until you find the level that works best for your boy. Our goal was 30 mgs, but we stopped at 20, as that seemed to help well enough. Good luck, and there is help out there. You just have to find it.

 

One more; have you tried a DAP difuser? Actually, two more: And, stay away from ACE.

Irene Ullmann w/Flying Odin in Lower Delaware
Angels Brandy, John E, American Idol, Paul, Fuzzy and Shine
Handcrafted Greyhound and Custom Clocks http://www.houndtime.com
Zoom Doggies-Racing Coats for Racing Greyhounds

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Guest GeekyLyndsay

Luigi got Clomicalm at the vet yesterday! Malibu vet clinic was awesome and I'm looking forward to him being a more comfortable, confident dog with training.

 

Houndtime: We did have a DAP! I have gone through 3 cartridges and no difference - but clomicalm might make it more effective on him, so we'll see

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Guest GreytGatsby

You might also want to (if your situation allows) adopt another dog. I have no experience with greys, but I do have experience with other breeds. When I was volunteering at a rescue back in college, one dog had SUCH separation anxiety that he would howl himself hoarse and begin chewing on his leg when his foster mom left. She chose to foster another dog that he 9the dog) was particularly fond of and they bonded and his behavior lessened. He was still overly enthused to see his foster mom when she came home, but she reported that he stopped chewing on himself and that his barking/howling significantly decreased.

Edited by GreytGatsby
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No advice to offer but just wanted to say i think you are doing amazing in managing Luigi. I really can't imagine having to deal with all that and would find it really stressful what with neighbours and wot not.

 

I hope you see improvement on the clomicalm soon.

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