Vito's Panic Attacks

For the last week Vito has been having major panic attacks in the car.  It has seemed to come out of the blue and I alternate from being extremely frustrated to just wanting to cry.

Vito used to sleep in the car.  Even if I just drove around the block he would pass out.  Since I don't leave him alone that often he goes in the car a minimum of x2 every day and can be as high as x6 on some days.  A few months ago I started to notice that he had stopped sleeping even on long trips, but still lied down nicely and relaxed.  I'm not sure when that started to happen.

Last week it changed.  We drove 2hrs to get some agility help and he did fine on the way there. Didn't sleep, but was fine.  After the practice we started to drive to a friend's house and he panicked.  Major panting, so much that I thought he would have a heart attack.  After 20min I pulled over to the side and offered him some water.  That made it worse.  Vito wouldn't even look at the water and started loud whining.  I get back in and drive another hour before pulling over to a gas station.

I took Vito out and and sat in a quiet grassy area.  I gave him 3mgof Xanax but Vito started to calm down almost immediately, drank water, and even took treats.  We waited about 45min before getting on the road again.  The next 40 minutes Vito did some light panting but remained in a down and was ok.  Until I arrived and Vito fell out of the car.  It's another hour before Vito can walk in a straight line and 2 more hours until most of the effects wore off.  I had previously given Vito 2.5mg of Xanax when we were moving but didn't notice any effects.  Apparently 3mg on an empty stomach (he didn't eat breakfast) was a bad combination.

Vito has freaked out on every drive since that trip.  He pants so heavily I'm scared he's going to burst and his whole body trembles.  I've tried removing his harness and he tries crawling into the front seat and on my lap.  A crate doesn't help, holding his collar so he has to lie down doesn't help, and he won't eat treats, even his absolute favorite of smoked sausage.  He does it in my car and in Adam's truck although he is slightly better in the truck. 

Video from this past week:

I'm resorting to using Xanax again and trying to find the right dosage.  1mg didn't help, but I think 2mg did.  On a drive to disc today we gave him 2mg of Xanax 45min before leaving and he seemed to calm down the last 10min of the 45min trip (and panicked the first 35min).  On the drive home he slept the entire time!  So we will try 2mg again but 1.5hrs before leaving.  This means the days Adam works before me he will have to get the toller up and pill him bright and early.

I just pray that whatever has triggered his car anxiety magically goes away.  Changes that I can think of:
- We moved 23 days ago.  Wouldn't the car stuff been triggered much earlier?
- Heat.  It's hot and we don't have AC except for a bedroom window unit.  The car DOES have AC.
- Upped his Prozac from 20mg to 40mg.  But I'm not expecting to see changes yet, it hasn't even been 2wks.

 On the positive side, I've been leaving Vito home alone more often for 1-2hrs at a time and he's doing great.  This past Thursday I left him for 2hrs and Vito SLEPT the entire time!  Here is a happier picture

Cinnamon  – ( July 23, 2011 at 10:27 PM )  

That must be worrying! I understand how you feel as Mint had some panic attacks a while ago. He suddenly started to hide with his tail tucked underneath him and pant vigorously whenever I cooked something on a flying pan. I don't know what the trigger was, the sound, smoke, or something else. But, it was extremely worrying. I even thought that he was going to have seizures. However, it gradually went away, thank goodness. He still looks anxious when I use a flying pan, but he doesn't pant like he used to anymore. I hope Vito's panic attaches will also go away over time too.

Cinnamon's Mum

Cinnamon  – ( July 23, 2011 at 10:31 PM )  

Mint also shivered badly, and those panic attaches lasted for a couple of hours after I stopped cooking.

Anonymous  –   – ( July 23, 2011 at 11:08 PM )  

Have you thought of trying a thundershirt and/or a calming cap?

Honey the Great Dane  – ( July 24, 2011 at 1:32 AM )  

Oh dear - I'm so sorry to hear about Vito's new issues. You must be feeling awful & frustrated, especially when you're trying so many things and not getting much result. I've also heard lots of good things about the thundershirt so maybe that's worh a try. Also - you might have already done this - but have you tried any "natural" holistic type treatments? I know they're not as effective as drugs, usually, but just because Vito seems to be having side effects...maybe it's something worth investigating again.

Anyway, I'm sorry I can't offer much help - with Honey at the other end of the scale, I don't have much experience of dealing with super anxious dogs but just wanted to leave some words of support.


Mango  – ( July 24, 2011 at 5:26 AM )  

That is heartbreaking. The poor guy (and poor you). I don't have any advice to offer, but I'll keep little Vito in my thoughts that he gets past this time.

Mango Momma

Kathy  – ( July 24, 2011 at 11:17 AM )  

I was going to suggest a thundershirt, or a childs tshirt pulled tightly. What about some just get in and out of the car a relief of pressure sort of thing, maybe getting in and just running through from one door to another, playing some games while the car is stopped, then jump out and jump back into play again,perhaps even working on a favorite trick in the car, working to playing while the car is on but standing still, then maybe backing out a few feet. help him reassociate it with something fun-not sure that is helpful, but it seems odd that he goes to great places in the car and is very used to it, there are no other changes with his health or physically lately?.

Laura, Lance, and Vito  – ( July 24, 2011 at 5:00 PM )  

That is so weird about Mint being scared of the frying pan! Why do are dogs do this to us!!!

Tried a tshirt on him today with inconclusive results. Very short car ride (5min) and he was still panting pretty hard but wasn't horrid. The way back he was panting harder and wouldn't keep in a down but it was also after some hard exercise.

I haven't tried any of the behavior mod stuff in the car simply because I was worried about any progress made being back slided when we need to drive somewhere for real which is multiple times a day. But I think I'll go back out today and do some "car games" yer in yer out style.

Ninso  – ( July 25, 2011 at 2:00 PM )  

Interesting about the meds change. They can have a paradoxical effect. When I increased Jun's sertraline by 50% she went insane and her anxiety was worse than it's ever been. So I wouldn't rule out the Prozac increase as the cause, but I would think that the increased anxiety would carry over across the board if that were the case.

I hope the "car games" work for you. Jun is anxious in her crate at home when I'm gone, and anxious in her crate in the car when it's moving. I haven't found anything b-mod-wise that has worked, but I keep trying periodically.

Eapen The Pet Blogger  – ( July 27, 2011 at 9:24 AM )  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eapen The Pet Blogger  – ( July 27, 2011 at 9:27 AM )  

I am sad to hear that Vito's having panic attacks. How is he now? My dog would just bark away in the car, donno why? What could be the reason? The first few moments are ok, but after he just goes crazy.

achieve1dream  – ( July 28, 2011 at 7:58 PM )  

Storm pants and shivers like that every time she's in a vehicle. If we get on the interstate she knows it's going to be a long drive and will take a nap. Jackal is the same only it's whining, not shivering, really annoying and he also sleeps on the interstate. I think they've associated frequent stops and turns with a short drive and the interstate with a long drive. I also think theirs is excitement anxious related because they don't actually get to go places often. Sorry I can't really help. I hope you can figure it out because I know how horrible it is having to deal with that while driving. It makes me anxious lol.

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