Vito sees a Veternarian Behaviorist

Vito had his behavioral appointment at the University of Minnesota.  While I really like and respect our normal veternarian we were at a loss for where to continue with Vito's anxiety.  He has been doing so great being left at home but his car anxiety is still very intense, he still can be reactive towards people, and he has general anxiety in public places (especially evident at non dog shows).

Right off the bat Vito was giving an excellent example of his issues.  He was panting and whining in the waiting room and continued his panting once in the exam room.  Vito settled down quite a bit and was very cuddly with the doctor but was still very alert to sounds outside.  Twice he had reactive outbursts and I was able to prevent him from starting a few other times.  He started trembling and tried to hide for the basic physical exam we saved for near the end.

The doctor agreed with me that the Prozac is going well with helping Vito's separation anxiety.  She did note that he is on a very high dosage and has plans to decrease it in a few weeks.  Vito was initially on 20mg but was increased to 40mg since while the Prozac was helping at the lower dosage he seemed restless and unable to fully relax when left alone.

We are also going to be starting Vito on Clonidine to help with his car anxiety and general anxiety.  While we can use it on an as needed basis, because Vito has to go in the car a minimum of once a day we're going to be likely giving it twice daily.  My fingers are crossed that it doesn't give Vito any sedation effects like the Xanax did.  The next drug she suggested was Trazodone but he definitely couldn't start it until his prozac was lowered and she didn't think it would be as good of a fit with his issues.

As additional work for me, I'm going to start some ds/cc work in the car.  She agrees with me that it is likely won't help since I will be unable to keep him below any threshold we might build.  Because Vito HAS to go in the car for at least one trip a day it will destroy any progress made.  Nevertheless, I will start working on it by hanging out in the car with Vito and some treats in the Minnesota winter.

She checked to see if Vito had any mat work and I sent him to my jacket.  I thought she was going to recommend the formal relaxation protocol and said I really didn't see myself doing it!  But since Vito was so visibly relaxed on his "mat" and not any operant relaxed fashion of just trying to get treats, we passed and she said I didn't have to :)  But it was recommended that I actually work on mat work a bit more and to reward him if he doesn't react to stimuli. 

We talked quite a bit about trialing for obedience and agility.  I explained my hypothesis of Vito's anxiety being linked to the pressure of a crowd watching and his need to really take in the environment around him.
Our last agility trial in October was the first time that Vito and I were connected at the start line for all of our runs.  It was also the first time that after doing some tugging to warm him up I just crouched down and let him watch the ring before going in.  I don't know if doing the same for obedience would work but I do need to find a routine that would allow Vito to be ON as soon as he steps in the ring.  And I need to start doing it in our little practice sessions instead of letting him do his little stretches that he can't do in a real trial.  The run through went fantastic last weekend but I didn't do anything differently as a warm up.

I look forward to seeing if the Clonidine is going to help Vito.  The good news is that I should know soon as it is a fast acting drug.  We're starting out on a really low dosage just to make sure we're not getting any bad side effects and then will slowly up it until we find a dosage that will hopefully help him.

Mango  – ( November 26, 2011 at 6:10 PM )  

I sure hope that it helps. This has been an astounding journey to watch. It does sound like the car is a huge issue since he has no choice but to ride in it, but you never know how the conditioning will help and if anybody can do it, you can. I sure hope the clonidine works. Trazodone is kind of scary.

Good luck to you both.

Mango Momma

Berts Blog  – ( November 26, 2011 at 9:18 PM )  

I agree with the Mango dude, this has been such a journed. Vito is so lucky to be with you and not someone who would give up.

Heres to the clonidine helping.

Bert adn My Vickie

Loretta Mueller  – ( November 29, 2011 at 4:35 PM )  

I really really hope you can get things figured out with the sweet guy! He's such a happy dog and it would be great if that happiness would be around 100% of the time!!!!

Positive thoughts for both of you!!!

achieve1dream  – ( December 3, 2011 at 6:21 PM )  

Poor baby. I'm glad the veterinarian behaviorist is sounding helpful. Keep us updated on his progress. I'm keeping my fingers crossed it works for him.

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