Beau, my beautiful Cocker Spaniel, has just turned 12 so he is certainly a senior citizen these days. Apart from a bit of arthritis, joint degeneration and his eye sight declining a little, Beaus is in good health, physically, mentally however we had started to notice a few issues.
Over the last few months Beau’s anxiety started to get worse. Beau is a rescue dog we adopted just before his 8th birthday, so we don’t know most of his life history which can sometimes make things tricky, kind of a guessing game. As long as we have had Beau he has suffered some mild storm anxiety and is certainly attached to me but otherwise he has just been a pretty normal dog. A few months ago I noticed that his anxiety and nervousness seemed to be getting worse just in general day to day life. I guess I really noticed it getting worse when the kids went back to school after the eight week Christmas holiday break. He had become a lot more clingy to me, suffering some separation anxiety, he had become a little more aggressive and protective of me and my space always trying to insert himself between me and anyone else, particularly when my mums dog would come to visit. He was barking more, just randomly but also at small noises that usually never bothered him. I think the anxiety came on after having so much company during the school holidays then when school started back the kids were gone during the day and I was back at work more.
This type of anxiety is common in ageing pets. The signs of restlessness, agitation, irritability and stress when being separated from me (mummy) all pointed towards a geriatric anxiety in my eyes. However I first wanted to ensure that there weren’t any underlying medical reason for the behavioural changes. So off we went for a complete veterinarian checkup, It is important to rule out medical conditions, especially pain related issues, when behavioral changes are noticed in your pet. Beaus vet did a thorough checkup, examination and blood tests testing all of his organ function. After all this the diagnosis was agreed on it being anxiety.
So it was confirmed, Beau was suffering anxiety, the next step was to try and ease the anxiety levels for him. To hopefully reduce the anxiety or even cure it I turned to a few tried and tested anxiety products. My first product of choice was the Adaptil Collar. I have used this in the past on both Beau and my previous dog, Lilly, for storm anxiety and found that it was very effective. The Adaptil Collar is a pheromone collar with a synthetic copy of the natural canine appeasing pheromome proven to help support dogs in a range of stressful situations. With Beaus anxiety being more constant than just storm related I thought I would try the collar in combination with another anxiety medication called Zylkene. Zylkene Capsules contain a natural product derived from casein, a protein in milk. It is a molecule well known to promote the relaxation of newborns after breastfeeding.
Beaus anti-anxiety treatment started and within 5 days or the collar and capsules I noticed that Beau seemed more relaxed. Within 10 days of starting the treatments I felt Beau was back to his normal self, if not even a little more relaxed. We even had a storm and it didn’t even bother him. Winning! The over protective behaviour was almost gone, he was even back to his happy self around mums dog. It has now been about 6 weeks since starting the Adaptil Collar and Zylkene Capsules and he is a happy boy. After 4 weeks I removed the Adaptil Collar but kept him on the Zylkene, which I will probably continue for another couple of weeks and then take him off them to see how he is going. That is the beauty of these treatments, often they only need one or two courses to cure the anxiety, it basically resets there system and teaches them that they don’t have to be stressed as they are safe. Sometimes dogs will need to be on them for a more long term period but fingers crossed Beau will be ok, at least for a while until the next change upsets him.
Anxiety is common in older pets, either developing in old age or becoming progressively worse. Anxiety in older dogs can be caused by or exaggerated by the following things;
* Feeling unwell or being in pain
* A traumatic experience
* Failing senses, ie eyesight or hearing deteriorating
* A change in routine or environment
* Canine Dysfunction Syndrome, basically Alzheimer’s in dogs
Sometimes the signs and symptoms of anxiety can be confused with bad behaviour or even overlooked completely. The following are all signs of anxiety that can be seen on there own or in combination with others.
* Shaking or trembling
* Panting excessively
* Loss of appetite
* Barking, growling or howling
* Personality changes
* Toileting changes (like going in the house)
Anxiety in older pets is often just a part of the normal ageing process although there are a number of medical reasons that can cause anxiety or symptoms similar to those if anxiety. This is why it is always important to have your pet checked by a veterinarian to rule out medical issues and also to discuss the best treatment options.
Your pooch, like Beau, might be getting older, slower and less confident which can be hard for them and you to adjust to. But remember you mean the world to them so love them, hug them, kiss them and make their senior years full of happiness and comfort.
Until next time,