For those of you who follow the canine portion of this blog, I left you hanging yesterday with a snippet of news about Cody. I was worried and needed to see how things played out before I could write about it.
For the last year or so, Cody has been having episodes of fear and anxiety. I know many of you have had dogs who were afraid of thunderstorms or firecrackers. Our first dog had terrible firecracker anxiety. (It actually ended up changing the shape of our lives, as we wanted to get her out of the city on the Fourth of July, and that led to our annual trips upstate.)
But Cody was never like that, so this fear and anxiety was something new. And while she's afraid of thunder, as many dogs are, she's also afraid of some unusual things. If the windows are open and a breeze blows the curtains, she's terrified. At night, when the headlights of a passing car momentarily illuminate the wall and ceiling, she's terrified. If a door creaks, she jumps up and tries to run away.
Our vet told us that many dogs develop anxieties and strange behaviours as they age. It's the canine equivalent of senile dementia. That was sad to hear. The vet prescribed Xanax, an anti-anxiety medication, to use on an as-needed basis.
Two nights ago, Cody had anxiety the likes of which I've never seen before. She was absolutely terrified. There was no storm coming, and the windows were all shut, so no curtains were blowing. She would startle, as if something scared her, but there was nothing there. She'd lie down for a few seconds, then get up, pace around, lie down somewhere else, get up, try again - classic canine anxiety behaviour. This went on for hours.
She would run upstairs, as if something was chasing her. Remember, this dog has arthritis and hip dysplasia, so she avoids the stairs. But on Friday night, she was running up and down stairs as if demons were in pursuit. And she kept coming to me for protection. Cody is normally not very affectionate, and she's not at all clingy. But on Friday night, she couldn't leave my side. It was really awful to watch.
I gave her the Xanax, and it would calm her down somewhat, but very temporarily, then she'd be at it again. I'd wait, give her another pill, it would work for a while, then she'd go nuts again.
Eventually she had enough meds, and probably wore herself out. She curled up next to the bed, where Buster always slept, but Cody rarely does. What's more, she could only sleep if I was touching and stroking her. For Cody, that is downright bizarre. I slept at the edge of the bed with my arm hanging off the side, so I could stay in contact with her, and we managed to sleep for a couple of hours like that.
The next morning, yesterday, I called the vet and made an appointment for Monday. But because we work all weekend, I was worried about how Cody would feel alone in the house. Our dogwalker could give her meds, but I'd hate to think of our poor girl trembling and terrified for hours by herself.
Talking to the vet, I discovered that we were using a very low dose of Xanax, and I could have given her more. (Damn! Wish I'd known.) That low dose may have been adequate in the past, but for this more severe anxiety attack, I could have doubled or even tripled the dosage.
So, knowing this, we gave her more Xanax before we left the house yesterday, and asked the dogwalker to do the same. And with that, she seems fine. When I got home from work yesterday, Cody was calm, and a little woozy, and she slept through the night, uneventfully. (I did, too.)
Now we're thinking we should wait and see what happens. If she has another anxiety attack of this magnitude, we'll give her the increased amount of Xanax, and maybe that will do the trick. If these episodes become more frequent, or if even the increased Xanax is inadequate, we'll go back to the vet.