Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Trip to the NEW Vet: Anxiety

Four score and seven years ago, I began to tell you a story about Desmond's digestive issues, anxiety issues, and our vet. If you have no idea what I'm talking about or need a refresher, see Part 1, Part 2, Reader Input.

Random pix of Des make everything better
Today, I'm here to tell you that I'm very happy with our new vet. The doctor has an interest/specialization in behavior. He's on the same page as I am in regards to positive training methods.

He also sees Desmond's anxiety problems as a real thing that affect not just Desmond's reactivity but his life in general and was able to pinpoint a health issue related to his vomiting problem that the other vet missed. This post is going to focus on the anxiety issue.

We all agree that Desmond may still need to go on anxiety meds of some kind--and we all agree that we would like to try another option first. Currently, Des takes Composure chews for anxiety. Each chew has 21mg of L-Theanine, and he was getting three chews for a total of 63mg. I told the vet that this wasn't really working as far as helping me counter-condition Desmond to reactivity triggers or in times of extra stress, like fireworks/storms or car rides.

The vet explained that's because Desmond needs 100mg of L-theanine. 63 simply wasn't doing the job. He recommended a different product, called Anxitane, which is 100mg tablets. We did not discuss the fact that Composure includes the other active ingredients vitamin B1 and Colostrum Calming Complex. I do wonder about that and will ask about it the next time we meet or talk.

We still had a pretty full bag of Composure chews, so I finished those off before they got all dried out, and I gave Desmond four chews instead of three (so, 84mg) to see if there was any difference. And there was. I was able to do some reactivity work with Desmond on four chews that I was completely unable to accomplish on three.
He rather enjoys this corner of our bedroom

After that, we started giving him the Anxitane, but I'm not sure what to make of it. The directions advise us to give him half a tablet twice a day, so 50mg at a time. I guess the theory is that after a little while, he'll always have 100mg running through him. However, my experience with Composure was that it didn't really work that way.

I would see results from the chews in about 45 minutes to an hour after administering them. Those results would last a few hours and then dissipate. This is problematic for one very big reason: I do much of my reactivity work with Desmond during our morning walk. All his other exercise comes from play and the dog park, unless my husband walks him very late at night to avoid dogs. (I completely realize we need to start working with Desmond on this on weekends during the day at the park, the pet supply store, the groomer's parking lot, etc., but I was working with him the last two months at my mentor training class at least).

So, when I get up at 5 and hurry to get that half a pill in Desmond, it still won't kick in until close to 6--which is when our walk is just about ending. He comes back in, eats breakfast, and plops down somewhere. Awesome. So glad he's calm in my living room. (That's sarcasm.)

If we give him the pill before my husband goes to bed around midnight, that doesn't help either, because it will be "gone" by the time we take our walk. I really need to wake up at like 4:30 to give him the pill, but that's just not going to happen. There has to be another way.

 I have since tried giving him the whole 100mg at 5 AM and that doesn't work, either. I mean, after we get home and he eats, he's napping within a few minutes. Frustrating to say the least, especially if we have one of his "bad walks".

"Hark! I hear a squirrel!"
Our next step is to try giving him a total of 150mg--one pill in the morning and half a pill at dinnertime. After that, I would try moving the half pill closer to my bedtime and then Joey's. I know we can also go up to 200mg without a problem, but that could wind up being as costly as actual prescription meds.

All that being said, I know we really need to give it 60 days before we make a judgment call.

I'm also seriously considering hiring my mentor trainer to help me work with him via private lessons. Some days are great and we make progress, but on the days that are not so great, I know I get stressed out and that doesn't help matter. I need someone detached from the situation to assess what I'm doing wrong and how I can do things differently and to see his reactions while we're on walks.

Eventually, we'll figure out the right combination of chemical and training help.

As for his digestion issues, that's another long post, so I'll spare you today. For now I'll say that there's a very good chance the anxiety and his vomiting are related, but not for the reasons we all guessed.

TODAY IS THE LAST DAY FOR VOTING! Have you voted for Desmond? Help us win a GUND® plush toy made in Desmond's likeness by voting for his official photo entry HERE. You can vote once every 24 hours, but today is the last time. Vote & share, folks. Vote & share!
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