Natural remedies for dog anxiety

Isis was on Prozac when she died. We’d just increased her dosage.

While I don’t think that caused her sudden death from bleeding near the heart, I have a bad association with it. I don’t even know if it worked. The night before she died, Isis cowered under a table shaking.

Ergo, I hesitate to give Prozac to Mia for her anxiety, which is relatively minor compared to Isis’s.

dog park_5

Is it though? Mia destroyed all the doors in our house. Isis just chewed on couches.

For the most part, Mia is triggered by very specific noises: 1) Beeping from the oven timer, ring timer (in martial arts videos), smoke detector. 2) Clicking from our security cameras.

She shakes and tries to crawl on our laps.

On other occasions, seemingly unrelated to environmental clicking and beeping, she whines. We call it squeaking and whistling. Sometimes she does this in the middle of the night for an hour straight.


I asked my vet if there’s something we could give her occasionally for anxiety (although I don’t know how I’m supposed to predict when she’s going to have an episode). The vet tech mentioned Zylkène, a natural product, derived from casein, a protein in milk. I guess it’s supposed to be calming like a momma dog’s milk? As you can tell from the link, this is a UK product. It is extremely expensive. About $60 for a two-week supply for a dog Mia’s size.

What the hell, I ordered some. It’s a powder inside capsules you can open and sprinkle in food. Apparently it tastes good enough for her to eat without additional flavor-enhancement. I tried to stretch it out by giving her only half the dosage and noticed no change. Then I gave her the correct dose until I ran out. Two weeks isn’t really a long enough study length for statistically significant findings, but she did have a late-night squeak and whistle attack after we ran out. And I don’t think she had one while she was taking it.

I tried to find it for a cheaper price and stumbled upon Composure, which contains colostrum, a form of milk produced by the mammary glands of mammals in late pregnancy. It was an eighth of the price. During this time, I won the rafflecopter from Rubicon Days for PL 360 Anxiety Relief, which contains chamomile and tryptophan.

PL 360Both of these are chewables that Mia ate easily… neither had any noticeable effect. So I reordered the Zylkène.

Last week, we had a violent windstorm overnight. I was kept awake by the rattling of the gate outside. Mia started whining. She’d had Zylkène with her breakfast. I gave her two of the PL 360 and she immediately quieted. The change was so drastic, I actually leaned over her bed and poked her to make sure the anxiety relief pills hadn’t instantly killed her.

The next night she squeaked again and I gave her two more PL 360 and she went right to sleep. So maybe I’ll be reordering those after all. Thanks, Rubicon Days!



This post is part of the Positive Pet Training blog hop, hosted by Cascadian Nomads, Rubicon Days & Tenacious Little Terrier.

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When in doubt, go to the vet

I have been known to take my dogs to the vet for something that turned out to be nothing. And I have found that I’m given the same medicine for a multitude of ailments.

Mometamax: works on itchy spots and stinky ears alike. (Buy it online and save.)

And who hasn’t googled something like “Why is my dog’s tooth turning brown?” and believed only the most dire web diagnoses?

You don’t feel so foolish though, do you, when it turns out something is wrong with your dog, and thanks to your early action, he’s going to be just fine.

Sometime in the last year, we noticed Leo’s eyes getting crustier than before. I thought it might be an allergy to all the cheese we shove in his face, but when one eye started oozing green goop, we went to the vet. We got some neo-poly-dex drops and the goop seemed to clear up. Or at least it wasn’t green for a while.

Then his eyes got crusty again, then goopy, and the day I picked him up from camp, he had green goop in both eyes.

Lucky for us, we have a doggie eye doctor in the neighborhood! And lucky us, she could see us that afternoon!

Leo tries to read the smallest line on the eye chart.

Leo tries to read the smallest line on the eye chart.

After a couple of tests and a peek in his beautiful brown eyes, Dr. McCalla diagnosed Leo with pannus, or chronic superficial keratitis, which is very common in German shepherds.

The bad news is that it needs lifelong treatment. The good news is that it’s not painful and we caught it very early. Usually, the dogs Dr. McCalla sees are in a lot worse shape. If left untreated, it can cause vision loss.

So, I’m very relieved that we took Leo in when we did, and I’m happy to put eye drops in his eyes twice every day for the rest of his life. He’s less excited about that part.

I sensed a little bit of uncertainty from the vet tech and the doctor when they first approached Leo. One of them even said something about not being able to trust (some? all?) German shepherds, but he was a prince. He squinted a little when they tried to stick stuff in his eyes, and we had to back him into a corner to do the tear test, but he didn’t cry or menace in any way.

The doc made a big point of saying that in 30-plus years of working with dogs, Leo is one of the nicest German shepherds she has EVER met.

Prince Leo

BlogPaws Wordless Wednesday Blog HopNot so wordless today, but you should check out the other blogs in the Wordless Wednesday Blog Hop
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Blame it on the pit bull


Just kidding. Don’t blame Gracie. It’s not her fault!

Gracie is a total wiggle butt/snuggle bug available at the Humane Society of Skagit Valley. At least she was the last time I was there, which was May 22 … !

What happened to me there, and the reason I haven’t been back yet is not her fault, but because of her breed, even though she’s a very petite pittie, the news media is bound to sensationalize it and place the blame on her.

All right. Here it is. I fell down.

Somebody that I told my story to, before I even told him how I got hurt, before he knew it happened while walking a dog, asked “Did your dog pull you down?”

Seriously, I swear. No.

I was walking Gracie between a fenced play yard and a berm. The ground was uneven; I think I was walking on fist-sized gravel. Smooth rocks. I’ve walked Gracie before and she is flawless on leash. A larger dog was in the yard, one I haven’t walked because his sign says he’s not available because he’s “working on his manners.” He raced toward the fence and I thought very calmly, What a great opportunity to see if Gracie is at all reactive to other dogs.

And then I went down. It is a testament to both dogs that I don’t even remember what they did. I’m pretty sure Gracie just stood there attached to me via leash. The other dog didn’t even bark.

I had simply tripped over my own feet, and when I landed on my left shoulder, the wind was knocked out of me.

That’s a phrase I’ve heard a lot – “wind knocked out” – and now I understand what it means. I couldn’t breathe. Specifically, I felt like I couldn’t get air out. I also sprained my right thumb.

My thoughts at the moment: I’m hurt. I’m hurt. No… I seem to be okay. Nothing broken. No scrapes. No one saw; thank god! So embarrassing.

So I kept on walking Gracie. Then I walked two more dogs. My thumb hurt quite a bit, but that seemed to be the worst of my injuries.

Until I woke the next morning with pain on the side of my chest. I googled “bruised ribs,” and yep that’s what it was. Even if they were cracked, the Internet says the treatment is the same: ice, rest, drugs. Six weeks to heal.

That was almost four weeks ago. I’ve mostly been functional when upright, as long as I don’t overexert myself. Walking is fine. Getting up from a lying position is hard. Sneezing was excruciating, but that has improved. I was able to do my part to separate two fighting dogs (ours).

I did wind up seeking medical help a week and a half ago when I had sharp chest pains and was short of breath. Thought I was having a heart attack, maybe a Vicodin overdose? Nope, just strain in the interstitial cartilage or something. A house call from paramedics and four hours in the ER later, I was disappointed they didn’t see any fractures in my X-rays.

So that’s my deal. I hope to be better and back to walking shelter dogs in a couple of weeks. And though I’d love to see her again, I hope Gracie’s not still there when I go back.

Heart Like a Dog

Since my injury, I have neglected not only blog posting, but blog hopping. I’m getting back up on the horse right now with the Thursday Barks and Bytes Blog Hop hosted by 2 Brown Dawgs and Heart Like a Dog

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O is for Old

mature mia

I confess that when I first saw Mia’s gray face, I thought, “Oh, she’s too old.” (Who knows what I thought she was too old for.)

I’ll also admit to asking other dog owners how old their dogs are, because I want to know how long I can expect to have these guys around.

So I know it’s just out of curiosity that people are always asking us how old Mia is. Still, I’m insulted on her behalf. Recently, Rob was walking Mia at his work and ran into a grandmotherly sort who asked Mia’s age. Rob wondered if that made it appropriate for him to ask the woman how old she was.

Since our vet estimated Mia’s age at 7 when we first got her, I usually say, “We think she’s about 10.” And after June 4 (the anniversary of the day we got her), I’ll say, “We think she’s 11.”

Mia’s grayness and agedness came up in a piece I wrote for The Crossing Guide about a fun trip we took to San Juan Island.

Mia reminded me again last week how young at heart she is. We took the kids to a new park and she raced around so fast, just like she did on San Juan Island. This must be a “new place” phenomenon. Or maybe just a sign that her arthritis meds are working.

The last time someone asked me how old she is, I said, “We think she’s almost 11, and she’s in great health!”

sunshiney mia

Mia gets all the balls

Mia gets all the balls

For the A to Z Challenge, I’m using all positive language in my posts. Read about how I discovered positive reinforcement training in my book, Bark and Lunge!


fitDogFridayThe FitDog Friday Blog Hop is brought to you by SlimDoggyTo Dog with Love, and My GBGV Life. Join the Hop or just visit the links below – lots of fun fitness tips and advice!

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Keeping my senior dog spry

meezyballsmile pt

November is Adopt a Senior Dog Month.

We didn’t set out to adopt a senior, but Mia fell into our laps three years ago and I have nothing but good things to say about adopting seniors. I’d do it again (and probably will). You should too.

With younger dogs, I’ve been guilty of not taking them to the vet for regular check-ups when they seem perfectly fine, but I decided to be more proactive with Mia.

It’s odd to have no idea what your dog’s medical history is. When we first got Mia, we tested her blood, and learned that she had high antibody levels for parvo, distemper and rabies. As far as I’m concerned, that means she never needs to be vaccinated again. And I’m lucky that my local licensing agency accepts titers as proof of rabies immunity.

On the first anniversary of her life with us, I had Mia’s hips X-rayed. She had some arthritis in her right hip, but nothing serious or unusual.

A few months ago, the vet made Mia squeak when he checked her right hip. I didn’t even notice, because she squeaks a lot, especially at the vet. He suggested I consider putting her on arthritis medication, and I said I’d give it some thought. I’d gotten pretty lax about adding the K9 Glucosamine to Mia’s meals; maybe I should try that first. And add salmon oil to the cocktail.

No need to rush into drugs since Mia hadn’t shown any signs of discomfort in her right hip.

She could still keep up with Leo in the yard and leapt on the couch easily as always. Until the one day when I watched her hop down from the couch favoring her right leg. I followed her around the house and outside, watching her. She was clearly limping, not putting weight on her right leg.

The limp went away a couple of days later, but my decision had been made. I googled all the side effects of NSAIDs for dogs and no question, the benefits of easing Mia’s pain outweigh any potential risks. We’ll have her blood checked regularly to make sure there’s no liver toxicity.

On the way home from picking up her prescription, I asked, “Mia, how would you like to take your pill? With peanut butter or cheese?” She voted cheese.

Three weeks later, we had our first blood test. The doctor said the levels in her liver were fine, low even. He asked how she was doing. I said, “She’s running faster.”

I expect that sooner or later, she’s going to figure out to swallow the cheese and spit out the pill, so to make life easier and save money, both on the pills and the string cheese, I mail-ordered meat-flavored generic Quellin chewables. I can’t wait for them to get here.

fitDogFridayThis post is part of the FitDog Friday Blog Hop hosted by SlimDoggy, To Dog with Love and My GBGV Life.

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It’s also Pet Health Awareness Month!

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Y is for Yogurt

To celebrate Leo’s fourth birthday last week, we took the pups out for frozen yogurt.

I ordered a custom-made toy for Leo too, but it hasn’t arrived yet. He didn’t mind; it’s not like he knows it’s his birthday. I’m rational enough to recognize that the celebration was more for us than him. He had a good time at his party, but he enjoyed chewing on his raw meaty deer bone dinner just as much, and he gets to do that a couple of times a week.

So what if Menchie’s isn’t the most nutritious snack for dogs?

Rob wanted to bring Leo inside to pick out his own flavor, but I said, “Don’t be ridiculous. Leo can’t read.” I picked out their flavors: Fresh Coconut with a dollop of Caramel Coconut Cookie Craze. I know, it’s insane. I thought the white coconut yogurt looked too plain.

Another thing we humans do, which our dogs surely don’t give a rip about, is bake cookies and decorate them. I bought some of this Fido’s Frosting when I baked Christmas cookies last year. It’s better for dogs than Menchie’s, because there’s no added sugar, but since the cultures aren’t “active,” I’m pretty sure it’s a nutritional wash.


Recently, Alice (that’s Grandma to Leo and Mia) bought a Bake a Bone treat-maker, so we’ll be sure to ice some of those bad boys with Fido’s Frosting.

Y is for Yogurt


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R is for Relax Harder

I had a hard time finishing this post about getting dogs to relax, because Mia kept whining and trying to climb onto my lap. Think she’s trying to tell me something?

The idea of relaxing harder used to be kind of a theme in my life. I suffered from TMJ and headaches, and the medical professionals insinuated that these were stress-related ailments. My recovery would come when I relaxed harder.

Then I had an anxious dog, and I realized how alike we were. Could I have caused her anxiety? Was my inability to relax contagious? Or just a coincidence?

My TMJ got better, not because I learned to relax, but because I had Craniosacral Therapy that involved having a dude massage inside my mouth. In a general sense, I feel like I am more relaxed than I used to be. Certainly I’m more relaxed than I was during the seven months we lived with two dogs who couldn’t be in the same room together.

Outside of my house, though, there seems to be an epidemic of nervous and fearful dogs.

Among the possible treatments, which include Tellington Touch, ThunderShirts, ThunderCaps (just wait until T day in the A to Z Challenge), and anti-anxiety meds, is Karen Overall’s Relaxation Protocol.

The Relaxation Protocol conditions a relaxed response by rewarding a dog for sitting or lying calmly for various lengths of time in the presence of various stimuli.

Paws Abilities explains it well here.

Rubicon Days also writes about it in this post and that post.

I wish there were something I could do to help shelter dogs relax harder. In the short time I’ve been volunteering, I’ve seen anxiety escalate alarmingly in a couple of dogs. One started grabbing the harness out of my hand before I put it on him, and shaking it violently. He also grabbed my hands and wrists with his mouth; definitely not behavior that is going to get a dog adopted.

Another dog who was fairly timid when I first started walking him also has started grabbing my hands. A fellow volunteer gaped at me trying to extricate my wrists from his mouth, her eyes wide like she was witnessing a murder. Like she’s never seen a spazzy dog before. He actually mouthed me kind of gently; Leo used to leave marks when he did that as a puppy. Still, the behavior can’t continue. My strategy is to turn my back and cross my arms until he calms down, but it’s not like I have all day. Maybe I can reach in with lightning speed, clip the leash to his collar and then step on it, so he can’t jump up.

As a volunteer, I take these dogs for walks and play with them outside, which I hope enriches their lives with a little stimulation and exercise. I wish I had enough time that I could also massage their ears and jaws, and do Tellington Touch body work. I wish I could hang out with each of them every day and work through the Relaxation Protocol.

While I’m throwing out wishes, I might as well wish for them all to have loving homes, or at least foster homes while they wait. Living for an extended period in a kennel is too stressful.

R is for Relax Harder


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To Neuter or Not to Neuter

When we first got Isis, I didn’t know there was anything controversial about spaying and neutering dogs. I thought the only reason not to do it was if you planned to breed them.

Preventing pet overpopulation is, of course, the obvious reason to spay and neuter, but that’s not why we did it. We were a one-dog household with no intention of letting Isis stay out after curfew with wild boys. We believed the Humane Society’s list of health benefits, and to be perfectly honest, we had Isis spayed before her first heat because I didn’t want to deal with the mess. I had no idea there were health risks.

I even won a T-shirt (for me) and a little beaded necklace (for Isis) from the Humane Society for spaying her during February, because Feb 24 is World Spay Day. Isis wore that necklace her entire life. You can see it in the pictures with I is for Isis, and this one about why choke collars are bad.

Never did it cross my mind that spaying Isis contributed to her fearfulness, anxiety, and aggression later. But Dr. Sophia Yin reports:

According to Katherine Houpt, VMD, PhD, DACVB, director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at Cornell University Hospital for Animals, spaying may actually contribute to behavioral problems. In a cooperative study with the Institute of Animal Medicine at Gyeongsang National University in Korea, Houpt and her colleagues found that ovariohysterectomy (spay) in healthy German Shepherds bred as working dogs led to increased reactivity.

Then there’s Leo. By the time we got him, I had heard that it’s better to wait before neutering a dog, to allow them to mature fully. I had the best of intentions of letting Leo finish developing. But then he started humping dogs at daycare and they wouldn’t let him come back until he was neutered.

This knee-jerk castration is ridiculous, really. Behaviorist Patricia McConnell writes:

One doesn’t need to be a veterinarian or physiologist to suspect that removing hormone-producing organs has a profound effect on a body’s physiology, beyond that of eliminating the potential of reproduction. Natural selection is a conservative process, and it is rare for any hormone to play only one role in the body. Androgens produced in the testes play a role in muscle and skeletal development. Estrogens, we’re told, affect the urinary tract, the heart and blood vessels, bones, breasts, skin, hair, mucous membranes, pelvic muscles, and the brain. Thus it is reasonable to wonder what the effects truly are of neutering animals at young age, sometimes as young as a few months of age.

Injectable sterilization may be the better option for boy dogs, because testosterone is not completely eliminated, but then neither is humping, marking, or roaming.

I hope that animal shelters and rescues consider that an alternative to neutering puppies before placing them in homes. Author and trainer Steve Duno writes about the absurdity of neutering too soon (as young as eight weeks) in this article:

Research also indicates adverse behavioral issues associated with early neuter, including increased rates of noise phobias, fear aggression, and reduced intelligence. … I can tell you that an abiding professional observation of mine, after working with thousands of dogs, is that those undergoing early neutering often become either bubble-brained, slow-learning goofballs, or nervous, insecure handfuls.

I have seen no evidence elsewhere to back up the reduced intelligence claim. And yet — bubble-brained, slow-learning goofball — Sound like anyone we know? Don’t get me wrong, I am over-the-moon bonkers about Leo, but he’s not as smart as Isis or Mia. Maybe it’s just because he’s a boy, although I have to wonder, could neutering have something to do with it?

When our trainer first met him as an eight-week-old, she said, “You’ll be able to teach this dog to do anything.” I have to tell you, that hasn’t turned out to be the case.

N is for Neutering


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Me and my exceptionally healthy dogs

This post was supposed to be about my volunteer orientation at the Humane Society, but I had a crazy sore throat on Friday, and had to sleep all day Saturday (missing the orientation for this month) to rid myself of the cold demon. It worked, but made for a bummer of a weekend, especially since I already had a cold of the cough variety for two-plus weeks in January.

Back then, I wrote the following, but never posted it.

Jan. 13: My poor doggies spent all of last week indoors while I sat in the recliner and watched all three seasons of Veronica Mars. Around the country, dogs were confined because of the polar vortex, or because their owners had the flu. I didn’t have the flu. For the first two days, I didn’t know what I had. Headache, chest pains, and the early rumblings of a cough. Since I suffer from headaches so frequently, and no over-the-counter medication makes any difference, I didn’t take anything for my illness, just sat on the recliner and watched television.

Those first two days were confusing. What is this? Am I getting better? Am I justified in taking the day off work? I decided that the time off work was appropriate; the litmus test being that if I can’t get up to take the dogs for a walk, I must be sick.

By day three, I had a cough for real. Oh, yeah, I have a cold. Now I know what to expect.

I was reminded of my endless recovery from a tonsillectomy. There’s something very scary about not knowing when one will get better. Is this going to be forever?

Once I knew it was just a cold, I rolled with it, but I still felt bad for the dogs. They didn’t complain, though, just slept on the couches beside me all day long. Around three each day, they did a little wrestling that forced me to pause my show because I couldn’t hear it over their rumbling. I’m constantly worried that they aren’t getting enough stimulation, and when I’m sitting beside them all day, I know they aren’t getting enough.


Yeah, I felt so guilty, I didn’t want to tell the Internet how badly I was failing to stimulate my dogs. Once I was well enough to get off my butt, we started doing nose work in the garage, and I’m committed to walking them more often.

I also hadn’t taken either of them to the vet in more than a year. The last time I took Mia, our very nice doctor suggested that she lose some weight. We worked on that for a while, and I even walked the dogs to the vet’s office just to weigh her so we could track her progress. When the pounds failed to melt away (on either of us), I sort of gave up on that, and have been afraid to take her back.

Can you believe it? Our society’s obsession with body weight made me afraid to take my dog to the vet! But then I heard an episode of Fernando Camacho’s wonderful podcast, The Great Dog Adventure, about caring for a senior dog, and it reminded me of my negligence.

Something else was at work, too. I was afraid that if we took Mia to the vet, she might get diagnosed with something terrible. Three years ago, our beloved Isis died suddenly from something I don’t think we could have prevented. Part of me wanted to stick my head in the sand with Mia. We’re going to lose her someday, better to enjoy every minute, since we can’t prevent it anyway. I don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on dog medical treatment if she’s just going to die anyway.

We kept getting postcards saying that Leo was overdue for his checkup, so I faced my fear and took them both in this morning. This could be a good tradition: taking my dogs for their checkup around the anniversary of Isis’s death, to remind myself that I am doing everything possible to take the best care of them I possibly can.

Long story short: They’re both in fantastic health. The vet called them “exceptionally healthy dogs.” Glossy coats, no sign of pain in their joints. He admired Leo’s magnificent teeth and cringed when I told him my secret is “raw bones.” Our vet clinic doesn’t recommend a raw diet, but the doctor couldn’t argue with the results!

At 97.7 pounds, even Leo could stand to lose 5 pounds, according to the vet, but I think he looks pretty lean. He’s a big boy! I was surprised he hadn’t topped 100 pounds. Mia, on the other hand, weighed 89 pounds, having lost 2 pounds since her last visit.

I’ll take it.

Snoopy's Dog Blog

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