Where Old Dogs Move Anxiety Follows?

It’s easy to forget this will happen after years of having a mellow, sweet, trouble-free dog.  We moved in early November and did everything we were supposed to do – brought Chica to the new place before moving in, put her familiar things out for her, walked her around the new neighbourhood several weeks prior to living here…BUT our fourteen-year old dog did not cope with the move.  Yet she was fine in the car (LOVES the car) and good on her walks.  Just seemed to hate the new house.

After an expected difficult adjustment period of ten days, she seemed to calm down.  We were still at work then, before the holidays, and things looked sorted.  I would return home after a few hours and find her sleeping peacefully in the living room.  However, after our vacations began, Chica started pacing and panting incessantly, looking distressed with her tail tucked in and shifting her weight from foot to foot.   It seemed like she was in pain or distress.  Her head also tilted slightly to the right.  She started behaving this way at night – refusing to settle down and sleep and seeming very agitated.  Running to the door even though she didn’t need to go out.  Needless to say, we didn’t sleep either.  I now hallucinate obsessive panting even if the dog is outside and I’m inside!  She would get so tired, she would start to fall asleep standing up, but would not lay down or settle.  Even if we forced her to lay down, as soon as we took our hands off her she would spring up like a jack-in-the-box.

Until the move, Chica had been managing well despite all her ongoing health concerns (thyroid problem, chronic pancreatitis, Cushing’s Disease, bilateral Horner’s Syndrome, arthritis in her back left leg and a partially torn ACL (for which she’s been having rehab and acupuncture – no surgery at her age).  We didn’t know what to do other than to take her to the experts at Canada West on Dec. 21st.  She saw an internal medicine specialist (who confirmed she had a pancreatic episode prior to Christmas, and which we dealt with by giving her boiled chicken breast and rice and then ID gastro-restore food).  Maybe that had been the problem.  But no, the pancreatitis cleared up and the horrible anxiety didn’t, and now it started happening during the day time as well, in fact it was happening anytime she wasn’t in the car or on a walk.  So then Chica went back to her neurologist (yes she has a neurologist and she’s even had an MRI – and she didn’t have to be on a waitlist or anything).  The neurologist found no symptoms of cognitive dysfunction due to any change in her tumor (from the Cushing’s Disease), and he found no signs of dementia (due to her old age).  In fact, her recent ultrasound and bloodtests show Chica to be in remarkably good health for a senior dog.  We were at our wits’ end…you can’t euthanize a healthy dog!  Meanwhile we’re the ones that felt like we needed to be put to sleep.  WHAT IS WRONG WITH HER?!  The only answer remaining seems to be that she has had a profoundly negative response to the move itself and now her brain is stuck in a “distress loop.”

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve tried Xanax (worked briefly), Tramadol (picked up on Christmas Day – it works sporadically in combination with Gravol), Percocet (makes her twitch and drool), Gabapentin (works in conjunction with Percocet and Gravol, but leaves her so dopey she falls down – and she has thus re-injured her left hind leg, setting her back after weeks of rehab and acupuncture).

Not fans of having her drugged half the time and agitated the rest of the time (what kind of quality of life is that?), yet not ready to euthanize her (in case something works), we’ve stopped all the drugs except for her usual medications – synthroid, Trilostane – and the Gravol (which gives us about four hours of peace).

We’ve spoken to dog behavioural specialists and asked our vet for a prescription of Prozac as a last resort, but prior to using it we have purchased a pheromone collar, a Thundershirt, and a pop-up kennel – all intended to give her a sense of security or to make her calm down.  She’s been wearing the collar and the Thundershirt (we put it on her when she was outside and not anxious), and we’ve fed her and put treats in the pop-up kennel which has her stinky dog blanket from the car in it.

And right now she is incessantly scruffing up her bed and panting.  Nobody seems to have any further advice.  There is no more help at hand.  After much grief and about $2,000 spent (just since Dec. 21st), we’re out of ideas and money.  The glass of wine I’m currently drinking is from our last bottle and Chica’s Percocet is looking mighty tempting…