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Pet mourns loss of pal for too long needs help
Dear Dr. Spiegel: My Bassadore Hound is depressed. Basil is an 8 and 1/2 year old Basset/Lab mix. Four months ago his mate, Josephine the Beagle, suffered kidney failure and died at the age of 9. Naturally, the whole family felt the pain of her passing, but Basil is not recovering from the loss. If anything, he's getting worse. Basil & Josephine were indeed quite a team. They spent nearly their entire lives together and had very compatible personalities. Now, however, Basil has little or no personality left. He used to enjoy sitting outside and watching the comings and goings on the street. Now he never wants to go outside. Basil used to rely on getting a piece of raw hide to chew on every night at bedtime. Now he just sleeps around the clock and never asks for a treat. He used to love to ride in the car or walk in the park. These days, I'm sorry when I force him to go. Nothing motivates him. Basil is not totally alone in the world either. My grandmother lives next door and has a Lab mix who has always served as a good friend to my dogs. We also have two cats and I work at home so Basil is rarely left in the house by himself. Yet, his depression is severe and lingering and I worry that he may die prematurely of a broken heart. He needs help fast! I don't believe that getting a new puppy would be the answer because I think Basil is too old and set in his ways to tolerate a newcomer. What can I do for him? Sincerely, K.C., Wilmington
Dear K.C., Grieving in pets is normal; however, a 4-month duration with increasing severity represents a legitimate cause for your concern. Your attempts to promote his interests in favored activities were a good first move; but given his lack of response, it may be time to institute some medical (anti-depressant) intervention. His malaise (complete lack of participation in normal routines) is a cycle that you want to break. Sometimes, slow, pressure-free interactions (e.g., spending time just lying on the floor beside him doing nothing) can provide a subtle way for him to reconnect with family members and increasing levels of activity can be introduced more gradually with greater likelihood of him joining in. For more timely response to problem situations, please contact me per phone.
Dear Dr. Spiegel: We have a 13-year old Border Collie. Up until a couple of months ago, he slept in the bedroom with us the whole night through without disturbing us. Now he wakes us up crying routinely around 1 a.m. and sometimes at 4 a.m. The only thing that pacifies him is to take him out. The only thing he does then is a short piddle and turns around and comes right back into the house. Now this is a dog that we can leave nine and ten hours at a time without any kind of accident in the house. We don't do this too often, but it can be done. The vet recommended buffered aspirin. No effect. He does have a little arthritis, but not enough to justify these crying jags which he also has in the daytime. Right now, he is lying in the living room seemingly perfectly content. He also goes long periods in the daytime without asking to go out. He still enjoys walks. Also, he enjoys going in the water. Once in a while he will go the whole night through without disturbing us. Any ideas? Thank you. O.M., Newark
Dear O.M., Increased frequency/volume of urination can be indicative of a number of physiologic/medical problems in older pets. So you should first start by having your vet conduct a geriatric workup. Since the problem coincides with the heat of summer, it is fairly likely that your dog has been spending more of his daytime hours sleeping, leaving him more alert/awake during the cooler, more comfortable nighttime hours. Try taking up his water earlier in the evening (e.g., 8 p.m.), giving him increased exercise/interaction time in the late evening/pre-bedtime hours, providing one of his aspirin doses (for a border collie, you can give two adult strength buffered aspirin) approximately 1/2 hour prior to bedtime [aspirin can be harmful to some dogs with certain conditions... always consult your vet prior to giving any medication], and getting him out just before bed. Brief/frequent exercise periods are beneficial for arthritis sufferers; and extended exercise sessions should be avoided. When you do take him out in the middle of the night, avoid any potentially rewarding positive interactions. In other words, no petting, no talking, etc.