Thursday, March 3, 2011

Medication Update: 5 months


It’s been five months since Maisy first started taking paroxetine (Paxil), and three months since we increased the dose. So how is she doing? Absolutely fabulous. I took behavior logs for two days this week… if you can call it that. I didn’t actually write anything down! She might have vocalized a slight wuff at one point, but I wasn’t sure- it was so quiet that I couldn’t tell if she was sighing or wuffing. This isn’t to say that she doesn’t have any outbursts at all anymore- she does- but they are far less frequent, and they don’t have the same anxious, overly-vigilant quality any more.

In addition to relaxing at home, she’s relaxing while out and about. You’ll remember, of course, that she was able to relax in class recently, and we’ve started working on going back to trials, too. There’s more work to be done there, but I’m feeling pretty confident about it since the behavior modification work I’ve done around dudes seems to be paying off.

I’m also happy to report that she’s finally earned working privileges in her Tuesday night reactive dog class. We started working on being calm in her crate during class awhile back, and the deal was that she would spend classes in her crate until she could go the full hour in a covered without vocalizing or snarking at the other dogs. For a long time, she had only one little outburst per class, usually towards the end. Honestly, I was beginning to wonder if she’d ever make it out of that crate! But this week she spent the whole class in her crate calmly. In fact, as we first arrived, she was really excited to say hi to the Scary Doberman (Maisy hates large, dark-colored dogs with prick ears). This is huge progress for her.

Overall, I'm really glad that I chose to put Maisy on medication. I get the occasional email from readers asking about our experiences. Am I glad I did it? Do I regret it at all? And perhaps the most common concern: did her personality change? This last question makes so much sense to me- after all, I loved Maisy just as she was before I put her on medication. I didn’t want her drugged, I just wanted her normal.

If the medication has changed her personality, it’s only because it has allowed her personality to shine through even stronger. She is so much more relaxed, confident and outgoing. I really feel like the anxiety was altering her personality by preventing its full expression. Indeed, the medication is allowing her to grow into her true self. She’s the same dog, but better, and I am so grateful for it. My only regret is that I didn't do it sooner.

13 comments:

andrea said...

so cool :) so pleased for you that things continue to roll along ... huge props to both of you

Sare said...

Congrats on the progress Crystal and Maisy! From what I've read since I found your blog you have made quite a few big strides lately, no small feat and you've had the patience to stick with it even when it didn't look like things were going to change:)). As for meds, my dog is on meds for thunderstorm phobia and a bit of SA. The SA has been getting a lot better these last few months. The thunderstoms I still dread. But her meds have helped her with those too, I'd still like to see greater change there, but I'll take the baby steps we are making. I didn't want to just drug her to sleep rather give her something that would allow her to be able to learn to cope during the storm. Her personality didn't change. Some people I know scoff at giving a pet meds for things like this, but think nothing of an antibiotic for an infection. If there is a tool out there that will allow me to help my dog relax so she can learn better, then I will use it. Good work and love your blog.

Crystal said...

Thanks, Sare!

I think part of the reason Maisy has done so well lately is twofold: first, the meds have kicked in are working, and second, the behavior modification has had time to work. We did behmod before the meds, but the lessons seem to "stick" better now.

I absolutely agree that giving meds for a medical condition is completely legitimate, whether that condition is an infection or an anxiety disorder. Either way, the dog is sick and needs care.

thelearningvet said...

Love this post, especially the last sentence. And not because I'm a medication-happy veterinarian who just wants to drug my patients. I took an intensive applied behavioral medicine course a few years ago and learned just how anti-anxiety meds are able to help pets with anxiety. Anxiety blocks an animal's ability to create new memories and learn. After that course, I realized that my biggest mistake in treating behavior patients was NOT putting them on medication sooner. I strongly believe medication has its place, and while an appropriate diagnosis and behavior modification plan are equally important, one shouldn't avoid medication simply due to misguided perceptions.

Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

That is fantastic!!!!

Michael Nichols said...

So glad things have been going better for you and Maisy. Modern medicine is remarkable, but it is your hard work that is really impressive.

Crystal said...

Thank you, Michael- I don't always feel like I've worked that hard, but I suppose that's because time with Maisy is such a joy. I also don't think she's that well trained, but she has titles and awards that prove otherwise.

Thelearningvet- If I were to do it again, I think I'd do behavior mod work for six months, then get a consult for meds. Do you have recommendation on how long people should try other alternatives before considering medications? Or does it depend on the dog/situation?

I agree, Laura!! How's Vito doing now?

Anonymous said...

It was pretty amazing to see her try to greet Shanoa (my big Scary Doberman)! I think the work you've done with Maisy has been amazing and it's been an inspiration to me. It's nice to see what amazing progress Maisy has made. Also, she's possibly the cutest dog ever :)

Nicky

Crystal said...

Nicky, I agree- Maisy is terribly cute, and it's fun to see other dogs make progress. I'm so darn impressed with Shanoa's SLEEPING in class.

thelearningvet said...

It totally depends on the situation, but more often than not, when I have a case of a dog with generalized anxiety, I start behavior mod and meds at the same time. Since it usually takes 4-6 weeks of being on medication (sometimes longer) before it reaches an effective level in the blood stream, and most of my patients needed help months ago (another reminder--don't wait until problems are unbearable before seeking help!), I like to get them started on both as soon as possible. But I do have some patients and committed clients who can avoid medication or only do it for a short period of time.

Crystal said...

That makes sense, thelearningvet. I wish I had known earlier that Maisy had an anxiety disorder. At first, I simply thought she was excitable and hyper. Later I realized she had some fear issues. I thought those things were trainable (and perhaps they are, if there isn't underlying anxiety).

It was largely an accident that I came across an article on generalized anxiety disorder by Karen Overall, but I made the appointment almost immediately after reading that.

I know that vets have so much to learn medically that they don't have time to learn as much about behavior, but I really wish someone had caught it sooner. I had tried to explain what was going on with Maisy, but I didn't know the words to use, and none of the vets we saw knew which questions to ask. It is clear to me in retrospect that Maisy has suffered from anxiety since puppyhood. It saddens me that it took four years to identify the problem.

Eliz said...

I agree don't discount all your work you and Maisy are a great team.

Fiona Lovett said...

The part about personality really struck a cord with me. Since medicating my Labrador, Willow, she's become far bolder and more playful; more cuddly, too. We're still struggling with spells of anxiety, but aside from that, her personality is shining through more than it ever did before.
I, too, was reluctant to medicate, but I'm so happy with the results so far.