Thursday, December 8, 2011

One Year on Meds: Recheck with the Veterinary Behaviorist

So Maisy's been on meds for a bit over a year now. The difference between the way she was then and the way she is now is nothing short of miraculous to me. Of course, it's not a miracle at all, it's simply the fact that the biochemistry in her brain is not correct, and the addition of paroxetine makes it so. Whatever. The point is, medication has made such a huge impact on our lives that I am absolutely awestruck when I think about it- like when we have an appointment with our veterinary behaviorist, Dr. Duxbury.

Our appointment this time around was actually pretty short and sweet. We didn't discuss behavior logs (although I took them, and I'll share them here today), and we only watched one video. We talked about what daily life is like now- uneventful, really, but that's a good thing in this case. We also talked about some of the challenges we still face- children, mostly, as well as our disastrous (if you're a chicken, anyway) Thanksgiving. But really we just admired how well Maisy is doing.

Here's a link to the behavior logs/charts from a year ago. At baseline, before medication, she was averaging 3.58 incidents (defined as overreacting to unnoticeable or mild stimuli when at home) per day. About a third of these happened during the night, and frequently woke me up. It was not uncommon for these incidents to include prolonged scanning of the environment/general vigilance, up to and including leaving the room to investigate. After six weeks on medication, this was down to 1.33 incidents per day.

Although this was a great improvement, we decided to increase Maisy's medication slightly. I took another set of behavior logs (link here), and after eight weeks at the new dose, we were down to 1 incident a day, on average.

Things have improved since then, and honestly, it's not even worth making a chart. I kept logs for seven days. Over the course of six of these days, I saw a grand total of three incidents, which makes for an average of 0.5 incidents per day. It involved stuff like “Maisy was lying in my lap while we were watching Star Trek. She heard a car go by with loud bass. She lifted her head and growled.” No vigilance, low intensity, and just all around typical dog behavior.

That seventh day, though? Was awful. She had four incidents that day, mostly because my husband was wrong about everything and forced me to yell at him. Okay, not really, but for some reason we were just really crabby with each other that day, and I was amazed by the impact it had on Maisy. Including the seventh day, her logs shoot up to an average of 1 incident a day. Marital bliss is good for more than just the people involved, I guess.

I also took logs after we got home from Thanksgiving. Every year, we spend five days at my parents' house in South Dakota. It's a significant disruption to her routine, there are tons of cats and dogs and horses and chickens, and it's just hard on her. I also took logs last year after we got home, which means I can compare how she recovered both times:

Her stress recovery period actually took longer than I expected, although it's still an improvement over last year.

The coolest thing about all this doesn't come from the numbers, but rather from her general behavior. The video below was taken back in October. I had left work early to do some much needed yard work. It was a very windy day (that white thing you'll see bouncing around is a styrofoam cooler lid), and across the street you can just barely make out approximately 50 elementary school-aged children playing during recess. And through it all, she did this:

Maisy's behavior was not in any way cued or encouraged by me. She chose to lie down. As Dr. Duxbury noted, Maisy's acting like a normal dog. Who knew she had it in her?

Miraculous or not, both Dr. Duxbury and I are quite pleased with Maisy's progress. In fact, the sum total of Dr. Duxbury's advice to me was to continue to be alert to both the environment and Maisy's body language, and to remove her from situations where she might be triggered, but before she reacts. I think I can do that.


Robin Sallie said...

Your dog is broken.

Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

Yay! We love Maisy! And I remain jealous :)

Crystal Thompson said...

Robin- yes. She is.

Laura- how are things going with Vito now?

Sara said...

Brian said you can go to Shedd. Thus he is ALWAYS right about everything and you must have been wrong that day. The end.

Oh, PS Maisy is broken.

Ninso said...

That was a really boring video ;)

Yay for you and Maisy! Jealous here also!

Anonymous said...

Seeing the difference in Maisy is pretty incredible for me, too. She's really not the same dog that I first met. It makes me very, very happy to see how "normal" she is now.


Crystal Thompson said...

Yeah, I guess the video should have come with a "caution: may put you to sleep" warning.

Jennifer Jo said...

Good for you guys! I can only imagine how great it all feels. I can't wait until the new year when we will finally have a chance to start down this road. Situational management, LAT, counter-conditioning, and all of the rest of it can only go so far when there's amiss chemically. ...Congrats again!

Crystal Thompson said...

So true, Jennifer Jo. Maisy did make a lot of progress (some/most of it chronicled in this blog) with management and behavior mod... but we made so much more progress with medication.

Joanna said...

Yay! I'm happy for you!