Monday, October 26, 2009

The Wonder Drug?

I was going to wait until Tuesday to post this, but since we've got a lot of agility news potentially in store for the training update, it seemed like there was no time better than now to share my musings on this subject.

It's no secret that I struggle mightily with the decision to add medication, supplements, nutraceuticals, and other calming substances to Marge's fear-fighting arsenal.  I thought it was the scariest thing ever when I even added something as benign as melatonin.  I tend to worry about the side effects, or whether they're really necessary, or if I'm simply not diligent enough with behavior modification (I try, though).  

I was all set to try Marge on a full-blown psychoactive medication (probably amytriptyline or clomipramine) when the blood tests came back negative for thyroid problems.  But, I lost my mind researching, my vet wasn't totally sold on the fact that she needed them, and neither was I.  

Long story short, I'm not quite ready to turn to medication.  It's not because I don't think they work - I know many people who have had great success with them.  I feel like my hesitance to go to the real stuff lies partially in the fact that she's not scared a great majority of the time, and also the fact that I'm not here all of the time to monitor her (call it stupid, but I guess I just feel a heightened sense of responsibility if my dog is taking psychoactive medication.  It's a shortcoming on my part, I suppose).  It is just a big step to take.

Last time we spoke, the doc basically gave me license to start exploring the vast world of nutraceuticals.  St John's Wort, Valerian Root, and tryptophan (5-HTP, which I almost wound up trying) were some of the things that he mentioned.  Granted, he does not know a whole lot about these kinds of things, but the fact that he has listened to my suggestions and researched things for me in the past (melatonin) is what keeps me with him, at least for now.

L-Theanine is an amino acid found in many animal calming products, such as the famous (and expensive) Composure Liquid.  It is used in humans as well as an anti-stress, anti-anxiety supplement.  It is marketed specifically for pets in chewable tablets under the name Anxitane.  However, as with melatonin, because the dosage was exactly the same and there were no outside active ingredients, I opted for the much cheaper human tablet version.  

Marge has now been on 25 mg twice a day (about half the suggested dosage for her size) for about a week.  Since these things are, admittedly, significantly less studied than true medications are, I wanted to play it safe with a smaller dose.  

Though it's been only about a week, I do think I am seeing some changes.  

For one, Marge doesn't seem to be taking notice of things as quickly.  Or, I'm simply mistaking her aloofness for general disinterest. 

Tonight, for instance, Louie and I walked her up the main street near my house.  Though not many people were out, two girls did walk by, talking rather loudly, and, at the closest point, were about two or three feet away from Marge.  The whole while, Marge was standing at a telephone pole sniffing to her heart's content.  It took her considerably longer than usual to pick her head up and look at the girl, and, after staring for a couple of seconds, put her head back down and continued sniffing.

I don't think this was sniffing as a calming signal.  Nothing about her body suggested she was paying any attention to these two girls, even though they continued to approach her.

I've also seen a recent resurgence in her very important ability to make eye contact with me when passing people or interesting things.  I'm not sure if this started simultaneously with the beginning of the L-Theanine administration, but it's still something to think about.  

Otherwise, she has not reacted terribly on walks in quite a while.  She HAS had a couple of hackles-raised, tense moments, but she's been easy to keep under control and reassure that everything is okay.  She had one flighty moment today when she heard someone in the field blow a whistle a little too close to her for comfort, but, after initially assuming her I'm-high-tailing-it-home attitude, she settled down enough so that she walked by relatively calmly and was able to take treats.

It's still too early to tell, but I'm holding out hope that this little pill just might be the extra oomph she needs to get her by.


Dexter October 26, 2009 at 6:37 AM  

Oh dear. It is so hard for the people to know what we are really thinking. Your mom is like some scientist working on just the right potion to make you feel better. You are one lucky little gal.


Frankie Furter and Ernie October 26, 2009 at 9:06 AM  

I agree with what Mango said. One hates to medicate, yet life is so short that it seems a shame not to try finding something to make the most of every day.

Cyndi and Stumpy October 26, 2009 at 9:50 AM  

You're doing great, Sam. Taking things slow and always studying results and questioning yourself will bring the results, given time.

Do you follow Dog Geek or Tula Monstah? They are both working with reactive dogs that have come a long ways.

Fearfuldog blog has some great resources and tips.

KB October 26, 2009 at 10:09 AM  

It does sound like Marge is doing really well and it's correlated with giving the new supplement. It's always so hard to separate all the variables, that I find it tough to know what's causing what in my dogs. But, one technique that I've tried in the past is stopping the new supplement after a while to see if a reversion to old problems occurs. You might think about that after some reasonable period of time.

In any case, I'm thrilled to hear that Marge is doing better!

Life With Dogs October 26, 2009 at 12:30 PM  

I hope it proves to be the answer. You have agonized over all of these decisions, and I can't imagine how freeing it will be if things start to click. Marge should be incredibly grateful - not nearly enough folks devote so much thought and consideration to the well being of their pets...

Ruby and Penny October 26, 2009 at 1:10 PM  

We're so happy Marge seems to be doing so well. You rock mom.
Love Ruby & Penny

Martha October 26, 2009 at 3:38 PM  

We are always impressed by the amount of thought - backed up by research - you put into ever decision that affects Marge.
She is lucky to be so loved.

Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart October 26, 2009 at 8:29 PM  

That sounds promising. I'd keep up this supplement for at least 2-3 months before deciding one way or another.

The Army of Four October 26, 2009 at 9:02 PM  

Can I ditto what Martha and Bailey - the Basset Babes - said? 'Cuz this is sort of over my head. Which... since my head is higher than theirs, you'd think I'd get it, but I don't.
We love you guys!
Play bows,

NAK and The Residents of The Khottage Now With KhattleDog! October 26, 2009 at 9:26 PM  

Tank woo again fur sharing your hooman with us!

She's special!

PeeEssWoo: Woo might want to chekhk out
There may be some links with some additional info fur woo -

StellaStar October 26, 2009 at 10:06 PM  

Yay for improvement. I'm awful leery of meds, too, but you're right. Sometimes they're just necessary. I'm so glad for Marge's progress!

Lorenza October 26, 2009 at 10:35 PM  

I hope that pill works for Marge!
You are amazing doing all you can for her!
Kisses and hugs

Cinnamon and Mint October 27, 2009 at 6:22 AM  

It seems that Marge is now much less reactive than Cinnamon. Cinnamon still reacts to other dogs she happens to meet on the street and children riding a scooter or bicycle and often frightens them. I've been trying to draw her attention on me before she notices the dogs or children coming, but it hasn't been successful. Strangely, though, at agility or dancing classes she doesn't react to other dogs. Phew ... there seems to be a long way to go before the problem is solved.

By the way, we have given you an award. Drop by our blog to pick it up!

Scout and Freyja October 27, 2009 at 11:22 AM  

Yesh, going herbal, if you can is the bestest thing to do! You is a furry goods momma☺

Kathy Mocharnuk October 27, 2009 at 3:19 PM  

wow, I was giving Breeze some of the compose liquid...after we had a car accident where she was stuck in a crate and there were all those loud noises she was afraid of any metal clinky noises and so her holistic vet suggested using was nice, it did not seem to make her sleepy or doopey and seemed to take the edge off, but I did not research it that much so I did not realize that was what was in it.
I think you are VERY WISE, taking time to really investigate and learn about these things and only want to do them when you can really monitor, I understand and like you I would not want to take a chance you could make things worse if you gave something you did not know enough about. I have said it before and I will say it again Marge is lucky to have such a good mom, and you are going to be so knowledgable because of Marge....neat you guys have each other

Gus, Louie and Callie October 27, 2009 at 5:10 PM  

It sounds like that little pill does appear to be working.. Keep up the good work...

Big Sloppy Kisses
Gus, Louie and Callie

Sue October 28, 2009 at 12:53 PM  

We're keeping our fingers and paws crossed that this is the magic you need.

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