Dog Care Tips For You

What You Need To Know About Canine PTSD Before Your Board Your Dog

Research has found that dogs can have PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). Dogs with this condition tend to be fearful and have anxiety in certain situations, such as being in unfamiliar surroundings. This can present a problem for you if you need to put your dog in a kennel or boarding facility, especially if your dog’s PTSD is due to an attack from another dog or trauma your dog experienced in a shelter. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to protect your dog from experiencing flashbacks and PTSD symptoms when you have to leave it at local dog kennels.

The most important thing you can do is to understand your dog’s PTSD and how to treat it appropriately. Here’s what you need to know. 

Canine PTSD

Canine PTSD isn’t very different from PTSD experienced by humans. Research has found that the amygdala, a small portion in the brain, is responsible for emotions and memory. The cells of this part of the brain have 5HT2C receptors that bind and respond to serotonin.

Many people consider serotonin to be a substance that aids in good feelings and emotions. However, since the amygdala is responsible for memory, increased levels of serotonin cause short-term memory to be consolidated into long-term memory. 

The amygdala’s heightened sensitivity to serotonin and the way memory consolidation occurs can cause what is known as flashbacks, which makes memories of the entire traumatic event feel as if they just happened recently. However, research shows that this only occurs when the person or animal is under stress, such as with PTSD. 

When something triggers memories of traumatic events, the memories feel more intense due to this phenomenon. For example, if your dog was attacked by another dog, it may have flashbacks of the attack when confronted with a similar dog in a kennel. 

Treatment options

Now that you have an understanding of how serotonin levels can cause flashbacks, it’s important to avoid giving your dog medication, food, and supplements that increases his or her serotonin levels. Some over-the-counter and prescription medication that treat aggression do so by increasing serotonin. Speak with your veterinarian about what to avoid giving your dog to keep his or her serotonin levels minimal.

Fortunately, there are treatment options available. 

  • Medication. It may be in your best interest to start your dog on psychotropic medication, such as serotonin blockers and/or antidepressants that work by inhibiting how the amygdala uses serotonin, especially leading up to and including the time he or she will be boarded at a kennel. Psychotropic drugs work by altering the levels of chemicals in the brain that are responsible for mood and behavior, such as serotonin. Since this may take some time for your dog to adjust to the medication, it’s a good idea to start your dog on a medication regimen before you place it in a kennel. Your veterinarian will give you the appropriate time frame for the drug he or she will prescribe. It’s also important that the kennel staff continue the doses to keep your pet mentally stable. 
  • Behavior modification. Research shows that rough-and-tumble play, as part of behavior modification therapy, can replace bad memories with good memories.By playing roughly with your dog in a controlled environment, it can show him or her that not every situation will result in a bad outcome. Over time, the memories of good outcomes will hopefully replace the bad memories of the traumatic event(s) that caused your dog to have PTSD. 

Before you leave your dog in a kennel, it’s important to let the staff know that your dog has PTSD and what types of treatments are necessary to keep your dog from experiencing flashbacks while in their facility. 

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If Your Pup Starts Going Downhill, A Portosystemic Shunt May Be The Culprit

Your 5-month-old golden retriever, who came home with you as a happy, healthy puppy, doesn’t seem to be growing as fast as he should. In addition, he has no get-up-and-go, and he doesn’t wolf down his puppy chow like he used to. He’s just not the same dog. A phone call to your vet yielded a word you’ve never heard before, but it sounded scary: portosystemic shunt. Here is some basic information about this condition so you know what questions to ask the doctor when you bring your pup in for a diagnosis.

What Is a Portosystemic Shunt?

According to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, a portosystemic shunt (PSS) is an abnormal connection between the portal vein and systemic circulation. In a normal puppy, blood from the abdominal organs enters the portal vein which transports it to the liver for detoxification. In a dog with PSS, the blood is shunted to the systemic circulation without first going to the liver. The shunt allows substances such as ammonia to build up in the bloodstream, which can be toxic to vital organs. It also deprives the liver of the nutrients it needs to grow normally, resulting in liver atrophy.

There are 2 main types of PSS: congenital and acquired. Within those 2 categories are the subcategories: extrahepatic (outside the liver) and intrahepatic (inside the liver). Extrahepatic congenital PSS occurs mostly in small breeds, such as yorkies, cairn terriers and maltese. Intrahepatic congenital PSS is found mainly in large breeds such as labs, golden retrievers, and Old English Sheepdogs

Congenital PSS means it was present at birth and is by far the most common type. It is usually diagnosed before a dog is 6 months old, which is about the time the stunted liver can no longer provide the filtration needed to keep up with the dog’s growth.

Acquired PSS occurs later in the dog’s life. It is usually associated with liver disease or hepatic hypertension and often causes numerous tiny shunts around the liver.

What Are the Symptoms?

A puppy with PSS will almost always show signs before 1 year of age, but in milder cases, symptoms may not show up for years. Common symptoms include stunted growth, lethargy, loss of appetite, poor muscle development, distended belly, disorientation, staring into space, head pressing, and seizures.

How Is PSS Diagnosed?

A complete history of the onset of symptoms and behavior changes is a key tool for diagnosing PSS. Your vet will also likely do a CBC and blood chemistry panel to check liver enzyme levels. A bile acid test checks for bile acid, which is usually elevated in dogs with PSS. Other diagnostic measures include ultrasound, MRI, CT scan or nuclear scintigraphy — a nuclear scan that measures blood flow through the liver. One of the most effective tools is portography, which uses contrast dye to outline the liver shunt.

How Is PSS Treated?

The most effective treatment is surgery to close the shunt. However, your pup must be stabilized before surgery is performed. This requires feeding them a low protein diet, such as a liver prescription diet, and administration of lactulose, which prevents ammonia from entering the blood stream. Antibiotics also decrease the production of ammonia. Anti-convulsive medications may be needed to control seizures.

After the dog is stabilized, your vet or specialist will perform a procedure to close the shunt. Usually this is done by using a device called an ameroid constrictor rather than actual cutting and sewing. The constrictor is placed around the shunt and over a period of 3 to 4 weeks, slowly closes the shunt. Depending on how large and how numerous the shunts are, the prognosis is excellent for a long and healthy life.

For more information, contact your local vet clinic

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