Causes include Medication Side Effects or Aging Brain Disease

Question:
I have a wonderful 12 year old German shepherd mix. She has arthritis in her back legs. She is now on prednisone and tramadol 3 morning, 3 night. She follows us around and won’t leave our side. She tries to sleep on the bed or she is constantly crying. We can’t even use the restroom without her. When we let her outside she barks. We have to watch her and have the light on or she won’t do her business and starts crying! We love our Miss Noel but she was not this bad before the meds.

Dr. Nichol:
Miss Noel’s clingy behavior is a clear sign of anxiety.  She is not alone among the canine elderly; arthritic pain and behavior changes are common. There are lots of treatments for aching joints but we try to avoid corticosteroids like prednisone. Without careful management ligament damage can follow their use, along with excessive drinking and urinating. “Pred” is best reserved for immune-mediated disorders.

Your girl’s behavior changes also need serious attention. They may be side effects of the high tramadol dose and possibly the prednisone as well. A nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like Rimadyl may be more effective without affecting her emotions.  Other options include acupuncture, supplements, and stem cells. If additional pain control becomes necessary later a lower dose of tramadol can be added.

There can be a different reason for a canine senior to have separation issues. Cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) affects 28% of dogs Miss Noel’s age. Like Alzheimer’s of humans CDS is incurable but there are treatments that make a significant difference for a lot of confused older dogs. It’s the subject of my current research as well as a recently published scientific article I coauthored.

Owners of older dogs are invited to contact me through my website, drjeffnichol.com. Click Submit Question and leave your email address. I’ll reply personally. It isn’t easy getting old. We’ll help any way we can.