Q: My 8½-year-old Great Dane has started to chatter her teeth. Also, she’s developed a strange quivering behavior and has started chewing the nails on her back feet. Over time, this behavior has intensified. Blood tests and X-rays showed nothing abnormal. Our veterinarians believe the problem is neurological. We give the dog pain medication for where she’s chewing her nails. I don’t think I can afford a referral to the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, which was suggested. Do you have any insights? – C.V., Cyberspace
A: Chicago-based veterinary neurologist Dr. Michael Podell suggested that your dog’s problems may, indeed, point to a neurological issue called degenerative neuropathy.
“The congenital illness is somewhat common in some older giant-breed dogs, causing weakness, muscle wasting, weight loss and the type of chewing on paws you described,” Podell says. Unfortunately, there’s no real cure, but supportive care could potentially enhance your dog’s quality of life. Ask your veterinarian about vitamin B-12 injections, and supplementation with human vitamin B complex, vitamin E and Coenzyme tabs.
It’s important that you not jump to this diagnosis on your own; certainly other illnesses may be responsible for these symptoms, so please see your veterinarian again with the possibilities described here in mind.
Q: We adopted a 1½-year-old Labrador from a local shelter. He’s a high-strung dog and very active. We’re concerned because he poops four to five times most days. His stool is formed, but sometimes like pudding. We’ve tried two different diets but no change. For about 10 days, we added pumpkin and Metamucil to the diet, but still no change. This dog is very anxious, and moves from room to room with me. Can dogs develop IBS (inflammatory bowel syndrome)? – C.V., Cyberspace
A: “Dogs do certainly get inflamed bowels and colitis,” says Dr. Jeff Werber, of Los Angeles. Just as anxiety can cause bowel issues in people, the same is true for nervous dogs. With your veterinarian, first determine if your dog is truly anxious. (Many dogs shadow their people from room to room.)
If your dog seems more restless than most, Werber suggests asking your veterinarian about a supplement called Anxitane (L-theanine), which can help calm edgy pets, and an Adaptil collar (which emits a copy of a soothing pheromone). There’s no downside to trying these products.
Werber says it possible your dog could be like a kid with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), and Benadryl might encourage snoozing. Simultaneously, Werber suggests asking your veterinarian about a probiotic supplement; there are several for dogs, including FortiFlora. Meanwhile, don’t give up on the pumpkin and Metamucil; it may take a bit more time to help.
While your dog is active, he may also benefit from an organized outlet for pent-up energy, such as a positive and fun dog training class, or one of the dog sports, such as nose sports (dogs learn to sniff out scents).
Werber says a dog having four to five bowel movements daily, particularly if they include loose stools, is not normal.
If the advice I’ve given here doesn’t help, there may be a medical problem, so contacting an internal medicine specialist makes sense.
Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can’t answer all of them individually, he’ll answer those of general interest in his column. Send email to email@example.com. Include your name, city and state. Steve’s website is www.stevedalepetworld.com.