We have been gradually reducing the dosage of anxiety meds that Ray has been taking, and are now at the point where we must once again make the decision about whether to reduce him further … or not. This has been a very strategic and controlled exercise because he has been on anxiety meds from when he was in the shelter, and that was well over five years ago now.
It is apparently quite common for German Shepherds to be medicated in a shelter because they do not adapt to confined spaces very well. Their response in such confinement is often to totally lose their self-control which can result in serious self-inflicted injuries. Ray’s history was unknown, but he did display a fear of people and other dogs, so being forced to live in a very limited area; having no privacy; in a room where other dogs are also caged, and with people constantly walking past him (and probably stopping to look at him), he had to be medicated.
Up until now, Ray’s medication reduction program has been very successful and he is now very close to the end of his 6 weeks at 1 x 20mg/day. We do however have concerns.
While we have noticed many positive signs which we attribute to the lack of chemical interference in his thinking, we are now noticing other less exciting traits.
He is a little more active and vocal in separation situations – This has been expected as separation anxiety has been an ongoing issue however, the severity of his reactions are surprising. We have to factor in that Carol’s routines have been rather chaotic these past few weeks which could well be the catalyst.
He is more alert and reactive to infringements on his territory – He has always given us lots of warnings when somebody approaches our front door, but his sensitivity appears to have expanded to our driveway (which we share with a neighbor). Given that we have foxes living in our area who have been seen using our driveway to access various gardens near us, it may not be the meds reduction at all.
He seems to be expecting more food – This could simply be a greater sensitivity to feelings of hunger however, he has never been (and still is not) a high energy dog. His weight has been stable in the 74-76lbs range and to increase his food without increasing his activity will produce predictable and undesirable results.
He seems reluctant to stray too far from home on his walks – His favorite stores are in our downtown area, which is a 15 – 20 minute walk (at Ray’s sniffing speed). He can be coaxed occasionally, but his reluctance to go there was a surprise given his history with us.
It would be so easy to attribute these changes to his med reduction, and it would be equally easy to explain them in other ways. Our priority must be Ray, and so to explain them in ways that are convenient to us would be irresponsible. I think that our decision must be to hold him at the current dosage for another few weeks and monitor him carefully.
“What do you think Ray?”