Is He Sick or Nervous?

We’ve been working so hard to figure out what’s wrong with Speck.   At one point, we thought he got upset when there was turmoil in the house.  I’m still not sure about that.  There’s almost always enough turmoil in this house that we can blame that on any problems that arise.

He’s so observant and watches every move I make and he knows when I’m getting dressed to go somewhere vs. getting dressed to stay home.   Yesterday I was teaching out of town and as I was getting dressed, he began to panic.  Today . . he’s having one of his worst days ever.  In fact, Vince and I both cried all the way through lunch, thinking we might have to take him to the vet today for his final trip.  But, he seems a bit better this afternoon.

Could it be that he gets so nervous that he’s getting sick?  I don’t have to leave him for a few weeks so we’ll see if he gets better.  As much as I wish that is the only problem, I really can’t stay home forever to keep Speck from getting sick . . or can I?  🙂


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    No, you can’t… but you can try desensitizing him. We have had to do this with our dog (who is not as bad off as Speck, to be sure). For the next couple of weeks, or as long as you can stand it, totally mess with Speck’s little doggie head. Get out of bed, grab your suitcases, throw stuff in them. Take it out, put it away. Zip up the suitcases, put them on the floor; put them on the bed, unzip them again. Put on dress-up clothes. Put on the perfume you always wear when you leave the house (or whatever – you get the idea). Pack your purse, put it by the door. Grab your car keys, carry them around the house, jingle them a lot. Kiss Vince goodbye. Walk out the door. Come back in. Sit down and sew. Put your shoes on, grab your keys again, go out and start the car. Come back in, get the suitcases out again and bang them around. Just mix up all the cues that to Speck might possibly mean “My mommy is leaving me again!!”

    It worked for us, but I have to redo it sometimes, and it’s so funny what cues I don’t even realize matter that Bo picks up on. In the summertime, I can’t even stick my feet in sandals without him thinking I’m going somewhere. In the winter, if I touch my coat, that’s it. And he used to hate this one big cooler we used to get out whenever we drove to town to get groceries – he saw that cooler, his tail would sink and he’d pee on the floor out of misery. :o) So we just left it out for a few days, moving it from room to room, opening the lid, banging it shut, putting stuff in it, taking it out again. Kind of a pain, but better than having a dog in absolute misery.

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    You know what, that might be it! I knew a lady that could never leave her dog alone because he would get bloody/puddingish (sorry, that’s gross) stools and he would leave it all over the house when she left. It was a terrible form of anxiety and that would so make sense! Especially how it comes and goes like that. Try him on some herbal anxiety meds to see if it helps. Give him one about a half hour before you leave and then always bring him a treat when you come in. I sure hope this works. Keep us posted! Nichole

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    It’s certainly possible that he could have anxiety severe enough to make him sick. It can happen to us humans. Ask your vet if there’s a “puppy Prozac” or something similar that might help Speck.

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    Poor Speck. And no, as tempting as it may seem some days, you can’t stay home forever just to keep a dog satisfied. The above suggestions might do the trick, though the first one does seem like a lot of trouble. Do they make anti-anxiety medication for dogs?? This is why I do better with cats—they don’t usually even open their eyes when I leave—or come back. They demand attention and affection on their schedule but are just as happy napping if I’m not around to demand anything of.

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    I hate that there’s still something wrong. Both suggestions are good ones to try ….. try anything and everything. I’m praying.

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    I’ve just bought some stuff called Felliway (a cat happy pheronome) because my cat gets stressed – recommended to me by the guy who looks after him when I go away. There might be something similar for dogs? It’s certainly helping the cat during all the upheaval involved in me packing to move house…

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    I have a cat who periodically starts pulling her fur out, throwing up and not using the litter tray – mostly when I’m away and my husband is looking after her or if there is any upheaval at home. The vet gave me a little plug in bottle of cat happy hormones – I just plug the bottle into the socket and leave it there and she calms down over a period of a few days. I couldn’t believe it, but it does work – I’m sure there must be a doggy happy hormone out there. Get well soon Speck!

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    Cindy says

    You know, he’s not skin and bones which would be a good sign of an intestinal disorder. Our dogs have all had these symptoms, but it was always hookworms and I know your vet has tested him for parasites.

    I have to give 2 of my girls doggie Xanax around the Fourth of July. But it makes them really groggy, so that’s no good. You don’t want him dopey, just mellow.

    Yup – Puppy Prozac is what you need.

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    Get him some doggy valium, the vet will know. A neighbor gave it to her dog with every thunderstorm. Anything to keep Mr. Speck happy and healthy.

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    I don’t have an answer for you Judy, but I can tell you that I’ve given up any “public” life (classes, retreats, trips, etc) until our final remaining German Shepherd passes on. She’s 10 now, but since she was about 4 years old we’ve never been able to leave her alone. She requires special food, treatment…. it’s like caring for an invalid parent/child. But for us, the commitment was made long ago and so I’ve just learned to work my life around it. But I can say with all honesty, I look forward to my freedom!

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    lw says

    I used to have an epileptic beagle; we had valium to give him after his seizures to lower his threshold so he didn’t have another one. On the 4th of July, I used to give one of his valium to our lab mix (twice the weight) to keep him calm and it worked really well.

    You can also try Turid Ragaas’s dog calming signals (visual cues to your dog that there’s nothing to worry about.) She has a website and her books and video are on amazon.

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    does he like car rides? Maybe you can take him with you when you go places? I know that would make my dogs really happy!

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    Our dog was pretty bad with that kind of thing and it got worse near the end. I hope it all works out well for you. I know some give their dogs melatonin when they expect them to be stressed, but you’d need to ask a vet about that (and the proper dosage). Those who use it swear it works well.

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    Cindy says


    Our dog has seperation anxiety and she has seizures when we have had to leave her when we can’t take her with us. Our vet gave me some seizure meds and I give her one when I know she is stressed. It calms her down, yet doesn’t knock her out. Try going to a country vet or I can give you my vets number and you can call him. I know that when we give her the meds, it makes all the difference in her behavior. It is cheap too. I think 2 months (60) pills is about 20.00. I don’t give them everyday, just when she needs them. Hope this helps, hugs to speck!

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    Ellie says

    We have 2 white german shepherds and they turn into basket cases when there are thunderstorms or fireworks. I give them both doggie xanax and also use something called dog appeasing pheramone (DAP) which is available on line. It is a scent mother dogs give off when they are lactating and it calms the dogs. Another thing that works is to put a t-shirt on and knot it around the dog’s waist so that is snug againt the chest. This seems to calm them as well. Perhaps a baby size would work for your little dog rather than my monsters! Hope you find something that helps.
    Love your blog!

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    Diann Smith says

    Speck is adorable! For sure I’d check w/ the vet on feeding him people food. You said that sometimes you do that. Maybe it’s separation anxiety. After all you are at home a lot and maybe when you leave he gets concerned. He’s such a cutie pie and I LOVE that name.

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    Judy, maybe on the times you have to leave town, have Vince take Speck for a ride so he does not see you getting ready to leave. He may not get as nervous! Poor guy!!

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    pat says

    I have a red dashound Buster and he gets depressed when my husband gets admitted to the hospital. So he calls him and talks to him when he can. He even sings to him I keep it on the anserwing machine so he can here his voice. It helps him and he loves people food too better than dog food.

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    Cynthia H., El Cerrito, CA says

    Sounds like a possible separation anxiety. Causing Irritable Bowel Disorder. Yes, veterinarians can prescribe calming medications for dogs. Read (almost) any book by Nicholas Dodman, DVM, a pioneer in the use of medications for stress disorders in dogs. He’s associated with the Tufts Veterinary Institute in New England, very reputable.

    The “thunder storm” anxiety wraps can also help, as recommended above, as can T-shirts or even Ace bandages wrapped a certain way. “The Whole Dog Journal” has several articles (order the back issues) on anxiety in dogs and has photos of the T-shirts, wraps, and Ace bandages on small and large dogs. is the place.

    “Rescue Remedy” is sometimes recommended for anxious dogs. I recently used it on my post-op dog, who was frustrated (it seemed) that he couldn’t walk. I sprayed it in a cloud around his head and brushed him, and he calmed down and dropped off to sleep. It works for people, too; in fact, it was originally developed for people. It’s a tincture of flower oils, an herbal remedy.

    Hope some of this helps. 🙂

    • 20.1

      Cindy says

      I’d like to find about a gallon of this, please. Can I spray it in the furnace duct work?

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    ASk your vet about a calming collar. My girlfriend’s dog had anxiety issues and it worked for him….by the way, her dog is also a dachshund. Vets have lots of ways to help dogs with anxiety. There are also some kind of pills that dogs take on a daily basis.

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    We have a cat who was having problems with his skin . . . like ecsema only worse. It itched and he had himself scratched into bloody sores. Our worthless vet said it was a yeast infection and gave us some medicine. We cleared up the yeast infection, but the problem persisted. Worthless vet said, “Okay, all clear.” as if clearing up the yeast infection had somehow taken care of the still obvious problem. (What was he thinking anyway?)

    We started thinking it was a nervous habit too. But we took him to a different vet and found out he had an autoimmune disorder that can be deadly if it’s not treated. We ended up putting him on steroids and it absolutely took care of the problem. Apparently steroids don’t bother cats the way they do humans. I’m so happy because we were definitely going to have to put him down. He was so miserable I couldn’t stand watching him.

    Now I know this doesn’t really help you with your problem, but I’m telling you this because I would use caution when going the route of “it’s all in his head.” Maybe get a second opinion with fresh eyes? Don’t know what blood work you’ve done, but thyroid problems can look like anxiety. In any case, I hope you figure it out. It would be terrible to have to make that final decision without knowing for sure what’s bothering him. Good luck.

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    Marla says

    Maybe a “dog whisperer” could help? I love that show and wonder if there are any in your area. I feel bad for you and the poor little guy. He is so sweet.

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    myrna sossner says

    Are you familiar with Patricia McConnell? She is a certified applied animal behaviorist and dog trainer. Her web site is She USED to have a program on public radio but it has been discontinued. I think it might be a good idea to contact her and describe Speck and his troubles. She might be able to give you some help.
    A sick dog is so distressing. No matter how much they communicate with us, there are limits.
    Good luck and please keep us in the loop.

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    MaryLou Rupp says

    Judy – I sure can say “I feel you” about this. All the suggestions above are valid. I’m not sure about an animal behaviorist. I have taken a dog to one and also to an animal telepath. Neither were very helpful unfortunately. I have a cute little doxie boy named Reuben as well as two greyhounds, and an Abyssinian. All do well but one of our greyhounds isn’t very socialized. She spent most of her first 4 years of life in a kennel so it fell to us to do that. It has been challenging but she’s coming around.

    Dogs are very smart critters so I’m not sure trying to fool them by taking them away while you get ready to leave is a good idea but that’s just my opinion. Hang in there girl.

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    Cari J. says

    Rescue Remedy is a great product for cats and dogs. Hyland’s makes a product called Calms Forte, itty bitty white pills and cheap. It works really well for dogs. I have used the Rescue Remedy for my Cardigan and my cat who has Chronic Renal Failure. I have a friend who has a Pembroke who experiences anxiety and gets car sick. The Calms Forte was recommended by her Vet. If it is anxiety, this is over the counter and worth a try.

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    Cindy from CA says

    I also suggest that you try Melatonin. I use it for my Minature Schnazer around Fourth of July. I also used it once when I had to take my dog on a plane trip. He was quite the “mellow traveler”. I got my large bottle of melatonin at Costco. Here are some links that might help you.

    I also think that the behavioral suggestions in the first comment would be worth trying!

    Good Luck!

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    CindyC says

    I was wondering about Speck earlier today. I glad to see a post. I used to have a dauschound and plan to get another when current dog is no more. That is one of my favorite breeds. I had a dog that would always get deathly sick when we left town, especially if we didn’t take her. We just learned how to deal with it. Speck may sense things and unfortunately get sick from worry and such. Hope that is all it is and nothing more serious.

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    This is my wise-a** remark……if Speck is like every other male in your house, he is worried where his next meal is coming from.

    Our dogs temperant are so different when someone in the house is gone. Wondemutt doesn’t eat when my DH is gone….Little girl is wild and doesn’t sleep when someone is gone.