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Old 08.10.2012, 12:02
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Traumatic Injury to our Dog and Change in Demeanor

While we were away on vacation and our golden retriever remained behind in Switzerland, she had a hiking accident. The accident itself was quite traumatic and she is fortunate to be alive, but the end result was that she needed a hip replacement surgery. Because my in-laws are better suited for the demands of rehabilitation, she stayed with them 5-6 days a week.

Now that she's back with us, I'm really noticing that she's just not the same dog. I mean, of course not, but I'm still quite surprised at how dramatic the difference is.

Has anyone here ever had a pet that had major surgery? What were they like afterwards? In the short term? In the long term? Will she ever get some spunk back?

I feel like our dog now sleeps ALL day. It's the only thing she does now. She seems to have aged exponentially. Before people used to ask how old she was thinking she was a puppy, and were shocked to here she was already 5 (going on 6). Now people ask and they're shocked to here she's ONLY 5 (going on 6).

The accident happened in the first week of August and surgery was a week later. Her rehabilitation program, which has been followed quite precisely 98% of the time, ends this week.
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Old 08.10.2012, 13:30
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Re: Traumatic Injury to our Dog and Change in Demeanor

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While we were away on vacation and our golden retriever remained behind in Switzerland, she had a hiking accident. The accident itself was quite traumatic and she is fortunate to be alive, but the end result was that she needed a hip replacement surgery. Because my in-laws are better suited for the demands of rehabilitation, she stayed with them 5-6 days a week.

Now that she's back with us, I'm really noticing that she's just not the same dog. I mean, of course not, but I'm still quite surprised at how dramatic the difference is.

Has anyone here ever had a pet that had major surgery? What were they like afterwards? In the short term? In the long term? Will she ever get some spunk back?

I feel like our dog now sleeps ALL day. It's the only thing she does now. She seems to have aged exponentially. Before people used to ask how old she was thinking she was a puppy, and were shocked to here she was already 5 (going on 6). Now people ask and they're shocked to here she's ONLY 5 (going on 6).

The accident happened in the first week of August and surgery was a week later. Her rehabilitation program, which has been followed quite precisely 98% of the time, ends this week.
Very sorry to hear about your dog. Ours have had major surgery, not as a result of an accident, which might make a difference psychologically.

Our eldest dog had back surgery two years ago, at age 9. The recovery time was at least 6 weeks. Our middle dog had neck surgery in January. Though she is 9, it took her much longer to recover than the older dog when she had her back surgery. It was several months before she seemed more like herself. Now she is fine, they both are.

I think having suffered an accident, then surgery, and a different environment, she has probably just been through a lot. I would give it more time, wait until the rehab is over and see if you notice a difference.
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Old 08.10.2012, 13:56
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It sounds like a lot has happened all at once. Obviously the accident itself would have created stress, along with the operation and then living in a different environment away from her home for an extended period. All this rolled into one would likely cause a change in the most rounded dogs.

Give them time. My labbie was electrocuted by a fence accidently in July, she is still afraid to walk to this day. We just have to keep her focused and reduce her stress levels. She sleeps a lot too, which I believe is down to the stress.

Your dog may need some months to recover both physically and psychologically.

Paws crossed for you.
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Old 08.10.2012, 14:06
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Re: Traumatic Injury to our Dog and Change in Demeanor

First, I'm so sorry to hear that your pup has had to go through this. Paws crossed and thumbs pressed for her continued recovery.

The first thing that pops into my mind whenever I see a dramatic and sudden personality change is: Is my dog still in pain?

One would expect that your dog would indeed have pain following this injury and surgery. But if pain persists, perhaps the vet can suggest additional or alternative pain management therapies that might help your dog. So please discuss your observations with your vet - it sounds like a thorough assessment might be in order.

Several of my dogs have had major surgeries; the perhaps most dramatic of the surgeries, amputation, was probably the easiest recovery because it took the pain away completely. Some of the 'easier' surgeries were more difficult to recover from because of on-going pain. I firmly believe in giving as much pain management meds as needed during the recovery phase, as the body heals so much more slowly if battling pain at the same time.

(FYI, in two recent surgeries/recovery phases my dogs were been given morphine patches. The difference in ease of recovery - both physical and mental - was significant compared to earlier surgeries when oral pain meds were used exclusively. )

To help your vet assess your dog's level of pain, it might be helpful to film a few incidents where he shows the type of personality change you describe. My dogs are usually quite stoic on the exam table, so often the vet doesn't get to see what I see at home; here is where the film helps.

Are you working with a physiotherapist? If so, what does he /she say about your dog's behavior?

If after a thorough assessment the vet feels that pain is not an issue, then you might consider emotional trauma resulting from the accident or surgery. This is more complex. In many cases, a dog simply needs time, patience, and loving support to bounce back. Let your dog set the pace, don't expect too much too soon, but be ready to respond whenever your dog shows her old spark. A bit of 'spoiling' never goes amiss at such times. Some dogs do indeed go through something akin to depression, as we humans sometimes do following a health crisis.

If you think this is the case, additional interaction with you - games appropriate to her physical condition, gentle cuddles, a bit of TTouch, mental stimulation are all good ways to help bring your dog out of her shell. Slowly you should see the spark return.

But if you think that this might be something more, then the next step would to be getting help from a behaviorist. The trauma of the accident or surgery might have left a lasting fear now manifesting itself in the changes you see. I am hesitant suggesting specific things to try here, as I have not seen your dog. Any solution should be situation specific and individually tailored in such cases, hence the suggestion of a behaviorist.

Any trauma, physical or mental, can bring emotions to the forefront that result in behavior changes. I often turn to my trainer or behaviorist sooner rather than later because a second set of eyes is valuable when trying to determine exactly what is going on.

I hope that this is indeed just a temporary blip, and that you will soon have your perky pup back. But don't hesitate to get help from a pro if the changed behavior persists.

Wishing you and your doglet all the best.
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Old 09.10.2012, 14:00
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Re: Traumatic Injury to our Dog and Change in Demeanor

Thank you very much for your warm, thoughtful, and detailed responses. It's very helpful to hear about what the experiences of others has been like.

Our dog has been under the care of a vet, a surgeon, and a physiotherapist for her rehabilitation. The main concern on all their parts is the extremely low muscle tone she has on her back hind leg. However, they strongly suspect it was that way before the accident. The accident also brought to light that she has a bad case of arthritis in both hind legs.

I do not *think* she is still in pain. I do not get that impression. However, she is no longer eager to go on walks like she used to be. Not actively avoiding them, but just not keen on them. Plus, she doesn't seem to enjoy the walks the way she used to. Perhaps the actual act of going on a walk is both physically taxing and emotionally stressful.

We do think that she is emotionally stressed by the accident. She is extremely cautious, even a bit anxious, when walking in wooded areas now. Understandable since the accident happened while she was on a hike. I do not think living at my ILs was stressful. She ADORES them. In all honesty, I think it's more stressful to come back to us....a young family with young kids, who are not home ALL the time, like my retired, extremely doting ILs.

I think I will wait and see how things progress for her the next month or two. Since rehab is only just complete this week. If no change, a behavioral assessment or follow-up just might be in order, as you all kindly suggested.

Thanks again! Fingers and paws crossed please!
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Old 09.10.2012, 14:23
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Re: Traumatic Injury to our Dog and Change in Demeanor

Fingers and paws firmly crossed for your doggie. It it just two months since her accident, which was obviously serious, thus it is not surprising that she is recuperating at her own pace. It's very good that she is still under medical supervision, and obviously getting lots of loving care from her family. Mother Nature will ensure that little by little your dog will improve, but these things take time. Please give her a gentle hug from me.
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Old 09.10.2012, 14:26
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Re: Traumatic Injury to our Dog and Change in Demeanor

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Thank you very much for your warm, thoughtful, and detailed responses. It's very helpful to hear about what the experiences of others has been like.

Our dog has been under the care of a vet, a surgeon, and a physiotherapist for her rehabilitation. The main concern on all their parts is the extremely low muscle tone she has on her back hind leg. However, they strongly suspect it was that way before the accident. The accident also brought to light that she has a bad case of arthritis in both hind legs.

I do not *think* she is still in pain. I do not get that impression. However, she is no longer eager to go on walks like she used to be. Not actively avoiding them, but just not keen on them. Plus, she doesn't seem to enjoy the walks the way she used to. Perhaps the actual act of going on a walk is both physically taxing and emotionally stressful.

We do think that she is emotionally stressed by the accident. She is extremely cautious, even a bit anxious, when walking in wooded areas now. Understandable since the accident happened while she was on a hike. I do not think living at my ILs was stressful. She ADORES them. In all honesty, I think it's more stressful to come back to us....a young family with young kids, who are not home ALL the time, like my retired, extremely doting ILs.

I think I will wait and see how things progress for her the next month or two. Since rehab is only just complete this week. If no change, a behavioral assessment or follow-up just might be in order, as you all kindly suggested.

Thanks again! Fingers and paws crossed please!
Maybe as you said she got used to the environment at your inlaws.

I would not walk her in wooded areas at all for now. But she needs to walk, arthritis gets worse with lack of motion. Shorter walks are fine too, according to our vet, which is what we do with Hana, she is almost 12 years old. She likes to walk, but she has arthritis, so she can't walk far. She was given Arthridog, you should ask your vet about it. Arthritis is painful.
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Old 10.10.2012, 20:25
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Re: Traumatic Injury to our Dog and Change in Demeanor

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Thank you very much for your warm, thoughtful, and detailed responses. It's very helpful to hear about what the experiences of others has been like.

Our dog has been under the care of a vet, a surgeon, and a physiotherapist for her rehabilitation. The main concern on all their parts is the extremely low muscle tone she has on her back hind leg. However, they strongly suspect it was that way before the accident. The accident also brought to light that she has a bad case of arthritis in both hind legs.

I do not *think* she is still in pain. I do not get that impression. However, she is no longer eager to go on walks like she used to be. Not actively avoiding them, but just not keen on them. Plus, she doesn't seem to enjoy the walks the way she used to. Perhaps the actual act of going on a walk is both physically taxing and emotionally stressful.

We do think that she is emotionally stressed by the accident. She is extremely cautious, even a bit anxious, when walking in wooded areas now. Understandable since the accident happened while she was on a hike. I do not think living at my ILs was stressful. She ADORES them. In all honesty, I think it's more stressful to come back to us....a young family with young kids, who are not home ALL the time, like my retired, extremely doting ILs.

I think I will wait and see how things progress for her the next month or two. Since rehab is only just complete this week. If no change, a behavioral assessment or follow-up just might be in order, as you all kindly suggested.

Thanks again! Fingers and paws crossed please!
I'm in Geneva and we have a super-neurotic dog (terrified of thunderstorms, etc.). After a period during which she was acting incredibly strangely, we contacted a vet behavioralist, a Swiss German woman who works in Geneva. She gave us some common sense advice to change her attitude and it was very helpful. You might check if there is a good veterinarian behavioralist in Zurich - do NOT go to any self-advertised behavioralists, most of them are quacks. Talk to your vet and get a serious recommendation. There are some "real" vet behavioralists out there - the one we saw did her training in the UK. Your dog seems to be suffering from depression. Even if your in-laws are great, your dog may have felt abandoned by you when she was in rehab.

Good luck and give her a pat on the head for me.
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Old 10.10.2012, 22:08
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Re: Traumatic Injury to our Dog and Change in Demeanor

I have a colleague who's an American veterinarian living in Holland. She and her husband have a nice practice near Deventer. While that might be a bit of a drive from here, she is well known for her actupucture and holistic therapy for small animals and has been well received here in Europe and has been practicing in the Netherlands for about 10-years.

Traditional western medicine, even for animals, may not always do the trick. If you're interesed, here's their website. Though the website is in Dutch, Dr. Boggie speaks perfect english...(American) ;-)

http://dierenartsdeventer.com/

http://dierenartsdeventer.com/acupunctuur/
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Old 11.10.2012, 00:25
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Re: Traumatic Injury to our Dog and Change in Demeanor

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We do think that she is emotionally stressed by the accident. She is extremely cautious, even a bit anxious, when walking in wooded areas now. Understandable since the accident happened while she was on a hike.
Jetset, it is indeed understandable that your dog is anxious in areas that might remind her of the accident. Similar places can become linked in the dog's mind, serving as a trigger, reminding her of the fear and pain of the accident.

In many cases, counter conditioning is used to change the meaning of the thing that frightens or discomfits a dog, so that the dog learns to see the trigger as a good thing, not a harbinger of bad things. This might be an approach to take with your girl when in the woods.

Darkhorsedrea mentioned the work she has been doing with her dog along these lines - have you seen the thread she started some months ago?

My poor stressed Bella...

Yes, this was a different situation, but one that resulted in similar stress/anxiety in her dog. Perhaps some of the suggestions in that thread might be applicable in your case.

BUT but but... I would really want to better understand what is going on before embarking on a program. When a dog has had a serious health issue, it is often better to go too slowly rather than run the risk of going too fast. Pushing your dog beyond what she is ready to do right now is to be avoided.

Most of our dogs are very good actors and mask pain in our presence. Next time you are out with your dog, I'd still have a second person film as surreptitiously as possible as you two walk along. I've often found that reviewing a film dispassionately, after the fact, points out things I miss in the moment. (It's the excess sleeping and aging comments that stick in my mind.) I'm of the better-safe-than-sorry school.

And if pain can definitively be ruled out a factor, a film might give further clues as to what is troubling your dog - body language, reaction to stimulii can be very enlightening.

I hope it turns out to be something as simple as 'not quite 100% healthy yet' that time will heal - but if the accident has created fear related behavior changes then desensitizing and counter conditioning techniques (as described in the linked thread) might be helpful. Bear in mind that one needs to identify the underlying emotion, and tailor the approach to the individual.

And I'll repeat the suggestion of working with a behaviorist - there are indeed good people here in Switzerland. Also, if your vet and physiotherapist give the OK from a health standpoint, you might even consider TTouch work/bodywrapping as a general relaxation technique. IIRC, one of the EF members was training to be a practitioner... must go search for that thread...

Thumbs pressed for your girl.
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Old 11.10.2012, 01:37
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Re: Traumatic Injury to our Dog and Change in Demeanor

One more thing...

Have you asked your vet about possible behavioral side effects of any of the meds your dog has been on? Some drugs can affect behavior while the dog is on them, some can (usually temporarily) affect behavior once the dog is taken off.

(I'm currently dealing with behavior changes while the Belltie is being weaned off Prednisolon, hence my question. )
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