For a very long time Charlie's separation anxiety was under control. I jokingly referred to him as my "recovering SA dog" because I didn't think it ever really went away, similar to the way addiction is described. The pieces to the puzzle are always there, but we had over six years of recovery. Unfortunately, I was going to find out how right I really was.
Late last year Charlie started showing signs of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD). He would frequently seem disoriented, lost, he tripped often, and didn't seem like himself. It steadily got worse until early this year I decided I wanted to do something about it. My vet said we could try him on a drug called Selegeline which is being used in humans to combat dementia and early stage Parkinson's, as well as in dogs for CCD with great effects. The downside was that he would need to be weaned off Prozac and be "clean" for two weeks before he could start it. This would be the first time in over 6 years that he would be off anti-anxiety medication.
The initial stages of weaning went well, according to my vet's instruction, we halved his Prozac dosage for a week, then got him completely off for two weeks, and then started the Selegeline. We are currently just over one week into the Selegeline treatments. I am very happy to say that all CCD symptoms have cleared up. He's bright eyed, more active than I've seen him in years, constantly asking to play tug to a level I also haven't seen in quite a while, and full of life. But he's lost all semblance of impulse control, his counter surfing has escalated, and his separation anxiety has returned. It started with a day or two of coming home to barking, to now four days straight. He's also peed/marked in the house twice, which he hasn't done in over 6 years. He's constantly whining; has a hard time resting and relaxing. His dog reactivity has escalated and his normally low frustration threshold has plummeted even further.
More than anything, seeing him go through this, going through this with him, has shown to me how clearly his behavior "problems" are a medical issue. These are not behaviors he has control over. There's nothing to train. Let me repeat that: there's nothing to train. He's not doing anything wrong, I'm not doing anything wrong. He can't do anything any differently and I am doing all I can to make his life easier to handle. His brain is wired wrong and he needs medication to keep it working with a semblance of normalcy. I don't think I ever really understood the implications of this truth until now.
If you're struggling with your dog, I know it's difficult. I know how hard it can be. But never forget how incredibly tough it must be for them. My greatest regret is that I cannot make his brain normal. Watching him suffer through anxiety hurts so much. I took him off of Prozac because I wanted to help him, and it showed me how much help he really does need every single day.
Please don't leave medication for a last resort. Sometimes there's only so much that training and management can do. Sometimes they really need more help. And in those instances, prolonging the anxiety and discomfort does no one any good.