Last week, we took Lyra back to see her vet behaviourist — a full year since we saw him last. This time, she was less bothered by the trains outside the window (though still worried) and more cautious/conflicted by the people: i.e., she wanted to engage, but held back. In spite of some improvement, her prognosis is unchanged: 1) she has an anxiety disorder and sound sensitivity, 2) we can’t expect major improvement, 3) she will always require management, 4) she may improve, at least somewhat, with changes to her medication and/or new products/tools.
I’m not disheartened. If anything, I’m surer of Lyra’s good quality of life than I was a year ago. She is able to take interesting walks; she enjoys training; she feels comfortable with our family, especially now that we’re more aware of her triggers.
It also makes sense to try new tools and drugs. Earlier in the week, I tried a higher dose of clonidine (at the VB’s suggestion; I would never experiment with drugs on Lyra otherwise). If anything, 0.8 mg of clonidine (I tried 0.4 in the past) made her more anxious. I walked her along a road familiar to her; where I’ve done some counter-conditioning with good results. This time, she was hesitant; she got very nervous when a car passed (a reaction I haven’t seen in ages). So, I got approval to try the buspirone instead. She had her first dose on May 4th.
Given Lyra’s initial response to fluoxetine — she hid in my closet for weeks, and lost her appetite — I was prepared to make her world “very small” during the introduction of a new drug. So far, though, she seems to want the opposite! She was bursting for a walk this morning. In fact, I’ve seen no side effects on buspirone to date: no loss of energy or appetite; no increase in anxiety. It will take time to build up in her system, so it’s far too early to see results; but on our walk today, I could almost imagine that she seemed calmer with the people who stopped to talk with us. Finger crossed! I’m tracking the effects here.
I’ve also begun to condition her to a new device called Calmz — which purports to help dogs during stressful events by applying a vibration to the top of the spine and playing a tone and gentle music. To be honest, I am skeptical, but the VB loaned me one and I see no harm in trying, as long as I introduce it slowly enough to Lyra so as not to freak her out 🙂