dog acting scared/sick
April 9, 2011 10:10 AM   Subscribe

What can I do about my dog who has been hiding under chairs and blankets shaking everyday for the last week.

I have a 1 1/2 year old Shiba Inu. He's usually a very calm easy going dog. Last weekend we were playing and all of a sudden he started yelping and went running down the hall. Since then he spends most of the day hiding under a chair, covers, couches....and he trembles and shakes. The trembling/shaking stops after about 20 minutes but comes back at different times through out the day. I took him to the vet 2 days ago. He was behaving the same way at the Vet's office. The Vet was concerned so he did a full check up and took a blood test. The Vet didn't find anything wrong at the check up and his blood test came back perfectly normal. He put him on some antibiotics and said my dog probably has an infection that should clear up. Funny thing is if I take him to the dog park he's all of sudden fine. Or if my wife and leave the house for a while and come back at night he's all perked up and happy. Then I'll take him for a walk and he wants to go right back home and dive under the covers...shaking. Any thoughts or suggestions as to how to deal with this? Thanks for your time.
posted by ljs30 to Pets & Animals (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It doesn't sound like your vet did his/her job then. I would get a second opinion. If you went to the doctor for something that was wrong and was told "well, it could be an infection that will clear up," would you be satisfied with this answer?

I would rule out all medical issues first.
posted by TheBones at 10:17 AM on April 9, 2011

After you rule out medical issues - do you have a television or do you watch movies? What kind? My dog has been trying to hide from first-hand accounts of war in the Middle East on the news. And also he is afraid of the character "Meg" on Justified. We were watching last night and he tried to climb on our lap whenever she came on. He may associate the room with the TV with what he has heard in there recently.
posted by cda at 10:55 AM on April 9, 2011

I'm not sure I like how your vet handled that situation. If he couldn't find anything wrong, why did he give you an antibiotic? I agree that perhaps you should find a second opinion.

(Pediatricians sometimes do this when a child is sick with a virus or something completely unaffected by most remedies. They prescribe an antibiotic so the parent stops wigging out and thinks they're 'helping' their child get better.)

The side effect of this 'I don't know what's going on, so have an antibiotic' SOP is that it requires ever increasing amounts of more powerful antibiotics to actually do anything, because a body develops tolerances and the microbes that actually make you sick are evolving an immunity.
posted by Heretical at 11:04 AM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

You need a second opinion. If my dog shook like that, and it appeared upon exercise, and the shaking persisted, I'd consider that the shaking could be from pain. And I would do anything to keep my dog from that kind of pain. If it is indeed pain, your dog could be ignoring it when visiting the dog park because that's a fun activity.

See another vet, or keep after this one to investigate more.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 11:29 AM on April 9, 2011

Does the dog's shaking relate to times when they've eaten, urinated or defecated? Are there any parts of his body he won't let you touch? Is he constipated?

My first thought as others have mentioned is that it's related to pain. My cats have slunk under things when they've had urinary tract problems, and although they've never had any major GI complaints, I imagine abdominal pain would be very scary for a dog. I also think you should get a 2nd opinion.

Another possibility is that something in or around the house scared him. Noise is a likely culprit. Another possibility is that he smells something you can't - like the presence of another animal. Are there animals that slink around your house? Is it possible that a cat, dog, wolf, raccoon or some other critter sprayed your house, or has been lurking outside and taunting your poor beast while you've been out?
posted by ladypants at 11:45 AM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

You hurt your dog accidentally while playing, and now he's afraid of you.

You should be the one giving him all his food for a couple of weeks, plus a bunch of special treats. Also stop raising your voice to him under any circumstances, and stoke him and pet him as much as he's willing to tolerate.
posted by jamjam at 11:47 AM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree that a second opinion from another vet is an appropriate next step to take. If the second vet can't give a diagnosis, this person should at least recommend ways to help your dog behaviorally or recommend other people (specialists/trainers) who could help.

I'm also wondering if the problem could be environmental...I have seen my dog and other dogs react like in the way you described to scary noises. Dogs can be super sensitive to noises that we don't really pay attention to. (For instance, when we're in my parking garage and the smoke detector there gives off a single beep to indicate low batteries, the next several times we're there my dog gets very nervous. My sister's dog gets very nervous from little electronic beeps because when they lived in a certain apartment complex several years ago, the fire alarm was always going off at all hours of the day.) This doesn't really explain why your dog also reacts like this at the vet (although that can just be a scary place for dogs in general) and why when you go for a walk, the dog gets upset as well. Still, it seems feasible that, like others have mentioned above, some visual or auditory stimulus could be causing this behavior.

I hope you're able to get to the cause of this and get your dog back to his usual self!!!
posted by violetish at 12:00 PM on April 9, 2011

From your report, I disagree with jamjam. I also don't think it's the worst thing in the world to put your dog on antibiotics as a precaution.

This happened to my dog recently, although on a much lesser scale. I still don't know what the cause was, but he is normally very sturdy and happy, and he spent an evening basically cowering near the front door, with the shakes. He would not come to me until bedtime when he kind of gave up his vigil and slept near the bed as usual. I still can't figure it out but it hasn't happened since. Here are the questions my dog friends asked: Perhaps you have mice and he got spooked? Or he was left alone during a particularly bad thunderstorm and now anything boomy-sounding is freaking him out? Do you live near a train and the floor rattles? Did a light bulb pop? Did steam come out of the dishwasher? Did the radiator hiss?

I think dogs, just like humans, can develop phobias. You might want to take notes on the behavior, times, circumstances, and get some advice from dogtrainers, vet, etc. And, seconding keep nagging your vet until you are as certain as possible it's not medical.

Good luck, poor fella.
posted by thinkpiece at 12:20 PM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

It sounds like your dog is experiencing pain. When dogs experience pain they get very scared and run for cover. I doubt it is an infection - it is more likely pain in his back, neck, or joints.

Have you tried moving and bending his limbs and neck? Especially when he has just run for cover. If he yelps during this, he's in pain.

Try this, and also take him back to the vet, or another vet perhaps! Do something soon though.
posted by lichen at 12:27 PM on April 9, 2011 [4 favorites]

I'd like to just add that from your description

"we were playing and all of a sudden he started yelping and went running down the hall"

that this is REALLY likely to be physical pain!
posted by lichen at 12:28 PM on April 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

I agree with lichen. Squeeze him, not too tightly, from head to toe to see if he reacts. Maybe he has a pinched nerve or something. If you were playing with him on hardwood floors this could easily happen if he twisted too fast to run away. Poor buddy.
posted by wherever, whatever at 12:30 PM on April 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

Shiba Inu can have problems with loose knee and hip joints that can spontaneously displace and cause very sharp pain. Fortunately, if this is what's going on, it would sound like a minor case, since you haven't noticed a pronounced limp, indicating that the joint is only momentarily out of place. Your pooch could just be snakebit about that one incident during playtime, and just so overcome with doggie excitement when at the dog run or when you and your wife come home that he forgets to be scared. Of course, it could also be something like pain from GI problems, as a previous poster mentioned, though that's something your vet would likely have caught.

Either way, I'd agree that a second opinion is in order. You might want to find a vet the specializes in the Shiba Inu or the Akita family, or at least has experience with them -- any number of Shiba-breed-specific web forums and online communities would be a good place to search and/or ask around for a good vet for a Shiba owner in your area. Also, I'm sure any nearby Shiba breeder could tell you who they bring their pups to. Alternately, if you live near a quality animal hospital like Alameda or Angell Memorial, you could take your dog there, though I might save that for a 3rd opinion, since doggie MRIs aren't any cheaper than human ones, and Blue Cross doesn't cover pooches.
posted by patnasty at 12:37 PM on April 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh, and don't worry about the precautionary antibiotics.

Doctors habitually prescribing unnecessary antibiotics to the same patients over and over is what leads to the bacteria developing resistance, not a one-off use of antibiotics to treat a possible infection causing pain in a patient unable to articulate where and when.
posted by patnasty at 12:54 PM on April 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

Combination pain and fear of thing that induced the pain. Dogs can learn very quickly from even a single pain-inducing incident. Shaking is a sign of pain as well as fear/excitement in dogs, but they can forget about it if they get super-excited/distracted (e.g. at the dog park). I'd give him a (vet-approved) painkiller and see if that helps. Be careful of Rimadyl though - it stopped my dog's shaking from pain but the gastrointestinal effects nearly killed her.
posted by walla at 1:07 PM on April 9, 2011

In the pain camp. Can you maybe check his claws? I had a dog develop a break pretty far up the claw that sent him into hiding for several days. FWIW, the vet fixed the whole problem with crazy glue.
posted by Gilbert at 1:18 PM on April 9, 2011

I don't know that you specifically hurt the dog, but claw-snag, carpet tack, muscle twinge, *something* happened and it was traumatic. There could still be an injury, and based on what you described I'd worry about something spinal. My dogs, even when hurt, will perk up dramatically for a really awesome distraction like the dog park, but you might go and take a second pair of eyes to watch for a strange gait or muscle twitches or head-shaking symptoms.

You might get down at your dog's level and look for the aforementioned carpet tacks (I had a several-week mystery ordeal until I stepped in the right/wrong place), strange smells, something loose or rattly, etc.

A lot of times we work through mystery ordeals with extra training - lots of sits/downs for treats, the weird games we play that reinforce a) the dog is okay b) I'm the one taking care of everyone. (I just had to leave this post for an hour and a half while the dog trainer came over to teach how to stop our dogs fighting, and that was one of the things she reinforced for us - we need to *show* that we're not just in charge of them, but of Things like scary noises and people walking by or whatever.) Leadership exercises, basically. Another vet might not be a terrible idea, but I can't blame yours for being pretty low-intervention on the first pass.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:33 PM on April 9, 2011

Can you maybe check his claws?

YES! My dog's dew claw cracked down the middle. Horrible. She was shaking one night and kept hitting me with her paw until I noticed her injury. The vet had to put her under general anesthesia in order to fix it. I can only imagine how painful it was for her. I'm just glad she was able to figure out a way to say, "Hey dummy, fix me!!!"
posted by wherever, whatever at 5:09 PM on April 9, 2011 [4 favorites]

This is strictly anecdotal. My dog would behave like that when he had intestinal blockage. He had a habit of eating things he shouldn't (thong underwear, plastic wrappers, children's toys). He has had a couple of surgeries to remove items from his intestines. Thankfully, he appears to have learned his lesson. But, when it was happening, most of the day he would sit in his bed or on the couch shaking. If he saw his leash, though, he'd pop right up and get excited about a walk. This was actually a good thing because it helped the various items pass through his system.
posted by Roger Dodger at 7:59 PM on April 9, 2011

I recommend going back to the vet and asking for a referral to a vetinary neurologist.
posted by dazed_one at 8:10 AM on April 10, 2011

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