Rita and Bouleigh
Holly the Brittany Spaniel
Holly was a three-year-old Brittany Spaniel that was sent to me because it was believed she had separation anxiety (SA). Holly was destructive, she would pant, pace and vocalize when left alone. She showed no improvement to training or prescription medication in her foster home. When Holly arrived, intensive training began to relieve her of her SA. Holly had no relief, her behavior got worse, her destructive tendencies were so severe they resulted in self-harm. Soon it was clear Holly did not have SA, it had to be something else. In my favorite book, The Well- Adjusted Dog by Dr. Nicholas H. Dodman, I read the passage about Emma the Beagle. I did a deep dive into the literature on ADHD in dogs. The symptom of hyperactivity in a familiar environment reminded me of a video I saw of Holly pacing and panting, unable to relax in her foster home with her family present. Holly did not have SA; she had ADHD.
Holly's new behavior modification plan (BMP) was focused on teaching her the skills to self- manage her ADHD. I was unable to find a veterinary professional that would consider the possibility Holly had ADHD, so her BMP began without a formal diagnosis. In studies, a low protein diet plus the supplement tryptophan have shown positive results in relieving ADHD. I was already feeding her low protein food (22%) and I gave her NutriCalm, a supplement containing tryptophan. To alleviate some of her hyperactivity: I fed Holly with a Bob-A-Lot; gave her Nylabones and stuffed Kongs; I extended her walks and gave her extra time outside. Soon her behavior improved and she was ready to learn new behaviors to self-manage her ADHD. Holly was already crate trained so I taught her to get her bone and go in her crate. I repeated this exercise until she would do it on command. Then when she was slightly aroused, I encouraged her to get her bone and go in her crate. In time, Holly performed this behavior on her own. Her only cue was a low level of arousal.
After several months Holly was ready for adoption. It took a while to find an appropriate placement. A young family with an ADHD child was the perfect fit. They have knowledge and experience with ADHD with their child and apply it to Holly. To check on her, I emailed her new family the video of Holly pacing and panting, unable to relax in her previous foster home. They were surprised to see her behavior. They said she was much calmer and more relaxed than in the video, a good sign she was feeling better. Later, Holly's family shared an incidence when children, adults and a dog visited their home. It was a bit too much for Holly so she got her bone and went in her crate. Clearly, she learned and retained this skill, another sign she was on the path to normalcy. Holly has since been weaned off the tryptophan supplement, but her family can always go back to giving it to her if necessary. With the help of her new family, Holly appears to have her ADHD under control and is living her best life.