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Discussion Starter #1
New to the board and reading it you guys are wonderful, so I am looking for advice. I have a 11 1/2 yr old female GSD Ruby, a 5 yr old male GSD Bear, and a 1 1/2 yr old male GSD Riley. All three of them are altered. The problems are coming since Riley is maturing and trying to find his place. I get that part. What I don't get is that as Ruby is getting older, and her sight is not the best anymore....she is now being attacked by Bear also. She has been pretty much Dominant until recently. Ruby came to us over 9 years ago. Bear has been here since 10 weeks old, and Riley since 8 weeks old. She has been motherly to them, with the occasional bark and nip to drop them in line. They sleep on the floor surrounding my bed. Ruby has to pass by Bear to get to her spot. Over the last couple of days Bear has been growling at her when she passes him to lay down. At NO OTHER TIME. Just when she tries to lay down. Yesterday he growled and she attacked him! When Ruby attacked Bear, Riley attack Bear from the other side! This went on for 5 minutes as I called the Leave it commands and No and stop. They did not hurt each other. Maybe a little pride. Is Bear trying to take dominance from her because she is aging? Has anyone else had this problem? I am starting to apply their training again as I got lax in it. I now am reapplying the sit stay to feed, and the sit stay to go through doorways. Any help would be appreciated before one of them gets hurt. Also is it wise to have two or three males together?
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Does anybody have any help? Should I post this in the aggressive dogs area?
 

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My older female has become more aggressive as well. And she is the alpha dog in the household. There are no problems for me at home but she is no longer trustworthy with dogs she doesn't know, especially on her turf.

As they get older the other dogs sense that they are weaker and depending on their temperament they may vie for pack leadership. The older dog also feels more vulnerable and so may be quicker to attack rather than to warn.

What you need to do is to establish yourself very clearly as the pack leader. If the dogs know that you will be keeping order (and the female knows that you will protect her) then that should maintain order at home. I would interrupt any growling, etc., immediately and remind them of their place. I am not advocating physical punishment or corrections but a simple voice command and perhaps redirection, if necessary. If you need to step in between the male and the older female to get her safely to her bed then do that.
 

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My Wooly Bear became aggressive in his old age. It was his thyroid.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
BowWowMeow..that is funny. I have three cats as well as my three dogs. The newest is a 7 month old blind kitten.
Thanks for the advice. I am definitely taking over head pack leader again. My poor old Ruby is only 55 pounds of probably shepherd mix but I will never get in front or between what she wants to attack. She will take my two boys 75 ponds and 80 pounds down quick and harshly! LOL! Thanks for the advice!
 

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Discussion Starter #7
LJs Mom She is growling at the kids when she is startled too. Could that be a Thyroid problem? Do they check that with a blood test? Thanks!
 

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The startle response could be a result of a loss of hearing/eyesight.

~Kristin
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Yes she is having some eye sight problems going on. Her eye problems are slowly getting worse over the last year or so.
 

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Could be pain. When dogs are in pain, they just don't want to put up with guff from other dogs, even stuff they've always tolerated with good humor.

You know how it is when you have a headache, the goofy coworker and his stupid jokes that you usually tolerate? Now, suddenly, his jokes annoy you. If it's a migraine, you just want to smack him.

Imagine being your dog, in pain, on the floor with the others, and they just look like they're going to come near you. You know it's likely they might bump into you, so you snap at them. Or, maybe they're doing nothing. Maybe they're across the room, but you just want to tell them to stay far away from you, that you're not feeling well. A growl will do the trick.

Orthopedic pain is where I'd look first. But it could be that general "feeling crappy" feeling that comes from systemic issues -- heart, lungs, liver, etc. Your senior just doesn't feel right, feels tired all the time. Might not be anything too serious, just something that needs some tuning up.

Seniors also sometimes lose some of their cognitive functions as they get older. It's not dementia necessarily, but they get confused more easily. It takes longer for brains to figure out what's going on, especially in a fast-moving house where the younger kids are moving at what now seems to be lightning speed. Confusion leads to frustration leads to acting out. In this sort of condition, she might also be feeling jealousy, even if she's never felt it before.

Any of these could be going on. All of them could be going on. It doesn't mean that your dog is very ill, or that much is wrong with her at all. It might mean that she needs a few meds for inflammation in her joints that you may not have noticed until now; or a nice quiet place where she can watch without actually being part of the activity; or a special time when you take her for training and new activities (both help brains stay engaged and stimulated). Special time with you reminds her that she's your special girl and that the others can't intrude on that. Separate trips to the park. Taking a simple obedience class. Separate walks. Drives and nice walks on the beach, just the two of you. (Take lots of picture too, so you can show the others!)

She might also need you to step up and be what I call the Super Alpha. My senior is my alpha, but she trusts me to make sure that the kids don't bug her. She'll relinquish power to me, but no one else. So I have to be on my toes and anticipate.

I have a senior who's in a situation much like I explain above. Overall, she's in great shape, but when she is having a slow day (either physically or mentally), she doesn't want to be bugged. And she lets the kids know ahead of time. When they don't listen (particularly the 3 month old puppy), she reminds them. And my senior/alpha before her was in the same situation (although Grover remained sharp as a tack until she died) when I got Camper, my GSD as a puppy. When Grover died a couple years ago, Zamboni stepped in as the alpha. But being alpha is tough when there's kids and you don't feel great all the time.

I recommend a vet visit. A full exam and a complete blood panel (with thyroid) if you haven't done one in the last six months. Perhaps even xrays if you think there are orthopedic issues. Once you know what's going on, you'll have a better idea of how to manage it.

My guess is that your girl is just getting older. And when we get older, we are entitled to get a little grumpier. That's ok. Give Bear her own space that she goes to (or you send her) where she can observe everything, feel included, but be out of the way (in my house, Zamboni's spot is under the dining room table, and NO ONE is allowed to bug her when she's under there.) Everyone will adjust. The kids will learn when to leave The Boss alone and when it's ok to coax her to come out and play in the sunshine.


If she needs meds, start there. Fish oil, Ester-c and a good multi-vitamin are good not only for joint health/inflammation but also for brain health. Unless there's something specific wrong, it will take you managing things for a little while, until she realizes she can relax and enjoy from the sidelines unless she's up to being a happy participant.

And then, Ruby and Riley's jokes might actually seem funny to her.
 

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The thyroid test is a relatively inexpensive blood test. Is your girl having fur problems? That's a symptom of a thyroid disorder.

At first we thought Wooly had doggie dementia and tried Anipryl for a few months.

A really good supplement can do wonders for an old dog. Thanks so Dasuquin and the right thyroid meds, Wooly's last months were great.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
3K9 Mom, I know it can't be joints as she jumps, and plays hard with the other two all the time with no pain. I am thinking it is more along the lines of sight loss and just plain not wanting to deal with my boys and the other dogs, and cats! LOL! Grumpy old lady. I will be doing some blood work on her though. Poor Ruby was already graying at 2 when we adopted her because of her stress. At least hopefully I can help relieve some stress from her again. Thanks! I will post pictures soon!
 

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Well, Tri, that could be the problem. She's like a weekend warrior baby boomer who overdoes it, playing too hard all weekend then is stiff and sore on Mondays. Maybe she's overdoing it in the yard during the day, then is sore at night? Just a thought...

Loss of sight could be a factor. She sees shadows and doesn't know what they are, so she reacts aggressively to scare the shadows away, not knowing that the shadows are just her pals.

I'm sure you'll get to the bottom of this soon. I don't think it's just a weird "behavioral" thing. It's almost certainly due to age and/or veterinary issues. And it sounds like she's in great shape, so hopefully, it will be easy to get things stabilized again.

Looking forward to photos!
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I may try the thyroid test. She isn't having fur problems right now....that I can tell with all the shedding going on. It is 110 degrees in Texas right now! I am pretty sure it is more medical and old age than pain from arthritis. She is relatively small. She was called "an apartment sized Shepherd" when I adopted her. About 22 inches at the shoulder and about 55 pounds of fat butt shepherd. Maybe I will try to get her to lose a few pounds! LOL!
 

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Get the "good" thyroid panel done. I am not sure of the details, there is a thread somewhere in health, but Michigan State and Dr. Dodd's I think are the gold standard tests that look at all functions. I know Nina's panel came back with way more information than any of my thyroid tests have!


And I think with the older ones it is good to look at and consider everything listed-
Pain/discomfort
Loss of vision/hearing
Thyroid

Supplements seem to help (as much as I do not understand why).

And with my seniors, all the younger dogs know that to mess with them is to bring down fire and brimstone from me. They are all still pretty afraid of my oldest dog anyway (uh...respectful) but know that to cross either of the oldsters is just a really, really bad mistake. I am one of those positive types until it comes to bad touching, so to speak, and then it's go time.
Well-they think so anyway, and the bluff is enough.
 

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If you have a thyroid panel done (and I think that you should), be sure that the free T4, free T3, and the TgAA (thyroglobulin antibodies) are tested. She looks to be a bit overweight in the pic in the other thread, so maybe there is a thyroid issue?

Tick diseases should also be ruled out -- they can cause neurological behaviour changes.

Dogs can act differently towards each other when there medical issues going on. I would attack this from both ends. Investigate the medical issues, but also post in the behaviour section -- you will still need to know how to manage the issue, even if it is medical. If it isn't medical, they will have good advice too.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Well all of Ruby's blood work including Thyroid tests have been done. Ho Hum some good some bad. She is actually about 75 pounds! Oh My! Did not realize she was that heavy! Switched her to Nutro Lamb, Chicken, and Rice instead of Wal-Mart food. Thank Goodness! She has three fatty tumors, and arthritis. Pretty bad arthritis in one hind leg. She will be starting meds tomorrow. Not sure what the names are. One anti-inflammatory, and one pain med. All blood work and thyroid came back okay. Urine came back very dilute leading the vet to believe it could be Cushings Disease, or the onset of kidney disease or cancer. He thinks that is the only things that would cause the urine to be as dilute as it was. At this point we are trying the meds and will go from there. Poor old girl still prances around like she owns the house though, until in the evenings when she seems to be in the most pain. Still runs and plays with the other dogs until she has had enough for the day.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Originally Posted By: LisaTWere any tick tests run?
No they didn't run any tick tests. There are no tick problems in my area, and she is never left outside. We also shaved her about 2 weeks ago to see if maybe she was overheating with the high temperatures. We did find a couple of skin tags but nothing else. After talking with my vet again today we are looking at the most likely possibility being the onset of kidney failure. He said that she probably has 4 to 6 months left. At that point he believes she will have total kidney shut down.
 

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Sorry to hear the news on your girl.

There are diets that specifically help with kidney problems - has your vet discussed any of those? My Mom's shepherd was diagnosed with early stage kidney failure in January of 2002, we put him on the special food and I researched raw foods so that we could supplement, and he lived until December 2007.

Usually with advanced kidney failure you see a dog losing weight dramatically, and that doesn't sound like your girl. Very dilute urine is sometimes due to a dog drinking excessively a short time before the urine test is done (if we think of our own urine and how it's dark in the morning and yet light later on after we've been drinking several glasses of water you can see the difference). Usually the best urine sample to test is the first one of the day. If they tested her urine later in the day, you may want to have them do a new urine test by catching her first pee in the morning and taking it in.

If it is actually kidney problems, discuss the special diets with your vet. I can't remember what the diet was called now, but Dax ate it for years (supplemented with hamburger and rice, cranberry, fish oil, calcium, etc.). He was skin and bones when diagnosed, put on weight nicely and did fine until his rump gave out (he had cauda equina).

Good luck -

Melanie and the gang in Alaska
 
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