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We're having a problem with Thunder, our 7 y.o. Shepherd mix. Just to give a little background, this dog was sickeningly sweet & friendly up until he was about 5 yrs old. We originally purchased him for personal protection purposes, as we lived in a drug infested apartment building and declining area at the time. We got him from the Bide A Wee shelter when he was 5 months old & VERY submissive. In fact, he was a seemingly incurable submissive urinator. But I socialized him extensively and also began obedience training with him very early on. This dog was very willing to please, and though he had a soft temperment I did a great deal of training with him, then later on honed the obedience work with a clicker. He's not just trained for the sake of it, he was trained to be well behaved, and he was. He does perfect off lead heels so well that you would think he was crazy glued to me. He has almost no bad habits - doesn't jump up on people, is not dominant, is very mindful. A few years ago we brought him to a private nursing home several times. My grandmother was there & patients were allowed to have dogs visit them, and also visit other patients. I could walk him in a heel and he'd have to pass by wheelchairs, walkers, elevator doors opening without flinching. He was always a bit of a nervous nellie, but as I said, he was trained & well behaved. He was put into a down if anythign scared him and would focus on his obedience rather than whatever made him nervous. As I mentioned, he was somewhat dog aggressive, but:
A.) Most of this was just posturing
B.) He was always well controlled and the aggression never got out of hand - we always distracted him and put him into a down or sit if another dog got in his face.

There was the occasional spat over food, so I seperated him from the others while they ate. I think that's just normal behavior and very reasonable for a dog to guard their food. It was by no means out of control or even much of a problem - just an occasional occurrence.

About the time he turned 5yrs, we were feeding a diet that all the dogs went to **** on after a formula change. I honestly do not know if this was the cause, but the problems began to esculate during this time. He had a bad ear infection as well, and so we blamed the infection and his being in pain on much of the aggression. At first, it was mostly directed towards the other dogs, and always seemed unprovoked. I thought maybe he'd been stepped on, but sometimes the other dogs were no where near him when he decided to attack. Then one night last January, the unthinkable happened. Thunder was barking during the night so I came upstairs to quiet him. I turned the light on in the kitchen so know he saw me, then I told him to quiet. When he did not, I took a step towards him, raised my hand to shake a finger at him "QUIET". This dog stared me down with a very wild look in his eyes and literally lunged at my face, all the while never taking his eyes off me. I deflected a facial bite with my arm plus my mother had heard the commotion and came downstairs and two of my dogs had come to help. My year old male Beagle went for him first and got attacked. I seperated the two with a garbage pail, and corraled the Beagle into his crate. Things had settled down - my mother was bit trying to help me, but Thunder seemed to have settled. I got the leash and when I tried to put it on him (I honestly don't remember if I was yelling, but think I was) he once again lunged for me. My little 15lb Beagle charged him (brave soul) and literally was picked up and flung against the wall like a ragdoll. But it distracted his attention from me, and using a baby gate, we corraled Thunder outside. He was not himself for 3 months after this incident, and it was very careful hadnling that got him back to his old self. We also started cooking for the dogs and changed the diet, and honestly, the difference was night & day!

Finally, I felt like we were now at the place we were before all this craziness began. Another food change improved this dog's health 110%, and a chronic ear infection has been pretty much cleared up for the past week with a new medication! His personality has been back for a few months now, and I have not seen any aggression at all.

But tonight, Thunder attacked one of my male Beagles unprovoked. He was upstairs eating, had been finished w/ his food for about 10 minutes. When I let him down, he took a flying leap for this dog and viciously attacked him. My Beagle's ear is chewed up pretty bad, and he's limping mildly on his front leg. Now, funny thing is that Thunder is not in the same state of mind that he was when the first attacks began. He's back to normal, calm. Like it never happened. I did not see that last time - it was a slow process getting him back to normal.

I am fed up with him & honestly do not want to give him another chance, but then again, I don't want to NOT give him another chance. It's a very difficult situation all around, because the behavior is so unpredictable. It comes and goes - he can go through the same routine 100x, then change his behavior and attack the 101th time. I can't blame health issues, as his ear infection is cleared up, he has no arthritis, etc. Last time this happened he had a thyroid and CBC, and all was well. The only think I can think of is that once in a while, his right eye gets droopy temporarily (this is also the side he always has the ear infection on). I am tired of going through this crap with him, and am at that proverbial fork in the road. I just don't know which path to take.

Any help or suggestions would be appreciated.
 

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Are you sure the ear is not re infected? Have the ear infections damaged his hearing or balance?

I'd get the vet to do a recheck.
 

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We went through some similar issues of personality change and increased aggression with Grace that I think were due to food allergies, bowel inflammation, and a thyroid imbalance - even though her thyroid panel looked okay at the time. Now with a low allergen diet (NB venison and sweet potato) and thyroid meds, she's her old self again. The thing about thyroid problems is that the tests aren't that great. You might want to have that rechecked and make sure they do both kinds of tests - and even if they're normal, you might still talk to them about meds if there are any other thyroid signs - coat issues, dry skin, weight changes
etc.

I think there were some other old threads that also dealt with biological causes for behavioral changes which this kind of sounds like.

ETA: I think most of the time people on this board are too quick to say "brain tumor!" when a dog shows behavioral issues but in this case, especially if there's occasional facial paralysis, that's something else to think about. Not sure how common they are in dogs but we had a cat with one who displayed some similar behavior. He could be very sweet and wonderful but was prone to outbursts of aggression and could look very "blank" from time to time. We had no idea. We thought he was just a weird cat. He died rather suddenly and we had a necropsy done which was when we found out he'd had a slow growing benign brain tumor that had finally gotten big enough to kill him - and was likely the cause of his behavioral quirks. I don't know if there's anything we could have done about it or not if we'd known sooner but it certainly gave me a different perspective on his behavior and made me so sad for him, having these problems, and not being able to help it or understand what was happening.
 

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I agree a full physical with blood panel. Check the ears again.

Just a thought, when was the Rabie Vaccine given in relationship to the aggressive problems.
 

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The only think I can think of is that once in a while, his right eye gets droopy temporarily (this is also the side he always has the ear infection on). I am tired of going through this crap with him, and am at that proverbial fork in the road. I just don't know which path to take.

Could've been that he was startled since he didn't see too well with this eye? Like mentioned, he needs a more thorough check-up. Despite having done a CBC/thyroid before- they might've come back negative, bc the changes weren't significant enough to show yet. Maybe you can also run tick tests, since they can cause encephalities etc.
 

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I may be confusing you with someone else but didn't you have a female GSD with some aggression issues? If so, are the dogs related? (re-reading your post and not likely since he came from a shelter-but leaving the question in just in case) Could there be something environmental that the GSDs would react to that maybe the beagles would not? Something that would cause something neurological or a mold or something?

If I am confusing you with another person, I am sorry!

Also, where was the thyroid test sent? From what I understand and could be incorrect on this as well (!) Michigan State and Dr. Dodds are the two places to have it done accurately (mostly). I also have a hypothryoid dog who tested normal but presented with fur issues, cold intolerance, etc. This was through Michigan but we still put her on the meds. She is floofy and feeling better now!

ETA-good idea on a thorough tick test!
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks everyone for the replies!

The last time Thunder had a rabies shot was in '02 - the first incident was in Jan '07. Before that, he'd had his first rabies done in '01 by the shelter we adopted him from. ANd unfortunately, we had to do another Rabies shot in spring '07 due to the aggression issues we thought it was wise to have him UTD. He hasn't been vaxed with the 5 in 1 shot since mid '01.

I have always suspected thyroid issues with this dog. His coat is better than it's been in years but it's still not great. He has the chronic ear infections plus occasional eye infections common w/ thyroid problems. Actually, this morning I noticed thick, hardened yellowish/green crust out of the corner of his right eye
I don't know if that's related to the attack or not, but thought I should mention this. We did have a T3 T4 and a complete blood count run on him last year - everything was normal. But you don't know what a bear of a time we had getting a Vet to do these tests - you would have thought what I was asking them. The one that finally did do the testing kept trying to convince us that the problem was training & our big dominant male dog was trying to overpower us meek sumbissive women
I am going to be at the Vet tomorrow for two of my Beagles who need their hips x-rayed for OFA. She seems to be an unusually decent Vet so hopefully I can talk to her about this problem, see what she recommends ...

The brain tumor theory - interesting you should mention this because it's occurred to me in passing. Last year after the bad attack this was a very real possibility to me. But then as time passed, and this dog improved by leaps & bounds, I sort of abandoned that theory. Question - is it possible a slow growing brain tumor could be this slow to grow & would it have showed up on the complete blood count (or would we have needed a different test to screen for that)?

YES - Unfortunately, that probably was me you remember who had the purebred GSD with sudden aggro issues. Kyra was 3yrs young when she died in November '06
I can't stress how good of a bitch she was ... When my Beagle bitch had her first litter, Kyra was right there helping to raise the babies. They used to abuse her, but she tolerated everything. She was always a poor eater, and used to futz around with her food bowl. Numerous times the Beagles would swarm her food bowl, and I swear, she'd laugh "HaHa! YOU eat that crap!" and just roll over & let them eat all her food. We used to feed Eukanuba, which changed their formula May/June '06. ALL the dogs got sick. Adult Beagles that were friendly all their life were fighting with each other and shaking like a leaf in the corner. Weight loss, incontinance, diarrhea. Everyone recovered when I took them off the food a few months later - except Kyra. She wasted away for months and died in November after a particularly savage attack on one of the Beagles. She was dying at that point anyway. This was only a few months before the big recalls, and I always swore there was something wrong with Euk - because if you remember the melamine in the foods was a diuretic, and my dogs were very, very incontinant.

So yes, I do blame the food for most of the troubles we've had in the past two years but I still am not sure if Thunder's problem is related to it. Or what the **** to do about it ...
 

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I would think about researching other vets in you area. Get a second opinion.
 

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So yes, I do blame the food for most of the troubles we've had in the past two years but I still am not sure if Thunder's problem is related to it. Or what the **** to do about it ...

Switching to higher quality foods like Cannidae, Solid Gold, Eagle Pack -just to name a view,- or changing kibbles frequently (from different manufact.) would prob. help.
Where do you store the kibble?
I knew of a dog who's kibble was stored in the garage and I swear (I don't have any proof) his aggression issues out of the blue (and tilted head- vet couldn't figure it out) was caused by the kibble soaking up the toxic fumes hanging around the garage at all times. He literally went crazy and was totally unpredictable.

There might be other poisons you're not aware of like fertilizers, certain mulch, termite and other pest control, even certain household cleaners- affect the nervous system. The Beagles might not be as susceptible as the GSD- or they aren't exposed to everything the GSD is (?).
 

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With the coat, the ears, and the eyes, and the increasingly sharp temperament it just sounds SO much like Grace's thyroid and allergy issues - which didn't register the first two times we had her tested. Finally this year they actually showed low. Hopefully the vet will be open minded and talk to you about a trial dose just to see. With her daily meds and low allergen foods, Grace is doing great. No more aggression (well, back to normal for her anyway) and her eyes and ears look better.

Good luck!
 

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something else you might want to test for,,tick diseases,,as in a SNAP 4..

I've read that some dogs can become aggressive when suffering from tick disease..just a thought
diane
 

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Discussion Starter #14
We store the kibble in a plastic food storage bin (specially made for kibble) in the kitchen. I am trying to rack my brain to think of what he may be coming in contact with, becuase there definitely seems to be something out of the ordinary going on here, not just regular aggro issues.

There has to be something involving the right side of the brain. His left ear is perfect, squeaky clean. The right ear is a mess of oozing infection no matter what we do. Right now it's better than it's been in years, but we can never get 100% of it knocked out. Then the yellow crust in his right eye this morning ... And the occasional droopiness of the right eye.

Has anyone ever had a dog with a brain tumor? I'd be interested in knowing what the symptoms were & what your experience was with it. I could have sworn his eyes were normal all day today but he's been lethargic today and tonight I noticed both his eyes were dialiated. I shone the light in them and the pupils barely shrunk
 

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Our first dog had a brain tumor. We discovered it when she started having grand mal seizures--very frightening. Looking back, she also had a pained look in her eyes and started seeking out dark places. She was probably having headaches and we didn't realize it. No aggression though.

The good news was that she had the tumor removed at UC Davis and it was benign and she recovered beautifully from it.

I would think that there are probably a lot of different symptoms for a brain tumor, depending on where in the brain it's located.
 

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Do you raise beagles? How many dogs do you have?
 

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Has your vet ever done a culture on his ear? My boy has had problems with his ears for a long time. My vet would always treat and clean - yet something was wrong. We discovered it wasn't allergies. I finally got fed up and switched vets. We just determined that in addition to the yeast (that my old vet was treating), there are 4 different types of nasty bacteria growing in his ear. The panalog was no longer working with the yeast, so my NEW vet gave us something different. He goes in tomorrow to get put under for a thorough ear cleaning and then we start a pretty stringent round of antibiotics for the bacteria. I'm pissed at myself that it took me this long to figure it out. I'm ashamed, actually. BUT, I LOVE this new vet.

Good luck...
 
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