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Strange/Concerning Behavior in 2yo Dog

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  • Strange/Concerning Behavior in 2yo Dog

    I rescued a brindle Boxer mix when she was just 3 or 4 months old. She is now 2 years old, and weighs 40# (mixed with something smaller, she's refined but definitely has Boxer features and mannerisms.) She is healthy, fixed, UTD on all vet care, very active, no aggression or dog problems ever, very well trained.. just all around absolutely the best dog I have ever owned.

    In the recent past she will occasionally look up at a ceiling fan, as if she thinks it might one day just drop down on her... Just small glances occasionally, nothing else, no other signs of anxiety or fear. She has never had any accident to cause any fear.

    This morning started completely normal, though when we walked into the living room/kitchen (they are connected) she ran around the table quickly almost as if she were trying to catch a fly in the house - she does that sometimes but never actually catches anything. I noticed as the morning went on she was staring at the fan (it was not turned on) non-stop. She would walk to one side of the room and continue staring, glancing up, really acting more concerned than she has in the past. No shaking or other signs of fear, but she acted as if she was watching something we could not see up there. At one point she stopped to scratch herself with a hind leg as dogs commonly do, and when she sat up again her jaw was chattering.. like, really quick chattering movement that she couldn't stop. I watched her for 15 or 20 seconds, and ended up gently holding her head to help her stop the chattering. I have never seen a dog do this in my life, and it was very bizzare. She kept glancing up at the fan.

    Shortly after this happened she relaxed in the bedroom and acted normal. I left for work before lunch and not long after got a call from my boyfriend saying he is out in the garage working on his truck, but will randomly hear her bark/howl. (Really random, never continuously barking as if she saw something outside - just a random howl). Each time he looked through the window to see what she was doing; she was just laying on the bed and nothing seemed to be bothering her that she might bark/howl at. She typically does not bark often, only if the UPS/FedEx man stops, or if she thinks someone is near the house that shouldn't be.

    For a dog that otherwise has no anxiety, fear, etc. it is strange that she is suddenly really concerned about the ceiling fan this morning, when it was never turned on or moved at all the entire morning. The most concerning thing about this to me is the jaw chattering that occured this morning. Is that a neurological concern? Anything else to check for?

  • #2
    How long have you noticed her interest in the fan? Some animals can certainly view a ceiling fan as something suspiciously alien. My 12 y.o. cat has never acclimated to the ceiling fans in our house. But he doesn't seem to notice them unless they are on.

    My first icky thought - some type of seizure? The staring and teeth-chattering is what makes me go there.

    Random howl/barking...in my limited but vivid experience with seizures in a 9 y.o. dog probably caused by a front-brain tumor, when Scamp was in post-ictal phase, she would often bark if I wasn't there to calm her. I was told this was a result of the disorientation the dog experiences when emerging from a seizure.

    I hope its something way less creepy and more simply eccentric. Neurological was the first place I went when reading your post.

    Maybe the beginning of OCD? There are meds for dogs with this, I've read.

    Jingles. I hope she's just eccentric.


    • #3
      I would keep an eye on her behaviour, but don't panic either. Doesnt scream neurological (although one can argue all boxers have some neuro deficits lol), but its often hard to assess especially when they are "normal" when being checked over.

      If you can arouse her from her staring, then you are likley not dealing with a typical seizure type activity. Teeth chattering can be a sign of nerves and submission, but yes can also be a sign of other things too.

      So, no help from me really, other than to not panic. You will know if there is something seriously wrong, if she continues the behavior best to have her seen again
      Last edited by SquishTheBunny; Aug. 19, 2012, 11:10 PM.


      • #4
        I'm curious to hear what others think of the jaw chattering.

        I've got a 10 year old GSD, I rescued 2 years ago. It's been pretty much like training a puppy only completely adult dog. He grew up completely alone all of his life.

        He went through a crazy period of intense anxiety about a year ago. I took him to several vets, had every test done that they could offer...really veterinary medicine couldn't be any help in his case. Maybe it was completely emotional (but he had good reason). He was freaked by ceiling fans too.

        My experience with animals is there's always something behind the behavior. Keep searching.

        Having said that, I realize I've been no help at all. Drive on.


        • #5
          I just googled teeth chattering and causes are:

          Dental problems
          Neruological disorder

          Take a good look at her teeth. Of course they should be great in such a young dog, but I recently had 4 teeth pulled on my coming 4 y.o.dog, and the only outward signs were some swelling and redness on a 1/2 inch of gumline. Turns out he had rotten baby teeth hidden in there.


          • Original Poster

            She did not act distanced when she was staring at the fan, she was very much mentally present and otherwise normal. I just can't figure out why today it caught her attention that much since I never turned it on and it never moved.

            Her expression when her teeth were chattering was a bit concerned, it really seemed like she couldn't stop it from happening until I helped her.

            Ever since she was a puppy her back/spine would get really hot occasionally, is that something of concern? It was not hot this morning. Just another, separate, observation about my dog.

            This dog will literally sleep through huge thunderstorms/tornado threats and never care. She's a pretty laid back animal. The only time she has ever presented serious anxiety was over the 4th of July. Fireworks went off on the 3rd and she went into a serious panic attack (panting, pacing, whining, shaking, hiding, etc.) The next day I bought a Thundershirt and the anxiety was completely eliminated. First firework went off and she lifted her head from sleeping, and put it back down to continue sleeping without a second thought.

            Last year she didn't have firework anxiety, this was the only event in her life she has expressed sincere anxiety/fear. So I have seen her in that REALLY fearful/anxiety state of mind, and watching the fan does not present those same characteristics.



            • #7
              My cocker used to act oddly at times, we finally found that she was having petit mal seizures. She would have a very odd look on her face, with an odd staring...no convulsions though. You couldn't touch her while she was having one, she would attack. Once it was over, she was fine. One of the triggers was a ceiling fan on medium.

              She had Lyme disease, which the vet believed set off some neuro issues. As long as we avoided other triggers, like chemicals and grout dust (weird, I know) she was fine. She also couldn't tolerate Frontline Plus but the regular Frontline was fine.

              Once we moved to Kentucky, and she was no longer exposed to lawn chemicals, she never had another seizure.

              If it were my dog, I think I would have her vision checked before any other diagnostics.


              • Original Poster

                Originally posted by LauraKY View Post
                If it were my dog, I think I would have her vision checked before any other diagnostics.
                Silly question.. but what tests do they do to evaluate vision? At vet visits he has looked at her eyes and never noticed anything, but what else might they do to test farther? I want to make sure she gets a thorough exam if this continues, and not be ripped off by just "looking" at her eyes again. I've never taken a dog in for eye specific concerns.

                She acts like her vision is pretty good, she can fetch a toy from far away and doesn't run into anything.. but I certainly would not hesitate to have her checked out! Anything for this dog... I don't know what I would do without her!


                • #9
                  Just "looking" at the eyes can tell you a lot. An ophthalmascope should be used, and they are going to look for reactions to light, retinal diseases, cataracts etc. I dont think you were necessarily ripped off if this was done.

                  I again wouldnt panic. How about you videotape these episodes and show them to your vet when you are there next. If these episodes change at all, become worse etc. then maybe it is time to further investigate. I would assume the vets would tell you the same. Nothing wrong with going ahead with a neuro consult and MRI, but it "may" be money wasted. Maybe not.

                  Best of luck!!!


                  • #10
                    Two years is the prime age for a dog that will have seizures to start.
                    Many have just light seizures that can look like your dog is acting, just a little strange and never show any more.
                    Others go on to have more involved seizures.
                    Idiopathic epilepsy is the last your vet will diagnose, after being sure there is not other going on, that an examination and blood work would explain, as some liver issues, or hypoglycemia.

                    My little terrier was a classic case, started acting a bit off when she turned two, after ruling other, the vet put her on phenobarbital and she didn't have any more problems.
                    After two years, we started tapering the medication off and she has been fine until now at 6 1/2 years old.
                    They may at some point come back, or never again.

                    My dog would stop and stare and if one leg was starting to take a step, it would just stick out there, stopped in mid stride. She did a bit of teeth chattering, but rarely.

                    Once on medication, nothing, she was normal, so that in itself was a diagnostic step to come to the conclusion it was mild epilepsy.

                    A dog won't be treated for the occasional seizure, but my dog had several a day, if very mild ones and the vet decided that was too many and she better go on medication.

                    I have known several dogs with similar light seizures, one would have them if she didn't eat for more than four hours, except at night, then she could go longer.
                    She was hypothyroid also and just by getting a bit of food in her every four or less hours she was fine without medication.
                    She was a top agility dog, won several MACHS and lived a long life that bit of epilepsy didn't bother her quality of life any.

                    Do have your vet on board for this, in case it turns out to be seizures after all.


                    • #11
                      It sounds like seizure activity to me. (I used to work for a Neurologist and am in charge of MRI's at my vet hospital, so I see tons of Neuro cases.) There are many different types of epilepsy and seizures and I have seen lots of people come in with videos of behaviors where no one else new what was going on, suspected pain, etc. See if you can get some videos of the various behaviors and get a neuro evaluation. Do you have any teaching hosptials near by?


                      • Original Poster

                        Originally posted by Beckham03 View Post
                        It sounds like seizure activity to me. (I used to work for a Neurologist and am in charge of MRI's at my vet hospital, so I see tons of Neuro cases.) There are many different types of epilepsy and seizures and I have seen lots of people come in with videos of behaviors where no one else new what was going on, suspected pain, etc. See if you can get some videos of the various behaviors and get a neuro evaluation. Do you have any teaching hosptials near by?

                        Update: So, the rest of the day she acted totally normal. Didn't eat breakfast until dinner (she has been doing that for the past two months or so, when it gets really hot out she won't eat breakfast). Never looked at the fan again, even when I turned it on this evening. Suddenly a huge fly came out of nowhere and started buzzing around - same behavior, staring up at the ceiling. I wonder if I mistakenly thought she was staring at the fan (as she has casually glanced at it in the past, but never continuously like this) - when she was really looking for the fly as they are attracted to the light and she is smart enough to know that's where they fly sometimes.

                        No more teeth chattering, yet. I will keep a very close eye on this.

                        In response to the bolded, I am honestly not sure. I am in southern WI if you may know of any in this area. I will look into it. Like I said, this is my heart dog and I will go to any lengths to help her if it is a serious concern.


                        • #13
                          If you again have some questions about why your dog does what he does, now you will have more to go by.

                          With my dog, we took videos of the strange things she was doing and our vet put them up on the vet website, VIN.
                          There, specialist neurology vets looked at them and decided, with the rest of the case history, that it probably was seizures and it was a good idea to try medicating her and see if that would help, which it did.

                          Just more to go by for you, if you don't have any place close with specialists, if you need them later.


                          • #14
                            Glad things seem to be OK, perhaps it was fly-related, some dogs can get pretty freaked out by flying insects, seems to trigger predatory behavior and/or fear/defensive behavior, but when the level of arousal increases, any behavior is likely, including increased vigilance.

                            Just wanted to add another cause of teeth chattering, it is part of the canine Flehman response, to increase scent delivery to the vomeralnasal organ, very common response of males to the odor of bitches in heat (dog version of that lip curling behavior in horses). But bitches do it too, and you sometimes see it in other contexts.

                            Cats sometimes chatter their teeth as part of their predatory behavior. The feline Flehman response is a slightly open mouth facial expression which is often amusing to see, after they sniff at something.

                            There is a type of seizure activity in some breeds which is actually called fly-catching or fly biting, I believe occurs in Cavaliers and some other breeds, but the flies do not exist.

                            And, I have had a wolfhound who was convinced there was some threat that came from above, though she was OK with ceiling fans. She thought there was a ghost that lived on top of our refrigerator and would stare and growl at it. She sometimes stared at the ceiling, too. Wouldn't you know, one day when she was in the room, a tree did fall on our roof. No one was hurt but it confirmed her beliefs!


                            • #15
                              the whole thing sounds like a classic seizure pattern to me.


                              • #16
                                I am not convinced, from the OP update, that this is simply seizure phenomenon. About anything can be seizure related, in terms of behavior. Maybe this isn't (hopefully). Please keep us posted OP! I mean, I am not dismissing the possibility and maybe it is, but maybe it isn't.


                                • #17
                                  I can't speak to the possibility of neuro issues, but did want to add that my border collie is suspicious of ceiling fans, though only if they aren't moving. If he comes into the room and notices that the fan isn't on, he goes into full defensive mode - hair up, barking aggressively and lunging (or jumping) at it from the furniture. Sometimes he notices right away, other times it may be after an hour of laying on the floor.

                                  Though, he also takes similar issue with strange pairs of shoes/odd looking objects left in unfamiliar places, so he may not be a beacon of sanity.


                                  • #18
                                    Well, I think I'd check the fan area for insects and mice and for electrical grounding(poor wiring) just in case there really *is* something going on there.

                                    I'm not a dog person, but my cat will teeth chatter whenever a bird flys over her head, the shadow of it passing over her triggers it. She is saying,"oh you little dinosaur-descendent, if only I could get you, come closer".

                                    I'd be more concerned if she looked up at the ceiling in other rooms.


                                    • #19
                                      Maybe there was a spirit visitor in your house, hanging around by the fan, that really upset her....


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by Chall View Post
                                        I'd be more concerned if she looked up at the ceiling in other rooms.
                                        This. Does she only seem to be looking up at the fan, or does she look up in other instances as well?
                                        I like mares. They remind me of myself: stubborn know-it-alls who only acknowledge you if you have food.
                                        Titania: 50% horse, 50% hippo
                                        Unforgetable: torn between jumping and nap time, bad speller