Sunday, May 20, 2018
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Dr. Gary Thompson

Problem is likely physical, not mental



Dear Dr. Thompson: We adopted a rescue dog three years ago. Everything was fine for the first year and a half, although we discovered our dog was no couch potato! She blossomed into a very playful, happy ball of energy and would run in and out of any door with abandon.

The problem is she seems either to be in sudden pain or scared to death. She will suddenly stand up and run, as if someone has kicked or hit her or otherwise startled her, and will look stricken afterward. I took her to the vet for this problem twice, but nothing was diagnosed. When she continued acting in this way, I took her to a vet I had used years ago. After two sleepless nights of her pacing, panting, jumping on and off the bed, and jerking her head around nervously, as if she'd heard something, I took her back to the second vet.

He asked me if I wanted him to do blood tests, which I did. They discovered her calcium was high, which they told me could be a sign of anal gland cancer or lymphoma, among other things. He gave her Fluoxetine, 10 mg, one tablet twice a day. She did not have a good reaction to this medicine and after nine days I called the vet to see if it would be OK to take her off of it, which I did. Much more of this and I think I’ll need Prozac! I am supposed to take my dog back to the vet in three months (end of July) for more blood tests.

My question is, do you think my dog is having a mental or physical issue? Can you think of any physical condition that would cause this? Her episodes seem to be coming more frequently and I’m not sure I can wait until the end of July for the next blood tests. Do you think she should have X-rays? It’s very painful for me to watch her suffer this way.

What you are describing sounds like a long journey and my first suspicion would be a problem with her anal glands as well. While you both have been through a difficult time over the last few months, I would suspect there is a physical component to her behavior rather than psychological.

The glands that your veterinarians are concerned about are normal scent glands around the rectum that will empty of their own accord during routine physiologic processes. However, if something is causing infection, inflammation, or blocking drainage, they will become impacted and can be a source of pain and irritation. 

Her turning to look back is a common symptom along with licking and scooting along the floor. However, other less common diseases might cause shooting pain, like a neurologic or orthopedic condition that could cause her to turn like that. Unfortunately, without her being able to let us know exactly where the pain is coming from, it becomes a process of elimination.

I share your veterinarian’s concern about the elevated blood calcium on the blood test. Frequently the only sign of certain types of cancer, such as a tumor of the anal gland or lymphoma, is an elevation of the blood calcium. 

You could certainly call and have her blood levels rechecked sooner than the end of July to see what progression there may be. Hopefully, this is not related to her underlying condition and all she has is a mild infection in her glands. Please let us know how her follow up visits go. Good luck.

Questions for Dr. Gary Thompson can be emailed to or mailed to The Blade, Attn. Ask the Vet, 541 N. Superior St., Toledo, OH 43660. Dr. Thompson regrets that he cannot answer individual letters.

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