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Odd Behavior In Dogs – Epilepsy In The Behavioral Lobe – A Neurological Disorder

You learn a lot after years of being a dog trainer. Thousands of dogs come and go and many seem to fall into the same behavioral categories. It is easy to analyze and prescribe behavior modification courses based on obvious characteristics. That is until you meet a dog like Simba. About 12 years ago the owners of Simba called us for help. They lived in Huntington Beach CA in the heart of OC, living the good life. They had an oceanfront home with their own personal dock in their backyard. They also had two beautiful teenage daughters and a male Golden Retriever puppy named Simba.

The call started with Simba’s owner, Robin, explaining to me that the family had purchased Simba as a puppy from a breeder. At six months old, the family had found Simba to be a very difficult puppy. They invited a local coach to play in the lessons at home. The trainer after meeting Simba was sure that there would be no difficulty since Simba was a Golden Retriever (a breed known for being easy to train and very obedient to commands) and was a professional trainer. How hard could it be?

He explained that the trainer after several lessons gave up in despair as Simba, no matter how hard he tried, could not be expected to do a command to sit or stay down. He was frustrated as a dog trainer who couldn’t explain to the client why he couldn’t deliver a successful result with something as simple as a Golden Retriever puppy.

Robin now explained that Simba was over a year old and almost surrendered for rescue or worse. His behavior had become increasingly strange over the past year. It started with his sudden obsession with the French doors in the back of their house. He explained that Simba would be lying in the sun sleeping by the door and then suddenly he would wake up, look at the door and run towards it as if it were an offensive creature. He would scratch and bite the French doors for a minute or so and then just as suddenly curl up in the sun again and go to sleep. In addition, he sometimes displayed the same strange behavior when the family walked him. He would be walking along just fine and then all of a sudden he would fall on one of them and start scratching them.

The last straw happened when one of the teenage girls was taking him for a walk by the sea wall and he suddenly fell on top of her. He fell over the sea wall with the dog. As they hit the water, the girl feared for her life that the dog would continue its attack on her. Apparently the shock of hitting the water had actually shocked him and he didn’t continue the attack.

I was immediately curious about this strange behavior and asked Robin to bring the dog out for a consultation. After evaluation, Simba appeared to be a normal lively Golden Retriever. Given his history, we agreed to take him in for observation and training as much as possible. Placed on our indoor, outdoor runs that accommodate larger dogs. These tracks have doors that open between the inner and outer sections. These are not dog doors, but normal doors that open.

It didn’t take long to hear a terrible clicking sound coming from the kennels. The kennel technicians came running, exclaiming that we need to see what Simba has been up to. We all walked out the door to see Simba standing on his hind legs and pushing the door open and closed as fast as he could.

He was pushing the door so hard that it slammed against him without a chance to close.

We immediately requested that he be put in a run without a door. These tracks are completely indoor and feature a sleeping pallet in the back corner. Simba was deposited here and all was quiet for a while.

Within hours, the kennel technicians were back again with another request to witness Simba’s behavior. This time he was leaning against the kennel wall scratching the pallet.

Even though there were at least four people standing at the door of his run, he focused entirely on his palette in order to scratch the demons he was apparently envisioning. Even calling his name didn’t get his attention for about 30 seconds. Suddenly he looked up and came to the door wagging his tail happily. Within 30 seconds, however, his head smashed into the pallet and left us for another attack on the pallet. He scratched and moaned and dug at the pallet as if his life depended on it.

Ok, now I knew this was something I had never seen before! He didn’t always show this behavior.

He would go out for training and actually go through these weird periods of being confused by mysterious creatures or whatever he was seeing in these hallucinations. While implementing standard behavior modification, I suggested to the owner that we take him to a specialist I knew in Palm Desert who dealt with Obsessive Compulsive Disorders. We went together and he prescribed Simba Prozac while he was in training. The Prozac only had the effect of making him a happy hallucinogen. He continued to exhibit these strange behaviors as well as acting like he was being stung by a bee on the rear periodically while training. Other times he acted as if he saw bees or flies while performing a down or sit command. He was so convincing that even the trainers were looking for the insects he was seeing.

When Prozac was ineffective, we took Simba to a Neurologist who diagnosed him with Behavioral Epilepsy. He explained that Simba had the equivalent of crossed wires in his brain. The failure was

in the behavioral lobe that was causing him to have a seizure in that area. Unlike Motor Epilepsy

you can’t see the evidence of the failure other than the strange behavior. As with Motor Epilepsy

prescribed phenobarbital which had to be adjusted based on response. This really worked

and after proper adjustments the customer had a 70% improvement which made life with Simba much easier. This diagnosis really made the difference between them being able to tolerate Simba and give him away. This was partly due to the fact that they could now understand him.

Since dealing with Simba, we’ve only had two more of these instances. One was a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who would sit in the window for hours swatting imaginary flies. Another is a Border Collie we often board, who will stand on his hind legs and spin in circles swatting imaginary flies for hours on end. The neurologist reports that these are common breeds that exhibit this disorder.

Your average veterinarian cannot diagnose this type of disorder. If you think you are dealing with something similar to this behavior, you should consult a Canine Neurology specialist.

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