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ShellyF

Merlin update - energy levels

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Would appreciate any thoughts guys. I am coming to the conclusion that something just isn’t right with my 13 month BC and my concern is his energy levels. 

He has always been prone to tire easily but this was explained away by normal puppy tiredness and as he aged it was improving. Since being neutered that all changed. He has a very varied daily routine. He isn’t left alone. He has ample time playing inside and outside, training inside and outside and both on and off leash exercise. 

He is in his crate from 9.30pm until 8am (he asks to go to bed), he has a two hour nap around supper time (which he needs and wants) and if visitors come this seems to tire him out even more, in which case he has additional nap time. 

He used to love to run in the ball field and would go after his tennis ball 10-20 times. Now he’ll do it once or twice before going off sniffing and standing there panting with his tongue hanging out like he’s hiked all day. 

He enjoys the dog park and we have a nice one. He gets on well with other dogs but after 15 mins he looses interest in running around with his buddies and goes off to sniff, happily leaving when we say ‘let’s go’ .

This morning I took him out back for his morning 10 minute sniff. He went out later for 10 minutes and a frisbee session which he didn’t really want to do. He came back in and promptly flopped in a corner. He rested this afternoon and we took him out again to play and let him sniff and engage with him. He showed signs of being snarky (like over tired pup) and in getting back into the house he has completely flopped in the corner again and gone to sleep. I haven’t attempted a walk in the neighbourhood as a 30 minute walk a few days ago had him completely flaked. 

I don’t think this is normal and neither does our vet but the vet says he is in all respects an incredibly healthy looking dog who presents with healthy data. His blood work is fine, his B12 levels are very good, all four quadrants of his lungs are good and his heart function is good. 

His poop is either very good or occasionally very loose. These loose stools seem to follow periods of stress (for example something really spooked him in our yard yesterday evening and today he was loose this morning but improved as day went on).

i am making him half of his meals (nutritionally verified) and giving him quality kibble for the other half. 

He struggles to maintain weight and since neutering he lost a couple of months of weight gain. He has put some of that weight back on but not a lot. He is 22 kg at the moment but a skinny guy. I feed him at least 1200 calories a day.

The vet wants me to to keep monitoring him for a few weeks longer to see if my changes to his diet make a difference (eg less kibble and more real food).

Does anyone else have any ideas to add into the mix please?

- can a border collie be this exercise intolerant without being ill?

- can neutering cause energy levels to decline in this way?

He is a sweetheart, very affectionate, pretty easy to train and loves to please. Everything a border collie should be. But it’s evident to us and friends who know him well that he’s struggling to cope on some level :/

TIA

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Is it possible that he has some form of Border Collie Collapse and is self-regulating to avoid that collapse?  This is, unfortunately, a DX of exclusion and usually comes with gait changes, but they can be subtle and some dogs (Molly included) learn to self-regulate by putting themselves down to rest/stopping before things get bad. Mental alteration is almost always part of that, though (seeming 'out of it' a little, less responsive, etc).

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And, yes, neutering can cause an energy level decline.  If you think about it, you're basically removing a chemical from their body that athletes use to enhance performance (testosterone).

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Has his thyroid been checked?

I'm talking about a complete thyroid panel sent to someone like Dr. Jean Dodds at Hemopet who knows how to interpret the results.

Even in humans underactive thyroids are often missed because of insufficient testing. Ask me how I know. :blink:

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What kibble are you feeding?  I know the grain free/heart disease link did not appear to be taken very seriously here, but it is real.  No, it does not affect every dog eating grain free kibble but it has affected all breeds, including mixes, and all ages, some under a year old.  An echo of the heart is the only way to diagnose.  A vet listening to their heart may conclude it is normal, often the first sign in a healthy appearing dog is collapse.  Just throwing it out there if you are feeding a grain free diet as something else you may want to look into.

 

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24 minutes ago, GentleLake said:

Has his thyroid been checked?

I'm talking about a complete thyroid panel sent to someone like Dr. Jean Dodds at Hemopet who knows how to interpret the results.

Even in humans underactive thyroids are often missed because of insufficient testing. Ask me how I know. :blink:

He hasn’t had a full panel done. Our vet doesn’t think it’s that but I agree with you re testing. Perhaps I should insist on the full thyroid panel. 

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15 minutes ago, Pageturner said:

What kibble are you feeding?  I know the grain free/heart disease link did not appear to be taken very seriously here, but it is real.  No, it does not affect every dog eating grain free kibble but it has affected all breeds, including mixes, and all ages, some under a year old.  An echo of the heart is the only way to diagnose.  A vet listening to their heart may conclude it is normal, often the first sign in a healthy appearing dog is collapse.  Just throwing it out there if you are feeding a grain free diet as something else you may want to look into.

 

I’ve switched him to a kibble with oats and barley in rather than grain free. It’s still a whole prey quality kibble though and I only give him this now for part of his meals. He’s getting meat and veg and eggshell powder for the remaining part of his meals plus a good variety of other things. I have not only read up on home dog food recipes but also sought advice. I have at least managed to stop his weight loss and reduced the loose stools since doing this. 

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I will just throw the  facebook page out there.   Taurine-Deficient (Nutritional) Dilated Cardiomyopathy.  Most of the admin and mods are Veterinarians.  Hope you are able to get to the bottom of Merlin's issue and back to normal!

 

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I'm sorry Shelly I don't have anything to add about what it could be but wanted to reply as our dogs are similar age.

Our boy sleeps as much over night as yours now and will also have one or more longer naps during the day. Sometimes, if we've done something particularly busy (not necessarily exercise related, maybe just been out for much longer than usual in the car or visit somewhere new) then he'll flop to sleep and still be tired the next day. But this is a sometimes occurrence, maybe once a week or less that he tires out that much. 

It does sound like Merlin gets a lot more exercise than our boy, but I'm sure 3 ten minute exercise sessions shouldn't exhaust him. I hope you soon get to the bottom of it, it must be so worrying.

 

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Thank you @jami74 - I will keep you posted as it’s interesting that your guy gets tired too. The vet says that anti anxiety meds may help him but I don’t want to go that route. So many people mean well but don’t really understand BCs. Our vet is pretty good but it’s hard to explain to him and of course Merlin is full of beans and kisses whenever he sees the vet haha! The associated weight issues and the dramatic difference since neutering is what concerns me. Has your guy been neutered yet? 

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I do want to say that, in my experience, while BC should be able to do more than is mentioned here....

 

They're not, in my experience, dogs who have a ton of endurance unless specifically conditioned for it.  Go hard, go fast, short burst stuff, yes, but most I know, unless used regularly for work and built up to longer times have more 'go fast!' for like 5-10 minutes and then take a break and recover.  They also, universally, tend to take 'there is nothing being asked of me so I'm going to sleep' as an approach on life.


Again, absolutely this sounds extreme.

But 'go go go' and physical stamina to match is not the default setting on most/many.

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7 hours ago, ShellyF said:

Thank you @jami74 - I will keep you posted as it’s interesting that your guy gets tired too. The vet says that anti anxiety meds may help him but I don’t want to go that route. So many people mean well but don’t really understand BCs. Our vet is pretty good but it’s hard to explain to him and of course Merlin is full of beans and kisses whenever he sees the vet haha! The associated weight issues and the dramatic difference since neutering is what concerns me. Has your guy been neutered yet? 

He's being done in a fortnight. I'm hoping that it reduces his reactivity a bit.

With playing fetch I favour shorter throws so our game is more about retrieving and returning than running and we don't always take the ball. We don't have dog parks, but we have countryside and we come across other dogs. We've never stopped to play with another dog for a whole 15 minutes, I don't think our boy could play for that long. Also from my very limited experience (mostly YouTube videos) of herding it looks like the dogs do intermittent running, even if they're working a large flock they seem to run a bit then lay down then run a bit etc. I'm trying to replicate this a bit with our boy because if encouraged/allowed to just run and run he seems to go into a different zone that just doesn't look healthy and takes him hours to come down from.

For comparison this is was our boys day yesterday. I'm not saying it's right, I keep tweaking things trying to find the right balance of exercise and training.

On our morning outing I did a couple of ball throws and then sent him to sniff, he then had a five minute play with a dog who matched him in age and energy before moving on for more sniffing and peeing. He ran around a bit (he likes to run a circle around clumps of bushes) and we did a couple of recalls. He saw another dog and they approached had a quick sniff and moved on. A couple more ball throws with a bit of direction/stays/tricks and then we sat down for a rest as he was panting lots. Then we saw a person with three border collies (big ones who walk along sensibly with their owner), he trotted over to have a look at him and they looked back. Then he did more sniffing back towards the car park, barked at a lawn mower and was put on the lead for some practice. He was probably out of the car for about 30 minutes. With the journey each way and our little lead practice before and after he was out for just over an hour. During the day he had a little bit of tricks/petting/treats with the other inmates and freedom to go outside to pee, play or chew. In the afternoon he had his pre-op visit at the vets, we were out for less than 30 minutes but he found it highly exciting and exhausting and went to sleep when we got back. He probably would have pretty much slept through until morning but at 10pm before bed he got some more lead practice, a bit of tree sniffing and lots of treats, about 20 minutes worth. Food wise he had two Kongs stuffed with peanut butter, kibble, mince and wet food, lots of training treats and access to kibble in his bowl which he didn't touch. He weighed in at 19kg, he is short and stocky and very hairy but I can feel his ribs and some of his spine knobbles. His stools also go loose after excitement/stress.

                                                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                                         

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1 hour ago, jami74 said:

He's being done in a fortnight. I'm hoping that it reduces his reactivity a bit.

With playing fetch I favour shorter throws so our game is more about retrieving and returning than running and we don't always take the ball. We don't have dog parks, but we have countryside and we come across other dogs. We've never stopped to play with another dog for a whole 15 minutes, I don't think our boy could play for that long. Also from my very limited experience (mostly YouTube videos) of herding it looks like the dogs do intermittent running, even if they're working a large flock they seem to run a bit then lay down then run a bit etc. I'm trying to replicate this a bit with our boy because if encouraged/allowed to just run and run he seems to go into a different zone that just doesn't look healthy and takes him hours to come down from.

For comparison this is was our boys day yesterday. I'm not saying it's right, I keep tweaking things trying to find the right balance of exercise and training.

On our morning outing I did a couple of ball throws and then sent him to sniff, he then had a five minute play with a dog who matched him in age and energy before moving on for more sniffing and peeing. He ran around a bit (he likes to run a circle around clumps of bushes) and we did a couple of recalls. He saw another dog and they approached had a quick sniff and moved on. A couple more ball throws with a bit of direction/stays/tricks and then we sat down for a rest as he was panting lots. Then we saw a person with three border collies (big ones who walk along sensibly with their owner), he trotted over to have a look at him and they looked back. Then he did more sniffing back towards the car park, barked at a lawn mower and was put on the lead for some practice. He was probably out of the car for about 30 minutes. With the journey each way and our little lead practice before and after he was out for just over an hour. During the day he had a little bit of tricks/petting/treats with the other inmates and freedom to go outside to pee, play or chew. In the afternoon he had his pre-op visit at the vets, we were out for less than 30 minutes but he found it highly exciting and exhausting and went to sleep when we got back. He probably would have pretty much slept through until morning but at 10pm before bed he got some more lead practice, a bit of tree sniffing and lots of treats, about 20 minutes worth. Food wise he had two Kongs stuffed with peanut butter, kibble, mince and wet food, lots of training treats and access to kibble in his bowl which he didn't touch. He weighed in at 19kg, he is short and stocky and very hairy but I can feel his ribs and some of his spine knobbles. His stools also go loose after excitement/stress.

                                                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                                         

Oh my this sounds soooo like Merlin and you have reassured me. Especially with the panting. We have noticed that the excessive running is also hard for Merlin to come down from. He goes crazy afterwards and we have been training him to ‘find a stick’ - essentially to bite down on/use like a pacifier in these situations. When he doesn’t do too much he’s much less manic afterwards. 

I think I can come to terms with this if I know he isn’t sick with something (the vet reassured me he is fine) and we can manage life accordingly. Right now I have been worried that I did the wrong thing by having him neutered but the kennels insist on neutering after ten months of age and there is the possibility that we may need to make an emergency flight home so we have to have the kennel option. 

Thanks again for taking the time to give such a detailed reply and to others for their helpful suggestions too :) 

 

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48 minutes ago, ShellyF said:

Oh my this sounds soooo like Merlin and you have reassured me. Especially with the panting. We have noticed that the excessive running is also hard for Merlin to come down from. He goes crazy afterwards

Oh thank goodness! I worried after I posted that you might be offended.

I've really taken on board other peoples advice here about mental stimulation being more tiring than physical and I think for our boy everything outside of our home is mental exercise whether that is sniffing in the grass, practicing lead walking and not reacting to things or being in the car. I've even been practicing settle in different outside locations and while he's getting better at laying quietly he is certainly very alert listening and watching and sniffing and needs to have a good sleep once home to process it all. It also seems to tire him out more if I am at home all day as I move around doing housework and he follows me watching what I'm doing, helping me (picking up things I've dropped or carrying rubbish to the bin), doing a few tricks as we go. On days that I'm at work I'm told he sleeps most of the day, then he's a pain in the backside most of the evening.

I am finding the exercise balance hard though. If we have more trips out that don't involve loose running he calms down, pants less and becomes more responsive, but then when I do let him off he's more likely to go crazy, ignore recalls, and be restless the next day. If he has some off lead time every day he is less likely to run himself crazy and his recall is better. A little bit of off lead time seems to de-stress him but too much stresses him out. So everyday is an experiment to find the perfect combination of outsideness and running.

I am also intrigued by all these border collies I see walking nicely with their owners, either on lead near traffic or off lead in the countryside. Even when our boy has run himself stupid and flops down waiting for us, he never walks he gets back up and runs. I would love for us to go for a nice relaxed hour long walk.

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I hear ya! I cannot imagine a relaxed one hour walk lol! I think you are bang on re enough exercise but not too much. I am sure other BCs are different but it sounds like we have two peas from the same pod :)

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24 minutes ago, Maralynn said:

Has he been thoroughly checked out for signs of soreness? Hip dysplasia? Lyme disease? 

He has yes :) 

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1 hour ago, GentleLake said:

I wouldn't count on it.

Yeah, I knew someone would pick up on that.

I have done lots of research and examining of our situation and I am aware that neutering may or may not affect his attitude either way, but as it is an inevitable consequence of living where we do and our lifestyle I am happy that the time is right now he's 14 months old.

His reactivity when out on the lead has improved so much, when we are both concentrating. Sometimes one of us is not or something catches us by surprise and he'll lunge and spin. While it feels like we are still years away from being able to walk calmly through bank holiday crowds we are at least managing to do some sensible lead walking ignoring people and traffic. I think part of our progress is due to him maturing but also like to think it's also as a result of my patience and the hours I've put in. Obviously I'm not expecting neutering to instantly fix those last few lunges but a week of him feeling a bit quieter than usual and needing only lead walks won't do any damage.

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@jami74 - I love reading your updates. It’s just like reading all about our Merlin and good to know we are not in this alone! I’m feeling at a low point right now as post neutering our little guy is getting worse not better. Our vet says that some dogs can’t cope without their testosterone. Certainly Merlin’s now returning to exactly the kind of stuff that you mention when on the leash that we had really been getting to grips with. He’s also started to fret on car journeys whereas he had always been an ace traveler. On the plus side we’ve been chatting to friends about dogs post neutering and a few have said that their dogs found life in general hard to cope with/didn’t want to go on walks etc. These were different breeds. But eventually they came to terms with their new testosterone free selves so here’s hoping! 

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19 minutes ago, ShellyF said:

@jami74 - I love reading your updates. It’s just like reading all about our Merlin and good to know we are not in this alone! I’m feeling at a low point right now as post neutering our little guy is getting worse not better. Our vet says that some dogs can’t cope without their testosterone. Certainly Merlin’s now returning to exactly the kind of stuff that you mention when on the leash that we had really been getting to grips with. He’s also started to fret on car journeys whereas he had always been an ace traveler. On the plus side we’ve been chatting to friends about dogs post neutering and a few have said that their dogs found life in general hard to cope with/didn’t want to go on walks etc. These were different breeds. But eventually they came to terms with their new testosterone free selves so here’s hoping! 

Aw I'm sorry it's feeling hard for you right now. Not very helpful comment from your vet.

I think it's easy to blame the last big thing to happen for any changes, but they might have happened anyway.

Our boy went through a really awful stage in the car a few months ago and we experimented with a few different ways of travelling him, all of which seemed to make him worse. I did some minimal desensitising (literally we got in the car a few times but didn't actually drive anywhere). Not using the car at all is not an option as his road walking isn't good enough and I don't want to spend our exercise/training time sitting not going anywhere. We now often make a point of not driving away as soon as we get in the car and not getting out as soon as we stop, we'll sit and chat and he often lays down and listens to us. And I make a point of taking him in the car with me if I need to go to the shop, so he gets a journey without the excitement of going anywhere interesting. I think of our car journeys as training/mental stimulation so sometimes a drive is as good as a walk and tires him out as much. He is now pretty good, he stands and watches but doesn't make much sound. We recently went on a longer journey (two hours each way), I gave him a chew and a few times he laid down with it but he mostly stood. It meant he didn't sleep all day so he had a very sleepy day the following day. I don't know what made the difference or why he suddenly got better again, he just did. I don't know why he suddenly got odd about it in the first place either.

How long ago did Merlin get neutered? I don't think testosterone suddenly disappears, although production of it stops there is still testosterone circulating in the body and I think it can take a few weeks for this to be completely gone. It makes sense though that it throws other hormones out of balance initially and I guess these can affect things too. I was sort of expecting at least a month for complete recovery but I'm not sure as I've never had a dog done before. I was going to ask at the pre-op but he was such a handful I forgot to ask anything. I've not personally heard any negative experiences from real life people so can only go on experiences that people post on the internet. I've read a few articles/blogs of regret for doing it in the first place and a few that wished they hadn't waited so long. I guess there are lots of people that just do it and don't notice any huge difference.

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@jami74 - so he was neutered at 10 months as that’s the threshold for local kennel to accept him and we have an ageing relative that may require an emergency flight. He’s now 13 months old. You are right in that testosterone takes a while to go. I think that’s why the vet thinks he may be getting worse at the moment as the hormone goes. I hope it all rebalances! 

The car ideas are helpful. I have him in a crate in the car because when we tried him just in the safety buckle he created! I might try again just going down to the shops. And I hear you re having to drive somewhere. We have a short walk to a quiet trail from our house but he finds any walk where cars might go by quite stressful. We trained him to Lie down for cars and he still does. We had gotten to the stage of this 20 minute walk being almost without incident but we have regressed. He’s like the child who’s been too long at the party! 

The encouraging thing for me as that at every step of the way you can see him wanting to do the right thing. And he’s a super affectionate boy :) 

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On ‎5‎/‎31‎/‎2019 at 3:25 PM, ShellyF said:

@jami74 - how goes things? 

Hi Shelly :) 

Our boy has completely recovered from his op. The trazodone made no difference in keeping him calm/quiet and we did not get a few calmer, quieter recovery days. If anything he was more wired the week after.

We had a good week of lead training and no off lead outings, he is getting better with traffic, people and bikes although I still need to be very vigilant. We're still having the odd jump and bark but not so much. Originally I taught him a down position for passing distractions but I've found if he puts himself into that position and zones in then he will react so I lure him back up to a sit and ask him to look at that and then back to me for a treat. If I don't break that stare then he'll react. We have a car park close by which is empty evenings and weekends so I've started getting someone to ride a bike or scooter round there while we are practicing our walking and I think this is helping to make him less reactive to bikes/scooters. Certainly would not be trustworthy off lead but will now sit and watch them go past instead of trying to rip my arm out. He really struggles to walk calmly next to me, if I turn around when he starts to pull he thinks that's a fun game and just runs faster to the end of the lead each time resulting in us going in circles. What seems to work okay is if I stop or slow right down, he bounces back to my side where he knows he should be and we set off again.

We have just started letting him off lead again and he has lost some fitness so runs less before getting tired. I don't want him getting very fit at the moment as he's not trustworthy to be off lead for long periods of time, so he's allowed off for a couple of ball throws and some running/sniffing and then goes back on. Even when he's tired he runs ahead and flops down waiting for us rather than walking along. I am trying to keep him out for longer but not running, so we spend longer in the car and then find somewhere we can sit and watch. Yesterday he had two trips out about two hours each and was lovely and tired in the evening.

At home he is the perfect dog. Does many tricks, is loving and gentle, can settle, does not take anything or destroy stuff. It's unfortunate that he's challenging when out because he's missing out on fun dog stuff. I am sure we would all love to go hiking together but there is nowhere we can hike where we are guaranteed not to meet other people, bikes, traffic etc.

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