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June 12, 2012

When a vaccine essentially ruins your dog’s brain, you can expect some dog behavior changes too, assuming the dog survives the initial brain inflammation.

Deep inside Lilly remains Lilly — despite the brain and nervous system trauma caused by her adverse reaction to a rabies vaccine earlier this year. Her emergency treatment and ongoing treatment for meningoencephalomyelitis / meningoencephalitis, however, required she go off (cold turkey) the meds we gave her for years to treat her fears / anxieties. So, how has that turned out?

Surprisingly well, actually.

Dog Behavior Changes Related to Adverse Vaccine Reaction and Life-Saving Treatment

I joked online while Lilly was still critically ill that maybe there would be a silver lining to all this … since some dogs do experience positive dog behavior changes after a brain trauma like this.

Even without the twice daily chlomipramine and the as-needed xanax, Lilly seems like Lilly. She will always be fearful and anxious, but going off the medicines so suddenly doesn’t seem to have made anything worse.

It isn’t like all of a sudden we lost 8 years of behavior modification and dog training work.

So, that’s good news … yes?

Loss of Housetraining

The only weird news is that twice recently Lilly has accidentally pooped in the kitchen in the morning. Both times we were making her breakfast, and stuff just started coming out. We were able to get her outside to finish and to clean the kitchen tile well, but it’s the strangest thing.

You know this girl, of all girls, knows better than to potty in the house.

Yet, it seems to sneak up on her once in a while — likely due to neurological damage.

It’s maddening in many ways because in the evenings — in particular — she cries and cries and cries to go out, but then she won’t “go.”

Fussy, Demanding

dog behavior changes due to adverse vaccine reaction and treatmentWe’ve done our best to resume daily walks — 3 miles.

We also run a few agility laps and play at lot of fetch throughout the day, including after dinner, but Lilly remains FUSSY (we assume from the daily steroids). She takes her steroids in the morning, but she is a pacing, whining, fussy, crabby girl in the evenings.

The only solution we’ve found is for me and Lilly to lay on the bed in the master bedroom and watch old TV episodes on the Kindle Fire via Netflix.

(Started with Downton Abbey, but ran out of streaming episodes at the end of season 1, so started watching season 1 of Mad Men.)

If I do that, she’ll most often snuggle all evening.

If not, then she is up and down the hall about a 1,000 times a night.

She won’t settle if I watch TV in the living room. She won’t settle if I watch something on the Kindle in the living room.

Only the bed works. Maybe it’s sound level since I use headphones with the Kindle. Maybe it’s temperature. Maybe she just wants to snuggle.

I’m not sure.

But it works, so I’m not complaining.


She is less fussy during the day, which really helps my concentration on work, so I guess by nighttime she is ready for some undivided attention.

About the Author Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related.

I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

  1. One thing I would suggest is definitely make a note about the pooping accidents to the neurologist next time you’re there.

  2. I have no behavioral suggestions but want to tell you that, depending on your taste in shows, The Killing is quite good and the first season is on Netflix. The second season is on TV right now (and I wish it would hurry up and go on Netflix…)

    1. Thanks for the recommendation, Jen. If you can find it, I was also impressed with Boss (starring Kelsey Grammer). It’s an original series by Starz (we got it free for a year from our satellite company). Only one season so far.

  3. Hopefully it’s just a reaction to the steroids. We had to give our beagle steroids and she made us crazy. Luckily it was just a short period. It was like it turned the dial on her personality (already stubborn and nutty) up to 11.

    Anyway, it’s a good excuse to snuggle and watch TV at night. 🙂

  4. Roxanne,
    Don’t know if this is helpful but this post so reminded me of an article I just wrote for Dog World on canine cognitive dysfunction. That’s like doggie Alzheimer’s or senility, which can hit once dogs pass around age 10.

    Some of the things you’re describing Lilly doing here are VERY much like CCD in senior dogs, especially the potty accidents and the night time fussiness and pacing.

    Obviously, while senior dogs have brain changes due to aging, Lilly has some similar brain changes from her adverse reaction to the vaccine.

    One thing I thought I would mention though is since these symptoms are very similar, I wonder if some of the things people do for canine cognitive dysfunction would help. Namely meds and diet.

    A medication that was used for human Alz. and Parkinson’s is now given to dogs with CCD called Anipryl. I’m sure the last thing you need is more meds, but this might be something you ask your neurologist about esp if her nighttime fussiness gets bad. The vets I spoke with for the story tell me the drug helps mainly with the sleep/wake cycle disturbance these dogs experience (sleeping too much throughout the day, and up at night pacing and restless. Some whine and bark.

    Also, vets are saying really positive things about Hills Science BD (brain diet) dog food. Apparently, it is filled with vitamins and antioxidants and some dogs do really well reversing some of their symptoms of CCD with the food, especially house soiling.

    btw, housesoiling is common with CCD as is asking to go out and then forgetting what to do outside. Their slowed cognition just can’t keep up, which sounds like what happens to Lilly when she suddenly has to go and “forgot.”

    Anyway, might ask your vet about these if you’re interested. Since she seems to have cognitive changes, perhaps she is a candidate for treating her brain symptoms as though she was a senior dog with CCD.

    other signs of CCD are general confusion, getting stuck in a corner of a room and not being able to figure out how to get out, asking to go out and not going, forgetting which door to go out or how to use a doggie door, mixing up instructions for commands, like for a dog that can perform tricks, you tell it to speak and it sits or vice versa.

    Hope something is useful!

  5. Do you know if it is the medication that makes her uncomfortable or is it the reaction to the vaccine?

    The poor sweet thing, it must be so hard for all of you to deal with.

    1. Well, it’s hard to say for sure, but it’s really common for dogs on steroids to be antsy. If we wean her eventually and the fussy behavior continues, then I suppose we can look to the vaccine reaction as a source of brain changes permanently.

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