Monday, June 20, 2011

Ask the Vet, with Dr. Pat:
Water Obsessive or Sick?

by Pat Bradley, DVM
© E. Glavin
Tanner Requires Special Techniques
to Avoid Water Obsession
Dear Dr. Pat:
Two days after I brought my adopted pit bull mix home I had to take him to the vet because he had worms. After a week he seemed fine.  A couple of weeks after I noticed that he was insatiably thirsty, he would race for the cat's water when I put it out, or race to get water from the toilet bowl if the door was open, practically run dogs out of his way if another pet owner poured water for his pet, drink from puddles out in the street--any puddle!  I couldn't take him out when it rained!  


I suspected he was drinking his own urine when left home alone.  I tried everything, from allowing him to drink water until his belly was ballooned, to providing a pint of water every 2 hours.  I took him for walks to relieve him every 2-3 hours but he would have accidents in the elevator.  


Worried that the pup was diabetic or had some other health problem I took him to the vet again. Blood tests came back normal but he did have a bladder infection for which they prescribed medication; I gave it to him as directed. That was 2 months ago, pup is now nearly 7 months old and lives only for water. If we are playing fetch and he spots a puddle, he forgets about our game, nothing that I do will get his attention.  I don't know what to do; he has no health problems and yet this obsession with water cuts our walks short, prevents him from getting the exercise he needs and worries me to the point where I can't enjoy being with him. Is this a medical problem (I think I ruled that out), or is it some obsessive compulsion?  What can I do?

Evelyn
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I have a hyperactive, easily distracted, and easily stressed pit bull cross with a water obsession, too!!!  Boy could we share stories! There’s a great benefit to living with a water-focused dog, of course. Water play wears Otis out, and I swim him shamelessly as often as possible before his afternoon nap.

Ceaser Milan deals with a water obsession in an English Bulldog during the first season of The Dog Whisperer. I’d recommend buying Season one, and watching how he uses kindness and perseverance to break this bull-headed dog’s obsession.

While I can tell you’ve done a great job of trying to rule out health problems, I
want to say some things about lab testing (I mean the test tube kind, not the Retriever kind).  Although our current laboratory tests are good and most of the time we can rely on them, they’re very limited in some ways.

For example, if you look at the statistics, one out of 16 lab results are just not correct for one reason or another.  So when things just don’t “smell” right, I wonder if a lab result was incorrect. 

Here’s another example of a limitation:  2/3 to ¾ of a kidney can be damaged before it will show up as an abnormality on a lab test.  Yikes! That’s kind of like that time the light in my old car came on after the motor had already seriously overheated.  In both cases it would be nice to know earlier in the game.  And the gauges in cars have gotten better…
Obviously my point is that I’d definitely recommend that you take him back for more lab testing over the next year. He might one of those dogs who is having symptoms of a disease before it shows up on a lab test.

But why not cover both bases:  train your dog as if he had a water obsession: monitoring, restraining, and teaching appropriate water behaviors. I’ve spent a year and a half with Otis, encouraging certain types of water play and discouraging others. Now he redirects quickly with a verbal command.  At least most of the time. Occasionally, I’ll look up to see the back of his head in the distance as he’s swimming off into the sunset…

Good luck Evelyn!


Pat
Dr. Pat with Otis
Have a question for Dr. Pat? You can reach us at LetsAdoptaDogPark@gmail.com. For a personal consultation about your pet's needs, visit Holistic Veterinary Services.



Dr. Pat's opinion or advice does not replace an actual exam with a veterinarian






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