Author Topic: Sudden "Fly Snapping"  (Read 614 times)

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Offline Summertime.and.Azkaban

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Sudden "Fly Snapping"
« on: May 11, 2017, 12:15:42 AM »
I'm a little freaked out.

In the past few days our GSD/Border Collie has begun "fly snapping", or chasing and snapping at invisible flies. He's very invested, running into walls, skidding across floors and pouncing on "flies".

It seems nearly unpredictable and startles us all when he does it.

He is roughly ten years old, my fiance insists he's only about eight but the adoption paperwork his original owners filled out puts him at ten. He's a very slow, easy going dog who likes to sleep and chill. He's not a high energy dog despite his breed mix, and he has always been okay with a short walk once daily. I know that fly snapping is usually a neurotic behavior in high energy dogs like GSDs and border collies prompted by boredom and understimulation. But my dogs get walks appropriate for their social and exercise needs, puzzles toys, and normal toys. Chewy has something to do at all points in the day and has not shown any desire to exercise more than he does now. He's arthritic and I can tell the running and hitting walls hurts him and makes his joints stiff and sore.

What do I do? Do I take him to the vet?

I'm going to talk to the young neighbor who walks Chewy and ask him to do things that are more stimulating, like playing ball and tug instead of just the light jogging/racing they do together.

Other than increasing his exercise what options do I have? And on that note what has caused this?

Since we moved the dogs have been getting a lot more exercise, stimulation and training. Rayner is no longer chasing his tail out of boredom, Chewy's arthritis was getting better with pain management and gentle exercise and Azkaban was making bounds in training. I've worked hard to make sure my dogs are properly exercised and stimulated since we live in an Airstream camper that doesn't leave much room for doggie recreation.

I'm worried this is a sign of something more concerning than boredom. I can work hard and fix boredom, but I don't know what else to do.

Any advice? Is this a phase? Is it me falling short on exercise?

-Azkaban, Rayner, and Chewy-
"I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights" -Desmond Tutu
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Offline Kirsten

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Re: Sudden "Fly Snapping"
« Reply #1 on: May 11, 2017, 12:57:56 AM »
Yes, you need to see a vet to at least rule out a medical cause.  It could be a type of partial seizure (probably not, the way you described it, but should be checked).  And there could be other medical causes, as discovered in this study described in "The Bark" http://thebark.com/content/gi-involvement-behaviorial-issues

However, usually it's a psychological disorder common to both GSDs and border collies.  Prescription psych meds will probably be necessary if he's already hurting himself with the imaginary flies.  It's not curable.  It's mostly managed with medication though in some dogs that is not enough to stop the dog's injuries or suffering and euthanasia becomes necessary.

https://www.canidae.com/blog/2014/08/what-is-fly-snapping-syndrome/

Note for others reading this thread:  it is normal for some dogs to snap at real insects as they fly or crawl by.  It's a problem (a symptom of a medical or psychological disorder) when they do it to imaginary flies.
Kirsten and Tardis
In loving memory of Cole (1/11/99 - 6/26/12)  He gave me back my life.

"The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog." -George G. Vest

Offline Summertime.and.Azkaban

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Re: Sudden "Fly Snapping"
« Reply #2 on: May 11, 2017, 01:19:55 AM »
This has been going on for two days, I'm going to call and ask my vet what they suggest. I have a feeling they're going to tell me to try non-medicinal methods like supervision, distraction and more exercise before we try medication but I will call to get their opinion. If they want to see him I'll take him in, they see him frequently for allergies and are familiar with his oddities.

He has a history of compulsive behaviors, mainly chewing. He has atopic dermatitis and even when he is not broken out and experiencing a reaction he chews himself. We interrupt him; interrupting is the only reason he has any hair at all. He'll have all of his hair ripped out if we don't supervise him.

I didn't know that fly snapping was akin to compulsive chewing and sucking, it makes much more sense now.

The biggest worry is the physical tole it's taking on him, I can tell he's sore from hitting walls and pouncing on arthritic toes. I'm going to call the vet tomorrow but I want to wait a few days, perhaps a week before considering psych meds. I want to make sure there's nothing else we can do but I won't tolerate him injuring himself.

-Azkaban, Rayner, and Chewy-
"I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights" -Desmond Tutu
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Offline Kirsten

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Re: Sudden "Fly Snapping"
« Reply #3 on: May 11, 2017, 01:53:18 AM »
Read the first comment on the second article I linked.  That's pretty typical of what I hear in breed discussions (i.e. that an SSRI can be a game changer).

Several (perhaps all?) of my dogs have been fly snappers, but thankfully after real flies.  Still, because I'm aware of it in my breed I'm always careful to check that there is an actual fly.

On your guy, since you already know he has an obsessive personality, don't let him near a laser pointer or anything that causes moving lights (disco balls, dangly prisms on light fixtures, etc.).  This is another known OCD trigger that can cause dogs to really harm themselves.  There is a belief (not sure it's valid or not valid, but it is strongly believed so I act on it) that playing with a dog with a laser pointer can create these compulsive syndromes (fly biting, light obsession, compulsive licking, etc.).
Kirsten and Tardis
In loving memory of Cole (1/11/99 - 6/26/12)  He gave me back my life.

"The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog." -George G. Vest