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Waking Sudden Onset Aggression: Any New Info?

almcneil

Puppy
I recently read a post here about Waking Sudden Onset Aggression, and how it can be common with bullies. The post was from 2007, so I was wondering if anyone had any new information on this? On the post, there was a lot of broken links from being so outdated. It also said there is no cure...

I'm almost certain my 10-month old bully, Roxy, has Waking SOA. :( I bought her in August from a breeder whose original owners returned her, so I am unsure what type of upbringing she had before I came along. Roxy will be asleep, and all of a sudden go from slightly growling to full-on snarling and lunging, all with her eyes open. When I yell at her or make a sudden noise, she snaps out of it and comes over to me with her ears back apologetically, as if she doesn't know what just happened. Aside from her random fits of rage, she is a perfectly sweet and affectionate dog. I just can't ever let her nap on my lap or nearby, because of how violent she gets!

It's a scary thing, so I was wondering if anyone had any new info! :confused:

Thank you!
 

Hucklebutt

Banned Back Yard Breeder
Hmmmm this is very interesting it can be very challenging to determin SOA on a dog... I once read a story of a basset hound that had it and went into attack mode and litterally jumped its owner and tried to kill her, than it was spinning in circles and smacking its face against outdoor furniture, very scary stuff. Have you read many links on SOA? Heres an informative link...

http://www.btneuro.org/btneuro-old/index.html

Random fits of rage? What do you mean by that, like other times besides when shes sleeping she gets angry? I think all bull terriers get angry when woken some times. I have seen both my females when accidently woken up growl and jump up, but I think the main difference is how bad things get with the dog after woken up, does it continue to move forward in an agressive matter when it clearly knows its you? I believe SOA is often epilepsy related (a seizure disorder?) Many people are going to say to medicate...i say make damn sure you know your dog and you know shes just not 'being startled' but something is definitly wrong..many vets are not familiar with SOA and it might be challenging to find an educated vet. These people know more than me and I think they can help determin the issue...lots of people on this yahoo forum will help...
Remember SOA is never a behavioral issue no amount of correcting or training can help a dog with SOA. They say the eyes glaze over as well.

http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/BullTerrier_neurological_disorders/

---------- Post added at 06:03 PM ---------- Previous post was at 05:58 PM ----------

I think that some times its recommended for SOA like doggy prozac? But that might be for the spinning. I know a dog with real SOA his future may be poor, or you will have to live with this dog that could be ticking time bomb and never allow it to sleep outside of a cage...if the dog were to attack a friend or something this would be very tragic and be very bad for the BSL. I really hope your baby doesnt have it.
 

Sabrina

Moderator
Wow, that would be terrible. :(

Are you sure she isn't just a grumpy-pants?
When Bransen gets waken up he kinda"hulks out" sometimes but it doesn't scare me (or anyne else) as we know he isn't going to hurt anybody.

Good luck, I hope you figure it out.
 

Mardi

Puppy
I'm not sure there have been any breakthroughs in the research on SOA. If you email me privately, I will send you a slightly more recent article about it. I went to a lecture last year by Dr. Karen Overall where she touched briefly upon it, but not in detail. Most doctors are choosing to call it idiopathic aggression, meaning there is no discernible external trigger. Since you are in Indiana, you should try to talk or consult with the head behaviorist at the Purdue Vet School (whose name escapes me now, but I will try to remember to look it up when I get home). He would know what the most recent protocol is. You need to be aware that your dog's prior upbringing has nothing to do with this behavior. As mentioned, the neurological glitches that cause SOA are thought to be linked to those of epilepsy. You also should be aware that once your dog enters adolescence, the problem *may* worsen. Right now, the best thing to do is to love your dog but keep yourself safe and talk to an veterinary expert in neurology to see what drug treatment he/she recommends. You regular vet won't know about these kinds of things, but the guy at Purdue will. My email addy is below, if you want to email me for more info.

Mardi
info *at* bigapplebullies.com

---------- Post added at 05:30 PM ---------- Previous post was at 05:25 PM ----------

Aha, found the guy's name at Purdue: Andrew Luescher
You can look up some his his research articles on pub med and other veterinary databases.

Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences
Purdue University, School of Veterinary Medicine
625 Harrison Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2026
Ph: (765) 494-1107
Fx: (765) 496-1108
Email: luescher@purdue.edu

Mardi
 

almcneil

Puppy
It's not that she is getting grumpy from being woke up. She can be sleeping in complete silence, and soon after she drifts off, it goes from growling to full-on snarling viciousness, all with her eyes open. It has gotten better the longer we have had her, but those first few weeks were awful. It was a lot similar to the food aggression that she had, which has gone away completely. When she is in a deeper sleep from being worn out, it doesn't happen as often, so it seems to be a light-sleep kind of thing. It just sucks because I would love to be able to cuddle with my dog on the couch, but never know when she will have these fits. I definitely do not want to have to medicate her, and would do all that I can to keep from that as a solution.

She has also recently discovered her tail and chases it for a long time, longer than I have ever seen any other dogs chase. I might just be paranoid, but I hope it is just puppy playing behavior and not the OCD spinning that I have read about before.

And thanks Mardi. It's funny you mention Purdue, I am actually a grad student there, so it will be really easy for me to contact him. I hope he helps!
 

Hucklebutt

Banned Back Yard Breeder
It sounds to me your dog might have some serious cases of neurological problems. The tail chasing is a large concern of mine, none of my bullies ever do this...does she get regular exercise where she really gets to wear her self out??
 

jreyes

Little Dog
Yeah i would definitely put a stop to the tail chasing asap. It may get worse and you wont be able to undo it. There were times when I saw my dogs start and I would immediately stop them or deter them with a toy or treat havent had any problems since then. I have no experience with the aggression though sorry :(
 

Mollie's Nana

Krypto Super Dog
Staff member
It sounds to me your dog might have some serious cases of neurological problems. The tail chasing is a large concern

That's exactly what I was thinking. The obsessive tail chasing is a sign of a Neurological disorder. Please have your vet look into this and get some tests underway so you can find out if that is the problem or if it's just a bad habit that has gotten out of control. Let us know what you find out. Best of luck to you and your pup. :o
 

Mardi

Puppy
Lucky for you to be at Purdue...it's harder when you have to travel to see the specialists.

But you say: "I definitely do not want to have to medicate her, and would do all that I can to keep from that as a solution." Don't look at it that way! :-) If a dog had epilepsy or another neurologically based disease, most of us wouldn't think twice about using medication to help our dogs lead normal lives. And OCD and SOA are diseases...just behavioral diseases of the brain....There's still a stigma against neurotransmitter drugs, but they have helped millions and millions of people and thousands of dogs so please don't think of it as a negative thing. Keep us posted!
 

almcneil

Puppy
After putting it off as long as we thought we could, I have an appointment tomorrow with Dr. Andrew Luescher at Purdue's Vet School. Roxy's rage episodes are out of control, and it is heartbreaking to see her like this. I have caught the episodes on video and will post those when I can, and post her diagnosis after her appointment.

Wish us luck...
 

Hucklebutt

Banned Back Yard Breeder
I hope she is diagnosed negative...this would be heart breaking to be a disease she has...I am very curious to see the videos..please show me if you can send me a PM.
 

Hucklebutt

Banned Back Yard Breeder
does she just wake up startled and attack things? does she snap in and out of aggression for no reason at all?
 

aprotopo

Big Dog
I wish you the best of luck. Luescher is a great person, I know him personally, and he has a very good grasp on behavior, so you are definitely going to the right person! Please let us know how it goes.
 

almcneil

Puppy
She had her appointment Wednesday night and everyone was very surprised at her behavior. She did not have a rage episode there, but I was able to show them the videos and they were very puzzled. "The most unique case I've seen in my 12 years of being here," one behaviorist said. She has no trigger and no target for her rage episodes, and that is why everyone is confused. They also noticed her pacing and circling behavior, and I showed them videos of how she prances in a circle with her toys for long periods of time, and spins with her toys. She also nurses and pumps her paws when she chews on soft toys. These behaviors also make them think compulsions.

I left her there all day yesterday, and they observed her and performed several health tests to see if she was medically OK. She came out healthy, and they suspect she has a compulsive disorder. Fortunately it is not Sudden Onset Aggression, even though that is the name of this thread... For 4-6 weeks she has been prescribed Prozac and Valium. I am really mixed up about this. I expressed my concern to them that I don't want her to be a zombie, and they said she wouldn't, but I still don't like having to do this. Everyone at the clinic remarked how sweet and amazing she is, and how she is one of the best bull terriers they have ever met when it comes to personality. The Prozac is to control the compulsions, and the Valium is so she doesn't have the rage at night anymore and can have a deeper sleep.

To answer your question Hucklebutt, she can be on her chain, in her chair, in her kennel, or just trying to sleep, and all of a sudden starts growling and sneering and barking. The breeder has washed their hands of us, so I have no support except the Purdue clinic. Videos coming soon.

Also, Dr. Luescher is retiring at the end of this month, so my timing is VERY fortunate!
 

Hucklebutt

Banned Back Yard Breeder
very odd...im glas the specialists were able to shine some light on this behavior..i would be very interested to view the videos since I have seen some spinning and some OCD in bull terriers but not what you describe.
 

almcneil

Puppy
Finally, a video of the behavior:
[video=youtube;wzmX1Q_ZjtE]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzmX1Q_ZjtE&feature=youtube_gdata_player[/video]
 

Hucklebutt

Banned Back Yard Breeder
wow...i would be nervous to just walk passed her like that, I bet she would bite...thats very very strange and very random. I would be very worried and that the closest thing I've seen to SOA...I've never seen any dog do that before...the specialists don't think its rage?
 

almcneil

Puppy
They think it is some form of OCD.. Her follow-up appt is next week. She has been on Prozac ever since her initial appt and it has significantly decreased the episodes. She hasn't had one in weeks, which is the longest she has gone without doing it. After starting with the Prozac, she has started a new behavior, where she winces and cringes, and her whole body tightens up. The Dr's think its a side effect of Prozac. See the 2 videos below.

Wincing:
[video=youtube;223IcLL9fms]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=223IcLL9fms&feature=youtube_gdata_player[/video]

Wincing 2:
[video=youtube;sGc7B4Yt5uU]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGc7B4Yt5uU&feature=youtube_gdata_player[/video]

Hucklebutt, in response to your comment about thinking that she would bite if you walked past her; in fact, she has never bit anyone or anything during these episodes. If you walk up to her she snaps out of it and wags her tail apologetically, and looks ashamed. We can touch her and she stops, and she has never tried to bite us.
 

aprotopo

Big Dog
She looks like she is in distress, poor thing. Did the vet say anything about possible small seizures or something? Or did Dr. Luescher say it was just OCD and nothing else? I wonder how they differentiated between OCD and sudden onset aggression?