Elmo is an adorable 4-year-old Jack Russel Terrier who could not stop biting the walls in his house. Elmo’s family reported that whenever he seemed stressed out, he would lick and bite the walls. Now some of you may think this is cute, but his family members did not particularly care for the large holes he was creating all around the house :) In addition, they were worried about him being so stressed in what should be normal, non stressful scenarios.
Elmo would bite at the walls when people came over, if people were opening presents etc…On an interesting note, he had about 10 favorite walls in the house to which he would go to engage in this behavior. Once he would start, it was very challenging to get him to stop.
Elmo had been started on an anti-anxiety medication. This medication helped with his fear of thunderstorms, but not much else. This is when he walked through my doors and I had the fortunate opportunity to meet Elmo and work with his caring wonderful family.
Upon taking a detailed behavioral history and observing him, I became very concerned that, although the biting of the walls looked to be the same in every scenario, he was actually doing it for different reasons in different contexts. This meant a multimodal treatment plan would be needed.
I was very worried that about 25% of the episodes were partial seizures, 15% was anxiety, and the rest was a compulsive disorder.
I stopped the anti-anxiety medication and started him on seizure medication. Within a few weeks, 25% of episodes disappeared. I then started him on a different medication for OCD and anxiety and implemented behavior modifications. He improved a further 70%.
I am still working with Elmo and hope that my next recheck will be his last for a while. He has come such a long way!
This patient’s story is a perfect example of how behaviors can be signs of real underlying medical disorders as opposed to a dog just being “untrained” or “bad”. It is also a great example of just how different every patient is. Believe it or not, dogs may bite walls for many other reasons..:)