Lifestyle Sunday, April 28, 201The Vet Dr. John De Jong

Dear Dr. John,

Your help is needed as I try to figure out what to do about my 4-year-old male Havanese dog who in the past year or so has become increasingly aggressive. Things have gotten so bad lately that he recently caught me off guard and bit me with no provocation — almost tearing off the end of my index finger. Luckily, I am a physician so I was able to bandage up my finger and not need sutures. The dog is seemingly healthy and up to date with his vaccines, so I am not too worried about any specific medical issue. I am considering whether or not I can improve things by neutering him, but I am not sure if that will calm down his aggressive behavior, which started soon after we moved to the area. I hope you can steer me in the right direction. Thanks!— A.B.


Dear A.B.,

Havanese dogs are handsome dogs that are not typically known for aggressive behavior. As you know from your professional background, history is as important as any other diagnostic tool to determine cause and then pursue proper treatment. I find it significant that your dog’s behavior changed soon after your move. Has your work schedule changed, too? It is not uncommon for a pet to become upset when they are subject to a move, a change in owner’s work schedule, or anything else that changes or upsets their daily routine. Cats are especially notorious for acting out in these kinds of circumstances.

While your dog’s change in behavior is probably behavioral, physiological changes cannot be ruled out. As such, I would start out by suggesting that you have a routine physical examination done for your dog along with blood work to rule out any underlying issues despite his otherwise healthy disposition. Be sure that his rabies vaccine is current.

The next thing that should be done right away is to neuter him. Removing that testosterone from his system may calm him down some as well, but know that behavioral traits, once engrained, may be harder to overcome. If spending more time with the dog, schedule allowing, and neutering does not change things, then the next step would be using Prozac or some other medication to curb his aggressive behavior, and training may be needed as well. Until things resolve, I would be cautious around him so he doesn’t bite you again. I hope this helps, and I’m glad that your finger is OK.

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