What is Running Away From Home and Marking Territory?
Marking territory and roaming are generally considered to be instinctive behavior in dogs, but when these behaviors interfere with the health and safety of your pet and others there is often a medical component that can be addressed to reduce these behaviors. The most common medical or physical causes to these behaviors would be hormonal fluctuations, canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS), and dementia. Other disorders and diseases that can cause behavior changes that include either roaming or urinating behavior as a secondary symptom can include rabies, brain tumors, urinary tract infection, and many others. Once medical reasons have been ruled out or attended to, any remaining behavioral issues can be tackled with behavioral training.
Marking territory and roaming are instinctive behavior in dogs, but there can be underlying medical issues that can be addressed such as hormones, dementia or underlying illness. As the safety of our pets is always a concern, you may want to discuss this problem with your veterinarian.
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Symptoms of Running Away From Home and Marking Territory in Dogs
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction syndrome (CDS) and dementia
- Decreased responsiveness
- Easily irritated
- Getting stuck in corners or against walls
- Lapses in house training
- May not recognize or acknowledge previously recognized people, places or commands
- Pacing and wandering
- Sleep-wake cycle disturbances
- Defensive or aggressive behavior
- Escape attempts
- Inability to concentrate
- Mounting or humping behaviors
- Refusal to come when called
- Scent marking
- Uncharacteristically clingy behavior
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction syndrome (CDS) and dementia are disorders of the mind that affect mostly senior dogs, which cannot be completely attributed to another medical condition, such as brain tumor or diabetes. Canine Cognitive Dysfunction syndrome in dogs is very similar to Alzheimer’s in humans.
Causes of Running Away From Home and Marking Territory in Dogs
The causes of CDF and dementia are not well understood for canines or for humans. In CDF, a protein called beta-amyloid builds up in the brain and forms abnormal plaques. The plaques on the brain cause the nerve endings to die off and the brain mass ultimately shrinks. Age plays a significant part in the development of the disorder.
Hormonal changes will either be triggered by your dog natural body rhythms or by the pheromones of another dog nearby. Other triggers for your dog to develop hormonal behavior could include pregnancy or menopause in females, testicular cancer in males, or pituitary disorders and hyperthyroidism in either gender.
Diagnosis of Running Away From Home and Marking Territory in Dogs
Your veterinarian will ask you for a history on your pet, including any abnormal behaviors your dog has been exhibiting, and if and at what age spaying or neutering took place. A general physical examination will be given and a complete blood count, chemistry profile, and urinalysis will be completed as well. Special attention will be given to the blood sugar levels, hormone levels, and antibodies in the system, as well as to your dog’s reproductive system if a hormonal component is suspected. Testing will also be done to ensure that infections, cancers and toxins will be found and treated.
Because there are no definitive tests for Canine Cognitive Dysfunction syndrome (CDS) or for dementia, they are considered diagnoses of exclusion. Confirmation of the disease is generally made during examination of the brain during necropsy. The brain of the dog affected by CDS will weigh less and be observably smaller than a dog with normal brain function.
Treatment of Running Away From Home and Marking Territory in Dogs
Treatments for hormone imbalances will depend on the cause of the imbalance. Surgery may be required in the event that a tumor is found, or hormone replacement therapy may be recommended for certain endocrine and reproductive disorders. Often the triggers to hormonal behaviors are environmental and may be difficult for your veterinarian to pinpoint, but spaying or neutering are often successful in reducing or eliminating these tendencies. If your dog is a female in heat, you will have to wait to spay your pet until they have completed their cycle.
There aren’t any treatments that will stop Canine Cognitive Dysfunction completely, but a medication called Anipryl has been known to significantly decrease the effects of CDS and slow the progression of the disease. It works by increasing the amount of the neurotransmitter Dopamine in the brain of your canine and is generally given once a day. Although effective, it is not particularly fast acting and results can take anywhere from a few weeks to two months.
Recovery of Running Away From Home and Marking Territory in Dogs
If your pet had any surgery to treat their condition, (such as spaying, neutering or removal of a tumor), it is important to keep any incisions clean and dry. Medications for either issue are likely to be long-term medications and it is best to take these medications at the same time or times each day. For a dog with CDS other considerations may need to be made for your dog’s health and well-being. It’s best to increase the number of times that you take your dog outside for bathroom breaks, and problem-solving games such as hide and seek or find the treat can help engage their mind.