K-9 Psychogenic Polydipsia...

My dog has a mental health problem. It is called K-9 Psychogenic Polydipsia. I cut him a lot of slack, one mental patient to another.

Psychogenic polydipsia involves your dog drinking excessively with no apparent cause or reason. It means there is nothing actually systemically wrong with your dog; he is not sick, he is drinking excessive amounts of water. It is thought this condition can be behavioral in origin.

In healthy dogs who drink and urinate a lot, it can be due to boredom, lack of attention, or just because he likes drinking water.  In cases like this, there are options you can try to curb your dog’s behavior to decrease the water intake.  If you are able to find the reason behind your dog’s need to drink a lot of water, such as boredom, and you address it properly, his prognosis of recovery is good. -Wag! "What is Psychogenic Polydipsia?"

I have written about Hershey's horrible life before. In summation: His idiot owners put his mother and her litter into a box and then tried to "warm it up" with a bare-bulb lamp. The lamp was knocked over. The torn up paper in the box caught fire. Hershey crawled under his mother and litter mates. They died. He suffered a burn on this thigh from the white-hot gate when they were pulling the corpses out of the coal. 

To this day, Hershey is terrified if we cook meat on a skillet or on anything that makes smoke. We have to open up doors and turn on ceiling fans, and I pull him into hugs while whispering reassurances to him. I sing him his lullaby, Baby Mine

This song is a potent reflection of his time after the fire. The owners dumped his damaged body at a pound. The pound paid the vet bills. However, this is probably where Hershey identified drinking as something to be done quickly, because the water was only there at mealtime. Left unchecked, he will drink and drink, and then he pisses inside the house. This incontinence is a bad mix of kidney damage caused by the fire and an overly filled bladder.

Hershey was transferred to an adoption shelter, and was finally adopted by a couple. They returned him because he "wouldn't stop drinking" and "peed everywhere".  The woman screeched at the volunteer running the shelter, and screeched at Hershey as she shoved him into the volunteer's arms. After she stormed out, the man told the volunteer that she had been screaming at the dog for days, and hitting him hard when he messed up (We weren't made aware of any of this until we adopted Hershey and I called to ask about his potty training issues.)

When times are rough, and I hold him and sing to him, he sighs and turns into a puddle.

Baby mine, don't you cry
Baby mine, dry your eyes
Rest your head close to my heart
Never to part, baby of mine

Little one, when you play
Don't you mind what they say
Let those eyes sparkle and shine
Never a tear, baby of mine

If they knew sweet little you
They'd end up loving you too
All those same people who scorned you
What they'd give just for the right to hold you

From your head, down to your toes
You're not much, goodness knows
But you're so precious to me
Sweet as can be, baby of mine

All those same people who scorned you
What they'd give just for
The right to hold you

From your head, down to your toes
You're not much, goodness knows
But you're so precious to me
Sweet as can be, baby of mine

Baby of mine
Baby of mine

Hershey Kisses are still the best kisses.

We need to address his Psychogenic Polydipsia. It's unfair to blame him for soiling in the house, especially when we don't try to find ways to help him adjust to using the entire house as a den. As I've mentioned in other articles, my mother did not want us downstairs so training while in a crowded bedroom was almost impossible.

I yelled at Hershey tonight, sadly. He probably drank the entire time I was gone, and then kept drinking once I got home. I was getting the dogs together to go downstairs for their bedtime treat, and he pissed before making it to the door. Yeah, he got a timeout in his kennel. I was ticked off, mostly because he peed in front our parents' ashes and mementos. I'm overwhelmed by guilt now. I believe I really did fail him tonight. It's time to find some coping mechanisms that work for him.

Returning to the Wag! article,

Causes of Psychogenic Polydipsia in Dogs
It is believed this condition may be caused by your dog being bored, stressed, or simply because he enjoys drinking water.  This can be especially common in dogs who are young but can also be diagnosed in any dog of any age.

Hershey falls into all three, but I'll add that bit of PTSD from only having a small amount of water once or twice a day while at the shelters.

Diagnosis of Psychogenic Polydipsia in Dogs
To diagnose if your dog has psychogenic polydipsia, your veterinarian may want to perform a random serum osmolality test.  In theory, dogs with this condition are typically over hydrated with low serum sodium concentration and low serum osmolality.  She may perform this test multiple times to check for changes with and without water restriction.

The urinalysis may need to be repeated, as well.  In a dog with kidney issues or diabetes, the urine is typically very unconcentrated.   However, in a case of psychogenic polydipsia, urine concentration will be re-established with water restriction alone.  This proves the kidneys are working fine; your dog is simply over hydrated.

Additional testing may be conducted to rule out or confirm other systemic illnesses your veterinarian suspects your dog is experiencing.

Our vet has run a gambit of tests. I don't know if we looked at having a random serum osmolality test. The others turned out fine, and we were able to rule out a plethora of things. Collecting pee from Hershey is fairly easy. He does his business in the same spot. Crack open a specimen cup left over from my dad, and it's a clean catch. The staff was pretty impressed by my sample collection. Hey, I was a vet tech back in the day. Way, way back in the day.


Treatment of Psychogenic Polydipsia in Dogs
Once your dog is properly diagnosed and the cause is known, treatment can begin, based on your veterinarian's recommendations.  

For a dog that is bored, more exercise is the best treatment.  This may mean you need to take him out on walks more frequently.  They do not necessarily have to be long walks, just something to break up his day.  You may also want to consider enrichment for your dog as a way to keep his mind busy.  Many breeds of dogs get very bored very quickly but human owners are busy and may not have time to physically exercise their dog more.  

Using enrichment exercises their brain and keeps them occupied.  You can make homemade enrichment for your dog or there are many types you can purchase online.  They can be in a toy form where they have to manipulate the toy to get the treat, or dig through his entire toy box to get to the bottom where you hid his favorite toy.  Another option can be a puzzle feeder for his food.  Your dog has to manipulate the toy feeder until it drops out pieces of food.  This can keep your dog busy anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour or more.  Then, of course, you can do something simple like hide pieces of treats around your home while you are gone.  It gives him something to look for and find as he wanders around your home.

If your dog wants more attention, then you have to either give it to him or find other ways to occupy him.  This can also include more exercise and mental enrichment for your dog.  If his condition is simply because he really likes water you can attempt to restrict his water intake.  You must be careful with this however, as you do not want to unintentionally cause your dog to become dehydrated.  Young dogs and puppies especially really enjoy drinking water, but they need it as they are more active and have higher metabolisms than older dogs.

We absolutely need to focus on his boredom. We typically park ourselves in front of the TV or laptops or monitors. We usually do this when we're not feeling well. And, to be fair, we haven't felt well enough to get things cleared out after my mother passed away. It's a big to-do list, and the end result is our dogs not having as much stimulus as they should. FFS, we can't even leave toys out for them if we aren't keeping an eye on them - three of these idiots tear cloth toys, tennis balls, and even Kong toys apart. There are Nyla bones scattered all over the house, and they love playing with these.

I think the first step is to start doing morning "walkies" with Hershey. I was doing this for a while, until my spine developed spurs, and we really haven't gotten back into the routine. I taught Hershey how to track rabbits in the alley, and how to flush them if they were very, very close. He would get a treat and we'd be on our way again. We did this in the early morning. I miss our bonding like this.

The second step is to give dogs individual attention. This could be one-on-one training sessions to rekindle basic commands. It could be one-on-one play time, so we aren't having to share this time with other dogs (thus more chaos and losing track of toys hauled away to be eaten). And it means pausing whatever we're doing upstairs when Hershey asks for attention. It takes very little to make him happy, and he's content to lie on the bed while we hold a bone for him to chew. Less reasons to turn to water when bored.

This individual training will also help Zoie. I'm tired of having to bribe her with treats just to get her inside. She'll wet the bathroom rug rather than signal her need to go outside. Put up those gates in the kitchen, because we're going to work on housebreaking her silly ass, also. Let's figure out her signal.

I did notice better dog habits while I was using the desk downstairs. I could pause and play, or let them out, or indulge them with "squishies" when we were all on one floor during the day. This is a major part of my motivation to get furniture/bookcases out of the foyer - more space for playing and training than in the kitchen. I need to get Jeff to do the same instead of sit there with his eyes glued to his phone.


Recovery of Psychogenic Polydipsia in Dogs
Once you have a diagnosis and establish the source of your dog’s psychogenic polydipsia and address it properly, his prognosis of recovery is good.  Simply offering him the attention he desires and keeping him occupied may be enough to curb his drinking out of boredom habit.  It may take a few months to find something he likes enough to keep his brain stimulated and decrease is water intake, but with persistence you will be able to change his behavior.  If you are patient and work with your dog, prognosis is good.

We also have a separation anxiety problem going on. Hershey is terrified of being left alone. His family burned to death on top of him because they were left alone. He spent days recovering alone except for timed tech checks. He was brought back to the shelter and placed in a cage, alone. He finally has stability in a forever home and he's terrified we'll vanish and leave him behind, alone again. 

Towards the last years of her life, my mother didn't mind watching him. He loved her for it. Now that she has passed, we sorta take him everywhere with us. He'll destroy kennels/crates just to be with us. He tears up doors. He scrapes floors. He's scared. It's due to PTSD.

It's going to be almost impossible to train that terror towards just a mild form of anxiety. He does function as my therapy dog, and my nurse practitioner is more than happy to see him qualified as such. He gets scared in new places, however. He thinks we're going to drop him off like all those times before with his prior owners. I need to bring in some professional help.

All that aside, he loves car rides. He has spots we always stop at so he can pee. He likes laying across the truck bench seat with his head on my thigh, and he curls into a ball when I take the Bronco. 

He goes with us to Jeff's VA appointments, but he draws a lot of giggles as he tries to walk along the slick linoleum floors; all four legs skitter in different directions. We found a harness that fits him, so I can grab onto the handle to help him find his footing. And he absolutely loves the hospital's front courtyard. There's a service/therapy dog area with plenty to pee on and lots of plastic bags for poop. Once he does his business, he has to visit all the vets sitting in the sun. We return to the parking garage and nap until Jeff's done. Again, another beautiful bonding experience between us.

We owe it to our dogs to help them have a safe, enriched, and pleasant life. It means getting motivated with both the house and their training. It means getting invested 100% before we're all too old to do anything but nap together.

Hey, Jeff, if you're reading this... can you help tag team with the pack? Lots of fun and doggo kisses involved.