Since we adopted our dog Conrad last spring, he has suffered from a strange kind of fit that we’re pretty desperate to see somehow resolved. The set of symptoms are very distinctive: he’ll compulsively lick and rapidly swallow, and sometimes give a sharp cough. If the fit is particularly bad, he’ll attempt to eat anything in sight — grass or snow if he’s outside, but otherwise clothing, dog toys, carpet, his dog bed, etc. (That seems to be a desperate attempt to settle his stomach.) Basically, the symptoms develop based on the severity of the fit: the core symptom is the rapid swallowing — and to that might be added licking, then the cough, and then, only in the worst cases, eating anything and everything in sight. The more severe the fit, the more upset and agitated Conrad becomes. A fit might last five minutes — or two hours. They come in waves. So he’ll be fine for a few weeks, then he’ll suddenly have many of them each day for a few days.
We have not been able to discern any kind of pattern to them, nor any kind of cause. Nothing seems to ease his symptoms at the time. As for prevention, we’ve varied his food in all kinds of ways, to no effect. My vet recommended putting him on a daily dose of pepcid, but that didn’t work. I’ve even tried Dr. Eades’ Protexid, but that hasn’t worked.
Conrad isn’t unique in these fits. On rare occasion, they’re referred to in forums as “the gulps” or “licky fits.” They seem common to certain breeds, albeit not German Shepherds. Apparently, the fits don’t lead to bloat, and they aren’t due to any anatomical abnormality. However, they’re said to be a mystery. I’ve not seen any definitive account of their cause, nor of treatment.
Conrad has been fine for the last few weeks, but then in the wee hours of the morning, he developed a severe bout. It has recurred many times today. He’s pretty unhappy — and I’m miserable that I can’t help him. (I also have to watch him like a hawk, lest he eat something he shouldn’t. Worst case, I can put him in his crate without any bedding, as they he can only lick the plastic tray. I hate to do that unless absolutely necessary, however.)
Tonight, I finally captured a portion of a bad fit on video, using my iPhone. Here it is.
Do any of you have any experience with these fits? If so, do you know what the cause might be — or how to treat it? If so, please comment! Or e-mail me at [email protected].
Notably, my vet has never seen or heard of these kinds of fits in any dog. She’s never seen Conrad with them either; I’ve only just described them to her. Given their transient nature, I think that trying to get the dog to the vet during a fit would be difficult, if not impossible. Also, I imagine that the anxiety of being at the vet would suppress all but the worst fit. (Oh, and I’m pretty grossed out by the thought of poor Conrad compulsively licking the floor of an examination room, even if just cleaned.) Now that I’ve got a video of a fit, I could show that to her. And I could take it to one of the specialists at VRCC.
In the meantime, if you have any familiarity with these kinds of fits, Conrad and I would welcome any information or advice.
Update: From what I’ve read, these fits don’t seem to be dangerous in and of themselves. However, I worry about him eating something harmful, as he has shown himself perfectly willing to eat quite a bit of fabric, not to mention foam stuffing from his dog bed, when desperate. For example, last night, he managed to chew off the end of my brand-new coveralls in less than five minutes:
I had to buy those new coveralls because he ate about 1/3 of each leg from my last pair in a prior fit. So I’m deeply worried that Conrad will cause himself serious harm in one of these fits by eating something he ought not.
That exerts a toll on me: whenever he shows any signs of compulsive swallowing, I have to watch him like a hawk. That’s a huge drain on my attention and energy. For example, he kept me mostly awake with a fit from 2:00 am to about 3:40 am last night. He was safe in his crate, but I hated to hear him so obviously miserable.
That’s why I’m quite desperate for some kind of solution.