Gus has been with us at RRR for just over six months now. While he’s put on weight and has thrived during his time with us, he still has a few behavioural and medical problems that require careful management, a lot of time and unfortunately, quite a lot of money.
When Gus first came to us, he was extremely messy in his run. The run he was kept in at night was approximately 10ftx8ft and had three individual kennels, all filled with straw. There’s a large toileting area in this run with a drain running along the back of the area. For the longest time, Gus just seemed to go wherever he was standing at that moment in time and had no real awareness of walking through it or standing in it. On occasion during the first few months, he came out of his run in the morning and it had been obvious that he had lain in his own waste.
As we’re all aware, dogs, domestic and wild, are den animals. Instinct encourages them to keep their dens clean by eliminating somewhere outside of their sleeping place. As both urine and faeces have strong scents, this scent in or around the den could scare away prey or attract predators. This instinct has long been manipulated by humans in order to housetrain dogs. The fact that Gus was so complacent about his own hygiene and the hygiene of his sleeping area showed us that it was more than likely that he had no other option other than to eliminate near his own sleeping area for such an extensive period that it became what he considered normal.
This behaviour is an extreme deviation from what is considered a natural instinct within a dogs psyche and is something that we have seen quite often in dogs that have been kept in small, unnatural and not fit for purpose areas. Thankfully however, over time his housetraining problems have improved greatly and he seems to have realised that he doesn’t need to go to the toilet where he sleeps anymore.
Gus is also extremely focused on food. When he becomes aware that there is food close by it can be very difficult to get his attention. He is also extremely food possessive and for safety’s sake, we have to feed him separately and make doubly sure that there is no food left around when he is out with the rest of our dogs as we are fairly certain that it would cause him to become aggressive. Gus also displays Pica and coprophagia. Pica is an issue in which the dog attempts to ingest non food items (in Gus’ case items noted have been toys, pieces of tissues, plastic gloves, brush handles and various items that were left around him) and coprophagia is the eating and ingesting of faeces. On occasion Gus has been noted to recycle his own faeces straight after elimination.
While these are behaviours that at some point all dogs will display, even if only once, pica and coprophagia are two disorders that we see often in dogs that have not received adequate nutritional care and have been allowed to starve for a long period of time. Much literature exists that proves that when animals are deprived of their normal nutritional needs, they become prone to eating inappropriate materials. We have on occasion seen emaciated dogs that have developed a habit of eating stones and dirt, so much so that they have broken their own teeth. Anecdotally, we believe that these behaviours come about in cases of starvation from the dog ingesting anything to curb a feeling of hunger. It can also be due to boredom and lack of stimulation.
Due to the extremity of Gus’ displaying of these behavioural problems and as he was extremely emaciated when he came to us, it is in our opinion that Gus’ nutritional needs were not met and that this neglect happened over a long period of time.
Increased aggression is also a common consequence of frustration in underfed animals. This frustration and franticness around food could be an adaptation by Gus due to a long history of nutritional neglect. It may have been that Gus was kept around other dogs as the damage to his ears is evidence of a dog fight (the tip of both ears are ripped off). This is an injury we have seen before and has, in our experience, always been caused by another, similar sized dog.
Whether these fights were caused because of a lack of food or sexual based aggression we cannot say for sure. Gus, who is an entire male, on occasion shows signs of being what can only be considered hypersexual behaviour and has an extreme non-tolerance of other males. These two behaviours, added in with his specific phenotype (which is unique to breeding and show circles within Ireland), and our own experience tells us that Gus was either used as a breeding dog, or was kept in an environment where breeding took place.
This history of trauma, added in with bad hygiene, lack of physical care and nutritional deficiencies, have made for a dog who has severe physical health issues. At the moment, Gus has to be sedated and have his ears flushed out at least once a week due to severe infection that is proving exceptionally difficult to get on top of. As sedation requires the presence of a vet, it’s proving extremely taxing on the rescue resources. This issue with his ears is more than likely a problem he will have for the rest of his life as the damage was allowed to get to a point where there’s not really any returning from.
We’ve had a lot of contact from people asking about Gus, he appears to be becoming one of our most popular and most talked about residents, so we’ll be keeping these updates running indefinitely.
While we do our best to thank everyone individually for the help that we continually receive, we’re thanking you all here again, especially to those of you who have donated towards veterinary fees for this boys physical care. We’ll continue to keep you all updated on how Gus is doing.