I am writing this article in the hope that it may help a reader who has a similar problem and so they don't have to go through as much worry as we did!
It all began in January, with one of our Greyhounds, Blue Bob. Blue has always been a very complex dog who often displays strange behaviour which is due to past abuse. It was a normal day where nothing had changed and nothing had happened. Blue quite suddenly became noticeably 'edgy' and 'odd'. He started to peer at things and it looked like he was watching things that clearly were not there. He would follow these 'things' around the living room and under the sofa and would become very animated. A lot of strange behaviour often goes un-noticed in our house as we tend to take in the most 'damaged' of dogs who all have their own little behavioural problems. However, this began to get a lot worse and it became somewhat un-nerving! The first thought was 'Do we have a ghost?'. Strangely, he was fine when he was upstairs and was just his usual happy self. The next day he wouldn't even venture downstairs. I tried everything from coaxing to bribing with his favourite pilchards in tomato sauce but he would get halfway down the stairs, turn and bolt back up. Eventually I had to carry him but as soon as he got downstairs he looked petrified, but he had to go outside to the toilet, so he had no choice.
Once he'd been outside, I couldn't get him back in via the kitchen. It was all becoming incredibly strange and very traumatic for him so I phoned the Dogs Trust to speak to the behavioural therapist who worked with Blue before we got him, for advice. She was completely baffled and had no idea what the problem was and eventually asked if the house was haunted! As the kitchen had become a clear no-go area for Blue, she suggested getting him in and shutting the door and feeding him with his favourite treats. I tried this but it was becoming far too traumatic for him. My next option was to phone the vet and get him booked in for a joint appointment with Susan Johnston (his vet) and Kim (his behavioural therapist). Kim was pretty baffled with the pattern of behaviour and as he was showing no obvious signs of pain, it was initially thought to be behavioural. However, when he was seen by Susan, she cracked the problem in seconds. Blue had hurt his back! We have wooden floors downstairs and she concluded that he had slipped on the floor and hurt himself, and as a result of this, had suddenly developed what's now known as 'Laminate Floor Phobia'. It explained all his strange behaviour and seemed to mask any signs and symptoms of pain. She prescribed painkillers and advised us to beg, borrow and steal some carpet off-cuts so a carpet 'path' could be laid between the stairs and the kitchen. We put some down when we got home and the problem was almost instantly solved. He trotted downstairs and into the living room quite happily! It took him a while to get back to normal and we bought a small rug to sit at the bottom of the stairs so he could get his footing.
We have to add meat to their dry food every day now to keep him coming into the kitchen happily but he can sometimes still be a bit wary. Blue is the type that will not forget anything in a hurry and has been left with a strange habit. He refuses to drink in the kitchen and will only drink upstairs from a bowl in my bedroom or a bowl in the garden. We've tried numerous things to help but now we just leave him to it. If that's where he wants to drink, it's no problem!
It was a very upsetting few days and took lots of hard work to get him back to normal but thanks to Susan, the vet, it was so much easier. Hopefully this tale might help someone and spare them the worry it caused us. Apparently, the floor phobia is becoming quite common, especially in older dogs and it shows how pain can manifest itself in many ways.