Friday, 30 October 2015

Australian terriers and mutts

It's a wonderful feeling to realise that for the last week Penny has been improving steadily after her scary bout of gastroenteritis. We've gone for some kind of walk each day lately, even if only a stroll and a sniff at a local sports ground.

As we wandered around recently, a passer-by stopped and asked if Penny was an Australian terrier. As far as we know, her ancestry is shih tzu, maltese terrier, and possible poodle.

However... here's the Australian terrier we met that day in the park...

And here's a site with another photo of an Australian terrier...

They sure do look a lot like Penny in some ways.

But she's not an Australian terrier, I feel sure. It's just that the fur is similar.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

baking treats from canned dog food

Well, so far it's been all good on Penny's (boring) new diet. I'm not sure she thinks it's boring, but I  do, so I'm thinking of ways to make the Royal Canin Gastro Intestinal Low Fat Diet seem interesting.

As I mentioned previously, I've been putting it into a Nina Ottosson dog toy. That's fine, and it slows Penny down so much that she takes more than three minutes to get the food out of the toy. (Only half the recommended serve, because I'm boiling up a half serve of chicken and rice each time.)

Now I've come up with the idea of buying the same food in a can, and stuffing some into a Kong. I think Penny would vote this a good idea.

Also, I've baked some of the can into crunchy treats, which makes it easier to reward good behaviour and practise tricks.

The instructions on this site explain how to cut the top and bottom off a can and use the cut-off lid to push the food out slowly, in order to slice it evenly and thinly.

It's rather mushy food, so without the idea of pushing it out gently, I don't know how I'd have been able to make slices.

Here are the slices ready for baking.

I did them for about thirty minutes at 180°C. And after enduring the smell that humans would consider pretty awful, put them outside the house to cool down.

Today she sampled them, and seemed to love them. (On the other hand, she loves beef, kangaroo, chicken, rice, red peppers, banana, duck poo, possum poo, stinky buried bones, compost, and anything else you can suggest, so maybe it's not altogether surprising she liked my baked treats.)

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Penny tries a special diet

It's been a long, long two weeks...

Penny first became ill on the day before the Very Important Football Grand Final, the long-awaited day when our team contested the last Aussie Rules match of the year. (And won!)

That was Thursday 2 November. It seems such a long time ago...

Then there were days of watching her, after she came back from the Animal Emergency Hospital, checking she wasn't vomiting and that her bowels were once again in action. It seemed as if she had settled, and Gastroenteritis was diagnosed.

But she continued to be unwell, and it's been a tiring couple of weeks, observing her and hoping for the best. She must have been getting well and truly tired of a diet of boiled chicken and rice. The problem for me was knowing whether I was giving her sufficient nutrition, because dogs aren't meant to be on this diet for so long.

When we reintroduced some of her usual foods, she began to vomit again, and the diarrhoea started up again.

A fecal test and a blood test have produced good results - not pancreatitis, as we thought it might be. No little baddies in her gut or her blood.

So, our own vet has concluded that it was Gastroenteritis, as the Animal Emergency vets thought.

Now we're trying a bland diet - Royal Canin Gastro Intestinal Low Fat diet. I don't like the idea of feeding the same thing every day, but after many a cold wait in the dark yard before dawn while Penny circles and vomits, I'm more than happy to stick to this for a while.

Penny looked rather sad in this photo, with a frothy mouth. I hated to see her feeling so bad.

But she's much better now. So far so good..

Two days and she seems well...

BTW, Penny thinks it's delicious, so much so that I'm feeding it in a variety of toys to get her to slow down the eating. She's still getting half of her diet as boiled chicken and rice, but I think we'll gradually take that out and trust the nutritionists at Royal Canin have done their job in formulating the food.

Here she is, enjoying the meal that I think looks so boring. (BTW, the clip is infinitely boring to watch, but Human Number Two is not at home at the moment and might enjoy seeing that Penny's health has improved so much.)

I must pop up to the vet tomorrow and see if there are canned varieties available, because I'd like to try roasting some slices for treats, and also using the soft food to stuff a Kong for her. I learned the trick of baking slices of canned food back in 2011 when we were trying to stick to a non-allergenic diet.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Penny meets a graphic designer

Today Penny and I went to a local park to mooch around, and we met a friend there whom Penny loves. She (the human) and I were discussing 'earthing', so all three of us lay on the grass in the lovely evening sunshine in the hope of improving our emotional welfare. How nice!

I hope I didn't overdo it by taking Penny for this first major outing after her recent illness. She was out in our backyard munching on grass this evening. Back to the vet tomorrow, I think.

But an interesting thing happened while we were in the park. We met the man who is one of the designers of the great signage that I love so much, the signage that explains the fascinating water harvesting that goes on under this park.

And with the Monster El Nino looming over our summer, water harvesting is going to be on everyone's mind soon. Unfortunately. How terrific that Banyule Council has put all this investment into the future.

Here he is with our friend, holding his own dog, Chas. (Chas the Chihuaha - you have to love that name!)

If you'd like to see more of his work, have a look at this.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

First day home after the big scare

So, we go to the hospital to collect Penny...

Instructed to make very sure she has a bland diet, so she can recover successfully. We leave...

Oh, no, what is this? She has snaffled a piece of popcorn in the carpark! Grab it out of her mouth, successful because she's not really all that ready to eat. I think it's just a habit to grab anything remotely edible.

In the car. Home.

Check out the bowl to see whether there's any food. Yes, a tiny little serve of boiled chicken and rice.

Out to the backyard to see if she will have a bowel motion. (Why does dog hospitalisation always seem to end up focused on that all-important evidence that the gut still works?)

What's this? A spot on the back lawn with three-day old vomit. How nice. But her super-clever human - me - has taken the precaution of digging over the spot in preparation for Penny's homecoming. Nothing much to be grabbed, except perhaps a smidgen of disgusting soil.

Oh, well, maybe lie down for a little rest, near the delicious smell.

And it's tricky to get anything nice if your human plonks a container of old gardening pots on top of the best place.

At last, a bowel motion! (I'll spare you the video I took of this, dear reader.)

So, inside to rest at the window and check out the neighbourhood.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Penny gives us a big, big scare

Penny's been in hospital. And we were super worried. (She's home now and resting, having eaten small meals of boiled chicken and rice.) Last Thursday she vomited her breakfast, ate it again - and vomited it again.

Later on that first day, at dinner time, the same thing happened, but this time the 'second helping' stayed down. However, she looked so woebegone that we took her to the vet hospital. It was a public holiday the following day, and we knew it would be at least 36 hours before we could take her to our own vet.

So at midnight she was admitted.

It was scary. Words like 'bowel obstruction' were mooted.

The next day, she seemed a bit better, so we took her home. But she sort of 'faded' throughout the day, lying flat as a carpet, and we decided to go back. She was re-admitted.

The hospital was wonderful. All sorts of tests and examinations were done, and we had a phone consultation with each vet attending to Penny. (Lots of phone calls at midnight and five a.m sure take the energy out of a worried owner.)

Hoping for the less frightening diagnosis, I concentrated my internet info-search on gastro-enteritis. Bowel blockage was just too alarming to consider. And the other possibilities that were suggested I don't even have the courage to write.

What I gathered, from the plentiful info from the hospital, and from sites on the internet, is that gastro is diagnosed by ruling out all other possibilities.

Greenbriar Animal Hospital's advice reassured us that we hadn't overreacted by going to emergency:
How is your dog acting? If he's running around [after vomiting] and acting just like he always does, good. You have more time to address the problem. But if your dog is acting ill, is lethargic, doesn't want to do the things he usually jumps at (like a walk), or is spending lots of time just lying around or sleeping, you need to get him to the vet now. Even if this means an emergency visit.
a dog who has vomited 3-5 times in one day has a lot more urgency to the situation and should be seen now.
The Greenbriar Hospital has good advice about how to handle a less urgent case at home.

Bedfordview Vet Hospital compares a canine case of gastroenteritis with cholera in humans, as to its level of severity.

An article on Hub Pages explains the illness and makes the point that if gastroenteritis is caught early, it can be resolved. It gives a chilling explanation of why we should act on this condition quickly:
While the symptoms of this condition may be pretty worrisome for the owner, when caught early, treatment is much easier and effective. Cases left going on for too long may cause complications and also potentially death. The reason behind this is that untreated gastroenteritis will cause major dehydration. With major dehydration the red blood cell count will increase consistently causing the blood to concentrate and thus, become thicker. 

An article at VCA Animal Hospitals is great and lays out clearly the things we needed to tell the vets, the treatments that could be expected, and some possible causes. The stand-out reassuring quote for me was:
Most cases of acute gastroenteritis improve rapidly after re-hydration. If the vomiting and diarrhea do not improve significantly within forty-eight hours of treatment, the diagnosis should be re-evaluated.
I was very impressed at the way the emergency hospital considered all possibilities throughout Penny's stay.

Pet Health Network has a good overview.