Tuesday, 21 November 2017

dogs eating grass

Penny is a regular grass eater, so we let lots of weedy grass grow in our yard, but in particular we have one long pot of so-called 'cat and dog grass' for her to use.

About a year ago I bought a pot of 'pet grass' and then researched it online, finally coming to the conclusion that I shouldn't have purchased it because it's an allergen for dogs.

By January this year, however,  I concluded that it had been a good purchase, because she's made good use of the grass.

So today I noticed the grass is in bloom.

I've cut off the seedheads. The grass may die, I suppose, now that it has bloomed. But I'll certainly buy another pot of it, if so.

The grass is dactylis glomerata. 

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

goat kefir and dogs

I've been giving Penny a 'dob' of goat milk kefir with each meal lately, in an effort to improve her gut health and thus her immune system.

So far there are no problems, even though I accidentally dropped in more than a 'dob' yesterday.

Two of the humans in our household drink kefir ourselves every day (home made, a very easy process) and feel it's doing us good, but we wouldn't have given it to Penny without the say-so of a canine specialist. However, when I saw it at the canine naturopath's shop I trusted her to have researched it well.

This article is one of many online promoting the benefits of kefir for dogs.

However, this  article suggests water kefir may be better than dairy kefir. I haven't tried making that myself, and the naturopath doesn't sell it, so that may be something to look into in the future.

I'm interested that the same article mentions sauerkraut. I've seen sauerkraut in the fridge at the naturopaths's shop, but she doesn't make it with salty water. She says dogs don't need salt. (I'm not sure I understood that correctly. I'll check next time I'm there.)

Skepvet has looked at studies dealing with the use of probiotic supplements for cats and dogs, and I find that site interesting. But that's supplements, not actual foods like sauerkraut and kefir. The site says,  'There is no high-quality, consistent evidence for most suggested uses of probiotics.'

On the other hand, my doctor recommends the use of probiotics after antibiotic usage (in me, a human), and I suppose at least some of the studies on that topic were conducted on animals.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Penny meets her brother again

Wow! It's been more than a month since I posted.

We're still keeping an eye on Penny's joint issues, trying to make sure she's not in pain. Also, she's begun licking herself again, because of what we assume are seasonal allergies.

We tried Apoquel, on our vet's recommendation, and the results were instant. By the next day she had stopped licking herself. However, on reading this article about the other effects of apoquel use, we decided to discontinue it, given that Penny's itch is not too bad.

We're trying our vet's idea of bathing her feet and perineal area every time we come in from a walk, and so far the itching seems under control.

One of the main reasons we didn't want her on apoquel for too long is that she already has lots of lipomas on her body, and some warts on her head. So we knew we'd worry excessively about the possibility of her developing more lumps because of the treatment.

So, it was particularly interesting to run across Penny's littermate in the park yesterday, the second time in thirteen years we've met him.

He, too, has lumps. He, too, has warts. And, to top it off, he scooted around on the grass as the humans chatted.

It was such a relief to see that these are not huge problems, that the other human doesn't get as worried as I do. Penny's brother was obviously happy and well, even with these similar issues.

One little tip I'll try is to trim Penny's tail like her brother's is done, so we can wash her effectively, and to make the application of ointments easier.

Penny is sitting with her rear leg stuck out, and her brother doesn't seem to have the same joint problems, so I suppose our participation in energetic sports may have given her problems. But she loved her agility and her flyball, so here's hoping it was worth it.

The two dogs didn't spend much time socialising. I  wonder if, after thirteen years, they even remember each other?

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Dog owner education in Darebin Parklands

The other day, as we were walking in Darebin Parklands, we came across this great sign.

We try to be as careful as possible in obeying the regulations in this park, because we remember the terrible times, years ago, when there was such a horrible fight about dogs using the area.

We never forget that although this is a fabulous place to walk with Penny, it is not a dog park as such. It is a wonderfully reclaimed area of native flora and fauna and a credit to the visionaries who first thought of doing so, and to the hard ongoing work of the Darebin Parklands Association. 

The sign has some amazing facts about how many dogs use the park. No wonder it's necessary to make sure we all respect the various facets of this area: human recreation, dog exercise, native animal habitat, native flora regrowth, water quality and water life. There would be many more aspects, but I can't think of them right now. Oh, yes, the spiritual healing trail, a most important feature. A few years ago I attended a smoking ceremony that was very beautiful and spiritually uplifting.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

turmeric for dogs

It's been a while since I blogged. Life has been ambling along okay, with Penny having to deal with some arthritis, a leg that has a torn cruciate ligament and some skin issues, but basically she is happy and enjoying life.

I thought I'd do a post today to tell about our experiment with turmeric. A local shop has opened, run by a naturopath for dogs, and we've been keen to try feeding Penny a raw diet, as she used to have.

The other thing that was suggested by the naturopath is that we try turmeric for her increasing number (and size) of lipomas. One of them is rather big and in a place where it might need surgery, which at Penny's age would be a very unpleasant option.

The turmeric we are feeding her is in the form of Golden Paste. We were supposed to start with a small dose, to see how she reacts to it, but we forgot that instruction and started straight away with the recommended dose of 3/4 teaspoon per five kilos of weight.

So far so good.
The good  thing is that this medication should help with her allergies and her arthritic also.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

When your dog is old

It's hard enough to admit to myself that I'm old. But to admit that Penny, too, is in her senior years...is confronting.

I was just looking back through my old posts, searching for a photo of a pvc pipe agility jump I'm giving away on Freecycle, and feel quite sad that so many of the fun things Penny and I have done in the past are no longer appropriate. She can't get up on her hind legs, and has quite a lot of arthritis in all limbs, so many favourite tricks are now out of the question, also most agility and indeed, a great deal of the active training.

Here's the agility jump that has made me feel so nostalgic.

On the other hand, recently I came across this skateboard ramp on the side of the road for disposal.

I reckon we could have some fun with that, and what's to stop her doing a little bit of weaving, provided I space the poles far apart? As I've posted previously, I'm a great believer in recycled items as agility equipment. After all, it's free.

I've just read Karen Pryor's post about adapting training to the changes in your old dog. Most encouraging. And I liked a few of the points in this post, also.

Yes, we will still have active fun together!


Monday, 10 April 2017

Penny has an ear for music

Why does Penny rush out of the house whenever I play the piano? For most of her life I haven't touched the piano, but I do remember that when she was a puppy I occasionally played a few times - badly, I'll freely admit - and she behaved as if she hated the sound.

It hasn't changed. I've decided it might be good for my ageing brain and my levels of stress if I played  the piano regularly. Last August I started on a few old favourite pieces, but it was disheartening to hear the immediate tick-tack of the doggy door as she left the house, so I stopped.

And once again...

What's it all about? I'm not that bad, surely. At least she doesn't jump up and try to stop me, like this dog does.

At last I've stopped playing and I'm on this computer, so she can have a little sleep, tucked up with one of her favourite balls.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

another torn cruciate and arthritis

Penny appears to be still enjoying life, even though she has significant arthritis in her left knee and a torn cruciate in the right knee. After the surgeon told us she's likely to get significant arthritis in her right knee if he operates to do a traditional repair of the joint, we decided to continue to monitor her progress. He believes enough scar tissue will build in the knee to enable her to move comfortably. She bunny-hops along when she's in a hurry, but otherwise walks on all four legs.

However, Deb from Bow Rei Me thinks Penny is weaker in her right rear leg. I'll have to keep an eye on this. Perhaps we could return to some of the physio exercises we practised when she had the first knee repaired.

So, all through the hot, hot temperatures of February and March we've been taking gentle walks, and the weather has made this a sensible choice. Now that it's cool once again, I guess we'll have to be more vigilant that Penny doesn't over exert herself. But so far she seems content to amble along. We're up to half-hour walks now.

Of course, any little puddle of water - hooray for some rain at last! - is very inviting.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Penny's second cruciate tear

We returned to talk to the specialist veterinary surgeon last week to discuss Penny's torn cruciate ligament in her right knee and he believes nature is healing the problem without any necessity for surgical intervention. It's inevitable that Penny will get arthritis, sadly, but the surgery might result in worse arthritis than a natural healing.

We were so excited that we treated ourselves to a little picnic in a park near the vet hospital. Penny had been fasting, in anticipation of an operation, so we bought her some supermarket dogfood, which
we don't usually do. She loved it. And a cake and a hot drink each for the relieved humans.

We'll go back to see the surgeon in two weeks' time to discuss it again. In the meantime we're taking her on short walks where she is encouraged to step out in a steady manner and exercise the leg without any twisting or turning.

I've looked back at my own blog post from Sunday 18 July 2010 and see that we tried to manage her first cruciate tear conservatively. On Thursday 22 July 2010 we were still trying to manage the situation with rest, and I was busy researching alternatives.

On Wednesday 8 September 2010 we opted for a traditional cruciate repair and began the slow process of her recovery.

What I didn't realise at that time was that when a traditional repair of the knee is performed, the nylon suture eventually breaks down and it's the build up of scar tissue that keeps the knee stable.

I've just been looking at Vet Surgery Central's diagrams of the extracapsular repair and it helps me understand what the surgeon has told us about Penny. It says:
Heavy suture material (monofilament nylon) is passed from the lateral labella to the tibial crest and tied in order to eliminate joint instability (drawer movement).
With time, scar tissue develops around the stifle joint which helps to stabilise the joint. The build up of scar tissue will also decrease the range of movement of the joint.
As I understand it, we have unintentionally practised 'conservative management' of Penny's injury by keeping her quiet for the last two months and restricting her walks to first five, then ten, and now fifteen minutes, on level surfaces and mostly on lead. We kept her so quiet because we were afraid she had cancer throughout her body. Terrifying, but since the second CT scan we are assuming that is not the case.

I'm encouraged by reading this post about a dog called Tucker who had a traditional cruciate repair on one leg and succeeded with conservative management on the second leg.

I'm particularly interested in this part of the story:
This second time around I did things a bit differently. I still kept him confined to controlled, leash walking when he needed to use the bathroom, but I also made it a point to walk a half a block or so each time we went out. My logic here was that it was important to keep the joint somewhat strong and mobile while his body was working [to] build up scar tissue and muscle around the torn ligament. I was careful to make sure that he did not get overly excited, jump and/or run, because I was sure that any strenuous activity or quick motion would tear the ligament for sure and set us back.
The blog author mentions the transition from NSAIDs to Yucca Root. I might investigate this product. They mention treatment with glucosamine and chondroitin supplements, which we give to Penny every day, and also omega oil to help with joint lubrication and reduce inflammation. We do that every day also.

Another point is to make sure there is no weight gain, and to try for weight loss if appropriate. Well, what with being on NSAIDs, which gave her diarrhoea, and getting less food because we didn't want to upset her stomach, Penny has lost some weight over this period. (Actually, we were rather scared when her weight went down to 14.6 kg/32 lb.) I must check what her weight is lately.

So, here's hoping she won't need an operation.

Penny's not worrying about it all, she's just enjoying the quiet life.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Great news!

Today, after more than six weeks of anxiety, we received the welcome news that the second CT scan of Penny's body showed no changes in the 'spots' that had shown in the first CT scan four weeks ago, so the specialist vet has classified them as benign.


So now we need to keep resting Penny and give her a while to get over the anaesthetic from the last scan, and then it will be time to decide what to do about her torn cruciate ligament.

In the meantime, we are restricting walks to a gentle stroll in the evenings. We try to limit it to ten minutes, but if Penny seems happy we let it go a bit longer. Tonight we explored a new dog park near us. It was so tiny that in normal times we would have thought it unsatisfactory, but at the moment it suits us fine.

One way that Penny has been keeping herself occupied is in hunting for rats in the straw-bale vegie garden.

Sometimes when hunting rats you have to brush through quite a few spider webs, but that doesn't stop Penny staying on the job.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

a worrying time and grass eating

Bette Davis is supposed to have said, 'Old age ain't for sissies.' Or, as I've heard it often said here in Australia, old age ain't for wimps!

I agree, in terms of my own life, not that I yet consider myself old... But I'm sure not young.

And in terms of of dog ownership, a beloved dog getting older can be stressful. It's been about six weeks since I blogged, and the hiatus has been mainly because Penny's been plagued by one problem after another and I kept waiting for her to be back to her usual energetic self.

Well, perhaps that will happen, but if I keep waiting it might be another six weeks, so I thought I'd write about what's been going on.

To sum it all up, she had an x-ray to check what was the cause of her ongoing limp, and to our surprise and that of our vet, it turned out her right leg has a completely torn cruciate ligament. We'd both thought it would be her lower spine that was the problem. The x-ray didn't specifically show the tear, but the specialist felt sure it was the problem.

To a certain extent, a torn cruciate ligament is an easier problem to deal with, given that she had cruciate surgery in September 2010 and made a good recovery.

But the x-ray showed some 'spots' in her body and so we arranged for a CT scan, which showed some issues in her liver, upper spine and her lung. The surgeon says they might be just part of the ageing process and we could keep an eye on them. But he won't do the cruciate surgery until he feels he's checked that out. So we'll have another CT scan in a week's time. That's three weeks after the original one. He's looking to see if any of them have changed in that short time.

It's been hot weather, so it's not too hard to convince Penny that she should rest and take life easy. We started her on pain relief - anti-inflammatories - but after a while her bowels seemed upset, so we've taken her off the tablets and put her on a bland diet.

We're obsessing about her poos. I'm sure anyone who has a dog understands this obsession. Her  gut is settling, we think. But yesterday she - as usual - grabbed something from the front garden and it must have been bad, or maybe it had something on it that bit her, and she rushed around eating grass for what seemed like ages.

Her appetite is good and she poos regularly, so we're just watching and waiting. But this afternoon, she vomited up this:

What a mystery. How could a bunch of grass sit in her digestive system and come back up, when all the other food is passing through normally?

It's not the first time she's used grass to self-medicate. She has always done that. But usually it comes out the other end. I just checked my past blog entries for ones that focus on grass-eating and there are ten! Sometimes she's pooed out the grass, sometimes she's vomited it up, and sometimes she even ate grass after vomiting something revolting she'd snatched as we walked.

In the midst of all this stress, it's kind of amusing to re-read my old post about how silly I was to buy pet grass. That pot of grass has turned out to be wonderful, given that it's hot and dry here in Melbourne and most of the grass in our garden is dying off. (I let weedy grass grow in the garden for Penny's sake.) The one little pot has multiplied into a big bunch of luscious leaves. You can see it in the background of this photo of our back patio, which has been spread with mulch to encourage her to wee and poo there, seeing she can't get down the back steps. (She refuses to toilet anywhere but the back yard, though, so we have to take her the long way around the house. Sigh...)