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Gracefully Walking Your Dog Through the Aging Process by Laurie Duperier

 

 

This is a great article with precious advices from Laurie Duperier that she wrote for the NoVa Dog Magazine.

Laurie Plessala Duperier is an author and expert on caring for aging dogs. Living with Gunny, her soul mate, changed her life and taught her almost everything she knows about everything. Before devoting herself to dogs, she was an international lawyer. Later she ran Gunny’s Rainbow, a warm water healing facility in Bethesda, for 8 years. You can learn about The Endless Path, the book she wrote with Gunny, at theendlesspath.com. It is widely available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online retailers.

 

 

These days, our animal companions are living longer than ever. But many of those last years can prove quite challenging given the rate of cancer, heart problems, degenerative diseases, and orthopedic ailments that our older dogs face—just like the aging human population. The tests, treatment options, and supportive therapies can seem overwhelming when your dog experiences a significant health problem. The costs can be staggering. And while we all want our animal companions to stay with us as long as possible, what most of us really want is for them to be happy and have quality of life all the days that they are here.

I spent the better part of the last 12 years tending to elderly and dying dogs, both my own and others’. For eight years I ran Gunny’s Rainbow, a warm water healing facility in Bethesda, and specialized in supporting geriatric dogs and their people. While I started out swimming with all kinds of dogs, from young ones looking for exercise to surgical rehabbers to geriatrics, over time I focused exclusively on the seniors, knowing there were other swim options for the younger pups.
Fundamentally, old dogs are my calling and my passion. I love them—they are my life coaches! In fact, I first built Gunny’s Rainbow for my elderly dog, Gunny, who you can probably guess I named the place after.

I could write a book about all that I learned from the dogs, their humans, and some very committed and knowledgeable specialists and holistic practitioners. In fact, I am going to write that book! But for now, I want to share some of what I learned about supporting an older dog with significant spinal or orthopedic issues, which is more common among large breeds than small, although they can affect any canine.

Sometimes Less is More

When your dog starts to limp or acts tired during or after playtime or retrieving, rein in the activity. This is a sign of discomfort—not just being older. Their big canine hearts sometimes want to do more than their aging bodies can handle. Consider several 15-minute walks instead of one or two 20- to 30-minute ones. After all, for most dogs, the only thing better than two walks is three!
You may also need to limit retrieving the ball for extended periods, even when the drive is there and they want to go go go. Just like people who have arthritis, moderate exercise several times a day is much better than a long marathon session that over-stresses their muscles and joints.
Last but not least, do not ask your elderly dog to be a “weekend warrior.” Asking them to go for a long 45-minute walk on a nice day when they are only accustomed to short ones can do more harm than good.

Water is Magic
While weight-bearing exercise has its place, for an old dog with disk disease, degenerative myelopathy, or arthritis, it is weightless aerobic exercise that can really make the difference.
The benefits of water exercise are well-documented and numerous. Swimming or walking on an underwater treadmill allows your dog to work his muscles and joints without the concussive impact of paws on pavement, which can be painful. The hydrostatic pressure of the water helps with joint pain if they stay in the water long enough. If you can find a facility with water upwards of 87 degrees, your dog can get a lot of pain relief from the heat penetrating his joints. When you reduce their pain, dogs can use their muscles and joints more easily, which of course helps them walk better. Even if your dog was not a water fan earlier in life, consider giving it a try. The ability to move without pain can make almost any old dog a fan of water exercise.

As important as those physical benefits are, the mental and emotional benefits are no less impressive. I cannot count the number of retrievers I saw who literally “came back to life” at being able to retrieve a ball for their mom or dad, often for the first time in years. They are proud and happy to feel like a “big young dog” again. One of the reasons for that is biochemical: just like us, when dogs get their heartrates up, they release endorphins, dopamine, seratonin, and other feel-good chemicals that lift negative feelings and improve their mood. Think about it. Your 13-year-old dog likely doesn’t run anymore or really get her heart rate up, and that means she’s not getting good aerobic exercise. Exercising in water allows a dog to do that safely (assuming they have no underlying heart condition), so it is both a physical and psychological win.

 

Do Not Wait to Address Aging Issues
Many times I silently lamented that someone waited so long to bring their dog to swim. If only they had come 6 months or a year earlier, when their dog had more muscle, I could have helped more. Just like your grandmother no longer builds significant muscle, your 13-year-old dog is unlikely to bulk up again once that strength is gone. The name of the game, especially for degenerative conditions like disk disease and arthritis, is to maintain muscle mass for as long as you can. You can do that in two ways: by easing their physical pain so they can comfortably exercise, and by getting the right kind of exercise.

These days there are so many options, both holistic and traditional, to help your senior dog. Explore them all, and don’t be discouraged if a particular treatment doesn’t work, since medical care is not “one size fits all.” Try something else! Some options cost very little, like making Golden Paste (a natural anti-inflammatory made from turmeric). Some are relatively expensive, like regular acupuncture or chiropractic care. And there are exciting new things out there like CBD oil made from hemp or cannabis, which can help ease pain. Be aware of what’s out there!
Also, talk to your vet. Go see a neurologist, orthopedic surgeon, or rehabilitation therapist. Consult a holistic practitioner. But definitely don’t postpone the issue until your dog can no longer get up on his own, or falls down constantly. Generally, these issues will not get better with time—only worse. However, with patience and determination, my experience is that you can find a combination of therapies that helps your dog.

The Small Stuff Matters
Be mindful of details when it comes to your elderly dog. Here are a few points to keep in mind.

1. Keep your dog’s nails trimmed short so they can get all the way up on their paws and are not shifting their weight back to the weaker hind end.

2. Cut the hair in between the paws on their feet. When they’re walking around with hair covering their paw pads, it is like being on ice skates on a slippery hardwood floor. Paw pad traction helps their stability.

3. Invest in carpet squares, runners, or yoga mats and put them on stairs and on slick surfaces where your dog walks. It is easy to strain a groin muscle if they go splat with their hind legs out, and very tough to fully recover from that.

4. Get a harness to help them off the floor and/or a sling to support them going up and down stairs. Going down stairs is very dangerous for a dog with hind end weakness because they end up descending like a runaway train and can really injure themselves. Fall prevention is obviously preferable to recovering from a fall.

5. Be sure that your dog is eating a low to no carbohydrate diet and getting appropriate supplements like fish oil, Vitamin E, and Vitamin B if appropriate.

6. Learn some basic massage, stretching, and passive range of motion techniques to help keep your dog limber and her muscles more supple and comfortable.

Do not confuse incontinence with end of life. Many dogs with disk disease become fecal incontinent and sometimes urinary incontinent. It is a nerve conduction issue. It is not painful, nor is it a quality of life issue if you keep your dog clean, use diapers as necessary, or (even better) learn how to stimulate them to poop so they don’t have accidents when left unattended. It isn’t hard, and your vet can show you how. We think nothing of buying grandma Depends diapers at the grocery store, and we generally don’t ever talk about euthanizing her. So please learn the same caretaking skills and invest in the same types of products for your dog. He doesn’t want to poop in the house any more than you want him to. And remember that your fuzzy companion is often sensitive, so not making a fuss about an accident goes a long way to making them feel okay about what’s happening.

My beloved Gunny lived for 14 years, 9 months, and 5 days. I treasure each and every one of them, even the really hard days. Unfortunately, I learned a lot of things the hard way, so I want to make it easier for you to enjoy the time with your elderly dog. It is in that spirit I hope to share what I learned from all the dogs in my life and the people who came with them! ND

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Is swimming therapeutic for senior dogs?

 

 

Doctors and physical therapists often recommend swimming as a low-impact exercise for people recovering from injuries or as a way for older individuals to stay active. Swimming is said to be easy on our joints, while building up endurance and muscle strength. In fact, you work almost every muscle in your body when you swim, making it a wonderful workout. But, does swimming provide similar benefits for dogs? According to Dr. Stephanie Liff, a practicing veterinarian and owner of Pure Paws Veterinary Care in Brooklyn, N.Y., the answer is yes.

“Just like for people, swimming is a low-impact form of exercise that can be very useful to pets,” says Dr. Liff. “It can help with healing and rehabilitation post-orthopedic or neurological surgery, or can be used for weight loss in pets that have arthritis or other limitations that make exercise difficult.”

Almost any dog can benefit from the exercise swimming provides, but Dr. Liff says it’s especially useful for senior canines or younger pets with disabilities.

 

It’s important to note that if your dog is healing from an injury or illness, you should definitely check with your vet to make sure it’s safe for him to swim. “There is an appropriate time postoperatively to start swimming, which is after all wounds and incisions have healed, and the sutures or staples are removed,” Dr. Liff explains. And in some cases, swimming might not be the best option. “Many pets with a dermatologic disease should avoid public water sources, or in some cases, should not be exposed to swimming due to open sores, etc.,” she adds. “Also, dogs with ear infections should not swim while being treated.”

For dogs that get the go-ahead to swim, make sure they don’t overdo it. Some canine companions don’t know when to stop. Dr. Liff says it’s important to start slowly and watch your dog for signs of overexertion. “Just like with any exercise, it is important to consult your veterinarian before starting a new program,” she advises. “Also, since it is exercise and can lead to muscle exertion, you can see soreness after swimming, so monitor your pet and adjust the duration of the exercise as needed.”

 

Depending on where you live, you may have several choices when it comes to where your dog swims: creeks, lakes, the ocean, a dog swim center, or even your own backyard pool. All of these vary in depth, strength, temperature, and, of course, water quality. There’s always a chance with public bodies of water that your dog could pick up an infection, such as giardia (an intestinal infection that spreads through contaminated food or water). If your dog has a compromised immune system, it might be best to avoid letting him swim in public bodies of water. “In terms of therapy, the location does not matter, but, of course, safety is maximized by a controlled environment, which the river or ocean may not provide, depending on other factors,” Dr. Liff explains.

If your dog goes swimming in a pool, make sure there is an easy way for him to get out, such as stairs, to prevent possible drowning. If there’s a risk that your pup could venture into deeper water, like in an ocean or lake, have him wear a dog life jacket.

Keep in mind that all dogs are not natural swimmers, and some really do not like water, so introduce your canine companion to swimming slowly and safely to avoid accidents. Dr. Liff cautions that no dog should swim without a human closely observing him.

 

From American Kennel Club

Writer:  Kristina Lotz

 

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It was just a small lymph node…

Maia was diagnosed with Lymphoma on March 31st, 2015. I do remember the date because this is the day where I went to sign the lease for the store. I thought she had an ear infection because she was shaking her head so much. I will remember that morning forever. I took her out of my truck and went back for Sophie who was limping. I had one step inside my vet’s office with Sophie and  I knew right away something was dead wrong. Maia’s lymph nodes were swollen and he thought it was Lymphoma. I do not want to give Lymphoma a capital L but my auto speller doesn’t want to hear about it. It doesn’t deserve a capital L that’s the least I can say.

 

From the minute I got her, I loved her. She was 8 weeks old and she was perfect from the beginning. Taking her out of a pretty cold garage a day before a snow storm, she never ever did anything wrong in her life. NEVER. She never chewed anything which was inappropriate (right Zeke?). She never had an accident in the house. Maia has just been my perfect pup from 8 weeks old until that March 31 of 2015 where cancer had the bad taste of invading her body.

 

If I had done nothing she would have been gone within 6 weeks. So we did something. I learned a lot about Lymphoma. There are two types: B cells and T cells. The B cells respond the best to chemotherapy. So 2 days later, we started chemotherapy. When I said we, she was the one to take the crap, but going every week for six months takes a toll on the parent too. This is when we developed that bond. I knew her so well. Maia is a very sensitive girl, and when she felt crappy, at one point, she stopped eating. Yes, she became anorexic. The oncologist I was seeing at the first place told me: “Put a bowl of kibbles on the floor and she will eat when she will be hungry.” All wrong. I knew my girl. I knew how sensitive she was, and that’s one of the messages I want to send tonight: Trust your feelings about your dog. The vet or oncologist or any other specialist doesn’t know your pup like you do.

We left fast that place where they were treating every single dog with Lymphoma the same way, and as a matter of fact, they almost killed my girl after giving her a sulfa antibiotics which made her temperature rise to 105 and became totally lethargic. Who would not be when you have such a colossal fever? I was the one, not the vet, to figure it out. That was the week where I took her away from that place, and found Dr. Beck, an oncologist at the Hope Center in Vienna, Va.

She got us right away. Right away she treated Maia as Maia and not as a dog with Lymphoma. She saved my girl. And after six long months of chemotherapy, Maia went into remission. It was in October of 2015.  Cancer came back in July of 2016 and I do believe that it came back because of me. Maia and I are like two peas in a pod. I have to stay Zen for her or she starts worrying about me as much as I worry about her. In June 2016, one my other girls, Lola died of liver cancer a month after being diagnosed, and it took my Zen thing kind of away from me.

 

So we started  chemotherapy again for six months every single week…. And in January of this year, she was in remission again, and sue me, but 5% of the dogs with Lymphoma get into remission like forever, and that was the plan. Why would not she be in those 5%? She was my mighty girl, and we had such a streak of bad luck between the Lymphoma,  a torn cruciate and then the Vestibular Disease, my girl deserved a break…. and we got that break until yesterday.

 

At her last monthly oncology recheck, they found a swollen Lymph node, but Maia had allergies, an ear infection, so it had to be that, right? They gave her antibiotics but at one point when I went to my regular vet, he decided to do an aspiration to see what was in that swollen node. I was not worried. She had an ear infection and those lymph nodes are supposed to do their jobs when there is an infection lingering around right? Then it was Labor Day weekend (Reminder for me, and only me: don’t trust anything happening on Labor Day weekend!), and I noticed the node was getting smaller, so I was totally at ease when my vet called me yesterday to break the news. The pathologist was 100% sure that cancer came back with a vengeance: “high grade Lymphoma”. It took me a second to google it to see that it was the most aggressive form of Lymphoma striking as many internal organs that it could. Lymphoma is like a snake. You never see it coming. It goes so slow…. But then it attacks and you don’t even realize where it was coming from.

 

The thing is my girl is happy. She eats pretty well, goes for walk, swims (it just took her ten years to enjoy it), barks at me if I stay too long in the pool area while another dog is swimming. So tomorrow, we are going to see the oncologist, not Dr. Beck who is unfortunately on vacation this week, but the other one. I know one thing, and one thing only: I want her to stay happy. I want her to leave on a good day. So I have no clue what is going to be said tomorrow. I just know that I do not, it’s not I do not, it’s just that I cannot make her miserable to have her a few more weeks with me. It would be so unfair to her. And at the end of the journey, it’s all that matters. A very wise friend told me some time ago “Dogs are not afraid of death.” Today is a no man’s land since I don’t know what tomorrow will be made of. I just know one thing: my girl is going to leave after having a very good day because that’s what she deserves, and I will not cry because I just don’t want her to worry about me. It breaks my heart. For a year and half, every day, she went to the pool with me. She is so paranoid that I could forget her (how could I? Seriously?) that by 7;30am she is by the front door, making sure that I will not go anywhere without her. How do you go on after that?

 

 

I have no clue…. The ironic thing is that I stopped writing a year ago after Jackson died. It was like my brain was frozen as well as my fingers. How ironic that I start writing again when another death is going to hit me. A year ago, I had an animal communicator come to my house because you see I was worried about Maia. She was refusing to drink except if I were giving her a glass with fresh water. The first thing that animal communicator told me when I said I was worried about her, she smiled, and she told me “that’s the first thing Maia told me: that she was so worried about you.” Life after Maia? I have no clue how it will be. I have no clue how many times a heart can be broken. The only thing I now for sure is that I will deal with myself after she is gone, because for the time being, it’s all about Maia. 

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Holiday food toxic for your pup! Yes this is the time of the year….

 

 

 

 

If you are like me, last year, I thought…. I have everything under control, and I will not end up at the emergency. I was so ready…..

But you never know, or at least, I did not! My pack was six years old for 4 of them, and the two others were 9. Every year, I have a Christmas tree and when the pups were younger, I protected it with a fence around but they never showed any interest in the tree or the ornaments. The cats did, and one time, years ago, one of them decided to play Tarzan in the tree and the whole thing collapsed with thousands of broken pieces all over, but the dogs? They basically ignored it….. until last year.

There are moments that you will always remember. This is one of them. I was in the kitchen, and I heard crunching noises. Puzzled,  I went to my bedroom to witness Jackson finishing chewing on a Glass ornament. He was bleeding from his tongue and this is the week where I had to replace my mattress which was soaked with his blood. I could say a lot of things  about Jack, but let’s just say that when he was stealing something, he always like his comfort, so my bed took a big hit with this shenanigan! Immediately, I opened a can of spinach (spinach is probably the best thing to give in that case. The leaves wrap themselves around the pieces of glasses in the stomach!), and here we went to our favorite place in the whole wild world: the emergency!  Fortunately, he did not seem to have any major cuts. Some little ones on his tongue, but nothing major, but I learned from that day that tongues bleed a lot! And that I should always have cans of spinach in my pantry. After Jack died last September, I opened the pantry and saw a dozen of those cans, and they did look quite obsolete, but you never know, so yes spinach is really a good thing to have around!

And the Holidays are just around the corner……

The house is filled with the delicious smell of cooking and baking. A savory roast just came out of the oven and is resting on the counter top, next to a heaping dish of butter for the rolls and a big chocolate cake for dessert. You go upstairs to quickly change before your guests arrive. You’re only gone for 5 minutes when you realize the house is quiet… TOO quiet. Suddenly you realize Charlie isn’t following at your heels like he usually does and you dash downstairs, but only in time to see the carnage…

With the holiday season comes a lot of celebratory foods. Turkey drippings, gravy, buttery mashed potatoes, cream sauces, etc. may be as irresistible to dogs and cats as to us. However, try to avoid the temptation of feeding these delicacies to your pet lest you end up having to deal with a sick one during the holiday! Many of the rich foods we eat as a special treat can cause indigestion, gastroenteritis or pancreatitis in our pets. They may not be accustomed to digesting higher levels of fat, and vomiting and diarrhea can result from having snatched something off the counter. Some ingredients may even be toxic and very dangerous to dogs and cats. Also try to make sure you are careful to keep these treats out of reach for counter-surfing pets, and avoid leaving food gifts wrapped up under the Christmas tree or out on display.

If your pet is vomiting or having diarrhea, it is best to first contact a veterinarian to describe the problem in greater detail and get advice. Depending on how severe the problem is, the vet may want you to come in for an appointment right away or suggest home remedies that can be tried first. Of primary importance is avoiding dehydration, which can happen from water loss through vomit or diarrhea as well as decreased intake due to lack of appetite. Offer plenty of water, or give Pedialyte which contains electrolytes that may aid in re-hydration. Inability to hold down fluids is a worse sign and you should probably bring your pet in to be seen by the vet if this occurs. Avoid all treats and if your pet shows interest in eating, give only small bland meals (such as boneless, skinless, unseasoned boiled chicken and rice or specially prescribed pet foods) and monitor closely for any further vomiting and diarrhea. In most adults and older puppies and kittens, fasting for 12 – 24 hours is safe and may allow the upset gastrointestinal tract to rest, but it is recommend to ask your vet specifically about this. For more specific “recipes” (how much/how frequently/how long) on home cooked diets, call the vet because the recommendations may be different depending on the signs your pet is exhibiting.

Your veterinarian may be able to recommend a dose of over-the-counter antacids or anti-diarrheal medications (such as Pepcid a/c and Imodium) to treat symptomatically as well. If you or the vet deems it advisable to go in for an appointment, diagnostics may be needed to determine the cause or extent of the problem. Bringing in a stool sample and being organized and clear about the quantity, consistency, and frequency of vomiting/diarrhea episodes is very helpful. X-rays may help rule out obstructions caused by “foreign bodies” (e.g. bones, tinsel, ribbon, etc.). Blood tests can help provide more insight into what is going on with organ function or the immune system. In the clinic, the vet can also give your pet fluids and other supportive care treatments that will be especially important in animals who cannot keep oral medications down.

Other problems with “accidental ingestion” may include foods that are potentially toxic to animals. The most common toxic foods include grapes/raisins, onions, garlic, sugar-free sweeteners, chocolate and other caffeine-containing foods. The results of ingestion may be dose-dependent and also idiosyncratic (unpredictable who gets affected), so the best thing to do if you suspect ingestion of any of these substances is call a veterinarian right away. Poison control hotlines can also be very useful. Acting quickly is better than waiting when it comes to toxin ingestion, as inducing vomiting can reduce the amount of toxin absorbed before it ever becomes a problem. A fairly safe way to induce vomiting is to give hydrogen peroxide orally to the pet (1 teaspoon per 5 lbs of the pet’s body weight, up to 5 tsp.) At a veterinary clinic, activated charcoal can be administered orally to prevent absorbing any more toxin from the gastrointestinal tract, as well as other supportive care treatments.

Dog and cat about to eat burger patties on a table.

Dog and cat about to eat burger patties on a table.

In conclusion, be prepared and aware to help the holidays go smoothly for your whole family. Plan ahead and the risk of accidents and stressful events will be minimized, and you can focus on having a good time!

 

More information can be found at:

The ASPCA Poison Control: http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control

Pet Poison Hotline: http://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/contact/

 

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You got me at Hello…..

7 and half years ago, you were born. You were the third one, and the biggest one, and I immediately fell in love with you. You had that big pudgy face. Your eyes were not open yet. It took over a week before I could see them, but from the minute you were born, I was under your spell.

The girls (my daughters) always said from Day 1 that you had me wrapped around you paw. And it was the truth. Whatever wrong you did, I always found you excuses. You just had to look at me with those big eyes. You immediately or almost immediately took over my feet. They were the best pillows for your head. I first named you “Boubou”, and then you became Jackson because I met a long time before another Jackson, another black lab, who was not mine, but decided one day, I was his.

In my dreams, we were going to grow old together. There is not one evening or one morning when you are not in bed with me, your head on my shoulders, looking at me with those big eyes, and what can I say? I am a sucker and I melt.

jackSo, yes, you were supposed to get older, white all over, and there would be nothing better than snuggling with you at night or in the morning. You had all the Zeus’ habits (Zeus was my heart dog…. until you came into the picture, or maybe even after your Mom came into the picture, who knows?)

I loved you for your look (I might be vain there!) as well as your attitude. I always said that labs are my dogs because they have a sense of humor than no other dogs have (and I love any dogs from mutts to …. almost anything!) but you were the perfect lab, and you still are until you will drop dead, or until I decide for you, because I love you THAT MUCH, that it’s time for you to cross the Rainbow Bridge and go back with your Mom, Lola, and your brother, George. That’s how much I love you. If I could drive to the moon and back to make you feel whole again, I would. I would do anything to make you grow old by me….. but I can’t.

jacknewtoyAnd yes, it sucks. It sucks real bad. No dog should go at 7. I know that most likely you won’t be home for Christmas. When I think how worried I was about the Christmas tree and how to protect the Christmas GLASS ornaments from you. Last year, I almost got a heart attack after you decided to chew on a glass ornament, ruin my mattress with your blood, and after dragging your sorry butt to the emergency and heard that you would be okay.

In the seven years of your life, you drove me crazy so many times, but I wish so bad that I could have signed up for another 7 years. With all the crap you dumped on me, I would have signed up in a second for another 7 years of crap, and love, so much love between us.

Until not long ago, I did not realize how protective you were of me and the mutts (meaning your brother and sisters). First thing in the morning, you go to the backyard all around the fence to be sure it’s safe, and then once, you figured out that there is no trespasser, you come back to me.

When you are in my or should I say “your” truck, you are so overly protective of it. You would bite anyone who would approach it. And then the couch thing. If anyone is sitting next to me, I have no idea how you do it, but you manage to get rid of “the person” in no time, swiftly moving your butt around without even moving it. You mastered the art of getting rid of anyone on that couch besides me. And I love you for that too, Jackson.

You started limping in April, and I was concerned, like I am always concerned when one of you is not doing well, but you got better after being on an anti inflammatory thing (metacam to be accurate). We did X-rays, and no, you had nothing wrong in your bones. And then it started again, and again, and I failed you. When the vet did not find anything wrong, I should have gone to a higher level, and I did not. You see, I had no clue that you could have some kind of cancer without pain, and obviously you have never been in pain.

So, this is a message for everyone with a lame dog: IF YOU HAVE A LAME DOG FOR MORE THAN TWO WEEKS, GO TO A SPECIALIST, INTERNIST, WHOEVER BUT DO NOT WAIT.

I screwed up. I waited, and waited, thinking, as I was told, that it was most likely a soft tissue injury when it was a tumor growing into your nerves. And I had no clue.

Now it’s too late. You had a MRI, the tumor took over your body. One day, you will wake up and won’t be able to stand up, and because I love you that much, it will be the day where I will put you to sleep.

So after, all the sleepless nights, and worries, after the hope I had in the last 24 hours with that surgeon who was doing laser surgery on those tumors, after hearing the words “four to six weeks” I knew your story was going to an end, and yes you got me at hello, and youjack will get me at goodbye as well.

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Roasted chicken and swimming every day of your life, Jackson

 

Yes, that’s what you get at my home if you are diagnosed with cancer, and if your name is Jackson, and if you love swimming and roasted chicken.

So, do I see a line forming in from of my home? Just kidding.

jacknewtoyJackson, Jackson it’s my boy. He is Lola’s boy. He is crazy about swimming like her. When he goes to my car, most of the time it’s for swimming so he gets so excited. Today, it was not for swimming. Yesterday it was not for swimming. As soon as we get into the truck, he starts talking like “Could you rush woman? I am so ready to swim!”. Yesterday, we went to see Dr. Bradley, one of the best orthopedics surgeon around here. He did all the TPLO surgeries on my dogs for the last 16 years, and I trust him, because he is not about surgery, he is about what is best for the dog. And he doesn’t give you any crap. He just tells you the stuff like it is. I never needed anything sugar coated.

So yesterday, after seeing Jack, he told me that most likely, he had a nerve sheath tumor. Wow! That was a new one! Never got that one before. He kept Jack for a MRI but then called me two hours later to tell me that his MRI machine was freaking broken so I needed to pick up my boy. Jack was supposed to go back on Wednesday, but I don’t think I have ever been an ostrich in any previous lives, so waiting that long to know what was going on was not my thing, so with the amazing help of my vet, Dr. Greenblat (he is next door to the pool), I saw today a neurologist (and on top of it she was a lab person!) and then Jack had a MRI.

Diagnosis: nerve sheath tumor or in plain freaking English: sarcoma. With steroids and radiation: up to six months. With amputation of his front leg: up to a year. Like I am going to cut off his leg for six more months? No way, because it’s all about them, and it has always been. They need to have fun. They need to be able to walk, run, swim, and have fun! That’s what life is all about for Labrador retrievers. So this is the plan: roasted chicken + swim + steroids + radiation.

If this world is just the best video game in the universe, I have a message for the alien kids playing the game: I AM NOT PLAYING ANYMORE.IMAG013

It had not hit me yet that he might not be here for Christmas. Yeah, Jack, how cool is that? You won’t be able to eat a glass Christmas ornament and then ending up at the emergency. By Christmas you might already have a ball with your Mom, and your brother over the rainbow bridge, and laugh at me while I will probably be crying! “Hey Mom, this is cool over there, there is no cancer. I can swim, run, have a ball, PAIN FREE.”

thankfulThere is a picture with a quote that I love,  saying “that one day you will miss your crowded bed”. I miss it already. Jackson is  one of my “kids”. He was born the third after George (who had the bad taste of dying on me at 3 and half on Labor Day weekend in 2012),  and he was just my boy. I can’t imagine life without him, but I know that most likely it will happen pretty fast. So for the time being, Jack, I swear you are going to have a ball every single day of your life: roasted chicken and swimming and car rides. Last June, when his Mom, Lola, was dying of cancer, I took her for many rides in my truck because that’s what she liked, and it’s going to take me a lot of time before I remove her nose art on my passenger window.

I wish I could write about fun stuff, because I do love to write about goofy dogs and fun stuff, but this is my life, right now: I lost a dog from kidney failure in March, Lola from cancer on June 27th, Charlie the cat on July 1st, then Maia got out of remission from Lymphoma a week later, and we are having chemo every week like for the next six months, and then Jackson…. So, no, right now, I can’t talk about anything else. But I swear to you Jackson, whatever your life expectancy is between three to six months, YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE A BLAST. Why? Because I said so.

 

 

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How Your Dog May Be Impacted by Osteochondritis Dissecans – and Ways to Address It

In canines, OCD doesn’t usually stand for “obsessive-compulsive disorder.” OCD is the term used for osteochondritis dissecans, a cartilage condition affecting the joints. Cartilage protects the joints, and if it is damaged, there’s pain. OCD may appear in the shoulder or elbow of the front legs or the knee or hock of the rear limbs. While it requires surgical correction, there are numerous therapies that can help your dog get back to normal after his operation. Hydrotherapy is exceptionally effective for dogs with OCD.

Dogs at Risk

Although any dog might develop OCD, it’s far more common in large breeds, with males more often affected than females. Symptoms usually appear between the ages of 6 and 12 months, a rapid growth period. Vulnerable breeds include:

  • Border collie
  • English setter
  • German shepherd
  • Golden retriever
  • Great Dane
  • Labrador retriever
  • Newfoundland
  • Old English sheepdog
  • Rottweiler
  • Saint Bernard.

Normally, a young dog’s skeleton forms cartilage at the end of his long bones. In dogs with OCD, the bones don’t harden sufficiently and the cartilage doesn’t develop properly. Bits of cartilage – the so-called “joint mice” – break off, causing arthritic issues in young dogs. Inflammation is present, and the damaged cartilage or the joint mice rub painfully against the joint.

OCD Symptoms

At a time of life when most dogs can’t keep still, these poor pups have trouble walking. Lameness is the most obvious sign of OCD, and it may come on suddenly or gradually. Sometimes the lameness isn’t apparent until after exercise. The joint may swell, and the dog can’t bear weight on the leg. The dog will react if you touch the joint – it hurts.

If untreated, the dog’s muscles start wasting because of the constant pain and lameness.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Your vet diagnoses OCD based on X-rays, along with CAT scans and/or MRIs. She’ll take a fluid sample from the joint for testing to make sure an infection isn’t causing the symptoms. While rest may do the trick in some cases, the majority of dogs require surgical removal of the damaged cartilage and the joint mice.

Post-op Therapy

After your dog’s surgery, his activities are seriously restricted for up to six weeks. While he can’t run loose in the yard or go for walks on hard surfaces, he will require therapy during this period to help him recover. He’ll benefit from visits to a veterinary physiotherapist, who will show you how to perform some basic manual joint exercises on your pet. Your vet will recommend a glucosamine supplement to help with cartilage support.

Hydrotherapy

Swimming is one of the best therapies for dogs with OCD. These are young, energetic animals, and they want to move. In the pool, they aren’t restricted. Regular swimming helps build their muscles and allows them a wide range of joint movement. Since a dog doesn’t have to bear weight during his hydrotherapy sessions, he can move quite freely. The warm water reduces his joint pain and increases circulation to his soft tissues, alleviating stiffness. He’s also having a great time.

If you are in Maryland or Virginia and are considering hydrotherapy as a rehabilitation option, feel free to contact us!

Prognosis

Your dog’s recovery depends on various factors, including the OCD location. The Merck Veterinary Manual states, “Prognosis for recovery is excellent for the shoulders, good for the stifle [knee] joint, and fair for the elbow and tarsal joints.” Therapy plays a large part in the dog’s overall recuperation. OCD often leads to early-onset arthritis. Regular hydrotherapy sessions, along with a healthy diet and appropriate supplements, help keep these symptoms at bay.  

 

References

http://www.vcahospitals.com/main/pet-health-information/article/animal-health/osteochondritis-dissecans-or-ocd-in-dogs/1045

http://www.merckvetmanual.com/mvm/musculoskeletal_system/arthropathies_and_related_disorders_in_small_animals/osteochondrosis_in_small_animals.html

http://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/musculoskeletal/c_dg_osteochondrosis

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Today is a good day to cry….

I had a rough year, I mean, you really have to try hard to beat me on that one, and I am not into competition, believe me, especially not when it concerns my kids, four and two-legged ones.

Last year, I learned that Maia, my then 9 year old black lab, had Lymphoma, and had a month to live if I chose not to do anything. So, Maia and I chose to fight cancer. I almost lost her last July, when her temperature sky rocketed to 105.5 due to an allergy to antibiotics, but then she bounced back, and with the right oncologist, we made it through the six months – six long months – of chemotherapy. She is now in her 10th month of remission, but I don’t brag about it. I am so afraid to jinx it. I bought months ago a pink rubber bracelet from The National Canine Cancer Foundation and I never take it off. I am not superstitious, and I do walk under ladders, but I guess when it comes to my dogs, I am superstitious.

After Maia, came Jackson who suddenly was diagnosed with heart disease at 7 years old, and is currently doing well. Crossing fingers, toes, paws and whatever is available to cross.

Then Sammie, my little one, my fierce big dog trapped in a small body lost his fight to heart disease. You see you pick your poison: you have heart disease so you take meds which are going to screw up your kidneys. He died of kidney failure a month ago. 14 years with that little devil, and suddenly, despite of six other dogs, the house feels quiet and empty.

And then came Lola. Lola just turned 10 on May 28th, and we celebrated her birthday with roasted chickens. Have you ever met a dog who did not like roasted chickens? Me neither.

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Lola, it’s a long story. I got her when she was 6 weeks old, and she drove me freaking crazy. It was not her fault. She was taken away from her Mom far too early, and had no skills, like she was on my lap, and suddenly she was peeing on me. Yeah, seriously!

But we grew up together in many ways even though I think she really considered my daughter, Jessica, like her Mom. Jessica was with me when we picked her up, and she has a special relationship with Jessica. We went together to visit Jessica in college when she chose to go to Delaware…. Lola was and still is my best buddy, the girlfriend who is always there for you. She is also my crazy girl who must have been a fish in another life.

When she was three months old, her mission in life was to retrieve every leaf from the canal when she went swimming. That was my girl. Gosh, that dog loves to swim. So, when I decided to build a swimming pool for dogs (because swimming is the best thing you can do for your dog at any stage of his/her life), I was smiling…. I thought Lola was not going to believe it that she could go swimming every day of her life if she wanted to. And the pools opened, and Lola went swimming. She is a strong swimmer and can swim non stop for a good 20 minutes. I always joked that she would drop dead before stopping…. I guess this is a lab thing….. until yesterday.

 

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Yesterday I took her to the pool, and after 5 minutes, she just stopped, bumper still in her mouth, but trying to get her breathing back. Yesterday, I knew right away, that something was off. Last night, I spent my time on the computer googling…. lung cancer in dogs. This morning, I went to my vet, asking for the whole nine yards for Lola, because I don’t think I have ever been an ostrich in my previous lives, and I wanted to know. I knew it was bad. Walking her in the morning with her daughter Sophie, for the last few weeks, she was panting right away, and I attributed it to the heat, but…. this morning it was cool and she was still panting….

X-rays were done, and there is a mass in her lung, just one apparently…. Primary lung cancer is rare in dogs. Only 1% of dogs with cancer get that shit. Most of the time it’s secondary, meaning the cancer started somewhere else, and then spread to the lungs. It doesn’t seem to be the case, so maybe she is in the 1%. Her lymph nodes are nowhere to be seen. Call me paranoid but with Maia’s lymphoma, I check out my dogs all the time.

If it’s primary, there are options like removing the lobe, but it also means breaking her rib cage. Do you have any idea how it feels to break your rib cage? I am not sure I want to know.

I had an appointment for Maia for her regular remission check up this coming Monday with her oncologist, so I just called, and I will bring both girls this coming Wednesday instead and we will go from there.

Last time I felt that way was when we had to put our horse down. I will never ever have another horse, but it felt like being skinned alive…. That’s exactly how I feel right now. This is Lola we are talking about, my lovely, sweet girl, my tomboy during the day and love bug at night. It hurts so much than I can barely breathe. Today, I am giving today to myself to cry and cry. Tomorrow and the following days and weeks won’t be about me, but about her. But today I am selfish, and today is all about me and losing my best friend.  Tomorrow and the following weeks will be about fighting and doing the best for her, because she deserves the best. She deserves dignity. She deserves love, and she deserves respect. I love her to the moon and back and I will do what’s best for her. I can always deal with me later on. But today is the only break I am giving to myself and then, tomorrow we will start fighting.

 

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Warm Water Healing for Dogs: Why Pet Owners Turn to It at Increasing Rates

Warm If your dog suffers a traumatic injury or his joints ache from age, you want to help them.  Warm water  healing, is increasingly becoming the option of choice for pet owners. Over the past several years, more veterinarians and owners have seen its benefits firsthand. Hydrotherapy helps pets recover from injuries and improves their quality of life.

Warm Water Healing isn’t limited to dogs recovering from surgeries or dealing with arthritis. It’s an excellent way to keep dogs fit. People whose dogs compete in athletic events turn to hydrotherapy to build their animal’s muscles to give them an extra edge.

 

Natural Healing

Educated consumers are looking for natural, organic, holistic products and services. A vet might prescribe medication for dogs with mild to moderate arthritis, but those drugs come with potential side effects – even the risk of death. Nothing is more natural than hydrotherapy, and its origins go back to the dawn of civilization. It’s safe and effective for dogs and their people. The only side effect is fun.

 

Postponing Surgery

In some cases, regular sessions of hydrotherapy can eliminate the need for surgery. For example, dogs who have not severely torn their cruciate ligaments – one of the most common canine injuries – may recover with hydrotherapy and medical management alone. A young dog who won’t use their leg while walking will in the hydrotherapy pool. Your vet will advise you whether this is a possibility for your pet. Cruciate ligament repair surgery is expensive, and many people simply can’t afford it. Hydrotherapy becomes an alternative offering a pet some relief.

 

Pre-Surgery

While most people think of canine swimming exercise as rehabilitative and used post-surgery, it’s also helpful for dogs prior to their scheduled surgeries. If your dog can’t exercise normally because of the condition that warrants surgery, swimming exercise  can generally keep them fit. Maintaining a level of fitness prior to surgery usually means their recuperation goes more smoothly.

 

Proactive Therapy

It’s always better to be proactive rather than reactive, and swimming exercise fills the bill. Regular sessions help your dog build muscles that ease joint pressure, which is a big plus as they get older. Dogs with strong muscle tone are less likely to develop arthritis until quite late in life, giving them years of strong mobility.

 

Weight Loss

If your dog has put on a few pounds, dietary adjustments and regular exercise are the best ways to get them back to a healthy weight. aquatic exercise is one of the best ways to exercise an obese dog, since it is non-weight bearing. It’s easy to overdo exercise in out-of-shape, fat dogs if walking is the primary form. That’s not true of aquatic exercise, and it will get a dog in better condition so they can eventually join you on those long walks.

 

Cardiovascular Fitness

Many people practice cardio fit workouts religiously, for their overall cardiovascular health and general physique. Aquatic exercise offers a cardio fit workout for dogs, aiding recuperation or just maintaining good fitness. Regular swimming sessions improve cardiovascular fitness relatively rapidly.

 

Aquatic Exercise Contraindications

For all its benefits, aquatic exercise is not suitable for every pet. If your dog has been diagnosed with heart disease or any condition that affects their breathing, they aren’t a good aquatic exercise candidate. Your vet can answer any questions you have about your dog’s participation in swimming exercise.

 

K9 Aquatic Center

K9 Aquatic Center offers warm water healing, fitness and conditioning programs for dogs of all ages.  We are open every day of the week except Monday. For more information, contact us at 240-683-1100, or visit our website.

 

References

http://www.canine-hydrotherapy.org/

http://iheartdogs.com/thinking-about-hydrotherapy-for-your-dog-heres-what-you-need-to-know/

 

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Lyme disease and how to protect your dog

What you might not know about it.

I always say that I learn a lot from my dogs, but this is the one thing, I wish I never had to learn the hard way, because it just broke my heart.

yme disease sounds scary, but you know I thought that I protected my dogs the best ways possible. They had their Lyme vaccine every year, and then their heartworm test on a yearly basis as well as Frontline every month not to name it!

Three and half years ago, it was Labor Day weekend, and on Sunday, George, my 3 and half years old black lab was fine and goofing around as usual. The next morning when I woke up, his legs were so swollen, he could not walk. Sometimes you wonder how you do things that you thought you would not be able to do. I carried my 80lbs dog to my truck and we flew to the emergency.

Funny how I did not have a bad feeling about it. I thought he was going to be okay. My beautiful and sweet boy. George had always been glued to me. I could not sit anywhere without having him right away on my lap. I don’t think he ever knew he was a dog.

As soon as they drew some blood, the diagnosis came back: kidney failure due to most likely Lyme Nephritis. He tested highly positive for Lyme. I still thought that he was going to be okay. The vet knew but did not know how to tell me. Lyme Nephritis is a bitch. It’s a disease slowly destroying the kidneys without any precursor signs. It’s a little bit like the body is fighting the kidneys like it doesn’t know they are good guys. It started with a tick infected with Lyme, and for whatever reason instead of fighting Lyme, George’s body decided to go after his kidneys. He was at this emergency on Monday, then on Tuesday I took him to a Veterinary Referral Center in Leesburg.

During the ride, George decided that he did not want to be stuck in the back of the truck and jumped to come to his favorite spot: the passenger front seat. I thought it was a good sign, right? He still had his catheter and everything. When we arrived, he was not that great anymore and they had to get a stretcher. They were amazing over there. It was the Life Center in Leesburg. I went there at the recommendation of the emergency vet. If the internist I saw could do something, it was her. After talking to the internist, Dr. Miller, I left and was supposed to come back early afternoon.

When I came back that afternoon with my youngest daughter, the news were dire. His organs were shutting down, and it was a matter of hours. I could not let him die by himself, so we decided to put him to sleep. I still see him coming with all his IVs and his darn tail still wagging.

In a few minutes, my sweet boy was gone, and I was left empty handed with his collar. Three and half years later, I am still grieving my boy. He was only 3 and half years old, only 3 and half years old. How fair is that?

At that time, my vet had just retired and I had just changed to a new one. I still had George’s Mom, Lola, and his siblings: two sisters, Sophie (Sophie was attached by the hip with George, and it took her some time to recover from her loss. If anyone tells me that dogs don’t grieve, they know nothing about dogs!), Zoe, and then his two brothers, Max and Jackson as well as Maia’s, Lola’s girlfriend. Are you confused enough with my crew now?

I was grieving my boy, but I was SO angry, and I needed to understand. The first thing my new vet told me was “you must have mice where you live?”

“Excuse me?”

“Mice are the ones which infect ticks with Lyme disease?”

I always thought it was the deer. So, it was breaking news for me: deer carry ticks around like birds, squirrels, foxes, and all wild critters. They might carry more ticks than other animals, but THEY DO NOT GIVE LYME TO TICKS. For a tick to be infected with Lyme, at one stage of its life, it has to have been in contact with one of those “deer mice” or white footed mice. Did you know about it? I sure did not? When I started doing research online, then I did discover that it was true. My garage was infested with mice, my truck was infested with mice, and I did not know the threat it was for my dogs or me as a matter of fact.

I called DNR to ask them if they could mention on their website the white footed mice and the Lyme transmission. I never succeeded. I was fighting ignorance, and good luck fighting it! I went nowhere.

In one sentence: if WE COULD ERADICATE THE DEER MICE, LYME DISEASE WOULD DISAPPEAR LITTLE BY LITTLE.

THE FACTS:

  • LYME VACCINE: there is no real way to say that this vaccine is working. If you think about it, if the vaccine was effective for the dogs, don’t you think we would have one for us, humans? Breaking news: we don’t. It covers some strains of the Lyme disease but just a few. I stopped giving that vaccine to my crew after doing a lot of research online.
  • HEARTWORM TEST: even when it’s positive, many vets don’t do anything about it if the dog is not sick because it just meant that at one point, the dog had to fight the disease but if there is no sign, some vets won’t do a thing because so many dogs test positive.
  • FRONTLINE: If you read – the little notice on Frontline, it says that it can take up to 24 hours to be effective. Breaking news: a tick can infect a dog within 12 hours. There are now better products that Frontline. Not sure why so many vets still recommend the darn thing. It has been around forever. It’s comfortable I guess.  

WHAT I DO:

  • LYME VACCINE: out of the picture. My dogs don’t get that shot anymore.
  • HEARTWORM TEST: I still do it but I do not rely on it. Instead what I do is a urine test every six months. If there is any protein in the urine, then Houston we have a problem.
  • TICKS AND FLEAS REPELLENT: I now use K9 Advantix II which kills ticks within an hour or less. I use it EVERY MONTH no matter what the temperature is, because breaking news again: Ticks did not read the notice saying they have to die when it’s below freezing. You can find ticks these days any month of the year.
  • They have those new medications which are not as messy since your dog can swallow a pill instead of you having to apply it below his neck. They are not as effective, and furthermore, but it might just be me but that stuff is a pesticide. Do I want my dogs to swallow a pesticide? Nope!

 Last, unfortunately, Lyme Nephritis attacks mostly young dogs, and the two favorite breeds are Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers. No clue why. It just happens. So, if you do have a young retriever, just be careful, be aware that there might not be signs, and when they show, it could be too late. I am not saying that what I do is 100% effective, BUT the urine test every six months if you live in a tick infested area, is really the best thing you can do to be sure the kidneys are in good shape, and  with a great tick repellent, that’s probably the best you can do to protect your dog. And last, if you have mice where you live, GET RID OF THEM, and I mean it. Not with ultra sounds but with good all traps. I cannot see a mouse now without thinking of my boy.

georgenAs you know, I am not a vet, but I learned the hard way that vets don’t really share their knowledge (they don’t have time!) and you have to learn by yourself a lot of stuff. I just wish I did not have to do it the hard way by losing my 3 and half year old rambunctious boy, my George. If that blog can spare ONE life, I would be happy.