Friday, 30 July 2010

activity parks for dogs

Recently I was sent a link to an article about a dog activity park in England, a park costing £15 000.

The writer takes a dismissive view of the spending of such an amount of money on dogs and interviewed only people with a negative reaction. I think the park is a good idea, as it will encourage people to get out in the fresh air with their dogs. The writer shows his ignorance of agility by not realising that the human has to do the course with the dog, rather than stand still chatting to other dog owners, as many of us do if there is nothing of interest in a fenced dog park.

And to me the main reason for supporting the building of such parks is that we owe it to the dogs who live with us. They didn't choose to live in a crowded human-designed environment and they deserve as much intellectual and physical stimulation as we can provide.

Parks like this are an effective use of a small space.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

knitting socks for dogs

I've just followed a link from Year of Finishing Off to a pattern for spiral socks at Marlies' Creative Universe. I followed it because my feet are cold - finally, a proper winter in Melbourne! - but when I saw the pattern can be adapted for babies and is easy to knit, I thought of Penny.

Sometimes she licks her paws and when I put medication on her feet she attempts to lick that off, which has the pleasant result for her that she gets a Kong to lick. As we're trying to keep her weight down, so there won't be too much strain on her legs, it would be good to have little socks to put on her feet. (The shoes didn't work too well!)

Sunday, 25 July 2010

looking at a dog's gait to analyse the problem

We're still observing Penny as we take her on short walks, but of course we know that in the end it'll all come down to what the vet tells us when we go to see him.

But I love information, so I've been trawling for sites about problems in dogs' limbs. I've come across a chapter, presumably for vets, on observing dogs moving in order to diagnose an illness. There are interesting line drawing of the walk, the trot, the pace and the gallop. The article says:
As a quadruped, the dog has the ability to spare an injured joint or sore leg in such a way that the abnormality may be almost unnoticeable; the ability to shift the center of mass in an attempt to decrease weight bearing to any limb is remarkable...the clinician can be misled regarding forelimb and hindlimb weight-bearing modes. It is possible for a dog to move from a sitting to a standing position and begin walking without touching its hind limbs to the ground.
Okay, so now I don't feel so silly that we can't make out what is going on with Penny's movements!

It also says:
Dogs with subtle gait changes or lameness may exhibit these signs only to their owners or handlers who notice the change in the dog's gait...The owner or handler may be able to describe his impression of the dog's problem quite accurately. It is important to know the duration of the dog's problem, if the onset was acute or chronic, and if the condition is improving or deteriorating.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

dogs are funny and unpredictable

Living with a dog demands that we see the funny side of life.

Today Penny had her first off-lead walk in two weeks, after a long rest to see if we could settle her scary limp. I took her up our back lane, where we weren't likely to meet other dogs and where she could walk on flat ground.

When she threw herself onto the ground and began to roll around, I was pleased to think that she was revelling in the freedom from confinement.

But wait? Why did she keep rolling in the same spot? And why was she rubbing the side of her head on the same spot?

Yep. Dog poo.

So home to carefully wash the stink off her. (We don't want to bathe her at the moment, for fear of her jumping around and undoing the good all the resting has done.)

Life consists of short walks at the moment, usually about ten minutes. So, when she set off later in the morning for yet another stroll, it seemed like a good idea to try to film her gait and see whether we amateurs could figure out whether she is favoring her left rear knee. On the video tutorial I referred to in yesterday's post, it didn't seem too hard to film a dog walking.

But Penny wasn't having any of it. Why was her human hiding in the street and filming her? She had to check it out.

We did let her walk - the plan was, quietly and sedately - up two little steps to see how she moved, but as the end of the clip shows, she took it at a fast pace, so we hope we didn't do any harm. I guess tonight or tomorrow we'll know how she's been affected.

It's exciting to see her almost back to her old self, but we do realise that if she has a cruciate ligament injury we'll have to deal with it. At the moment, it's just a matter of taking things slowly and seeing how she goes .

Thursday, 22 July 2010

cruciate ligaments and lovely stamps of dogs

Penny's asleep in the lounge room at the moment, hopefully giving her sore leg (and maybe cruciate ligament injury) time to heal. We're at the stage of going for a few ten-minute walks around the streets, now, but she horrified us yesterday by racing up the back steps before we could stop her.

She limped badly last night, for a minute or two, but today seems well, except that on our second walk of the day she suddenly walked on three legs, not putting her rear leg down at all - just for a couple of steps. I think we're going to end up having her sedated so the vet can test the leg properly. He said it's difficult to check the knee when the dog is awake because the muscles are tense. From what I've read - and this site explains it clearly - the test is called the 'drawer' test, and the vet manipulates the knee as if pulling out a drawer in a piece of furniture.

And I've just remembered a fascinating site I discovered ages ago, one that shows a dog's gait during normal walking, hip dysplasia and cruciate ligament injury.

On a more cheerful note, there are some lovely dog pictures coming on our letters, and the writing on these Australian postage stamps says ADOPTED/ADORED. It's a gorgeous set of stamps and should appeal to dog lovers. I like the fact that everyone who sends a letter will get the subliminal message that it's good to adopt.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Penny rests her cruciate ligament

As Penny rests, and hopefully recovers her health, I’ve been learning more about cruciate ligament injuries. Until this scare I hadn’t realised how prevalent they are in the dog world.

I’ve come across a great Yahoo group, where generous people share their experience of canine orthopaedic issues. I posted a question based on our experience and feel encouraged by what I’ve learned so far:

  • Some dogs, if their cruciate is not too badly injured, can recover enough to live a good life without needing surgery. One member said her dog was managed conservatively for 8 years before needing surgery, and another member said that dogs who don’t have a significant injury can do well. She had a dog who did well.

  • Make a rehab plan, realise it may be months before Penny is completely well, and don't assume she is recovered just because the limp goes away.

  • If all goes well, we’ll go to short walks in the street, longer walks in the street, and then eventually some play in the backyard to see how she goes.

  • Being overweight is a big problem for dogs (uh oh!), and being only sporadically active can cause injuries.( I think we don’t have to feel bad about that one, because Penny has been active every day since we got her, barring times when she wasn’t well or there was some difficulty getting out for exercise.)

  • It's important to make sure she builds up her strength equally on each side, so that she is symmetrical. (Having a disc problem myself has made me aware of this, as for thirty years I have tended to favor one side of my body, and so I know the problems this brings.)

A few sites I've bookmarked are:
Dealing with Cruciate Ligament Injuries in Labrador Retrievers

Veterinary Orthopedic Sports Medicine Group

Mar Vista Animal Medical Center

Miss Sunshade (yet another gorgeous Airedale) has a very interesting and informative site about her stem cell treatment for an injury.

Friday, 16 July 2010

a dog learns to toilet in a new place...maybe

I've always thought that, at a pinch, I would move heaven and earth to help Penny. Well, yesterday I started on the earth-moving. We have a set of stairs to reach the backyard and Penny's supposed to rest, so we thought we'd set up a toileting area on the back patio. Some phone calls to 'instant turf' companies ended in success, so off I went to collect one roll of turf, and we set up a nice little miniature garden for Penny's use.

But the patio is out of bounds for toileting, as she well knows. So nothing happened. I collected a little pile of poo and put it on the new grass. Nothing happened and it was back to lugging 17 kilos of dog up and down the steps. (I'm NOT young!)

'What do you mean, have a wee?' her body language said.

A wiser friend suggested we collect a patch of grass where Penny had already peed. So I carried her down once again and, of course, now that we were in the correct place, she urinated on command. (Good girl!)

Next job was to lug her back up the steps, close the gate to the patio and go down to do some digging.

'What are you doing down there and why can't I come and help? I'm a good digger.'

Okay... so carry the little patch of planet earth to the patio and insert it into the patch of turf.

And Bob's your uncle!

Oh, as to moving Heaven AND Earth? We're petitioning Heaven that Penny won't need surgery!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

limping dog, worry and anti-inflammatories

Penny's having a quiet, quiet time this week. It all began when her on-and-off limp suddenly was ON! One family member took her to the vet, who thought she might (MIGHT, you notice, so fingers crossed) have torn a cruciate ligament.

Being a champion worrier, I foresaw operations, months of enforced quiet for Penny, etc, etc. So, keen to start getting her well, I gave her the anti-inflammatory tablet that the vet had dispensed. But I hadn't read the written report from Other Family Member properly, and I wasn't supposed to start the tablets that night, because Penny had already had an anti-inflammatory injection that day.

Mild panic. Phone call to the all-night Animal Emergency Hospital, who said, just watch her, it's not necessarily an overdose, but ring your own vet in the morning.

So, sleepless night, popping out every few hours to see how Penny was in her crate. (she usually sleeps in different locations around the house during one night, but we shut her into her comfy crate so we'd definitely know if she vomited or had diarrhoeia.)

How glad we were that she had been trained to be happy in a crate, even if we almost never put her in there.

All fine. And she rested beautifully all morning. I congratulated myself on how well she was resting, not stopping to consider how unusual it was for her to be curled up in her crate all day. I even took this photo to show how she'd voluntarily gone in there to rest.

And then, she vomited. And again. I tried to ring our vet, but he was busy. In all, I rang about six times over the next four hours, trying to catch up with him. She vomited twice more, and went out a couple of times to eat grass.

I'm big into guilt, so I stressed mightily that I had overdosed my dog, but my common sense told me she wasn't vomiting much, so we could afford to wait and see.

Eventually the vet rang me and told me to feed her tiny meals of boiled chicken. We did that and so far so good. (It's evening of the next day now.)

So the vet and I have agreed that she should rest and see how she goes, and I won't feed her any more anti-inflammatories.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

grooming dogs

As I've said before, I think our relationship with groomers is most important, not only because we want them to make our dogs look good and feel good, but because we have to leave the dog with them and trust they will care for our dogs as well as we would do.

I've tried various places, and liked the one where owners are welcome to stay and watch the whole process through a glass window, but Penny loves best of all her long-time groomer, Michelle, who knew Penny before I did, because I got Penny from the vet clinic where Michelle grooms.

Today I presented Michelle with a challenge, because I had chopped at Penny's fur around her feet so I could put lotion on her sore feet, and I had also chopped off her fringe because it was getting in her eyes and I had to wait a couple of weeks for an appointment with Michelle, who only grooms on Saturdays.

Here's the result. I'm happy to see Penny's eyes once again, after lately having to peer through untidy tufts of hair to see whether she was looking in my direction.

Penny's not too happy in the photo, because she doesn't like that big camera-eye staring at her.

Friday, 9 July 2010

the pancaked dog effect

Penny seems to be suffering from 'pancaked dog' syndrome. The basic symptom is a necessity to lie flat out on the kitchen floor, head supported by the floor itself, body flat and motionless - unless someone makes toast, in which case the body leaps to attention and levitates instantaneously across the room to appear beside the bread-toasting human.

The symptoms may be the result of a visit to Kepala Canine Country Club, a visit in which the accompanying human kept throwing the floaty toy into the heated pool, so that Penny had to swim to fetch it. No sooner would she forge through the waves to rescue the lost toy and haul it back to shore than the second floaty toy would be hurled to the other end of the pool. Half an hour of this left her tired but happy, but the human couldn't resist the temptation to try out the fenced enclosure where the agility equipment is set out.

Penny goes to a tricks and agility class each Tuesday evening, but there's no seesaw, so it seemed like a great opportunity at Kepala to use the seesaw and revisit this agility skill. And, of course, who could resist the weave poles?

There's a sandy enclosure, so that invited us also. Penny happily chased the floaty toys, now operating as throwing toys.

By the time we drove home she was ready to relax, and she's been doing that most of the day.

Here's a picture from above:

the pancake dog effect

Friday, 2 July 2010

reading about dogs on an ebook reader

I'm still reading Stanley Coren's book, How Dogs Think. And I'm loving reading it on my new Bebook reader, so I thought I'd give my impression of this e-reader on my other blog, in case anyone reading this is thinking of buying an electronic reader.