Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Penny tries out the underwater treadmill

Penny had physio today, and after her session she was introducd to the underwater treadmill. I was thrilled at how easily she took to this new experience.

If you don't want to hear the doting owner talking continually in a silly voice, you might want to turn off the sound on this one!

Sunday, 22 August 2010

diets for weight loss for dogs

I was researching the use of cold cooked potato for weight loss in dogs, because I've read it's a good weight loss food for humans - cooked potato that has been allowed to cool, not warm or hot cooked potato. Here's a quote from the European Food Information Council:
A small amount of the starch in potatoes resists digestion (this is called ‘resistant starch’): this particularly occurs when potatoes are eaten cold after being cooked, such as in a potato salad. Resistant starch acts in the body in a similar way to fibre.
I think the effect is that the person has a feeling of fullness after eating, and isn't so hungry, yet the body can't digest the cold potato, so doesn't gain weight.

However, I'm not going to feed potato to Penny until I know more about this, as I've never fed her potato before.

And I came across a site that looks useful, because it discusses the value of home-prepared meals without the angst that sometimes accompanies this topic. The author, who appears to be a vet, with a PhD, also says that if you're going to buy prepared foods, you should buy the reputable ones from a vet, because at least you know a properly qualified staff of nutritionists works for the company. I suppose that is logical. Interestingly, he says something that I've always thought should be true, that since dogs have lived with us for about thirty thousand years, they've adapted to the same sort of diet as we eat. (With notable exceptions such as chocolate, grapes, raisins, garlic, onions, macadamia nuts, tomatoes and avocado.)

I thought the discussion of eggs was interesting - he says eggs should be eaten cooked, not raw, which is news to me. Also, he discusses the fact that we need to assess the danger of high level of mercury in fish against the nutritional value of the omega-3 fatty acids.

The discussion of the best proportions of fat, protein and carbohydrates is one of the clearest I've read.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

our dogs teach us to see how special ordinary places can be

Building on yesterday's success in taking Penny to a place where there are no other dogs, I put her in the car today and simply drove off to have a look around. I had the idea of going to a quiet on-lead path near a creek, so I pulled up and lifted her out.

To a human it was a rather ordinary, if not, horrible, place.

Except for the gorgeous street art...

As usual, Penny showed me that every place can be interesting, if you just stop to smell the flowers.

Some spots required quite intense sniffing.

The good thing about it was that she was walking slowly, which the physiotherapist says is important if we are to build up the strength around her possibly injured cruciate ligament. (I always say 'possibly', because my gut still tells me to doubt the diagnosis.)

Friday, 20 August 2010

Penny gets to go places at last

First, I must thank LS and Happy for the award they have given us. It's lovely to get something like that. Seeing I'm not organised enough to keep track of who I've ever passed awards on to, I'm going to just sit on it and enjoy it!

Penny got to go on a walk today!! Ta da!

It suddenly occurred to me that even though she can only go on ten minute on-lead walks, there's nothing to stop us doing it away from home, as long as the terrain is flat. So we went off to the local golf club and wandered around the car park. Yep, the car park. Penny seemed to enjoy sniffing around the garden beds and the ground was firm underfoot and I knew we wouldn't meet other dogs (who might tempt her into playing). We walked sedately down the edge of the course.

I'm feeling much better about trying to manage her possible cruciate tear with a conservative approach, as we've been to see an animal physiotherapist and she, like the vets, thinks Penny's knee is stable, and therefore possibly able to recover without surgery. Even if we do end up with surgery, we'll know we tried all avenues beforehand, and took care of her leg in the meantime.

As well as the supportive and informative Yahoo group about orthopedic issues, we've joined another one dedicated to managing without (or after) surgery, and already I've found a great article that sets out the process by which a partial tear might recover. As I understand it, the ligament can't regrow, as it has a meagre blood supply, but scar tissue can form and with the proper care, tht scar tissue will support the knee, as long as it's not too tight. In other words, we need to keep Penny moving. Seeing that's the way I'm dealing with a disk problem in my back, it seems a logical course at this stage.

I'm looking forward to posting about the underwater treadmill next week. Penny hopped in happily last Wednesday, when the vet nurse threw in some treats and soft toys, so hopefully she will adapt quickly to it when it has water in it.

There's an interesting article at Pittsburgh Dog News that describes an article in the Wall Street Journal about dog knee injuries. Apparently, in the US there are five times more knee operations on dogs than on humans, despite the fact there are five times more humans than dogs. By my calculation, that means dogs are twenty-five times more likely to have such surgery.

It explains that dogs' knees don't lock, as humans knees do, and so the dogs' knees are always bent. However, I have to wonder how wild dogs manage without access to modern surgery, and how dogs have managed over the centuries. I wonder if we have bred this problem into the species.

Monday, 16 August 2010

dogs in the Northern Territory communities in Australia

In the current edition of The Big Issue, there's an article about a program in the Northern Territory - the Maningrida Dog Health Program. Photographer Dave Tacon accompanied Dr Ted Donelan, a Melbourne vet who regularly visits the area to administer the program, and there are interesting photos on Tacon's site.

The relationship of indigenous Australians to dogs varies in different places, but Maningrida is 'dog dreaming' country, where people have a special relationship to dogs and want to be free to live with as many dogs as they wish. There are some problems with aggressive dogs, though, and the Dog Health Program aims to help foster responsible dog ownership, both for the dogs' sake and for the safety of humans.

What I loved about the photos on Tacon's site was the way the dogs were an integral part of people's lives, lolling around with their human companions or joining them in their daily activities, with not a leash or collar in sight.

The University of Melbourne's Vet News has an article about a veterinary visit to Kunbarllanjnja Community.

a ramp to help a limping dog

We've been lifting Penny up and down the thirteen - thirteen! - steps out the back and the one big step out the front, and we're sure getting tired of it, so I thought we'd better set up a ramp. Living in a household where nothing is ever thrown out has its advantages; just a glance around the garden and there they were, three big planks of wood.

Set up a couple of warning posts, so humans don't go for a sixer on the front patio, and we're set...

Now to train her to use it... clicker, treats, yep, we're ready to go. But what is this? She doesn't need any training - looks like all those 'dog walks' at agility with Cindy have paid off.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

a pig is training at Kintala, where Penny used to train

A pig amidst the puppies? Will it work? Only time will tell. But the committee of Kintala, the club where Penny trained for a couple of years, from puppyhood, has accepted a pet pig for training. Kintala, as I understand it, was the pioneer in Australia of the Gentle Modern method of training dogs (ie reward-based). I am thankful that we started there, because training is all off-lead, and I'm sure that gave Penny a good start in life.

The club's senior trainer, Katarina Behan, say that seeing food is used as a means of inducing behaviours and rewarding them, the method should suit a piglet. At first the little piggy will train independently, but eventually it will be introduced to dogs, starting with a gentle rottweiler-labrador cross.

If you'd like to read more, here is a link to Carolyn Webb's article in The Age newspaper.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

the saga of the sore knee continues...

I tossed and turned for most of last night, worrying about Penny's upcoming surgery, saying to myself. "What are we doing? We're going to arrange for a surgeon to saw through the bone of Penny's leg and join the bone together again with metal and screws." And in the morning I rang the vet hospital and cancelled the surgery.

Oh, it's so hard to know what to do for the best...

The receptionist at the hospital said it's common for people to cancel surgery. She was very compassionate with our indecision and said we should make sure we are comfortable with what is best for Penny.

So, this evening I went back to our own vet and he agreed with our decision. He said we shouldn't give up on the 'conservative' approach. We're going to try a course of anti-inflammatory medication again, with joint supplement and only lead walks around the streets. We tried anti-inflammatories a few weeks ago but Penny vomited, so we discontinued. We started on a very low dose yesterday and she seems to be moving more easily and to be tolerating them.

If she shows any bad reaction to them, we are to go straight back to our own vet and he'll prescribe a different type of anti-inflammatory.

He says it's possible to make sure she is not in pain while we consider all our options and try for a recovery without surgery.

I think our next step might be an arthroscopic examination, to see what exactly is going on. But hopefully that won't be necessary.

I know modern medicine is wonderful, but I still believe the least possible intervention is the safest course.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Penny and the surgery on her cruciate ligament

As I posted previously, we're nervously waiting for Penny to be admitted for surgery on her left knee. I rang today and found some more details about the specific surgery. It's not TPLO, but TWO, which stands for Tibial Wedge Osteotomy. The surgeon will cut a wedge out of her tibia, so that the slope of the top of the tibia is changed in relation to the weight from the bone above.

If we've understood correctly, it will then be unnecessary for her to have a cranial cruciate ligament at all. If her ligament has partially broken, which he thinks is most likely, then they'll either take out the ligament, or just pare off the frayed parts, because this fraying causes inflammation.

We went for a walk today without Penny, and I realised how much I'm looking forward to the simple pleasure of walking with her on lead. Of course, it's our aim to play sports again, do fun agility, and maybe dance together - but just to get out of the house together will be a joy, even if we have to spend months sedately walking on lead.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Penny and cruciate ligament surgery

Well, after consultations with three vets, weeks and weeks of rest, and x-rays, it has been decided; Penny is to have surgery on her left knee. (One thing I've found out over the course of these stressful weeks is that dogs only have knees on their back legs, which seems logical, as we are so closely related and only have two knees.)

We took a video of Penny with us when we went to the specialist vet clinic today - Advanced Vet Care - but didn't need to show it to the vet. I thought I'd post it here as it might be interesting to other people who see their dog has a limp and would like to see the symptoms.

What I see in the video is that when Penny gets up, she slips on the floor, and I think that might be because she is stiff. When she gets up speed - which we've been doing our best to prevent, I might say - she runs with her two back legs together, like 'bunny hops'. She goes about her normal wake-up routine and, just as we do every morning, we get our hopes up and say, "Oh, it's a miracle, she's recovered during the night". But it never lasts...

By evening, after a day spent mooching around, with no walks except toileting outside, she is stiff and sore - and horrifies us by stumbling and falling over as she leaves the kitchen.

The vet surgeon was great, and spent over an hour examining Penny and talking to us, and then he explained the operation. It's a version of the TPLO, which should return her to full mobility, but not for some months.

Veterinary Orthopedic Sports Medicine Group has clear explanations of the operation and the recovery schedule, so we've printed it out and we'll prepare for the long haul.

Our surgeon told us we can expect Penny to return to full use of her leg - well, not completely full, but it should be so good that we won't notice the difference, and she won't be in pain. It should also prevent the onset of arthritis. Here's hoping!

I'll include a few links that I've found helpful in this difficult time:
Woodhaven Labs
Marvista Vet
Joint Pain in Dogs

Pet Surgery Topics
Dog Knee Injury
Practical Tips for Diagnosing and Treating Meniscal Tears - a discussion paper for vets

Friday, 6 August 2010

grooming a dog with completely matted fur

When Penny and I were at the vet's today so she could be admitted for her cruciate check-up, the vet nurse showed me the fur that was clipped off a poor little dog who came in for grooming recently.

The little dog had lived in its owner's backyard without any grooming! She didn't even brush it, and the fur was so matted the groomer had to take it all off. The vet nurse said that when the dog was bathed, it was ecstatic at the wonderful sensation.

Let's hope that unthinking owner will do better in the future.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

doing nothing day after day

Penny's been surprisingly calm about her quiet, boring days while we wait for her leg to be x-rayed and manipulated. Tomorrow, thank goodness! Most of the day she just lies around, not even sitting at the door to look out for visitors. I don't know if this is because it's painful to get up, or whether she's just resigned herself to boredom.

As well as playing with Nina Ottosson toys for interest, we thought it might be good for her to practise some stationary tricks. One that we've never conquered is "hold", so we've been working on that one. As long as there's food treats available, Penny will work at it, so we did about four ten-minute sessions today and basically conquered it. Here's an excerpt of the sessions.
(Until I looked at this clip, I didn't realise how much she was moving around. I hope I haven't done her any harm by not making her rest completely. It seems impossible to lie around every minute, but I do realise that if she has an operation she may have to do exactly that for a couple of weeks.)

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

waiting to have Penny's leg checked thorougly

We have to wait till Friday to have penny sedated so the vet can check the movement in her knee and, if necessary, x-ray her joints. I'm not at all happy about having to wait so long, but I'm hoping another four days of rest won't do too much harm.

It's not easy waiting, though, and we're trying to keep life interesting for Penny without too much activity. We are trying also to make sure she doesn't gain weight with the inactivity - it's all too easy to use food as a form of entertainment.

So tonight Penny had to work hard for the smallest reward imaginable - nine measly little pieces of kibble in the Nina Ottosson Dog Fighter toy. We haven't used it for ages, but she certainly remembered how to do it.

After watching her for a while I felt a little worried about her weight being on her back leg, but realistically we can't expect her to lie still for four days, so I guess we have to just be careful she doesn't overdo it. It was great that she remembered the toy so well after months of not seeing it, but I had inserted the two big pegs that stop the little ones moving in their slots, and that was too hard for her, so we helped her.

By the way, she did get some proper dinner afterwards!