Thursday, 30 September 2010

the big underwater treadmill for dogs

Penny had physiotherapy last Tuesday and we learned some gentle exercises to practise at home. Basically they consist of helping her to shift her weight to her injured leg, which has lost about a third of muscle mass since she injured herself, or maybe since the cruciate repair operation 22 days ago. For instance, one exercise is to get her to stand and to then gently press on her right hip so her weight shifts subtly to her left rear leg. It's such a small movement that it would be impossible to see whether it was working, if not for the fact that her fur has been shaved off and I can see the tiny tensing of her thigh muscle.

Another exercise is to get her to stand on three legs for one second, by lifting her front right leg off the ground. We were making heavy weather of this one, as she would always sit. But then inspiration struck and I realised it is just like the 'marching' routine we practised for canine freestyle. Hsin-Yi and Honey the Great Dane have a video of how to teach this trick. As a therapy move, Penny needs to do it standing, not sitting, of course, which is the final stage of Honey's video.

The good thing about the exercises is that Penny has fun, and I feel as if I am helping her to pass the time and to recover her muscle tone.

The big event of the week, however, was our session on the underwater treadmill after our first physio appointment. I was a bit disappointed that Penny was fearful of the experience, given that she was so confident on her first try some weeks ago, before the surgery. I think I gave the therapists an overly optimistic opinion of how she would go. Also, she didn't have a weak knee last time. And, thirdly, this treadmill is larger.

There were two positives about the experience, though. One, the therapist got into the water with her to help her settle down. And, two, Penny got some delicious treats to make it a pleasant memory.

We're going again tomorrow, but to a different location. I won't take videos this time, but will focus on helping Penny to enjoy it.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

a dog supervises the gardening

It's been beautiful weather here in Melbourne today and I headed out to the garden to work. And I took Penny with me.

She lay in the shade near the garden bed and watched me pull out (oops! I meant, harvest) the weeds.

Penny was on her new Snooza Orthobed, which is advertised as being good for older dogs, or dogs who have had surgery. Who could resist? The amazing thing was that as I carried it into the house from the car when I bought it last week, she was nudging me and following me and as I dropped it she walked onto it and lay down - before I could even tear off the label.

The advertising says:
Perfect for older pets who have trouble getting in & out of kennels or baskets. The low profile convoluted (egg carton shaped) foam provides the ultimate comfort for post surgery, older pets or those with hip ailments. The removable hidden zippered cover is washable with a sturdy polyester drill back & a cosy mock lambswool top. Lightweight & portable - you will travel easily with this bed.
I could certainly recommend it so far.

Anyway, Penny kept an eye on me and on the neighbourhood. She checked out my method of 'harvesting' the weeds and throwing them down as mulch - the weeds that don't have seedheads, of course.

And she found an interesting stick to take inside as a souvenir.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

criminals and dogs

There was an article in The Age newspaper today about crooks and their love for animals, especially dogs. I'm not sure how long links to articles in The Age stay active, so just in case you can't click across to it, I'll mention a couple of the incidents in the article.

The writers, Andrew Rule and John Silvester, say
For every psychopath who pulled the wings off butterflies and tortured kittens on the way to his corner of hell, there are plenty of hard men who would happily break (human) bones to punish cruelty to animals.
They give the example of the murder of Les Kane in 1978. When the Kanes came home from a restaurant to the house where they were hiding out from their enemies, their dachshund, Simon, was on a chair beside the front door - a chair he was not capable of climbing up onto. One of the three masked killers (who then pushed Mrs Kane and her children into a bedroom before shooting Kane and taking away his body) had apparently let the dog out and put him on the chair out of harm's way while he waited to commit murder.

Another story is about a man called Bazley who was hired to kill two people involved in the drug scene, in 1979. He was ordered to kill their dog, but he didn't, instead turning the dog loose. He later said he wouldn't shoot the dog because it hadn't done anything wrong.

And on one occasion another man was saved from a sharpshooter on a roof because he noticed his companion dog was staring out the window at the roof of the house next door.

There are more stories in this interesting article, but I'll let you read them for yourself if you want to.

Penny's human is in Turkey

While Penny's been resting and recovering from surgery, one of her humans has been gallivanting around Turkey. We understand that she can read this blog but not comment, so this post is specially for her, to show her how well Penny is doing. This morning we set off down the front ramp:

Notice that the ramp is now only two planks wide, instead of the previous three.

And Penny is still steadily losing weight on her restricted diet, as you can see. She is now 15.7 kg, instead of the 16.9 that she was two months ago.

Next we headed down the sideway, to relieve herself (not a stressful business these days, thank Dog). A little pause to sniff at the buried compost from the Bokashi bucket - which I had the forethought to cover with well-stamped-in soil.

And then we headed out into the street to browse the delicious fresh possum poo. (Obviously her humans aren't feeding her enough!)

Friday, 24 September 2010

day sixteen after extracapsular cruciate repair

Day sixteen and Penny seems to be feeling well. These mornings we go out to the backyard, because I got s-o-o tired of standing out in the street waiting for her to wee or poo. The final straw was the day my neighbor stopped her car to talk to me and Penny tried to jump up to say hello and while I was holding her down, the youngsters across the road passed by with their four dogs, and then in the middle of it all an off-lead dog raced by. Penny was going ballistic and I grabbed her up in my arms and carried her inside and put her in her crate.

I guess it was then that inspiration struck and I realised I could put a ramp down on the side steps at the back if I took away one of the planks from our front ramp and added it to the remaining spare plank that was lying around the garden.

This was one of the few occasions where I felt like leaving it to someone else to follow up on the loose dog that had raced past. I'm pleased to say I didn't do that. I took Penny's lead and went up and down the street to look for the dog. But I didn't find it and I haven't heard anything about a lost dog.

The move to our own backyard is very pleasant and now Penny relieves herself regularly in the mornings (number one and number two, to put it delicately, lol).

We visited the vet yesterday and he said Penny is going well with her recovery, bearing weight on the operated leg. Today I even reduced the Metacam dose to see whether she continues to use the leg, and I think she is okay. I'd like to get her off it as soon as possible, but the vet says the pain relief it brings will enable her to use her leg more confidently and thus heal more fully.

It's tempting to allow her to do more, but, thanks to the internet, I have plenty of anecdotal evidence about how important it is to take things slowly.

vacuum cleaner tests include pet hair

Our vacuum cleaner has given up the ghost, so I've been on the Choice site looking for the best replacement. From a quick scan I get the idea I need one with a turbo head or power brush. (But I still think my pet comb is rather useful.)

I thought the little video clip showing how they test for pet hair removal was amusing and entertaining.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

rest and recreation for dogs

I thought maybe we had overdone it with recreation activities for Penny the other night, so the next day went more like this:

I have made the exciting discovery that a variety of toys to entertain dogs and enhance their intelligence are available at my favorite local pet store, Murphy's Grain Store. They are made by a company I had not come across previously, and seem to be German in origin. The surprising thing is that they are available in wood versions, which are so costly to import to Australia because of the weight.
I'm rather interested in the Trixie Dog Activity Kicker and the Trixie Dog Activity Poker Box.

However, they're expensive, and I think we should get our money's worth out of the Nina Ottosson puzzles we already have, before I buy new ones.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

dogs, constipation after surgery and weight-control

Today I came across a short article about dealing with constipation in dogs, following surgery. I would have liked this info last week, when we were stressing about her lack of defecation.

It suggests feeding canned pumpkin. I notice many sites in the US suggest this, and I wonder why plain cooked pumpkin is not recommended. I just bought pumpkin and boiled it up, because I wouldn't buy canned pumpkin in case it has sugar added. I also mixed cold cooked potato in with her food, as it is not digested and gives her a sense of fullness. I was told about this by a fellow club member of Cindy's Walk and Talk group, and it's mentioned at this site on weight loss in humans. I think we have to be careul about assuming what is right for humans will be okay for dogs, though. But it did mention that the hunger-satisfying effect was tested on animals, so that could be worth further internet research.

I notice the article also suggests
If it's been a few days and you're starting to worry, try adding some psyllium husk to some canned dog food. Follow the directions on the container to get the proper amount for your dog's weight. As a general rule, a child's dose is ½ to 1 teaspoon per day. Most veterinarians feel a teaspoon per day for a 60 pound dog is adequate. Make sure the dog drinks plenty of water after eating psyllium husk.
Salt-free beef or chicken broth may get your dog readily drinking fluids. Make the broth yourself by throwing in some meat bones with water and simmering the liquid for an hour or two. Offer this liquid by itself or add it to your dog's food.
That's exactly what we did, giving her chicken broth so she'd drink, and adding a teensy tiny bit of psyllium husk to her food. But because we didn't know how much to add, we only threw in a couple of grains, so I guess it didn't have any effect.

She's still only defecating about every second day, where she used to do so every day, but, as the article says,
a dog's urge to have a bowel movement is closely linked to exercise.
They suggest taking the dog for a short walk, but as we can't do that, I took her for a drive in the car today, and that worked its magic.

Yep, I'm driving my dog around the streets so she can poo on someone else's grass. But I do pick it up!

Monday, 20 September 2010

entertainment for a dog after an operation

Now that Penny's feeling good after her operation, we're needing to entertain her for part of the day, in order to keep her from going stir crazy at the eternal confinement.

So, we're trying out some of our old 'kitchen tricks'. I tried to be careful to put the rewards down on the floor so she wouldn't jump to get them, but I was too slow once or twice.

I found a great list at the Yahoo group devoted to orthopaedic issues, Orthodogs - a group moderated by very knowledgeable and generous people.

Some of the suggested activities that look promising for us are:

nose touch to target - with increasing duration
paw touch (haven't ever learned that)
Leash manners (hmm... we're now finding out we could have done more with that in the past!)
find my one - scent discrimination
urinate on cue (oh, if only we'd achieved that, life would now be easier)
defecate on cue (I can't see that ever happening!)
use a specific place as the toilet (I wish!)
bark on cue
crate enter and stay with door open
ring bell with nose
smile - capture this with clicker when it spontaneously happens
stop/freeze on cue
put away the toys
cock your head to one side
shake your head

There are some in this list we know, so they'll be the ones we start with.

After all, we've got six weeks to perfect them - sigh...

Here we are doing some known ones. I'm really pleased Penny is using her hind leg, and I only hope we didn't overdo it this evening. I guess tomorrow we will see how she is.

using movies cameras to spy on our dogs

Isn't modern technology wonderful?

I've been using our video camera to see how Penny is behaving when I'm not around.

Here are two clips of her behaviour at mealtimes. One in the evening eleven days after her extracapsular traditional cruciate ligament operation, and then also the next morning. We've been told to expect her to be using her operated leg by the fourteenth day, so I think we're on track for that.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

dogs and mankind

I've just watched part two of a television program in which Martin Clunes looks at the relationship between humans and dogs. There's a good overview of part two one - which I forgot to watch! - here.

The report on the second part of the series, the one I just watched, is also interesting.

Tonight's program discussed the way in which we have bred dogs to suit our requirements, often neglecting their best interests. Of course, that makes me think once more about the fact that Penny tore her cruciate ligament. If it's as prevalent in domesticated dogs as it's reported to be, I'd be interested to know how frequently it happens in the wild.

One particularly wild dog is the African wild dog. In the program Clunes visited a program aiming at releasing a pack of these endangered dogs back into the wild. Interestingly, even though they had been reared by the man Clunes visited, they did not relate to him at all. According to him, dogs in general relate to their human companions by figuring out how the humans fit into the dogs' idea of a pack. But African wild dogs will not integrate a newcomer into an existing pack, so they will never relate to humans. If the pack leader dies, his son is then the next pack leader.

I wanted to read more about this, because I can't figure out how it works. Surely a pack must accept outsiders, or else inbreeding will take place. Perhaps it's just that outsiders can't be pack leader.

At a site called Naturalia there's plenty of information. It appears that a new pack forms when young sibling females leave their pack to look for some males. The males they meet will be related to each other, so the new pack has only one breeding pair, with the 'uncles' and 'aunts' helping to raise the pups. The really fascinating thing is that the new pack is organised on age class, not individual status. Perhaps this is something to do with the choice of pack leader. I'll have to read the rest of the information.

Perhaps this also explains a sad part of the Clunes program, where an older female tried to join the newly forming pack and had to be saved from death by the intervention of humans.

Friday, 17 September 2010

home therapy after cruciate operation

I've just come across a comprehensive manual for home care of dogs after extracapsular cruciate surgery. it looks great and is a free download.

I've printed it out and now I'll got and read it through.

a dog discovers she still has a left hind leg

Eight days out from the cruciate operation (extracapsular) and we were still having to either entice Penny to move, or having to carry her. And yet the receptionist at the physiotherapy clinic said that the sooner she started using the leg the better the recovery was likely to be (within reason, of course). The vet thought she would be touching it to the ground in the next couple of days. But it wasn't happening. Why?

And then I thought of some of the old advice about training puppies and dogs:

  • don't fuss over them;

  • don't keep watching them or they might feel overwhelmed by the attention;

  • if they don't eat their food quickly, take it away;

  • make them come to you, don't go to them;

  • don't give a command or ask for a behaviour if you know they won't do it.

For months, we've been ignoring these suggestions, and Penny has ruled the roost as we worried about what could be wrong with her leg. Training went out the window, along with discipline. And now we've been seeing the result. She pulls us at a three-legged run when she goes out for a toilet break (despite the physio instruction that she should move slowly everywhere she goes) and she waits on her mat for her food to be delivered, and believes it should be pushed right next to her mouth if it's more than ten centimetres away from her.

So... it was time yesterday for tough love. Luckily I had a strong-minded friend visiting, who helped me stick to my resolve.

I put a biscuit on the kitchen floor, in a place Penny could see from her comfortable place near the front door.

I waited.

The crying began softly at first. Then louder. Then louder. I might be anthropomorphising, but I think it said, 'Oh, I'm a poor little hungry puppy with a sore leg and it would be a long painful journey to the kitchen to get that delicious-looking biscuit. Won't someone bring it to me?"

We drank our cups of tea and stayed firm.

And then... click, clicketty, hoppitty click. Penny hurried past on three legs, occasionally touching her left rear leg to the ground. She had remembered that she does have four legs and she can move around.If the motivation is strong enough.

Those biscuits can work miracles. (As I've discovered in the past.)

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

one week out from the cruciate operation

I dropped in to Cindy's dog training last night, to see how everyone is getting along. I miss it so. It was great to see eveyone (two-legged and four-legged) and I was thrilled to hear that Cindy's dogs go to the same specialist as Penny did. That makes me feel even more confident of a good recovery.

Penny had the Robert Jones bandage on for a week, instead of the recommended three days. Both our own vet and the specialist suggested we do this. In one way I'm glad we did, as it supported her knee, but on the other hand she seems to have had a skin reaction to the elastoplast that held the bandage on. He poor leg is red raw at the top where the top of the bandage was, and at the bottom. No wonder she wouldn't go anywhere.

She's been set up near the front door for the last few days, so she can look out to the street.

Every so often we carry her out to the back yard or to the street, waiting for more urination or defecation (I thought that might sound more professional than saying we spend ages every day waiting around for her to wee or poo, lol).

When we went out yesterday it was cold and damp, so we set her up with a nice plastic underlay, plastic over her bandage - can't get it wet - on her old familiar mat, and we waited for her to do something.

Hmmm... not much action. Except for frantic licking of what we now realise was a horrible rash at the edges of the bandage.

Now that it's off, we realise we have to be even more careful as she moves around. Hmmm... not a big problem yet. She won't even get off her mat for dinner and has to have it delivered in bed.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

the Great Saga of the Poo

Okay... imagine this. You're in the car park of the Animal Emergency Clinic, about fifteen kilometres from home and it's four in the morning. Your dog, after shivering and panting in pain on the rush across town in the middle of the night, is now running full pelt around the car park, you hanging onto the leash and running behind her, so your tugging doesn't pull her off balance.

Yep, it's day four after the cruciate ligament surgery.

You check on Penny in the night and find her in lots of pain. Ring the University Clinic where she had her surgery (many, many kilometres from home). Tell them her symptoms. Maybe you should go to the nearest emergency clinic, the voice on the phone suggests. You decide to go to the one you have the most respect for. You drive there, resisting the temptation to run the red lights (and resisting the voice of your companion urging you to do just that).

You arrive there, carry her in, put her on the ground, oh so delicately, and she hurries across the room, wagging her tail, to greet the nurse. What??? She seems okay. But then she's not so good. She hurtles across to the door and you go out with her and she races all over the place, hopping along at top speed on three legs, crouches and out comes a flood of urine. Whew! The trip was worth it even to achieve this.

Inside to tell the nurse she seems a lot better. Then she's off again, hurtling along the footpath and onto the grass of the nature strip.

And then, it finally happens. The Great Poo. Twice. Oh, the relief she must feel at getting something moving after five days! We can relax now, having read that it's only after five days that we should start to worry if there is no bowel movement.

The vet nurse tells us we can stay in the waiting room for fifteen minutes to see if Penny's fine. The staff have emergency cases in the hospital that take priority over Penny.

We wait until another nurse comes out to greet a new client who's vomiting blood. We thank the nurse and head off home.

Tired but happy.

Friday, 10 September 2010

day two of post-op cruciate repair

Well, if I hadn't been an avid reader of blogs I wouldn't have been prepared for how stressful this period of recovery from cruciate surgery can be. But I figure if all those other dogs made it through their cruciate repairs, Penny can also.

Today has been dominated by the Great Saga of the Wee. We've carried her in and out about five times, worrying about why she won't urinate. I'd love to have had a camera when human male was crouched on the nature strip in the street holding up an umbrella, protecting Penny from the pouring rain, as he and I stood with water pouring off us, waiting for her to wee. She didn't.

By late afternoon we were really worrying. No urination since yesterday morning. And she was lying on her mat, shivering all over and panting. We scooped her up and hurried out to the street again. (Can't go out to our own garden, because of the steps.) She wriggled free and raced off three-legged tugging us along. Then sat. Then raced along again, three-legged. Then sat.

One of our neighbours drove past and saw us gathered around Penny, holding a sling under her belly to support her. She parked her car and hurried to our rescue, racing home to phone her daughter who is a vet nurse. Message - Penny must wee. We'd better go to animal emergency if it didn't happen soon. Sometimes after an operation the kidneys just freeze up (I think that was what we were told.)

And then Penny did it! She let it all out! General jubiliation.

We realised how much it must have hurt her each time today when we scooped her up and carried her outside, if her bladder was full to bursting but she couldn't urinate.

Now we have the delightful wait to see if she can manage to defecate with such a sore leg.

Poor Penny! But at least now she's curled up comfortably sleeping in her little corner of the room.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

a Robert Jones bandage and repair of a partially torn cruciate

Penny has a rather pretty bandage on her leg after the operation to repair her partially torn cruciate ligament. Searching the net today for information, I've discovered an article at PetPlace describing it as a Robert Jones bandage.

The surgeon told us to be very careful that it doesn't get wet, so we've been crawling around the backyard feeling the ground for dampness - ah, what we do for our beloved dogs! But now I've read on the PetPlace site that we should have a plastic bag right over her bandage when we go outside, because she might accidentally wee on it and make it wet.

We took turns to get up at two-hourly intervals during the night to check on her - yawn - and she slept well. She can apparently shift around, because we see her in different resting positions when we check on her during the day.

I read a report on the history and use of this bandage and was pleased to read
By supporting the soft tissues, the Robert Jones dressing relieves pain and may facilitate healing.
And, at another site, I read
It promotes healing by immobilizing the injured area, thereby limiting swelling and providing protection from secondary trauma. Compared with other padded bandages, the Robert-Jones bandage offers limb stability, tissue fluid absorption, and protection from trauma. Generally, most of the compression is lost after several hours to days as the cotton loosens.
One of the best finds of all has been a blog by the owner of a dog who has gone through the traditional repair, as we are doing, and also has successfully completed conservative management, avoiding surgery altogether. (We tried conservative management, but Penny got worse.) I'll be reading each week of that blog to get an idea of what we can expect.

Today's big exercise has been carrying Penny out to wee (yes, a good wee in the morning, thank goodness). We know she can wee with the sore leg in the air, because she's been doing it for weeks.

The next step is to see her do a poo. (Oh, how our dogs teach us to focus on the important things in life.) We're not sure how that will go, as it seems to involve putting her weight on both backlegs. The vet nurse told us to support her with a sling under her rear end, but we've been out three times and she just lies down.

Maybe there'll be some action later...

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Penny's limp was a partial cruciate tear

At last we have had a definite diagnosis of Penny's lameness - and an operation on the same day!

Here she is, sad and sorry but finally on the way to recovery, after an operation to repair a partial tear in her cruciate.

We've agonised about what to do, for weeks. In one way, I feel sad that Penny has been in discomfort, if not pain, as we researched, discussed, visited a variety of specialists, and finally came to a decision.

However... we were originally booked for Penny to have a TWO, an operation somewhat like a TPLO, involving the cutting of her leg bone. But today the specialist told us that over the last few months there has been research from the US suggesting that the traditional, less invasive cruciate repair gives just as good recovery for dogs of Penny's size. So, while we have been thinking it over, so have the experts.

Here's hoping for a steady but successful recovery.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

an ordinary day but a good one for a dog

It's been very quiet here in Penny's household as we wait to see whether her limp improves. And no, it hasn't improved! So we're off to see another specialist tomorrow to try to find out whether she in fact has a partially torn cruciate.

One nice thing today was that Penny's quiet life was made more interesting by a return of her old friend Scruffy.

Here is Scruffy, a nice quiet visitor who doesn't tempt Penny into activity that might make her injury worse. As usual, he's looking a little worried. He'll always be a nervous dog, but it's good that he's happy to visit us and feel relatively safe.