Sunday, 25 March 2012

walking with a group

Finally I got organised today to go to Ruffey Lake Park with Cindy's Walk and Talk group! It's been too long since we managed that.

We had a lovely time with all the familiar dogs.

I thought of Honey when we encountered a graceful young Great Dane.

He decided he'd like to join our group.

And who was going to say no to such a handsome boy?

Of course, all the bigger dogs in our group thought they should show him how to romp and play.

But Penny preferred to stay back from all the excitement.

The lovely visitor walked with us for quite a while, but then he and his human had to head for home.

Monday, 12 March 2012

some dogged detective work

As I was driving through Hawthorn yesterday, I saw a car pull out of a driveway in front of me and noticed two doggy tails wagging slowly in the back of the car. 'They're looking forward to a walk,' I thought. 'I wonder if there's a good spot around here?'

We dog walkers are a keen lot. I was willing to drive back to Hawthorn if there was a good place on that side of town. So I practised all my pursuit skills, honed from many a police drama on tv. I followed at a little distance, along main roads, around corners, through roundabouts, along narrow streets and - when I began to worry that the driver might think it strange that the same car was behind him for so many kilometres - even let another vehicle come between us.

But what was this? He was headed for my side of town. What did he know that I didn't?

It was a bit embarrassing when I ended up right behind the other vehicle in a small dead-end street at a park. I slid past, completed a three-point turn (actually about a thirteen-point turn) and headed on back, looking straight ahead as if I'd just happened to turn into that street by mistake.

I noted a sign saying 'Willsmere Park', so I had a look at Where Is? and saw that it was a huge area.

Today we headed off to explore, and were thrilled to discover it is an off-lead park.

There were a couple of rules to follow, and one was not to take an off-lead dog closer than thirty metres to an organised sporting event, so we walked on lead past the cricket match.

And then we arrived at the lovely beach (okay, I know the river is muddy, but that's normal for Melbourne at this time of the year).

And walked along the shady paths, watching out for snakes.

And one of us even rolled in the lovely green grass.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

a strange bird shape on the hill

Penny and I had a lovely walk today, and it seemed she wasn't limping. Hooray! We went to a favorite place, Yarra Bend park. As I glanced across the Merri Creek to the parklands on the opposite bank, I was struck by the outline of a huge bird on the hillside. I knew it was there, but I've never seen it so beautifully outlined with the shadows cast by the setting sun.

Seeing Penny seemed to be coping well with a longer walk, we headed off to have a close look at it. When we got there, it no longer looked like a bird. It just seemed to be a little pebbled path in the hillside.

I wonder who made the bird, and why. It's obviously maintained well, because the grass hasn't been allowed to invade the gravel lines. A thing of beauty and mystery.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

dogs and aloe vera

After my recent post about using aloe vera on Penny's feet, Lassiter Chase's mum posted a comment saying she was glad to read that licking off aloe vera won't hurt a dog.

I started to worry that I hadn't done enough research for my last post. I did read that aloe vera is safe, and I'm trying it on Penny's feet, but I only looked at the one site I mentioned. So I've looked around further and this is what I've found:

eHow says the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals lists it as a poison, if eaten. The article concludes that it could be used on coat and skin, but with care.

This is the ASPCA page on aloe vera.

Marvista Vet says:
ALOE VERA GEL - If possible, obtain 100% aloe vera gel from a health food store. Products "containing aloe" are much more available but are generally not as effective and not meant to be licked away by a pet. Aloe vera gel comes from the aloe vera succulent and contains enzymes which break down inflammatory proteins and enhance healing. Pure aloe vera gel is not harmful for pets who want to lick it off.
WebMD gives an overview of the aloe vera in relation to humans and points out the the middle of the leaf is a gel and that just under the skin there is latex. It continues:
But taking aloe latex by mouth is likely unsafe, especially at high doses. There is some concern that some of the chemicals found in aloe latex might cause cancer. Additionally, aloe latex is hard on the kidneys and could lead to serious kidney disease and even death.
However, the aloe vera latex that is mentioned is taken by humans as a laxative, so I presume they would be eating larger amounts than Penny would get by licking at her paw.
The article conludes with an overview of how aloe vera is thought to work.
The useful parts of aloe are the gel and latex. The gel is obtained from the cells in the center of the leaf; and the latex is obtained from the cells just beneath the leaf skin.

Aloe gel might cause changes in the skin that might help diseases like psoriasis.

Aloe seems to be able to speed wound healing by improving blood circulation through the area and preventing cell death around a wound.

It also appears that aloe gel has properties that are harmful to certain types of bacteria and fungi.

Aloe latex contains chemicals that work as a laxative.
Burke's Backyard says:
Cuts and abrasions - aloe vera is a useful, naturally occurring antiseptic derived from the succulent Aloe vera. It can be safely applied to a pet to help the healing of minor cuts or abrasions. Any thing major, particularly a burn or severe laceration, should be examined by a vet.
Dogs Life has some sensible advice:
“Allergies to natural substances are still possible, and dogs can have series reactions, especially if they are they are allergic types,” Fougère warns. “Before using a natural remedy, it’s always a good idea to do a patch test. This means applying a very small dab to a less hairy part of the body (like the groin area), then waiting 24 hours to see if there is a reaction. If there is, you’ll need to avoid that substance.”

Friday, 9 March 2012

Penny's feet

Two days ago, when we were bathing Penny's feet in cool water - as we currently do after every outing - we noticed the skin of one pad was peeling back.

Of course we didn't freak out and wonder if our current regimen of cleaning twice daily for ten days with Malacetic wipes and applying Elocon once a day for three days has wrecked her skin completely, or given her some dreadful skin-destroying disease - of course we didn't...

But, just in case, we thought a re-visit to the vet might clarify things.

He said the peeling skin is a sign that something was wrong with it and it is peeling back to healthy skin. Phew! When I think about it, she's had a horrible hard patch on her paw (it looked like callus) since last November. And that's the paw that is causing the limp. BTW, he found a similar development on the other front foot, and suggested something in her gait may be causing this.

He once again checked her limbs completely, trying out every joint and reassured us that this latest limp is not likely to be joint-related. (Always a relief, given her previous cruciate repair.) He suggested we continue to work on getting rid of the hard, peeling skin, and gave us some chlorhexidine to use. We're to wipe the two paws every couple of days, working deeply to wipe or pull the loose skin off. When he did it she didn't seem to find it painful. But I do know that, like other dogs, she doesn't readily admit to pain.

PetPlace says of this medication:

Chlorhexidine is classified as a disinfectant or cleanser. It is used both to treat environmental surfaces, and in less concentrated forms, to treat the skin, ears and oral cavity. It is effective against bacteria, fungus, yeast and viruses.
Chlorhexidine is an OTC (over the counter drug) but should not be administered unless under the supervision and guidance of a veterinarian.
Chlorhexidine is used in veterinary medicine for the treatment and prevention of dermatological (skin) conditions and for the management of ear infections (otitis externa) and gum disease.
This drug can be used in the treatment of superficial skin infections, irrigation (cleansing) of wounds and as a medicated shampoo for the treatment of certain skin conditions (hot spots or acute moist dermatitis).
Chlorhexidine is not effective against infections caused by parasites (such as worms and mites).
Okay, that sounds like a good plan.

But then I remembered I hadn't told the vet I've been wiping Penny's paws with aloe vera gel. I simply break off a piece of leaf and gently rub it into the underneath of her foot. She didn't seem to mind this at all, even when the paw was quite sore.

PLEASE NOTE: Saturday 10th March 2012 - I have a subsequent post that looks at the pros and cons of use of aloe vera in terms of its possible toxicity.

I'm going to continue with the aloe vera, as well as the chlorhexidine, as I don't see that they should counter each other. In looking around to check this, I came across this informative answer at AllExperts to a query about paw problems. I like this answer because although it talks about alternative therapies, it doesn't dismiss modern veterinary medicine. I thought it had a good balance.

The query was about an akita who was licking her paws. Here's part of the answer:
Allergies can cause constant licking and swelling of the paws and accumulation of debris, creating a moist, warm environment that can cause an overgrowth of bacteria, yeasts, fungi and demodectic mites. Chewing and superficial infection allow deeper penetration of these organisms into the skin, creating a very itchy, and hard to break cycle.

The problem is really two fold: If the suspected allergy is treated but not the skin infection, it is unlikely that your dog would have complete or lasting results.

So you see, because your dog is chewing at her paws, she's at risk for developing secondary infections on her skin, which can quickly get out of hand. That is why your vet told you to keep your dog's feet clean, and why you should strictly follow that advice.

Gently wash your dog's feet with peroxide, at least once a day. Dry your dog's feet very well. If your dog will allow it, a hair drier on the low setting would work well. If it's possible, wash your dog's feet when she comes in from outside too, since grass or pollens might be aggravating or causing the itch.

If you can't wash your dog's feet each time she comes in from being outside, simply soaking her feet for 5 or 10 minutes, four times a day, in cool water can help control licking. For additional relief, add a sprinkling of Epsom salts to the water (1 teaspoon in 2 cups of warm water). Again, it's really important that you dry the dog's feet well after a soak.

Your vet asked that you get back to her in a week, you need to do that if you haven't done so. Treatment for an allergy is a long term and complicated thing, it might take months to get it under control, and the first course of treatment might not work, so other medications would be needed.

Since the problem is continuing, your vet may want to run tests for fungus, bacteria, or parasites, or take a skin scraping sample. In addition, she may prescribe medications such as steroids (Prednisone) which quickly relieve irritation and break the "lick cycle."
These drugs have the added benefit of putting the brakes on the immune system, which produces the allergy symptoms. Finally, pets with severe allergies may undergo a series of shots to help desensitize them to whatever they are allergic to.
In some cases, the vet simply isn't able to find anything physically wrong, but can still treat for the symptoms.
Aside from the medication your vet prescribes, the following suggestions might help control the itching, but these are not a substitute for vet care, and you should tell your vet exactly what supplements or over the counter remedies you are using on your dog.

Along with washing your dog's feet with peroxide (which is important that you do), also try this:
Brew a cup of tea as you normally would (regular black tea, that you can drink), then soak a clean towel in the cooled tea to make a compress and apply it directly to your dog's paw for three to five minutes, up to five times a day. Tea can discolor fur, so don't be surprised if your pet seems to be wearing socks when you are done. Tea contains chemicals called "Tannins", which help dry rashes and ease irritated skin. Dry the paws well when you're done- with a hair drier if possible.

100% pure Aloe Vera gel (not a blend!) can be applied directly on the paws. Aloe Vera gel comes from the Aloe Vera succulent plant and contains enzymes which break down inflammatory proteins and enhance healing. It really stops itching, and you can use it on yourself too. If you happen to own a plant, just crack off a piece and rub it onto your dog's paws. You can use Aloe Vera gel 4-5 times a day and after cleaning or soaking the paws, or whenever you see your dog chewing at her feet. It's safe if your dog licks it.

There's lots more advice in the post, and I'm saving the whole thing to my computer, because it's one of the best overviews of paw licking that I've seen.

We're going back to the vet in ten days, so here's hoping that the problem will be resolved by then.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

this dog loves his bath

In an email from PetPlace today there is a link to a delightful video of a dog relaxing in the bath. I loved it, because there's no way it's not the dog's own choice to lie that way. I've seen Penny's eyes slowly closing with pleasure as we rub her belly when she's lying on the floor and this is what I see in Casper's expression.

In this article from The Telegraph, the owners explain that Casper on this occasion just lay back when they lifted his paws to wash his belly and the wife fetched the camera and filmed it.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

worries and a kookaburra and windy weather

Penny's been having a quiet time lately, because she woke up last Thursday with a horrible limp. So off to the vet we went, to discuss it, and he couldn't find out what was causing it, except to locate the problem in the pad of her right front foot and to give her an anti-inflammatory injection and send us home with anti-inflammatory tablets.

Poor Penny. Because I'm a worrier, I kept checking her foot to see if I could figure out what the problem was. I seemed to be the same problem as she had when we came back from our lovely holiday at Yarram last November. At that time the vet couldn't figure out the problem either, but it eventually went away.

Well, with all the poking and prodding, we made her foot really sore, so that she ended up licking it frantically and actually screaming, on the Saturday morning. As you can imagine, that precipitated a rush to the vet again, and once again he couldn't see what the problem might be. We decided to keep the tablets going and see if she was better by Wednesday. If not, we'd try an x-ray to see if anything showed up.

She seems fine now, and we resumed short walks on Wednesday. Today we went to Rosanna, strolling at a pace set by Penny amongst the gum trees, watched by the occasional kookaburra.

It was a windy day, and we decided to head home even sooner than we'd planned when we heard the crack and crash of a eucalypt branch falling nearby, because the creaking and groaning of branches along the path had us on edge. (We'd had a big branch fall on our power lines at home just before we set off, and we're wondering if the recent rain, after weeks of dry weather, has set the gum trees to dropping branches more than usual.)

Penny seems okay, but we're still worrying about whether we made the right decision not to have the foot x-rayed. But we don't want to put her through the stress of a sedative unless really necessary.

I guess we'll have to wait and see how she goes.