Sunday, 29 June 2008

more about kennel cough

Penny seems much better already but we are trying to make sure she takes it easy for a while. Normally we try to walk for about an hour but today we just strolled along our local streets for ten minutes. It was a great chance to smarten her up on walking nicely on lead because we weren't headed anywhere in particular and we could turn back towards home every time she tightened the lead.

Which brings me to why I'm writing about kennel cough again. Lately it has seemed as if Penny was pullingl so hard on the lead when walking that it was making her cough and gag. We became so concerned that we decided we'd have to use a harness instead of attaching the lead to her collar.

I just had a look at a site about using homeopathy to treat or prevent kennel cough and it had a piece of information that would have made us realise earlier hat was wrong with Penny. It said that you can test for this disease by pressing lightly on the dog's throat just under the jaw and above the collar. If she has kennel cough she will cough immediately.

So that explained the mystery of Penny pulling. She's not actually pulling hard after all, it's probably just that the lightest tug on the collar has been making her cough and gag.

Another extra snippet of information I gleaned tonight is that owners often report that their dog seems to have something stuck in the throat. I read this at the Mar Vista Animal Medical Center. We had been worrying for a few days previously whether Penny had something stuck in her throat, or whether she had scratched her throat.

So, all in all, she sure has the classic symptoms of kennel cough! We'll be making sure she eats well, drinks well and rests over the next few days.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

kennel cough and vomiting - it's been a dog's life this week

Penny has been coughing recently. Because she’s our first dog, we are learning as we go and it wasn’t until Jabari’s mum commented that it sounded like kennel cough that we even considered this disease. Penny’s never been to a kennel and in my naivety I thought you couldn’t get it anywhere else. (The power of names to influence our thinking!) Also, her vaccinations are up-to-date and I believed they included kennel cough. We wanted to take her to the vet but the cough is seemingly random and occasional, so we thought there wouldn’t be anything for the vet to observe. (As you can see, we are definitely beginners at dog ownership!)

I rang the vet and the nurse told me that even if dogs are vaccinated against this disease, they can still get it; however, it should be a milder form. I decided to have a look around the Net to see what I could find out. One of the most interesting pieces of information was that there are video clips of dogs with kennel cough on YouTube. When we listened to this one, we thought it sounded similar to Penny’s cough.

Next I thought I would visit the Merck Veterinary Manual. It said:
Spasms of coughing are the outstanding sign. These are most severe after rest or a change of environment or at the beginning of exercise.
This is exactly the situation in which Jabari’s mum noticed Penny coughing. It was as Penny rushed from the car to join Jabari in the park. We’ve also noticed that she coughs when she gets up after resting on her mat.
The Manual also said:
The acute stage of bronchitis passes in 2-3 days; the cough, however, may persist for 2-3 wk.
I also found some relevant information at a site called all doctors. They said the name kennel cough is misleading as it can be caught at any gathering of dogs. It’s caused by a combination of a bacterium and a virus. Dogs with this disease often finish their coughing with gagging or retching and produce frothy phlegm. It can persist for several weeks and sneezing is common. says dogs will usually recover from this disease without treatment but a visit to the vet is recommended because a cough might be a symptom of another disease entirely. The cough sounds as if the dog needs to "clear its throat" and will be triggered by any extra activity or exercise. In many dogs the general state of health and alertness will be unaffected, and there might be no rise in temperature, or loss of appetite. The symptoms may last from 7 to 21 days but it’s rarely life threatening. It goes on to say that sometimes cough suppressants and occasionally antibiotics are prescribed.

It’s been a ‘medical’ week for Penny. Unfortunately, she became quite sick on Tuesday after I accidentally fed her treats that were too old. (I’ve learned a lesson!!) We rushed to the vet and he gave her a painkilling injection for her sore stomach and a penicillin injection in case of infection.

We’re going to wait a couple of days and see how she does before we go back to the vet. Perhaps the penicillin will help her with the cough. Today when we walked along our local creek she was full of energy and fun but she still occasionally coughed or sneezed.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

do red-headed dogs require more anaesthetic?

When we first saw Penny we decided to name her after the copper coin because of the reddish colour of her coat the fur on her head, and we've always thought of her as a 'red-head' even though, over time, she's shifted somewhat towards blonde. I was fascinated, therefore, to hear a discussion on the radio today about the fact that red-headed humans need a greater dose of anaesthetic than others when they are having surgery, because they feel pain more than others do. The person who said this was a professor of anaestheology at a local university. There's an article about it in New Scientist of 15 October 2002.

A listener rang in to say that it's the same for ginger cats. Interesting. But I'd need to hear some scientific backup to this suggestion. A look around the Net doesn't throw up any immediate information. I can't see that it would logically follow, that the reddish colour in cats comes from a gene that operates in the same way as the gene for red hair in the human genome. The New Scientist article says:
In people with red hair, the cells that produce skin and hair pigment have a dysfunctional melanocortin 1 receptor. Liem says this dysfunction triggers the release of more of the hormone that stimulates these cells, but this hormone also stimulates a brain receptor related to pain sensitivity
Of course, now I wonder about ginger(ish) dogs...

Monday, 23 June 2008

taking our dogs on holidays with us

I spent a long weekend recently at Lakes Entrance and didn't take Penny with me. I knew she would be happy at home with the rest of the family. However, when I saw the seemingly endless stretches of beach, the shallow, calm waters of many of the lakes and the heaps of dogs wandering around with their human families, I began to wonder what it would be like to travel with Penny.

So I enquired about the rules down there for holidaying with dogs. I was given the name of a few places where dogs are permitted. The first one I visited was a somewhat run-down looking caravan park with a stretch of mown grass out the back where dogs can run around. I wasn't too happy that this area was unfenced and bordered the highway. The other negative point was that dogs must be with their owners at all times. In other words, you can't go out and leave the dog at the cabin. Perhaps I wouldn't want to leave Penny alone in a strange environment, but I'd like to have the choice to leave her safely at home at times.

I had the impression that this place tolerates dogs rather than welcoming them.

On the way back to Melbourne we drove through Swan Reach and chanced across a place that seems ideal. It's called Chestnut Hill Country Retreat. What appeals to me is the small cottage separate from the main Bed and Breakfast house. Dogs are allowed and, best of all, there is a small yard fenced high enough to keep any dog in. One of my most unfavorite things is letting Penny out at night in the country to relieve herself and having her disappear off into the darkness. With this little yard that wouldn't be a worry, and perhaps if she settled in well we would feel confident to leave her at the cottage for a while if we wanted to visit a place that wasn't dog-friendly. I checked out the internet site for this place, but it doesn't say dogs are welcome - however, when we called in the owner said they were, if they had their own bedding.

I had a newsletter email from Dr Jon at today and it was about this question of holidaying with dogs. It included an informative link to a list of things to consider when preparing for the holiday. (I don't agree with many of the advertisements I see at, but I find some of their information interesting.)

Penny regularly goes with us to our own house in the mountains but that doesn't really involve much preparation, as she is familiar with the place and we've made ourselves known to the local vet, just in case of emergency. I'd love to take her to a beach resort, but I wonder if we would find it too much trouble and whether she'd enjoy it.

Monday, 16 June 2008

new ideas for dogs to stretch their minds

I have an ongoing interest in activities that require Penny to think and, to judge by the wagging of her tail when she's solving problems, she loves to do so. On February 2nd this year I wrote about a toy I'd found that has her thinking. I'm pleased to say she still gets lots of entertainment out of it when we give it to her - not too often, because we like to vary her toys. On 14 December previous to that I had visited a German site and found lots of ideas for home-made intelligent toys.

Today I received a newsletter from the German site, called in English 'fun-for-dogs'. They've had a competition for people to invent more such toys. The results are fascinating. If you don't read German you could still browse the page, because many of the photos are self-explanatory. Just be aware that these games are for playing WITH your dog. Many of them would be very dangerous if you weren't involved in making sure your dog solves the puzzles gently.

The one I love is simply the use of a furry puppet to open its mouth and reward your dog when she does a good trick or anything you'd like to reinforce. It looks like fun! The photos are at the last ones on the competition page.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

dog toys with a bottle inside

Penny has a favorite toy that makes a crinkly noise. When it fell apart because we play tug-of-war with it (which we know is a silly thing to do with a soft toy), I decided to sew it up because she loves in so much. To my surprise I discovered that the weird noise is just an ordinary plastic drink bottle inside it.

Therefore I was excited to read on The Pet Haven blog that there is a company that sells soft toy casings that you can put onto a plastic bottle. I had a look around the Net and found that FatCat sells them. They look great, obviously not for tough chewers, though.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Dog escapes poisoning by cane toad

Penny chews her food only enough to get it down her throat and sometimes it's unnerving to see her gulp down big pieces of meat. But I reckon the owner of a dog in the Northern Territory is glad that his dog didn't stop to chew the cane toad that it ate recently.The Northern Territory News reports that the dog probably gulped the toad whole, thinking it was one of the pieces of pie and pastie that the owner had tossed onto the ground. Surprisingly, the dog is unharmed by the toxic meal; there's some thought that this occurred because it didn't chew the toad.

But the amazing thing is that the toad lived through forty minutes in the dog's stomach.It took two injections at the Animal Hospital to make the dog regurgitate the creature - and the toad hopped away! There's a fascinatingly awful photo of it covered in stomach 'stuff'. (Looks a bit like those meals that Penny eats too fast, regurgitates and then hoes into again. Ugghh!)

I thought I'd heard that dogs' saliva doesn't start the digestion process like human saliva does, so I checked around and found what seems like a clear explanation on the site of the Farmore dog food company.

Human saliva has an enzyme called amylase (spelled wrong on the Farmore site, by the way) which chemically breaks down carbohydrates into simpler compounds. At WonderQuest (a constantly interesting general information site) I read that we don't start digesting protein in our mouths - our tongues are made of protein so they don't get harmed. Now, that's a relief! I suppose we're more like our dogs than I thought - we too only use our mouths to chew meat into little pieces that fit down our throat. If we were to keep a piece of meat in our mouth, it wouldn't start to digest, as a piece of bread would.

Cane toads have been a disaster for Australia since their introduction from Hawaii in 1935. They were introduced to combat a beetle that was infesting our precious sugarcane crops in Queensland. However, not only did they fail to control the beetles, but themselves became a worse pest. They're spreading around the country, moving southwards by about 1.3 kilometres a year, so I guess we won't have to worry here in Victoria for a while.

But it makes me sad to think that we don't have an effective way to combat this pest that has no natural enemies on this continent. There was an article in The Age newspaper recently reporting that toads are killing off our native freshwater crocodiles. If you'd like to know more about cane toads and other invasive species in the Australian environment, go to the site of the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and The Arts.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

dogs and glucosamine

Penny takes a glucosamine product every day. Many people have commented that seeing she's only three, she shouldn't need to take it. However, our vet has suggested she stay on it so I've decided to take his word for it. The general opinion seems to be that even if it does no good, at least it won't harm her.

Because of this, I was interested to read that our local consumer society has reviewed the use of glucosamine for humans. An article in The Age newspaper gave a general overview of the review. It said that of the many glucosamine products studied, many did not have enough glucosamine in them to have an effect, and that there's little evidence that glucosamine has anything other than a placebo effect.

So, if a placebo effect only occurs because the person taking the product believes it will work, it shouldn't work for our dogs, then - after all, they don't know that the medications or alternative products we give them are intended to relieve joint pain. At least the article says that clinical trials show that this product is generally safe. However, on the radio today I heard a commentator say that we shouldn't assume that alternative medicines are always safe, because we have to remember that any product can interfere with the working of another medication. Luckily, Penny's not on anything else.

There is an online general overview of the study, by Choice, our consumer association magazine. A more detailed report is 'user pays', but I think it would be okay to report what I found by reading it.

Glucosamine is a natural product of the human body - I assume dogs' bodies would produce it also - and it helps with the formation and repair of cartilage. My dictionary defines cartilage as firm, whitish, flexible connective tissue found in the articulating surfaces of joints. Medicinal glucosamine usually comes from the shells of prawns and other crustaceans. You can buy a vegetarian version, made from maize starch. (My sister takes this, because she has a bad reaction to the one based on sea creatures.)

Glucosamine itself is unstable, so more than half the human versions are sold as glucosamine hydrochloride, a stable form.
Glucosamine sulphate is found in in tablets and capsules - it’s only stable when combined with potassium or sodium chloride.
You need to read the label to see how much actual glucosamine is in a product that is sold as glucosamine sulphate potassium chloride complex.

Then they report on chondroitin sulphate, another natural body product. It's this that makes cartilage rubbery so that it can help with joint impact or movement. They say that chondroitin sulphate mostly comes from tracheas of slaughtered cattle, pigs’ ears and snouts, or shark cartilage.

The report goes on to say that there is some evidence - but not strong evidence - that chondroitin sulphate helps relieve pain and improve joint function. They say:
There’s also a possibility that it provides an additional benefit when glucosamine and chondroitin are taken in combination
Regarding its safety, there were three provisos: one, as I mentioned, people (or dogs, I assume) who react badly to seafood should take care; two, long-term use could make an existing diabetes condition worse; three, those on blood-thinning medication need to take care.

The article ends with some advice that I think is valuable. The best thing to do is take regular exercise, lose weight and try targeted exercises.

I had a look at the product we feed to Penny, It has glucosamine but doesn't say what it's made from or how much of it there is per milligram. It has chondroitin sulfate that comes from 'socially responsible sources', not shark cartilage - now I'm starting to wonder what those sources might be! Finally, it has green lipped mussel powder. The Choice article mentions this as an alternative treatment that has not been proved conclusively to work.

It's all rather confusing for the average dog owner... but I think we'll keep using it for the present. However, I don't overlook the fact that the product I use is incredibly expensive. I'm hoping that it's a case of 'you get what you pay for.'

Monday, 9 June 2008

more about Hungarian dogs doing tricks

Penny is making good progress on the 'shy' trick. Which all goes to show she's smart, seeing I keep getting confused between 'shy' and 'say your prayers'. I had another look at the k9freestyler site after realising that I'd forgotten to put in the link when I posted about it the other day, and noticed that the gorgeous Hungarian dog is actually doing 'shy' by putting his paws over his face. So, it was back to square one for this confused trainer and now we're more on the track of that particular trick.

If all this sounds muddled, that's because I am all mixed up! But now I think I've got it straight. I put a peg on Penny's fur near her nose - gentle, small pegs - as Amber-Mae's mum showed me months ago. Then I clicked and rewarded when Penny put her paw on her face to brush the peg off. Penny soon began to paw at her face without needing the (not very) annoying peg. Anyway, you might like to go to k9freestyler and see her dog doing this trick beautifully.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

hungarian dogs dancing

Penny and I are having another go at the trick where she puts her chin down on an object, so we can do 'say your prayers'. We practised it some months ago and then forgot about it, but Cindy at K9 Kompany reminded us about it today. I thought I'd have a look at the Net to get some hints and came across a series of video clips from k9freestyler in Hungary k9freestyler in Hungary. They show a great range of dancing moves and the dog is fun to watch as his (or her) shaggy coat sweeps through the air with the energetic and happy movements.

In the meantime, I think I'll click and reward whenever I see Penny spontaneously put her chin down on anything, and see if that works as a refresher on what we learned.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Dogs and possums

I often joke about Penny keeping our garden clear of possums. Sure, when she goes out last thing at night to relieve herself, she does scamper about checking for arboreal visitors, but she's not as fierce as I make out. We have two types of possums living in our trees - ringtails, my favorite, and brushtails, that I don't actually find so attractive, even though I was told by a wildlife expert that the brushtail is more likely to be friendly.

I've been thinking about how lucky we are, actually, to share our space with these native mammals. If they were rare, instead of common, we'd be hiking out into the bush to find them. One of our richest men, James Packer, has plans to develop a ski resort in the mountains but he's also faced with the problem of living with possums. The proposed site is home to an endangered species of pigmy possum, small enough to fit into the palm of your hand. There's an article about this situation in The Age today and I just love the picture of a possum sitting one someone's finger.

It's the last day of autumn today and I've read that both our local species of possums breed in autumn or winter, so I'll have to keep an eye out for the babies. I'm always concerned that one of them will fall off the mother's back while she's racing through the treetops. It's never happened in the normal course of events, but one extra hot day last summer (over 44 degrees, or about 110 Fahrenheit), I found baby ringtails lying exhausted and dehydrated around the garden. The mother was dead and we greatly feared Penny had grabbed the mother, either before or after her death. The wildlife expert that I took the first babies to said that these possums have either no rib-cage (that seems strange, so I might have misheard) or a minimal one, and if a dog grabs them their lungs are crushed. It was very upsetting.

We think the family of possums just couldn't take the extreme heat. This species builds an open kind of nest of twigs and leaves, called a drey, high up in trees, and they probably got the full blast of the unusually hot weather.

I'd love to include a photo of these interesting mammals but I don't think my photographic skills are up to it, yet, so here is a link to a gallery of pictures.