Archive for the ‘dog healthcare’ Category

I love walking outdoors, and my dogs love to work. And those are two of the major reasons I like hunt tests and hunting. They are all excuses to be outdoors, watching my dogs do the thing they love.

As much as the dogs and I love working outdoors, it’s not always safe for the dogs. And I’m not talking about the big dramatic things, like getting lost, falling down a bank, or running into a trap. And I’m not talking about the annoying but not dangerous collection of burrs and twigs in the coat. I’m talking about little insidious things. Like seeds. Like grass awns. Like splinters of cactus spines.

Before today, we already knew a little something about this. You might remember that Cooper got a seed trapped under a third eyelid while doing a summertime hunting demonstration, causing the whole area around the eye to swell, grow painful, and become inflamed and weepy. When he got home that day, we’d done the best job we could, carefully searching out and removing all the seeds we could find from his eyes, ears, feet, and anus. But even with our best efforts, Cooper still had to go to the vet for treatment.

Today Carlin joined the ranks of dogs who go to the vet after hunting.

We’re not sure what the nasty small thing that got Carlin was because, whatever it was, it was either already gone or too small to see. But it was something sharp and nasty, like a grass awn or a cactus splinter, something he would have encountered in California at the hunt test or Colorado while hunting. It burrowed its way into the skin between two toes, and then, based on what the vet saw, it traveled halfway up the paw and then straight down, stopping just short of coming out between two pads at the bottom of his foot.

The vet opened the track left by the debris, and flushed it out several times. Now Carlin is home, recuperating. We’re in for a week of foot soaks, antibiotics, and anti-inflammatory meds, but that’s OK.


See? I have an owie, but the vet cleaned it up really nice


Getting my foot soaked is not so bad. I get lots of treats!


I am being a very good boy. I lick my foot just a little bit. The vet says that’s OK because it keeps the wound open. Good vet!

Carlin doesn’t seem too unhappy. He’d been sedated, so he was a bit loopy when he came home. But he’s not licking the wound excessively, he’s not limping, and he’ll let me touch it, so I think maybe we’re going to be OK.

My friend Sharon advised me to make some changes to my grooming routine when I go hunting in dry areas, where grass awns and seeds abound. She suggested I trim the fur out from between his toes. Apparently, grass awns and other debris hook onto the fur, and that gives them the traction they need to propel themselves into the skin. If I’m very careful, she says, if I use a very small scissors, I can trim the coat from just between the toes and still leave enough coat on the top of the toes to keep him decent looking enough for a conformation dog show.

I’ll give it a try, but I wonder — maybe Carlin doesn’t want to be a show dog. First he gets a series of skin infections that makes him drop his fur. Then, after that has finally grown out again into a beautiful show-worthy coat, he rolls himself in a field of burrs in Montana in October, requiring a very, very short all-over clip to get them all out. And now, just when I think he might be barely presentable in January, he gets into something sharp and nasty, requiring a foot shave.

I guess I could stop taking him hunting… Nah!


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We got Tooey’s biopsy results from the vet yesterday. That mass they removed from her teat last week? It’s a benign dermal hemangioma.

Benign. Not cancer.

I feel like we dodged a bullet.

Tooey wishes we would please take this stupid cone off now. I know this because she still, after a week of wearing the thing, bashes it into doorways, chairs, the bed, the outdoor furniture, the patio cover supports, etc. It seems like every day we come home to new repairs needed on the stupid cone.

Bug hey, that is small potatoes. The mass is benign. That’s what counts.



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Tooey is wondering WHY:

  • She can’t go training with Russ and Carlin
  • We won’t take off this stupid cone
  • We won’t allow her to lick her incision
  • She can’t take out those annoying stitches

Patience! It’ll all be better soon, Girlie Girl. You had that surgery only yesterday. It will be better soon. I’m sure of it.

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Tooey is going in for surgery today.

I am always concerned about my dogs when some health issue comes up, but this one is worrying. Especially with Cooper just having died with cancer, I am really hoping and praying that the new mass on one of Tooey’s teats is benign.

You can see the translucent grey swelling on the affected teat in picture below. To compare this to a healthy teat, look at the second photo.

Teat with swollen mass

Normal teat (for comparison)

About a year ago, Tooey had a benign cyst removed from her back. So, she does have a history of benign masses. The difference is that this new mass grew so quickly — in just a month — whereas the cyst on her back took years to grow.

So, Tooey is going in today so they can remove the teat and the related mammary gland. The vet will then send the tissue off to be biopsied to see if they are benign. Or not.

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I still don’t believe it. It’s not that I think our veterinarian and the veterinary radiologist are wrong. It’s just that when I look at Cooper’s beloved face and watch him run to the door with his duck, I can’t believe that what they are telling me can possibly be true.


Just last month, we had the vet do a blood panel on Cooper to see how well he was tolerating the Rimadyl. The drug had really been helping his arthritic hips, but it can sometimes do damage to a dog’s liver, so we wanted to make sure all was well. The blood panel was all normal, except for a very slightly elevated number for a particular white blood cell. The vet explained that when the count for that white blood cell reaches the 30,000’s, then that could be a sign of cancer, but while Cooper’s count in the 3,000’s was higher than normal, it didn’t seem immediately concerning.

But then he developed this diarrhea that didn’t go away. The vet, having just seen Cooper, was confident enough to prescribe an antibiotic over the phone. But even after several days, that didn’t seem to be helping. And plus, we noticed three other things: he was eating only about half his regular amount of food, his soft and runny poop was bright orange, and his abdomen seemed hard and somewhat oddly expanded.

So back to the vet Cooper went. When the vet saw him, she sent Russ and Cooper to a veterinary radiologist to have an ultrasound done of his abdomen and see what could be seen.

What they saw are masses on his liver, his spleen, and his lymph nodes. They also suspected a mass in his lungs and their associated lymph nodes.

It’s cancer, they said. Lymphoma.

They offered to do a biopsy to determine which kind of lymphoma. A biopsy would help determine the best kind of chemotherapy that might help Cooper. But Russ declined, and I agree. We didn’t want to put Cooper through an uncomfortable and expensive procedure, just to get information that we wouldn’t actually use.

Of course, the vets offered us the option of chemotherapy. They know that some folks will do anything to keep their dogs alive just a bit longer. But because the cancer is so diffuse in his body, they didn’t offer much hope of improvement with chemo. They also offered prednisone, to temporarily shrink the tumors and ease the inflammation, which would help Coop be more comfortable. With the prednisone, they estimated we’d have a month or two more with Cooper. They also mentioned doing nothing and just letting him go in a couple of weeks.

We decided to go with the prednisone, and it’s like he’s a different dog. Instead of laboring to breathe, he’s able to run to greet us at the door with his duck. He seems happier and more energetic. Of course, his poop is still bright orange, probably the result of a failing spleen, and he can’t eat as much at once as he’d like, probably because a mass is pressing on his guts. And we know the prednisone is a deceiver, making it look like perhaps the vets made a mistake, and that Cooper will come out of this and be with us for many years to come.

But he won’t, except in our hearts. So for right now, we’re cherishing him and doing what we can to give him happy times doing the things he loves: rides in the car, trips to the park, and chances to go out and retrieve one bumper after another and another.

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Last August, at the IWSCOPS specialty, I noticed that Cooper wouldn’t sit during his runs in Rally Obedience. More than half of the stations required sits, so we NQ’d.

He was obviously uncomfortable, and we tried various things to help him — cleaning out his anal sacs, stretching out his hip muscles, giving him a massage, and dosing him with baby aspirin. Nothing seemed to help that weekend, but then, over the next several months, he did much better in Rally and overall, so we figured that whatever had been going on had passed.

Then, last Friday morning, Cooper had real difficulty getting up off the ground. His back legs didn’t seem to work right, and he walked with a hitch in his step. He didn’t want to go down or up the stairs, and we realized that for quite a while, he hadn’t jumped up on the bed at all. So Russ took him to the vet.

The vet diagnosed The Coop with osteoarthritis in his right hip, and prescribed Carprofen (Rimadyl). Given that he’s 8 years old, she wasn’t surprised. I’d been giving him glucosamine since August, but I guess that’s no longer enough.

And I’ve got to say, that Carprofen is a miracle. After only two doses, Cooper was back to jumping on the bed, running down the stairs, and leaping up to bark at the front door.

I know that any drug over the long term has consequences, and I’ll need to learn more about that in the next few months. But for right now, it’s a real joy watching Cooper get most of that spring back into his step.

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All our dogs have been fed kibble. Our first dog, Kayak, a malamute-mix, ate grocery store dog kibble. She did fine on it, healthy, happy, and long-lived (almost 15 years). Cleo, a Chow-mix of some kind from the Humane Society, also ate kibble. Having lived on the streets, she was used to scrounging, so she also self-supplemented her diet with food off the counters and dining room table. She was a contented dog with a beautiful dark tri-colored coat, who lived only to about 6-ish, dying early of a heart defect – nothing food related.

It was only when we got our first purebred dog, Cooper the Irish Water Spaniel, that I began to learn that there even existed higher- and lower-quality kibbles.

As a puppy, Cooper came with instructions, one of which was a recommendation to continue feeding what he’d been getting, which was definitely not to be found at my local grocery store. So we switched to a kibble that looked pretty much the same as the grocery store brand, but was about twice the price.

But hey, he was my special puppy, and I wanted to do what was best.

As time went, we moved in to more and more high quality kibble. Cooper developed Symmetrical Lupoid Onychodystrophy, and I started reading. In addition to all the recommendations about salmon oil and vitamin E, almost everything I read recommended feeding a grain-free food. So, OK. I can do that. And again, the kibble looked about the same, but cost three times the price of the grocery store brand. Admittedly, the ingredients read much more like food and much less like chemicals. There was no corn, wheat, rice, or any other grain. And there was more recognizable meat ingredients, like “beef liver” and “chicken fat” instead of “meat meal”.

Then two things happened. We got another Irish Water Spaniel puppy, Carlin, who almost right away lost his coat due to skin infections, and I finally got really tired of Cooper’s cycling through seasons of shiny thick coat, then dry woolly coat. Tooey can eat anything and stay perfectly healthy doing it, but for the boys I thought maybe better food might be at least a partial answer to their skin and coat issues. So I decided to try feeding raw food. As in mostly raw meat.

If you’re interested in really jumping into controversy and argument, try reading about feeding raw food to dogs. Try asking a raw-feeding advocate a question, and then prepare to duck. Unless, of course, you’re talking to someone kind and reasonable – I’ve been fortunate to have found several of those. But even so, strong opinions are held in this arena, and a few folks can be quite combative. Based on my reading and conversations, here are some things people apparently want to argue about:

  • Should you feed fruits and/or vegetables to your dogs? What about grains?
  • Can you feed both kibble and raw foods? If so, must you feed them in separate meals, or can you mix them within a meal?
  • Can you cook some of the meat, or do you have to feed it all raw?
  • Can you mix meats in a single meal?
  • Can you grind the meat, or do you have to feed it in chunks, or perhaps even in the form of an animal part or whole animal?
  • Is there a proper ratio of muscle meat, bone, and organ meat? If so, what is it?
  • Is it OK to feed your dog fish? If so, what kinds? And does it have to be raw?
  • Should you add any supplements?

So basically I’ve come to my own answers, and here’s what I’ve been doing for the last six months.

Typical dinner: section of turkey neck, ground beef heart and green tripe, and blended veggies

So far, it seems to balance convenience and quality, the dogs love it, and it’s only four times more expensive than grocery store kibble (if four is an exaggeration, it’s not by much):

  • Weekday breakfast consists of half (by approximate calorie count) very high-quality kibble and half ground meat. Usually the meat is ground beef heart and green tripe, but sometimes its ground turkey or chunks of pork. Lamb is just way too expensive, and I think chicken is too “hot” (in the Chinese medicine sense) for dogs with skin issues. Weekend breakfasts don’t include kibble.
  • Dinner consists of something boney, like a chunk of turkey neck or chicken wing, plus some kind of ground or chopped meat. About once a week I’ll include whole cooked high-fat fish like sardines or mackerel (the dogs make disgusted faces when given raw fish and won’t eat it), organ meat like beef or lamb liver, or an egg.
  • To each meal, I add a vitamin supplement formulated for raw diets.
  • Each meal also gets moistened with hot water, or if I have any, hot homemade meat broth.
  • Dinners also include a teaspoon of coconut or olive oil, plus a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar.
  • About three or four times a week, I add chopped and blended raw vegetables to the dinners, usually leafy green, cruciferous, and/or non-starchy vegetables blended with water and fresh garlic.

I don’t know yet if this is having an impact on their coats. But here’s what I do know:

  • They almost always eat all of the food. (Well, Tooey has always eaten all of her food plus whatever the boys leave, but since I’ve been feeding mostly raw, the boys don’t leave her much anymore.)
  • The skin on Cooper’s elbow calluses has softened.
  • The inside of their ears stay clean longer and are much less gunky.
  • Cooper has much less discharge from his eyes.
  • Less poop.

If I didn’t feed any kibble at all, probably that would be even better. It’s just that I get so rushed on weekday mornings, that including some grain-free kibble has been just easier on me.

So, how much do I feed? I know the approximately calorie count of the ground meat and kibble I feed, and I just adjust up and down based on whether or not I can feel the dog’s ribs. Right now, I feed the equivalent of these amounts:

  • Carlin, 1 year old intact male: 2.5 .lbs of meat per day (plus a bite of apple for dessert, please)
  • Cooper, 8 year old neutered male: 1.6 .lbs of meat per day (sometimes he asks for more, and I give it to him)
  • Tooey, 6 year old spayed female: 1.0 .lbs of meat per day (which she believes is way, way too little)

Most likely I’ll adjust all this as I go along. But as long as I can afford it, I’ll keep feeding mostly raw.

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