Archive for the ‘dog healthcare’ Category

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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Yesterday, I read something horrible and shocking. I belong to the SLOdogs yahoo group, and on their email list, a new member posted that her veterinarian had diagnosed her sweet 3-year old dog with SLO.

That’s sad, but not shocking. What was shocking was that the vet advised the member to put her dog down.

I don’t know what the vet’s reasons were, other than the SLO diagnosis, because the member didn’t say. I suppose it’s possible that the dog has other conditions that, in combination with SLO, would make life unbearable. But I didn’t get that from the question the new member essentially asked us: Is life with SLO was really so bad that it would be better to put the dog down? I could almost hear the tears in her voice as I read her post.

Many of us fellow members, including me, answered her with:

  • No, no, no! Don’t put the dog down. Life can be good for a dog with SLO.
  • Find a veterinary dermatologist to confirm the diagnosis and provide knowledgeable treatment.
  • Run as fast as you can away from the original vet, and find someone else.

Then it got worse. The member reported that her dog was scheduled for a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. My heart broke. If the member agrees, the dog will have most of a toe removed so that the vet can diagnose a condition that a competent veterinary dermatologist can usually diagnose clinically, without needlessly causing the pain and deformity of removing a toe.

I so hope that person finds another vet, and quickly.

And that leads me to the gratitude. I have been so lucky to find that SLOdogs group, and have access to their considerable resources and recommendations.

But even more, I am so glad that our family has found competent veterinarians. The people at Fremont Veterinary Clinic (my regular vets) and at the Animal Allergy and Ear Clinic (my veterinary dermatologists) have been knowledgeable, kind, and effective. And all without needless surgery and death.

And as a result, Cooper has had a great life despite his SLO, full of retrieving, adventures, companionship, and teamwork.

I am so grateful. Thank you.

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In talking with a fellow IWS owner this weekend (from overseas, even!), I realized that I hadn’t written about Cooper’s SLO lately. I guess that’s because nothing is happening.

And I mean that. Nothing is happening. No nails are breaking. No nails are splitting or bleeding. It’s been wonderful. Some of the nails are a bit misshapen, but we’ve even been able to grind all his nails every week, just like we do with the other two dogs. Nothing special.

Well, nothing except that he’s still getting a bunch of medications and supplements every day:

For the SLO:

  • fish oil capsules, 3-1200 mg in the morning and 4-1200 mg in the evening (for a total of 1260 mg EPA and 840 mg DHA omega-3 fatty acids per day)
  • vitamin E, 400 IU, 2x/day
  • niacinimide, 1-500 mg capsule in the morning, and 2-500 mg in the evening
  • doxycycline, 2-100 mg capsules in the morning

For the low thyroid:

  • Soloxine thyroid supplement, 4 mg, 1x/day

For his coat and general well-being:

  • Nature’s Farmacy Dogzymes: Ultimate multi-minerals and vitamins, 1.5 tsp, 2x/day
  • Nature’s Farmacy Dogzymes: Gro-Hair, a source of zinc methionine, .5 tsp, 2x/day
  • Glucosamine/chondroitin powder on his breakfast

About maybe 10 months ago, we decided to just stop with the doxycycline and niacinimide. I just thought — all those antibiotics all the time. That’s got to be hard on his system.

But then, about 5 months ago, we noticed that he was breaking and splitting a lot of nails. While there was no infection and Cooper was never disabled, his nails were ugly and seemed to make him uncomfortable. He spent increasing time licking his nails and chewing off the broken pieces.

So, we took him back to the veterinary dermatologist, who advised us to get him back on the regimen. So we did.

I imagine that he’ll be on all these medications for the rest of his life. We’ve tried different combinations of the various -cyclines, and we’ve tried Chinese medicine and acupuncture. We’ve tried quitting all the medicines and staying with just the supplements. But it looks like he’s not going to be one of those lucky dogs who go into remission with just fish oil for maintenance.

So it’s just better to stay on the program, so that nothing keeps happening.


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Some years ago, our friend and sometime hunting partner, Rod, told us to always check our dogs’ eyes when we come in from hunting. The reason? To find and remove any seeds that may have worked their way in under the eyelids.

Our IWS regularly come in from hunting covered with debris — seeds, twigs, burrs, grass — so checking the eyes has become a regular part of the post-hunt, post-field training, coming-home-and-cleaning-up process. In fact, last Saturday, while driving home from a day of hunting with a debris-covered Cooper, Russ joked to his buddy that the first thing out of my mouth when they arrived at the house would be, “Oh my God, did you check his eyes?”

And of course, Russ had checked his eyes, several times out in the field and just before coming home. I checked his eyes when they got home. We found seeds, and got out everything we could find.

By the time Sunday afternoon came around, Cooper’s eyes were red, swollen, and weepy, particularly the left eye. We first thought it was allergies from all the grasses, and so gave him Benedryl. But on Monday morning, the swelling hadn’t gone down. In fact, it had gotten worse.

We got him into the vet at their earliest appointment, where they examined his eyes, pulling the upper, lower, and “third” (nictitating membrane) eyelids away from the eyeball with forceps. Then they put a yellow dye in his eyes and looked at them using ultraviolet light.

2014-09-12_ODFW hunt-4-2

Despite all our efforts, the vet found a seed under the third eyelid (the brown inner lid in the lower inside corner of the eye). They also found that the seed had scratched the cornea (which shows up as green on the outside corner of the eyeball).

They also checked his feet, which had gotten uncomfortably chafed by the grasses and cat tails, and small cuts on his nose. These injuries are annoying and uncomfortable, but not dangerous.

For his eyes, they prescribed a 2x/day ointment, which I think also soothes his eyes. And for his feet, we were told to simply clean them and apply antibiotic ointment to the chafed areas.

It’s been 4 days now since the vet appointment, and his eyes have returned to their normal shape and have lost their red weepiness. His feet are healing up nicely, and the little nicks on his nose and also just about closed and healed.

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Tooey’s resting quietly after having her spay operation on Wednesday (September 10). She also had a growth removed from her flank, which is the bare patch you can see on her side.


I am glad to have the growth removed. It’s been growing very slowly over the last four years. Last time we had it biopsied, it was just a benign, fluid-filled cyst.

I am sad about the spay, though. Dogs are generally healthier when they keep all their parts and all their hormones. But Tooey has been suffering with false pregnancies, with fruitless nesting behaviors, mood swings, and swollen teats, even lactating for non-existant puppies. And as much as she loves all her people, I know she hasn’t wanted to be sent away to her co-owner’s when she goes into season.

Plus, she’s already had two large litters of beautiful, well-loved puppies, and we don’t plan to breed her again. So with all that, plus our having two intact boys in the house, it was time to have her spayed.

Since she’s an older girl, the healing will take longer than it would a younger dog. We’re to keep her indoors for two weeks, except to pee and poo, and keep the elizabethan collar (seen in the photo) on her whenever she’s unsupervised. It’s important that she not chew on any of the stitches, on belly or side. If she were to do that, it would mean more surgery and more stitches to repair the damage.

Fortunately, at least up to now, she hasn’t been too interested in her stitches, so until the incisions start itching (if they do), we should be OK.

It will be great to have Tooey up and out with us again. There are games to play, hikes to take, and birds to find this fall.

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A while back, I learned about Dog Soup, a concoction of puréed vegetables added to dog food. I suppose many people do something like this, but I learned it from my friend Martyn, who also owns and breeds Irish Water Spaniels.

After I leaned about it, I decided to try it, too. The dogs loved it, and it seemed healthy, so I made it several times.

Finally, after a month or so, Russ mentioned to me that after the dog soup sat around for a few days, it began to smell, well…, not fresh.

Martyn makes a whole blender-full at a time, so that’s what I had been doing, too. But he has four or five dogs, and they go through it quickly. I have only two dogs.

So, a blender-full of puréed veggies can sit around for awhile at my house.

With one thing and another, I got out of the habit of making Dog Soup. But just recently, I noticed that Cooper was putting on weight. I needed to cut back his food, but when I did that, he seemed so hungry.

And then it hit me — Dog Soup would add bulk, as well as vitamins and minerals, and it might help him feel not quite so ravenous all the time. But how to get around the smell without having to make it up every day?

A trip to variety store provided the solution. Make it up, then freeze it into cubes, then thaw one or two per dog, and serve. Easy to make, easy to store, and easy to use. Perfect!


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