Tag Archives: dog health

No guarantees on dogs

A friend of ours has a sick dog. Even the veterinary specialists can’t quite figure out what’s wrong with her. The dog has wonky liver values, is reluctant to eat and sometimes lethargic. She’s only five years old. Our friend did everything right when he was looking for a puppy five years ago. But there are no guarantees on dogs.

Mistakes of the past

When he was searching for a responsible puppy and breeder, he did everything right. He’s involved in his breed’s club, and found a responsible breeder. He made sure all the health tests were done on the sire and dam of the litter. He went a step further. His older dog went blind at a young age from a genetic disease. So he made sure the parents were both tested for that, as well. 

Picture of a Cocker Spaniel standing in grass to illustrate dogs don't come with guarantees

And he brought home a lovely puppy girl. They were off to a wonderful start, for the first three years. Our friend’s preferred dog sport is agility and his puppy loved it, too. Then she started feeling ill. She was coming up lame. And not wanting to run. 

Again, our friend did everything right. He’s taken her for every test the vets recommended. He treated her with the medicines they prescribed. Fortunately, he has medical insurance on his dog, and most of the impressive expenses incurred have been covered. Even the cancer drug they tried.

Art and science

Unfortunately, no one’s been able to find an exact cause, or a cure, for what ails the dog. He brings her to our obedience club’s Rally class, just to be able to do something with her. Because she doesn’t want to run the way dogs need to for agility competition.

Is our friend disappointed? Of course he is. But he’s also willing to do what’s best for the dog he got. He’s sticking with his girl, taking her to her physical therapy, getting the  regular blood tests, adjusting meds and diet as needed. Because dogs are family.

Not giving up

He’s still hoping to find an answer that will let his dog return to the bouncy, mischievous girl she used to be. He isn’t giving up on his dog. 

We all live with uncertainty. We open ourselves up to the unconditional love of dogs, even though we know that one day we’ll have to mourn them. It’s never long enough, whether it’s long and fulfilled, or short and sweet. Because dogs don’t come with guarantees.

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Making the best dog decision

One of the most profound responsibilities we take on as dog owners is, literally, life and death. How do you know you’re making the best dog decision? 

We’re not talking about euthanasia today. Instead, it’s the incredible uncertainty of making treatment decisions that not only impact your dog’s longevity, but quality of life as well.

Faced with choices

A friend of ours is going through it right now with her dog. The dog is nine years old, and just had surgery to remove a lump that, unfortunately, turned out to be her third mast cell cancer. Now our friend is facing some tough choices.

The veterinarian who’s a surgical specialist wants to do another surgery to make sure all the cancerous tissue is removed. A general veterinarian did the initial surgery and did get “clean margins.” 

Another veterinarian who’s an oncologist wants to use both radiation and chemotherapy to treat the dog.

To make matters more confusing, my friend’s daughter is a veterinarian. She told her mom that radiation is often very hard on dogs and affects their quality of life.

Of course none of them can predict a positive – or negative – outcome of their recommended treatment. 

Even more complex

Added onto all this, our friend is also into natural health and wellness. She’s a yoga instructor and conscientious in her diet and lifestyle. 

Not to mention that with the resources available today, she’s been researching all the possibilities of treatment, including dietary supplements, additions, and possible triggers for this type of cancer.

It can get overwhelming. What’s the right thing to do for her dog? All of the professionals she’s consulted are making recommendations based on their expertise and interest in helping her dog. All are acting in good faith. And all of them want to cure her dog. But all of them advocate for what they know best. 

Step back and breathe

Picture of two French bulldogs in the sun to illustrate dog decision.
Our dogs enjoying the sunshine at our shop.

Our friend really just needed an opportunity to talk things out, think about her choices, and her sweet dog. We’ve been friends a long time through our mutual interest in dogs and dog training. There is no “right” answer that will guarantee her dog’s longevity or health. When we first started to chat, she sounded pessimistic, as if she was expecting her dog to die any time. And then she looked over and saw her dog happily snoozing in a ray of sunshine, and realized there’s still time.

We talked over lots of options and our friend has pretty much decided what’s right for her and her dog. She’s decided to do everything that will do no harm. The supplements she’s trying may not help, but won’t hurt. For now, she’s ruled out additional surgery and radiation. Her dog has had one chemotherapy treatment and dealt with it well, so she’ll stay the course as long as that holds true.

Results not guaranteed

With our dogs unable to tell us how they feel, all dog owners take their cues from the dog’s attitude and behavior. It’s up to us to read the signals and figure out what’s going on with them. It’s not easy, especially since we never know if we’re making the “right” decision. It boils down to choosing the best you can. And living with the consequences. 

When faced with difficult choices, step back and breathe. Talk to friends and family as well as the experts. Do some poking around reliable online sources – but make sure those sources are reliable. And then make the best dog decision you’re able. 

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Dog Emergency – when to panic, when to relax

The first time we saw bloody footprints wherever Golly walked, we panicked. Clearly we had a dog emergency on our hands. It was before seven in the morning, so we raced to the emergency vet. A huge vet bill later, she was returned to us sporting a bandage with a little pink gauze heart. She’d torn a nail. She was fine.

The next time we saw bloody footprints from Golly, we washed her foot, slapped a bandage on, and waited for our regular vet’s office to open. Experience is a great teacher and we’d learned our lesson. Especially since Golly was impatient for her breakfast and unfazed by her new broken nail.

Use your common sense

Owning a dog is a lot like being the parent of a perpetual toddler. With your first, you worry all the time. Not only about what happens, but whether you’re getting it right. By the time your second, third, etc. come along, you’re an old hand and learn to relax more.

Common sense is the best reaction in most dog emergency situations. The first time your dog starts “reverse sneezing” and is gasping for air, your first instinct might be to race for help. The common sense resolution is to get your dog to open his/her mouth and breathe that way. Just blocking the dog’s nostrils usually gets them to open their mouth. A few deep breaths later, they’re back to normal, like nothing happened. Reverse sneezing is one of those “looks worse than it is” issues.

If your dog is bleeding from a cut or scrape, clean it and take a look. If the injury is one you wouldn’t see a doctor for, chances are your dog doesn’t need to, either. Treat it just like you would if it was yours. Same thing with stomach upsets. If it’s a one-time incident and your dog is acting normally, do the same kind of thing you’d do for yourself.

Keep a dog emergency kit 

That being said, you can’t use all the same first aid products on dogs that you do for yourself. Latex bandages just won’t work on fur. Get a storage bin and collect the first aid items you may need for dog emergency incidents. The best-equipped dog first aid kits would have:

  • Gloves 
  • Antiseptic Wipes
  • Hydrogen Peroxide (for either cleaning wounds or getting the dog to vomit)
  • Antibiotic spray or ointment
  • Burn Gel with Lidocaine
  • Eye Wash
  • Sterile Gauze Pads
  • Self-Adhering Bandage Wrap
  • Cotton Swabs
  • Instant Cold Pack
  • Towel
  • Oral Syringe
  • Digital Thermometer
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Flashlight
  • Muzzle
  • Canine 1st Aid Manual
Picture of a fawn French Bulldog with a bandaged foot to illustrate dog emergency

Before you use any product on your dog, make sure it’s safe for canines. On the advice of our veterinarian, we also keep Benadryl in our kit. Ever since our Boston Terrier Daemon decided eating a bee every spring was his job. The first time, we ran to the vet. After that? Gave him a Benadryl and kept an eye on him to make sure the swelling subsided.

It’s also a good idea to find a class or seminar about dog First Aid. Humane societies sometimes have them, or some dog clubs. In the picture, Teddy wasn’t thrilled about Hope practicing her bandaging technique at our dog training club’s seminar on dog First Aid.

Sometimes panic is right

There are times when a trip to emergency is called for. If you’re not sure what’s wrong, your dog is obviously in pain, having a seizure, has pale gums, unconscious, unable to walk, etc., get help immediately. It’s better to make an unnecessary trip than to risk your dog’s health. 

Like the time when we came home from work and Daemon shrieked in pain when we touched him. Off to the emergency vet, in the dark, in a blizzard. It turned out he had gas. He was fine. But in all honesty, if any of our dogs screamed in pain at a touch – we’d still run to the vet with a dog emergency.  

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Exercise keeps dogs young

We all want our dogs to live long, healthy lives. An initial finding from the Dog Aging Project suggests that exercise keeps dogs young – in both body and mind. Active dogs are less likely to succumb to Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, a canine version of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Symptoms of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction in older dogs may include pacing, getting “lost” in familiar places, walking into walls or doors, or having trouble finding dropped treats. These symptoms are also common in older dogs with vision or hearing problems. So far, the project doesn’t yet know whether one causes the other, but they are related.

Exercise is key

What they did find is a convincing correlation between activity and CCD. Dogs who their owners described as “active” were almost six and a half times less likely to have Canine Cognitive Dysfunction. The odds of CCD increase with each year of aging, so keeping your dog moving in their “senior” years may be even more important than with younger dogs. 

Picture of a small black dog walking to illustrate Exercise keeps dogs young.
Tango has to do his own walking!

With a teen-aged dog ourselves, we know it can be challenging to get your older dog up and moving. Tango, Fran’s 13-year-old Brussels Griffon can’t do a flight of stairs anymore, but he can still jump up on the couch. Some days it’s hard to wake him from his naps. And when he does get up, we can see him working out the kinks as he moves.

When you have a little old dog, it’s tempting to just pick him up and do the walking for him. Take him where you want him to go, and get there so much faster. But resisting the temptation is important. The more we make our old dogs move, the longer they’ll be able to move.

We still make the old guy do his exercises every day. He’s not crazy about his Perch Work, but the treats he gets make it worth his while.

Small dog age slower

We love all dogs, but only small dogs have shared our lives. Partly that’s because we have a small home. But it’s also because the smaller the dog, the longer the lifespan. The thought of losing a dog in just six or seven years is heartbreaking, but that’s the average for some of the giant breeds. 

Logically, chances of dogs developing dementia go up with each successive year of age. As the study progresses, we’ll be interested in seeing if there’s any difference in the occurrence of CCD between large and small dogs. 

We’ve been following the progress of the Dog Aging Project for a while now. The study’s goal, with participation from the public, is hoping to shed light on the causes of aging in both dogs and people. The project is still looking for participants, if you’re interested. They say: “We welcome all dogs—young and old, mixed breed and purebred, healthy and those with chronic illness.” The plan is to collect information about the dogs over the course of ten or more years.

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