Category Archives: Pet Healthcare

We’re off to see the Wizard

Umm, not exactly sweet Sam. When I said we were off…you interrupted and finished the sentence with…the wizard. We’re actually going to see the vet to get your teeth cleaned.

Sam: Wait, we’re not going to see a wizard? What the dog? My teeth are just fine, thank you very much.

Mom:  Well, not exactly…you have a little build up of tartar and keeping your teeth clear of that will keep you healthy.

Sam:  Yeah well, I’ll go, but put me down as an official no to the whole idea.

Mom: I thought you liked the vet and all the nice vet techs? You sure wag your tail a lot when you see them.

Sam:  Ooh, come to think of it, I do like those techs. Ok, I’m in.

Mom: {thinking to herself} As if you had a choice here, pal.

So we head out to the vet and they happy to see Sam and he was happy to see them. Since he also had a tiny little tag on his lip and a tiny little bump on his nose that I discovered when he was groomed over the weekend, the vet said neither would be a problem to remove and they’d take care of them while he was under. His pre-surgical blood work was good and I could pick him up mid afternoon. As I turned to leave, Sam gave me that “Wait…you’re leaving me” look? It nearly broke my heart to see his crestfallen face. “I’ll be back buddy, be a good boy and I’ll see you soon.” I’m not sure he was convinced but he trotted back toward the surgery area with the tech, tail wagging.

~ 87 hours go by ~

At the appointed time, I arrived at the vet’s to pick up a wobbly pup. Sam was confused about where he was but the tech assured me he’d be fine once the anesthesia was fully out of his system. She gave me post-op orders, a prescription anti-inflammatory and said to let him convalescence for a few days. And with that the tail begin to wag so I knew my boy was fine and would recover nicely. They used a couple of stitches when the tiny bump was removed and they will need to be removed in about 10 days. All I could say was, “cool Sam…you know chicks dig scars, right?” Sam gave me an “if-you-say-so look with a big tail wag.” HIs procedure might have slowed him down but it couldn’t corral that tail. Gosh, I adore this knucklehead! 

~ The Convalescence Begins ~

Arriving home, I could see that Sam was pretty wobbly. When he sat, he listed to one side. And his eyes didn’t seem focused. He had no interest in water or food. He just wanted to be left alone rest. Nurse Ninja could sense something was off and wanted to pester tend to him.

This is the closest these two have been in fur-ever!

Yesterday Sam stayed pretty sedentary, mostly resting, and whenever he went outside to pee, he seemed disoriented. Patience and time were going to be the watch words while the little man recovered. He refused to eat the chicken and rice unless he was hand fed. By the end of the day he finally ate a small amount from a bowl…so long as I held it. My little boy needed reassurance with some good old-fashioned mom TLC.

By the end of the evening, the old Sam began return. He was still not 100% but I could see improvement in his overall demeanor. At the 30 hour mark following the procedure, he hopped up on the sofa late last night owning it like a king. So different from a few hours earlier.

As of this morning, he had a little spring in his step and took a very short walk. When we got back to the house, he asked “If chicks dig scars, mom…do you think they’ll go crazy if I get a tattoo?”

O.u.c.h. The scar will probably be bigger than the actual little bump was.

We expect to be back to 100% by tomorrow. I’m hoping that includes normal eating without catering to little Lord Fauntleroy.

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Did You Know? June 5, 2018 Edition

The Ranch is starting a new periodic feature called “Did You Know?” beginning today. I plan to take various issues or weirdness and share info about it. Today’s entry proved to be a bit of a doozy but one you too may have experienced.

You know that gurgling sound that comes from your dog’s stomach? Did you know it’s got an actual name? “Borborygmi.” Nope, that’s not a typo, borborygmi, pronounced [bawr-buhrig-mahy]. What the dog?! Yeah, I know. I was blown away too. If anyone can explain why science has to get all ‘scientific-y sounding’ with its descriptions, I’d love to hear it. 

Anyway, Sam recently experienced some unusually loud stomach gurgling. I mean REALLY loud. So I did what many fur-mom’s do…I consulted Dr. Google while waiting for the vet to call back. Not one to put blind faith in ‘Net misinformation hyperbole, I figured I’d do a bit of research and the kindly Doc did provide lots of rabbit holes to dive into where I rather quickly found some reliable sources. Dogs, cats and even us uprights experience ‘borborygmi.’

The simple  definition is intestinal agitation caused by moving gas. Well, why didn’t you say so in the first place? So let’s dig a bit deeper into this weird scientific phenomena. So it’s apparently normal for there to be gas in the intestinal tract and it’s also normal for the intestines to engage in motility…the condition whereby intestinal contents move around, thus audible intestinal gurgling is pretty normal.

According to Dogster, “abnormally loud intestinal noises occur when the intestines contain abnormally large quantities of gas, or when the intestines experience abnormally increased activity. Both of these phenomena often occur simultaneously.” Super loud (as in, you can hear it from across the room) is not normal but does not necessarily mean a crisis is brewing. Stomach grumbling may indicate something is off or, your pet could be hungry. Empty intestines in dogs may start to exhibit activity in response to anticipated feeding, thus the audible intestinal noises, or “tummy grumbling” may occur. Serving a meal usually takes care of that since the intestines of hungry animals do not contain significant quantities of food and thus have a higher ratio of gas to solids. Okay,so far  this sounds legit.

In Sam’s case, he acted normal (well, as normal as he is capable of acting). He displayed no other symptoms indicating there was a problem (i.e. lethargy, fever, stuff like that). But then he began experiencing some diarrhea. Not good but I figured a couple of days of bland rice and pumpkin meals should clear up the upset. Sadly, it didn’t clear up and I feared dehydration so off to the vet we went.

I wasn’t able to get into my regular TV star vet any time soon but they were able to refer me to another clinic close by. They asked whether Sam “had perhaps partaken in some sort of digestion indiscretion” (a diplomatic way of saying your dog may have gotten into the trash or had eaten some novel food or worse…goose poop…really? who admits to that). Nope, nothing like that had occurred, so they decided Sam was suffering from a minor gastro-bug after ruling out intestinal parasites, IBD, or foreign bodies (which would be Elsa’s speciality).

Long story short (ironic since we’re probably 600+ words in but I digress)…a couple of doses of Metronidazole for inflammation and an antibiotic for the bug, brought Sam back to normal poops while simultaneously clearing up those loud gurgling sounds. Other than expecting specially prepared meals after recovering (sheesh talk about one spoiled baby), he’s back to his usual knuckleheadedness.

So the next time your pooch’s stomach is gurgling figure out if he’s just hungry or suffering from borborygmi. Your family will think you’re trying to land a fat contract on Animal Planet but if he eats with his normal enthusiasm and the noises stop, the problem is solved. If like Sam it was accompanied with diarrhea, put your TV career on hold and check with your vet to rule out other issues.

I’m better now. So where’s the Chicken Souvlaki with Tzatziki Sauce?

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Tongue in Tuesday

I’ve tried. I really have tried to catch Elsa with her tongue out but do you think she will accommodate me? Heck no! She clams up as if she belongs to the Illuminati. Sam is equally uncooperative. So alas, it’s not very likely there will be any ‘Tongue Out Tuesday’ posts featuring our gang. So instead, I’m offering a Tongue In Tuesday post (hey when given lemons, I say make some lemonade).

The stoic little Ranch Ninja doesn’t seem to mind me sharing this new recipe with you even if she won’t share her lovely pink tongue. After a dry winter (I realize some of you had endless Nor’easters and countless snow storms-of which we’re so jealous), your pups may have cracked paws or noses. If so, this. is. for. you. You may recall (past posts can be found here and here), where I shared recipes for tick and flea remedies and other treatment remedies for skin conditions using essential oils. Well here’s another one you can add to your healing arsenal ~ a balm for paws and noses

HOMEMADE PET BALM FOR NOSES AND PAWS

INGREDIENTS

1/2 C Natural Beeswax
1/4 C Coconut Oil
1/4 C Olive Oil
2 Tbsp. Shea Butter
10-20 drops Vitamin E Oil (a natural preservative)

INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Melt beeswax in a small jar in a pot of hot water (double boiler effect) over medium-high heat, stirring often, until completely melted. This should take about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the coconut oil, olive oil, and shea butter. Heat until all ingredients are melted, stirring often.
  3. Remove from heat and add the vitamin E drops. Stir well.
  4. Pour mixture into storage containers or molds.
  5. Let it sit for an hour until it solidifies.

Photo courtesy: Soap Deli News Blog

To use, rub a small amount into your palm until it melts. Apply to affected areas. I love the idea of using the silicone dog paw and bone shaped molds I’ve used before when I made coconut oil dog treats. With the moisturizing properties of these oils, those cracked paws and noses should heal up in no time. And you won’t have to worry about the balm being licked off. All the ingredients are completely safe. Win-win. Even if there is no tongue being displayed for the camera.

Does your pup ever get cracked nose or paws?

Live, love, bark 🐾

 

When Your Vet is a Star 🌟

Dr. Jeff Young, ‘Star’ Vet

We all think our vets are ‘stars,’ right? Well, we should. When you are entrusting your beloved fur-kid, you definitely want them to be a star. I mean, who wants to drop a house payment on a vet you have no confidence in when your pet needs critical care? But in my case (house payment aside), my vet really is a star. A TV star that is, as in Dr. Jeff, Rocky Mountain Vet currently airing on the Animal Planet network. These days our vet stars are Dr. Amy (who treats Elsa for her seizures) and Dr. Baier (who tends to Sam’s health) who work at his clinic, Planned Pethood Plus. And I’m very happy with all of them. By the way, if you haven’t seen the show, I strongly recommend it so you can see how this pillar of the community has made a difference in the lives of so many people and their pets. Here’s a link to a recent episode. Dr. Jeff also shares my passion regarding puppy mills and is a firm believer that you shouldn’t have to declare bankruptcy in order to take care of your pet. We all know treatment for pets can be limited by an ability to pay for it so he does everything he can to make treatment affordable.

My association with Planned Pethood did not begin when discovered the show which now has around a million and a half viewers each week. Established back in 1990, the clinic was located not far from where I currently live although I had been going to his mobile low-cost vaccination clinics for over 20 years.  With a seasoned staff of some 30 professionals, some who have been with him since they were hired out of high school where he has also been a cross-country track coach for the school, he is one of the busiest vets in the country with 100,000 clients. Dr. Jeff is driven by two simple underlying missions “significantly reducing companion animal overpopulation throughout the world” and “thinking globally: acting locally.” His passion for curbing pet overpopulation is paramount to his practice, with all rescues treated being spayed or neutered. In fact he has probably performed over 160,000 spay and neuter procedures in the Denver area, as well as providing all manner of veterinary care with his mobile unit throughout the Rocky Mountain region and internationally through Planned Pethood International clinics located in Bratislava, Slovakia and Merida, Mexico. 

Having a vet who just happens to be a TV as well as our personal vet star isn’t always rainbows and unicorns though. Because of the sheer number of clients, there are times when it can be frustrating waiting for a return call and it can be challenging keeping one’s expectations for instantaneous care in check. Like most people, I’m impatient when it comes to the care of my fur-babies. Yet I know the work performed is always in the best interests of their clients when they need treatment (did I mention he has 100,000 clients?) and know they always provide quality, affordable care. In 2016 just prior to the season finale, Dr. Jeff made the shocking announcement revealing a diagnosis of B-cell Lymphoma and that the landmark clinic would be moving from the Highlands neighborhood to a new location a few miles west in the suburb of Wheat Ridge. He cut his signature shoulder-length hair in an episode that was hard on the staff and all who know and love Dr. Jeff. While you can never be certain of a long-term prognosis with cancer, he seems to be doing well and continues his work with the same passion as always. We certainly wish him all the best.

When I began drafting this post, I realized Dr. Jeff isn’t the only vet star I’d been fortunate to have taken care of my fur-kids. Back in the 90’s when I lived out east in the suburb of Aurora, my first dog had epilepsy, too. Our neighborhood vet did not have 24 hour care when Crosby’s Grand Mal seizures began and recommended he be transported over to Alameda East, a couple of miles away where he was successfully treated and where all my other pets were treated as well. Back then, the TV series ER was hugely popular and Animal Planet contacted Dr. Robert Taylor, the founder of Alameda East Veterinary Hospital about producing a reality show showing the treatment of animals and thus the show Emergency Vets began airing in 1998. The show ended in 2002 just before I moved to the west side of town once I realized Dr. Jeff’s mobile clinic had a permanent location close to the house.

Dr. Fitz with a couple of patients

While we were clients at Alameda East, our vet ‘star’ was Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald, who was a reptile specialist and who coincidently happened to be a well-known local stand-up comedian in his spare time as well as a TV star.

Doesn’t it seems kind of ironic that both of my vets have been TV stars? Not that I’m complaining, mind you. But you have to admit it is interesting they both have silver hair and mustaches and are ‘stars’ in multiple ways.

Maybe there is something special about the thin air of the Mile High City that produces such terrific stars both on TV as well as for providing great care to my fur-kids.

Live, love, bark! ❤︎

The Do’s & Don’t of Ticks

Summertime and the living is…downright buggy. We’re playing outdoors, taking hikes and just generally being outside more frequently which increases our chance of a tick encounter. Blech! I HATE those nasty things. Here’s some info I recently found in Dogs Naturally Magazine that might keep your fur-iend just a wag safer.

According to experts, ticks…those creepy crawly bugs that transmit diseases, are expected to be particularly bad this year and may be expanding their range to epidemic numbers in some areas. The good news is (if you can consider anything associated with ticks as being ‘good’), most tick-borne diseases aren’t usually transmitted immediately so if they are removed within 36 hours, changes are good your pet is not likely to be infected. Whew!

Ticks in Dogs

[All images shown here are courtesy of Dogs Naturally Magazine]

Finally, American canine hepatozoonosis (ACH) (Hepatozoon canis, Hepatozoon americanum is an emerging but rare disease but one worth mentioning since it isn’t transmitted by a bite but by ingesting when the dog removes ticks off his own body, or if he eats prey that had ticks. Highly debilitating, it’s particularly essential to remove these ticks before your pup does. This one is found in the south central and southeastern US.

Geographic Areas

The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) provides interactive maps for the US and Canada on their website (Note: CAPC’s sponsors are big Pharma/chemical companies that provide tick products and therefore have a vested interest in promoting convenience with an added dose of old-fashioned fear). 

Tick Removal

Removing ticks is the name of the game here, especially if you aren’t a big Pharma/chemical company fan. But there are do’s and don’ts associated with tick removal of which you should be aware.

Time is of the essence. Removing ticks quickly is in your best interest. If you’ve been hiking in tall grasses or walking in the woods, check your pet over as soon as you can. If your pup is chewing on a spot, pay special attention. It’s a clue there may be something or someone there. Check all over. While ticks favor ears, toes, joints, they are dastardly buggers and will attach to tails or nether regions, given half the opportunity. Long-haired or double coated dogs can be gone over with a low-heat setting on a hair-dryer to make viewing easier.

Here’s one of the little bastards right there. Get it!!

Using tweezers close to the skin, pull up gently. Clean the bite area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. Dispose of the offender in alcohol or flush it down the toilet. Or you can use a one of these nifty tick removal tools.

Buh, bye…rotten bug.

I’ve never seen one of these before but naturally YouTube has a brilliant video on how to use. They sure would have come in handy during the camping days of my youth. ‘Roughing it’ now requires at least a motel. No more sleeping on the ground in a tent for this sports-fan. No siree.

Now properly equipped in your tick-removal of Do’s, you should know there are plenty of Don’ts that you should likewise be aware of, though I confess, I’ve broken some of these rules over the years out of ignorance.  Don’t remove ticks with your fingers so as to avoid contamination from pathogens. Remember, above all, these are disease spreading insects. Don’t use vaseline or other substances in an effort to suffocate it. Don’t squish a tick-it can increase the risk of infection for you or your pup. Don’t burn the tick with a hot match and don’t dispose of it in a trash can. These are crawling little bastards and they’ll seek sanctuary until the next sucker host comes along.

The best way to avoid ticks is keeping them off your dog. Sure you can go the chemical route, but you can also try some natural solutions (easier said than done when you live in a heavily wooded area with heavy humidity and up to your eyeballs in them).

Effective dietary preventives can be useful. Garlic (I know, some of you are freaking out now, but it appears 1/3 tsp of fresh garlic per 10 lbs. of weight is safe). Check with your vet to be sure it’s appropriate for your pup. Apple cider vinegar added to food or water bowl makes blood less tasty to ticks and fleas. One half teaspoon per 25 lbs. of weight should work nicely.

Herbal flea and tick powders are excellent options (for homemade recipe see here). You can add a couple drops of rose geranium essential oil to 2 TBS of almond oil and spray directly on a collar, bandana or the neck. While I’m not familiar with this one, Palo Santo essential oil added to your favorite lavender shampoo makes a good tick shampoo (see this link for info). A citrus repellant in a spray bottle misted on your pet (avoiding eyes and nose) is also effective. Ticks are not fans of peppermint essential oil either. Food grade diatomaceous earth powder (DE) can be lightly sprinkled on your pet but may be drying to his skin and of course, again avoid eyes, nose and mouth. DE can be sprinkled around the garden and contains good minerals that don’t hurt plants or earthworms. Nematodes feed on tick larvae so if you live in a wooded area, this is a solution for your yard.

Now after all that nasty boogie man stuff about ticks and all the problems they can cause, you also have some natural solutions for staying safe. Remember avoidance is the best treatment but in the summertime that’s not always possible. Have fun, enjoy the outdoors and eliminate the bastards.

Do you have trouble with ticks? How do you deal with them?

Live, love, bark! ❤︎

Can Grass Hurt Your Dog?

How many of us have dogs who think they’re goats? [raises hand] But now that we’ve had some scorching summer temps, some grasses can seriously harm your fur-kid. How is that possible? Grass awns.

Wait…what? Did you just make a typo. Nope. Grass awns are those sharp seed heads that often are barbed and can potentially burrow into our dogs skin, nasal passages and even enter their chest wall. The Mile High City has not received much in the way of rain so walking in yesterday’s early cool morn, I began to see a lot more of this along sidewalks. Way too early in the season.

While summertime is full of outdoor fun, it also heralds the arrival of two notable things that pose serious consequences for dogs. Dogs left in cars [don’t get me started on THAT one here-it deserves a separate post] and grass awns…aka fox tails. While researching the topic of grass awns, I found this website created by Cathy Lewis to “provide a source of information around this issue and to facilitate gathering of case history data so that we can attempt to formulate an action plan to reduce the numbers of affected dogs and save others the worry and heartache that I’ve been through with my own dogs and those of my friends.” While many of the entries mostly relate to hunting breeds, I know only too well that fox tails are very much alive and well in urban settings and can easily attach themselves to a leg or paw while walking. The result can lead to infection and extensive (read expensive) vet treatment. You can read a previous post from a couple of years ago about fox tails here.

Be careful out there-it’s a real jungle. While I’d love nothing more than to let Sam and Elsa enjoy running through swaying grass and sniffing out all the smells of summer, but with those nasty grass awns lurking-just waiting to attach their barbs to my fur-kids, I’ll be keeping an even shorter leash on them as summer progresses. Stay safe, sports fans!

Live, love, bark! ❤︎

That age old question…

What defines old age? Who’s to say, since we’ve all probably witnessed uprights in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s who act like they’re ancient, moaning about aches and pains. We have also seen folks in their 60’s, 70’s, even 80’s who enjoy life to its fullest and seem years younger than their chronological number suggests. So what gives?

I’m not sure what exactly defines old age, goodness knows there are days when I think I’m still in my 30’s and then other days when I instead realize I’m egad! middle-aged but have been accused of not acting my age and suspect it’s a lot like pornography-you just know it when you see it.

How old is old?

But I think we all agree we’d love for our fur-babies to be aging with us much longer than they do. But what constitutes old age in dogs? According to this chart from the AKC, it’s not that old 1 to 7 ratio we heard growing up. In other words…it depends.

When Sam turned 11 last year, I started to wonder when I’d  begin to notice signs of him reaching the infamous ‘senior years.’ He was barely beginning to walk slower, somewhat of a sign but his penchant for jumping up on furniture and the pogo-sticking leaps when greeting me hadn’t seen much diminishing. Enter the Ninja. I’m not sure if Elsa’s presence has lifted the little man’s spirits but on a regular and daily basis I see HIM engage her after months of avoiding her play invites. He seems genuinely younger at heart and now initiates the roughhousing just long enough for me to try to reach for the camera to document but then of course, they stop. I’m sure he just doesn’t want any photographic proof since he rather seems keen on feigning self-righteous indignation at the mere thought of his engaging with his sister.

So what are some of the obvious signs of a dog reaching the senior years? Well, for starters, the eyes provide clues (as do a number of other indicators).

  • Cloudy eyes. Sam’s eyes are ‘mostly’ clear, although one is a teensy-weensey bit cloudy. As dogs age, the lens hardens and may appear cloudy or blueish. Vision is not generally compromised but a vet should check for an accurate diagnosis.
  • Cataracts. On the other hand, this condition can pose vision issues for your pup. Characterized by a whitish appearance and cataracts prevent light from passing through the lens. It should be noted that cataracts are not limited to older dogs and can be discovered in younger pups.
  • Glaucoma. The eye’s liquid doesn’t drain properly causing pressure to build up, damaging the internal structure of the eye. Eventual blindness may result and needs treatment by your vet.
  • Ears. Losing one’s hearing as one gets older is not news (dang that loud music I listened to in my youth). Part of the natural aging process is hearing loss. If your pup doesn’t response to commands, he could be losing his sense of hearing or, he could just be stubborn like a certain Poodle I know. My Old English Sheepdog, Eliot was deaf his last few years but managed to motor around fine. In his case, it was almost a bonus since he stopped barking at every one who walked past the house. The downside was extreme startling so care had to be taken to avoid ‘freak-out’ mode.
  • Teeth. Dental care is critical for good health throughout their lives. One clear sign of periodontal disease is bad breath and without treatment, can lead to pain and bone loss. Left untreated periodontal disease may contribute to heart, kidney, and liver disease, just like with us peeps. Bottom line, brush and floss, kids. For both the 2 and 4-legged.
  • Joints. I can certainly attest to this one. The older I get, the more creaky my own joints get. With all the pogo-sticking Sam has done over the years, it’s a wonder he hasn’t displayed any obvious pain. Dogs tend to mask pain so it’s critical to watch for signs like a gimpy gait. More naps and less movement are a clue that moving around might be somewhat painful. Check with your vet for medication that might reduce any joint inflammation.
  • Urinary incontinence. This is more often associated with spayed females and Sam seems to write plenty of pee-mails though no more so than usual. He is a consummate marker.
  • Digestion. Next to sexual encounters, digestion uses the most energy in any organism’s life. Any change in bowel movements, excessive gas or vomiting must be adequately addressed. Sam has long been prone to bouts of colitis over the years so a high quality diet along with pumpkin with his morning meal helps keep the digestion well balanced.
  • Weakened immunity. As dogs and their uprights age, the immune system may begin to lag. Mental and physical stimulation helps keep the immunity strong. Vaccines or titer tests are even more impawtant with senior dogs.
  • Cancer and/or heart diseases. Obviously any unexplained weight loss, decreased appetite, obvious pain, lumps, bumps etc. should all be carefully monitored in the senior dog. Unexplained coughing, blueish gums, edema, weight gain, restlessness are clues that should be followed up with your vet.
  • Behavioral changes. Circulatory or neurological changes can be valuable indicators. My Eliot, mentioned earlier, lived to the rip old age of at least 13 (he was a rescue so hard to quantify with certainty). He suffered from dog dementia in the end which was heartbreaking, but his last years were filled with good vet care, loads of love and special attention to accommodate his age-related infirmities and I tried to make those last 3 years as comfortable as possible.

Two of the best influencers to abate the aging process are exercise and weight-control which is why I think Sam is so youthful looking and acting. Those twice daily walks provide exercise for both the mind and the waistline to keep him in top shape to do what he does best, make everyone he encounters smile. Regular semi-annual wellness trips will likewise keep Sam in tip-top shape.

Who you calling old?

Generally speaking you can pretty much figure a dog reaching 9 or 10 is a senior. But that label occupies a lot of nebulous territory. It doesn’t mean their lives are over, it just means we take extra care of their various ailments and rub those sweet white muzzles tenderly (or in Sam’s case, soul patch), smiling at their sweet faces. Speaking of sweet, the ‘kids’ are roughhousing, so I’m gonna try to see if I can capture their fun. Wish me luck, with those two, I’m gonna need it.

What age do you think constitutes ‘old?’

Live, love, bark! ❤︎