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The Cuppercake Update

April 27, 2016 17 comments
Walking with Cupcake (3/27/16)

The head tilt remains, but that does not stop me.

Sometimes I forget that when I blog about one of my dogs, I am not the only one reading it.

When I shared with you Daisy’s diagnosis of an insulinoma you were right there with me, following along on Facebook, so the blog updates were not as urgent or necessary. But when I shared Cupcake’s recent bout with idiopathic vestibular disease, I failed to provide frequent updates on her progress.

Why? I am not sure. I think perhaps because we were dealing with it in real-time and I wasn’t so sure where this was going to go. My apologies if you have been wondering how Cupcake has been doing.

So how is she?

Falling off the bed

She rolled off her bed again mom.

Health wise, she is doing pretty well. The first few days were pretty rough, she was so sick from the vertigo that I had to give her Bonine to help with the motion sickness, but thankfully, that passed fairly quickly and she began to adjust to the vertigo and the unsteadiness that came with it. She still has the head tilt, but she has learned to work around it.

Once she adjusted to her new world, her personality started to come back too. For me, that was the best news of all. I probably haven’t always shared this with you, but Cupcake is the life of the party in our house. She is silly and sassy and brave and smart, and she oozes personality in all that she does. I love Cupcake from head to paw, but her personality is what sparkles and what makes me laugh and smile every day. Trust me, a home without Cupcake’s personality is a very dull home.

She's just that damn cute (Cupcake, April 2016)

I’m still a little wobbly on my bed, but I no longer roll off while trying to steady myself.

With the return of her personality, has come a few challenges. Cupcake is no longer as agile as she once was, so she has had a few tumbles and falls. I am careful to keep an eye on her, but she is determined to live life as she once had (I think that is a good thing, right?).

She nearly gave me a heart attack when she decided to leap off the raised concrete patio two days after being diagnosed, but I should have known Cupcake would not be deterred by a little vertigo. I thought she would be seriously injured after that leap, but she just tumbled onto the ground and then got right back up and moseyed on her wobbly way. I should have realized it would be a sign of how she would be moving forward. Nothing stops Cupcake.

One day, she ran out the back door with Jasper and ran right into a planter pot that she did not see sitting in her path. I gasped in horror, but the fall only left her stunned for a moment before she was up and chasing Jasper across the yard, barking excitedly.

I am now careful to block the basement stairs and to move things out of her way when I can, but for the most part she seems to have found her own way around this new life of hers. She is unfazed by her unsteadiness and limited vision. (I’ve come to believe that Cupcake probably has some form of peripheral vestibular disease, because she seems to look at us out of her peripheral vision and can’t always see what is in front of her.)

Breathe deep and strong. Smell tells you who was there before you. Cupcake 2016

Deep sniffs bring good smells.

Cupcake still has the head tilt, but the motion sickness is mostly gone.

Probably the hardest part of Cupcake’s illness has been the need to leave her at home when we go to the dog park. If she were more stable and her vision was better, I would feel safe bringing her with us, but I cannot trust other dogs to leave her alone or to understand why she falls over sometimes.

She has also slowed down quite a bit. Walking for long periods of time are no longer possible. I suspect the constant movement makes her a little dizzy. Even walks halfway down the block are enough to tire her out, so I have been taking her with me to locations where she can just mosey along sniffing at her own pace. These are not walks, but more an exploration of sight and smell. She loves checking out the new smells and exploring a new location on her own terms. I think she likes having these special excursions where she can set the pace.

Sometimes, Cupcake gets disoriented and turned around, but she seems to figure it out on her own. Occasionally, she has gotten turned around and has walked under the kitchen table and gotten stuck or gotten stuck between my bed and the bedroom wall and needs my guidance to get back out, but those don’t happen very often. Even when they do, she does not seem bothered by the strangeness of it all. I cannot help but wonder what she is saying to herself when she finds she is surrounded by kitchen chairs and cannot figure out how she ended up there. Leave it to Cupcake to bring the humor to everything she does. It’s hard not to smile sometimes.

When sight and sound are no longer available, smell remains. Cupcake April 2016

It’s fun to explore new places.

So how is Cupcake? The same and different. It has taken some time for her (and us) to adjust, but what remains is what matters most – her smile, her personality and her zest for life. Perhaps there is a lesson in there for all of us. 🙂

 

Cupcake has Idiopathic Vestibular Disease

March 27, 2016 29 comments

Just sniff 'inIt started three Saturdays ago.

I was cleaning the kitchen when I heard Cupcake fall in the living room. I thought maybe she had slipped on the wood floor and was having trouble getting up because it was slippery. I ran over to her and helped her to her feet. She fell over again. I picked her up again, and that was when I noticed her eyes. They were darting back and forth. Rapidly. I immediately thought it was a seizure, but before I could analyze her further,  it was over. It had only been a matter of seconds, and unlike most dogs coming out of a seizure, she was alert, walking around normally and acting like her usual self. I was stumped. It was was such a weird incident. I attributed it to standing up to quickly and getting disoriented. What else could I think?

Then it happened again. The following Friday. Cupcake stood up, started to walk, and then fell over. Her eyes were darting back and forth again. Just like before, it was over in seconds and she was acting normally. I made a note in my iPhone to record the date and time (as suggested by the vet’s office when I called them during the week).

On Saturday, the next day, Cupcake had two more incidents. Each time, she walked like a dog that was drunk and often fell over and her eyes would continuously dart from side to side.


After the second one, I started googling “dogs” and “darting eyes” and saw one thing come up again and again – vestibular disease. Cupcake had all of the symptoms – unsteady gait, falling down, and darting eyes. Based on everything I read, she had what feels like vertigo in humans.

When it happened a second time. I remembered to videotape it. I wanted to be able to show the emergency vet what was happening since she always seemed fine when it ended.

Unfortunately, the behavior did not end. Unlike before, Cupcake continued to have problems walking and kept falling over. Her eyes did not stop darting side to side, like they had before, and now she had a head tilt and would circle in one spot over and over again. It was really upsetting to see her like this.

The head tiltEverything I read said that there wasn’t much that could be done for vestibular disease, but I still felt a trip to the emergency vet was needed. Unfortunately, the ER vet was in emergency surgery with a dog hit by a car and would be in surgery for at least another hour, so I brought Cupcake home, contacted her vet and sent her the videos. After some consultation, she agreed that it was likely vestibular disease and got her some anti-nausea drugs until I could bring her in on Monday.

Cupcake’s Monday appointment confirmed it, she had Idiopathic Vestibular Disease. If you have not heard of it before, I recommend looking it up.

Here is what I know from reading up on it. Some dogs, often older dogs, get it and recover over a few weeks or months and never get it again. Other dogs get it once, recover, have a relapse, and recover again. Many times the cause is unknown (thus the term “idiopathic”).

Idiopathic vestibular disease can be caused by an inner ear infection, but it can also be caused by a brain lesion or hypothyroidism. Cupcake’s blood work came back normal so it rules out hypothyroidism. Based on her other behaviors, the head tilt to the left, the circling to the left and the eyes darting quickly to the right and then moving slowly back to the left, the vet thinks Cupcake may have a lesion on her brain. If it is a lesion, it is likely on her left side and pressing on her brain, which is what is causing the strange behaviors. If it is not a lesion, Cupcake may recover fully and never have it again (she is showing improvement every day).

Right now, we are in a wait and see mode. Since last Saturday, she has steadily improved in the walking department. She still has the head tilt, and will circle to the left, but now she is able to go outside and come back inside on her own. With the help of several new rugs in the house, she rarely falls down, and if she does, she gets back up all on her own. She even went for a very short walk today (she was not happy about being left behind when I took Daisy and Jasper to the dog park this morning, so a walk was a must), and tonight, she wagged her tail several times, squeaked her stuffie over and over again (which she does when happy and excited) and gave her brother some sass (trust me, he needed it).  🙂

Cupcake's third eye lid issueUnfortunately, she also has another symptom – her third eyelid is now showing in her left eye. It could mean the lesion is growing or passing in on her eye. I’ll be calling the vet about that tomorrow, but for right now I am focusing on the positive changes I have seen this past week. Cupcake is acting more like herself and her personality has returned (I sure did miss that speaking sound and her cute little wagging tail).

 

 

Canine Cancer and Insulinomas – Sharing the experience with other dog owners

October 12, 2015 16 comments

My view right now. #Daisy #sleepingdogI never expected that writing about Daisy’s insulinoma would lead to meeting others who had gone or were going through the same thing.

It’s such a scary thing to find out your dog has cancer, no matter what kind it is, but having to make a quick decision on whether or not to do surgery is also scary. Having someone else who has already been there can really help. I sure wish I had known other people who had been through the same situation back in February so they could have helped to ease my mind about what to expect.

Now that Daisy is on the other side of it, I am so glad that I am able to share our experience with others who are having to make the same difficult decisions.

Of course, it makes it easier that Daisy came through the surgery and is still doing well today. I think it would be much harder to answer questions and respond to emails if she were not.

Med notes on Daisy's insulinomaI had completely forgotten about the notes I took on the day I received the phone call from Daisy’s consulting veterinarian at the University of Minnesota. Those notes recorded her confirmation of Daisy’s insulinoma and captured her recommendation that Daisy have surgery to remove it.

Today, I was cleaning out my work desk and came across them. It brought back a lot of the emotions I felt back then – worry, fear, uncertainty… fear. I imagine a lot of people feel that way when they find out their dog has cancer.

Going through Daisy’s diagnosis, surgery and aftercare has taught me a lot.

I have learned that…

  • You can seek input from those around you, but in the end you are the one who must make the decision about your dog’s care. No one else can,  or should, tell you what is the best decision.
  • Having someone else with you when you do speak to the vet about your pet’s illness (and the options) is helpful. What they say about people not hearing anything the doctor says beyond the word “cancer” is true. I sure wish I had someone else there who could have asked the questions I could not. In the end, I was able to write down my questions and ask them in person later on. It helped to be prepared in advance.
  • Know your monetary limit (or get pet insurance). You’d be surprised how quickly the costs can get out of control (they most certainly did in Daisy’s case). Plan for a dollar limit and then add another $1000. That way you give yourself some leeway when you go past your limit.
  • It’s okay to choose NOT to take an extraordinary measures to save your dog. Daisy’s insulinoma was caught early by chance (by her very awesome and alert vet), so we had options, but that is not the case for everyone. Opting to have the surgery or not, do chemo or not, is a personal decision. You know your own dog and what he/she can handle. Don’t be afraid to say no, if that is the right option for you and your pet.
  • Going forward with surgery or extraordinary life-saving measures is okay too. Just remember to check in with your pet to make sure the extraordinary measures are not because you can’t bear to say goodbye. Those first few days after surgery were tough. By the end of our ongoing list of recovery issues, I had come to the decision that I would not put Daisy through any more because it was traumatizing her (and me). Fortunately,she started to get better.
  • Veterinarians are just like doctors in that they want to save lives. They don’t want to give up any more than you do. They feel your pain and want to be able to give you the happy ending you seek. (Their big hearts are what led them to this profession after all.) Know that you may have to be the one who says “no more” at some point. The specialists who are caring for your pet may not be able to do so. I was fortunate enough to have a vet who helped me to be able to say “no more” in Daisy’s case. I am so grateful she did.

I am guessing many of you have been through a similar experience. What other tips or suggestions would you give to other pet owners going through a similar illness or diagnosis?

To the owners of Button, Scooter and Jack – our thoughts and prayers are with you as you go through this difficult time. Follow your heart in whatever you decide to do.

My new favorite product – The Tick Lasso

October 8, 2015 6 comments

The Tick LassoQuite a while ago, I saw a product I had never heard of before at my vet’s office. It is called the Trix TickLasso.

What??? A lasso for ticks? Yup. It’s a real thing. And, the veterinarian staff wholeheartedly endorsed it. When they showed me how it worked, I was sold. I purchased it immediately.The Lasso

Of course, since I regularly use Frontline on the dogs, I have never had the chance to use it. It sat in my junk drawer for months. I had completely forgotten I had it.

But recently, I was a little late in applying Frontline on the dogs and Daisy got a tick. (I hate those damn little buggers.)

I was upset that my lapse in memory had allowed one to attach to her. Damn ticks.

I was also really worried about removing it and not getting the head out. In the past, I have tried to remove a rock using a tweezers. Getting the head out was usually futile. But, this time I had the TickLasso! So, I thought I would give it a try.

It was money well spent.It was really easy to use, and unlike a pair tweezers, it removed the tick intact, head and all. What a great product.

So how does it work?

  1. Like a ballpoint pen, you push the button on top of the applicator and a small lasso appears at the other end.
  2. You loop the lasso over the tick (down where the head is attached).
  3. Release the button and the lasso tightens around the tick (just like lassoing a bull).
  4. Twist the applicator and pull.

That’s it! The whole tick comes out and you’re done.

The lassoed tickJust make sure to dispose of the tick. (If you use a lit match to kill the tick, like me, make sure you let the tick out of the lasso before burning him otherwise you will ruin your lasso.)

You can see a video of how it works below.

If you want to purchase one for yourself, they are pretty much everywhere, including Amazon.

Note: I purchased this product myself and used it. I was not approached by anyone to endorse this product.

Black and White Sunday #143 – Hurricane Katrina and Indy

August 23, 2015 20 comments

For me, Hurricane Katrina and my late dog Indy will be indelibly linked in my mind forever. While it was a disaster of epic proportions for the United States, and a deadly and devastating hurricane for the people of Louisiana and Mississippi, it was also the beginning of the end of life for my dog Indy.

Evacuations were going on in New Orleans. It was all over the news. Like everyone else, I was glued to the news, watching the city and state leaders plead for people to leave the city and shorelines.

I was also focused on getting my dog Indy into the vet. It was not a particularly memorable day that day I brought her in. I think it might have been beautiful and sunny, but I am not completely sure. I brought her in, she got her rabies, distemper and bordatella vaccinations. I bought her a treat and we went home. That’s it.

It was the next day that when it began. Indy had a seizure. I rushed her to the vet, where she had another one. They recommended we rush her to the emergency vet clinic to be assessed, because of course, it was a Sunday and the vet closed after noon. My mother came with me to the emergency vet. We sat in the waiting room for hours as they assessed Indy and treated other patients. The television was on CNN in the waiting room, where coverage of Katrina evacuations were in full swing. We watched the flow of vehicles leaving the city using all lanes of the highway to get out. It was something we had never seen before.

Indy ended up spending the night, but when she came home, the seizures continued, at first once a month, then once every couple of weeks, then once a week. Throughout it all, was the horror of what happened in New Orleans, on the nightly news. It was an epic tragedy playing out on our television screens, but a very real traumatic event for those living there. We might’ve been going through our own tragedy at home, but what the people of New Orleans (an their pets and children) suffered was so much greater. I cannot forget it.

In April of 2006, disaster recovery was in full swing. The devastation left behind by hurricane Katrina was undeniable then, the population of New Orleans had been cut in half, whole parishes were destroyed,and we said goodbye to Indy, who by then was having seizures every few days.

It’s hard to believe it has been 10 years since all that happened. Time has a way of healing all wounds, but also etching moments and events in your mind forever, like Hurricane Katrina and Indy.

Indy

Indy 2

My thanks to our hosts for this blog hop Dachshund Nola and Sugar The Golden Retriever.

Unfortunately, WordPress.com doesn’t allow Java script so I can’t provide a direct link to the linky, but you can join here.

Canine Influenza – Seminar by Maddie’s Fund was informative

May 10, 2015 9 comments

Shelter dogsOn Thursday, I had the opportunity to attend an online seminar put on by Maddie’s Fund. I was already interested in the topic, but expected to learn little new as I had already been reading up on the topic on my own. As it turns out, I learned a heck of a lot more information in the seminar than in the newspapers. Go figure.

The topic? What Animal Shelters Need to Know About the Canine Influenza Outbreak. The seminar was presented by Dr. Sandra Newbury from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine and UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program. Dr. Newbury has been working closely with shelters since the outbreak and was able to share some details that the media has missed in their rush to join the hype.

Sad Looking Chocolate LabShe shared some of what shelter workers who have been dealing with after the spread of this virus, not only in the  shelters in Chicago, but also in the surrounding areas and states. Wow. I cannot imagine the stress. They deserve our support. What they are dealing with is incredibly overwhelming. I imagine they are exhausted after managing through this for the past two months. They are not only caring for hundreds of sick cats and dogs, but also worrying about exposing their own pets to this virus. Imagine how scary it must be for them.

You can get a copy of the presentation handout here, but I thought I would share a few of the things I learned.

  • The virus currently making dogs sick in Chicago (H3N2) originated in Korea, China and Thailand. It is suspected it came from the Avian influenza and transferred to cats and dogs. In Korea, China and Thailand, the virus also infected cats, who experienced a significant mortality rate when infected (something we have not seen here).
  • Despite what we may think, there is no proof that the virus came in with a dog imported from these countries to the United States. They may never know how it made it to this country.
  • The virus did not originate in a shelter, but started with one dog living in a home. Contraction of the virus most likely started in a training class, vet clinic, or doggy daycare.
  • When it did hit animal shelters in Chicago, it hit them like a tidal wave. Example: One or two dogs started showing symptoms on  Monday. By Tuesday, ten dogs were sick and by Friday, shelters were seeing 50-100 dogs sick. In CACC, they saw 200 dogs sick with the virus.
  • Most of the dogs have had mild to moderate respiratory disease. Very few that have died, but some have developed pneumonia and needed additional treatment.
  • Symptoms usually start with a cough and nasal discharge. Dogs sickened with this virus seem to feel worse than the dogs infected with the known virus, H3N8.
  • This virus differs from the one we have previously seen in the United States (H3N8) in that it has a longer “shedding” period (the virus can still be shed by the formerly sick dog long after they seem well, thus making them still contagious after 19 days). 
  • This has had a huge impact on shelters and shelter workers. Because of the longer shedding period, shelters have had to stop or slow down the release of dogs to  rescues and they have had to turn some dogs away in order to avoid infecting more dogs, sometimes diverting incoming dogs to other uninfected shelters. They are trying to be very, very careful to not spread the virus.
  • Because this virus is new to the United States, many shelters were placing dogs up for adoption after seven days, when they appeared well, but they soon discovered that other dogs were getting infected when exposed to these dogs even though they (the formerly sick dogs) were well.
  • Dr. Newbury said they are now recommending that dogs be isolated for at least 21 days after they were first diagnosed to prevent spread of the disease, but she cautioned that they are not yet positive that 21 days will be long enough, because they thought it would be fine after 14 days and discovered it was not.
  • If a rescue or animal shelter chooses to adopt out a dog who was sick and no longer has symptoms, they should be apply two rtPCR tests and get a negative result from both before allowing the dog to be adopted, and even then, they should gain agreement from the adopter that they will keep them isolated for the full 21 days (no dog parks, no training classes, etc.).
  • Shelters in Chicago are developing plans to release some dogs from their shelters to avoid an increase in euthanasia, but they are giving rescue groups very, very specific instructions on holding the dogs in isolation and away from other dogs. They do not want to move dog to an area that does not have influenza already.
  • Sick dogs are not turning over to recovering dogs as quickly, but they are starting to see more recovered dogs than sick now. That is very good news.

While I still think this is a very serious outbreak, I feel better knowing more of the details. The speed at which this virus spreads and the fact that the shedding period is so long should be a concern for rescues as they import dogs from these sates. They may want to avoid the ones where cases already been confirmed for now.

Kudos to all the shelter workers dealing with this and trying to make sure it is contained. You have a tough job on normal days. This is above and beyond what is “normal.”

 

 

Post Insulinoma: A Daisy Update

May 3, 2015 16 comments

I need to apologize to all of you.

A couple of months ago I wrote about Daisy’s insulinoma and shared my worries and my fears about her recovery, but I never came back to give you an update on how she was doing. I am so sorry. I was so in the moment of what was going on that I never realized that I had left you hanging on what happened or how she was doing! Duh!

So how is Daisy doing? Well, I will let you see for yourself. In pictures, of course. 🙂

 

She is back to walking with us at the dog park and walking with new energy and vigor.

Walking Miss Daisy #dogpark

The kids

Jasper is back to harassing (I mean, herding) her and she is happy about that.

Jasper harassing his big sister. He obviously knows she is feeling better. #Jasper #Daisy #dogpark

She loves exploring and digging again.

Daisy smiles as she explores the old tree stump.

She and Cupcake are still looking for cheese in the oddest of places.

Looking for the cheese. (A little nosework game tonight.) #Cupcake #Daisy

Cuddling is still a priority (I will never tire of that).

Daisy from above 2

Recently, I took her with me on an extended weekend vacation at a cabin on a lake.

I'm watching you. #Daisy

While there, she enjoyed a couple dips in the lake.

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She also explored the beach.

So many new smells to explore! #Daisy

And, hunted for shells

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Hiked (Twice!)

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Explored the woods.

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Woke to the sound of loons every morning.

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DSCN0152

And, relaxed. A lot. 🙂

Daisy really hates being at the cabin.

Me and my dog

She’s looking good, isn’t she?

I rarely get a picture like this. It took cheese to get it.  #Daisy #Lab

Having come through to the other side of things, I can honestly say that I am glad she had the surgery. I had a lot of doubts in those early days immediately following it, but now I am so grateful that I get to enjoy a little extra time with my girl.

I think I would lying if I did not admit that I am also hyper vigilant about any changes in Daisy’s behavior. I know that insulinomas almost always come back. I know that my time with her may be as short as a year or as long as 18 months. That is the reality. But if they really did get it all, and it never comes back, then I have her for as long as she can outlive her aging body. I am hopeful it will be the latter. For now, Daisy is doing well and loving life, and that is the best outcome of all. 🙂

Thank you for caring and sending your prayers and good thoughts. Daisy and I are forever grateful. Truly grateful.

Is it time to regulate rescue dog transports into Minnesota?

April 30, 2015 18 comments

Woman with Her Pet DogI’ve been stewing on this issue for some time now, but the recent outbreak of canine influenza in Chicago, and some of the recent stories I have heard about dogs transported here, has led me to believe it is time for Minnesota to regulate the transport of rescue dogs into our state.

I know it is odd for a rescue supporter and pet adoption advocate to suggest such a thing (I have no doubt it will be considered blasphemy by many local rescues), but I come at this as more than just a supporter of rescues. I come at this as a pet owner, an owner with senior dogs, dogs who have had recent health issues. I come at this as an owner who has seen rescues, acting in the best interest of the rescue dog, make critical but unintentional mistakes that have the potential to harm the dog populations that are already here.

From a lack of proper foster parent training and education to a lack of proper care for sick dogs with the potential to expose other dogs to illness, rescues have the potential to cause harm to existing populations of dogs in our state.

Just last month, a group of dogs were transported in from another state and placed in foster homes (after an urgent call went out for people to foster) with little being said about the health checks these dogs received before they were handed off to their new foster homes. I know that the situation was an emergency, and that rescues had little time to act, but I wonder if they gave any thought to what they might be transporting in with them before they drove them across state lines? Were the potential dangers considered beforehand? Did they get a full health assessment and blood workup done before they handed the dogs off to their foster homes?

Low Section View of a Man with His BulldogMore diligence must be taken, especially in light of hearing that the canine influenza was likely imported with a dog that came from China or South Korea and that Canine Brucellosis was recently transported into Calgary, Alberta, Canada via rescues in the southern U.S. and Mexico. I wholeheartedly support saving dogs, but we need to be more diligent. We need to be more thoughtful and plan ahead. We need to make sure we are not saving one dog while putting a whole population of resident dogs at risk.

In New England, the south to north dog transport (i.e., rescue transports from southern shelters to northern rescue groups) got so big that veterinarians became concerned. They started seeing more cases of parvo, rabies, heart disease and other dog diseases and parasites as a result of the dogs being brought into their states.  Massachusetts was the first to implement laws around dogs being transported into their state, but others soon followed including New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

To circumvent the Massachusetts regulations, officials say, some rescue groups simply told adopters to meet them over the border. New England was caught in a geographic game of Whac-a-Mole, trying to ensure that only healthy dogs were being transported by responsible rescues. Dr. Scott Marshall, the state veterinarian in Rhode Island, says that state saw parvo cases blossom from two or three each year into two or three each week in recent years before enacting regulations that mirror the Bay State’s. Today, all the New England states have rules. Boston Globe, May 12, 2013

The laws in New England require:

  • Rescues register with the state
  • Each animal have a health certificate that is signed by a veterinarian
  • Imported animals be held in isolation for 48 hours in an approved facility to allow dogs to recover from the stress of travel so their health status can be more accurately assessed
  • Must be examined by a vet after the 48 hour holding period

I know that implementing something similar in Minnesota will cause hardship for many rescues, at least initially, but I think it is necessary. Importing dogs from out-of-state is such a common event now that regulation is necessary. In the rush to save more dogs, some rescues are choosing to cut corners and worry about the health of the dog once they get here versus before. This is not to say that rescues are bad. They are not. They are in the business of saving dogs’ lives. Their heart is in the right place. But if we are to do it in a way that protects all dogs, both those in and out-of-state, we need to ensure that all groups are following protocols that ensures this is the case.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

Resources:

Animal Rescue—Transporting Fido Across State Lines

Massachusetts Animal Rescue and Shelter Regulations (initial Draft)

Buyer beware: Lack of regulation of dog rescues puts more burden on adoptive owners

Pet Rescue Groups Outraged by Legislation

State vet urging caution in adopting pets from groups without permits

With Rescue Dogs In Demand, More Shelters Look Far Afield For Fido

The Pros and Cons of Dog Transport

Companion Animal Transport Programs —  Best Practices

Pet store puppies: The stress of the mother passes to down to the child

March 29, 2015 9 comments

puppy mills 1The more you dig into puppy mills, the more you learn about the physical and physiological repercussions it has on the mother dog (and that doesn’t even take info consideration the genetic issues) and her puppies.

Last fall, when Dr. Frank McMillan spoke at an event (hosted by Animal Folks MN), he shared some data on the behavioral issues that show up in puppy mill puppies sold in pet stores. The results were quite startling:

  • Out of 14 behavioral variables measured across puppies from responsible breeders and those sold in pet stores, the pet store puppies were found to have fared worse in 12.
  • As they grew up, pet store puppies showed more aggression towards their owners.
  • Pet store puppies also displayed more aggression towards other dogs.
  • Puppies who are purchased in a pet store are more likely to escape and run away.
  • Pet store puppies tend to be under-socialized because they are taken away from their mothers too early and are likely to experience trouble as they grow up.

You can read more about Dr. McMillan’s study via Penn State here: Penn Vet study finds pet store puppies come with increased risk

Puppy mill breeding dogs have their own set of behavioral issues – almost all due to a lack of socialization and fear and ongoing abuse, but now we can show that the puppies they bear have problems too. Why is this the case?

New evidence suggests that mother dogs experiencing extreme levels of stress can pass that stress on to their puppies, and that stress can impact their lives long after they have been weaned and adopted into loving family homes.

The body is designed to protect the puppies from normal amounts of stress:

“Normally, an enzyme inactivates cortisol at the placenta, protecting the fetuses from the level of cortisol that the mother is experiencing. But when the cortisol level is extremely high, some passes through the placenta to the developing puppies. They receive the extra cortisol as information: The world is scary. We should be prepared. “

You can read more on this in the Whole Dog Journal from their November 2014 issue, titled “How a Mother’s Stress Can Influence Unborn Puppies: A highly stressed mother dog may influence her unborn puppies and affect their adult behavior.”

That pet store puppies are more likely to carry this stress message in their systems should not be all that surprising. After all, past evidence has shown that the stress of the mother passes down to the baby, both in humans and rats.

Puppies born in mills experience the stress of the mother in utero and after they are born. When you add in the fact that they are then pulled away from their mothers at a very young age, shipped across country in trucks with other sick little puppies, manhandled and placed in a pet store window, where they are on display and handled over and over again until they are adopted, it’s a wonder any of them survive, much less make it into a home as a normal dog. That they fare poorly on 12 of 14 behavioral variables should not be surprising either. It makes one wonder why anyone would want a dog from a pet store at all.  

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Daisy in the early days.

Daisy’s last litter of puppies were kept by the organization that saved her life. They were going to be trained to be service dogs. I wonder how many of them failed to make the cut?  I hope not many, but the more and more I learn about puppy mills and their impacts on the dogs and their offspring, the more I believe that they were doomed from the start.

Now how sad is that?

 

 

 

Daisy has an insulinoma

February 22, 2015 112 comments

It’s been a rough couple of weeks here at Casa del Mel. If you haven’t seen it on my Facebook page, Daisy had surgery to remove a tumor, called an Insulinoma, from her pancreas. A tumor, that up until February 6th, we knew nothing about. Now we know too much.

An insulinoma is almost always a malignant tumor that appears on the pancreas and starts messing with the insulin levels in a dog (or human). It causes hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), tiredness after exercise, collapse, seizures and sometimes brain damage. It is a progressive disease and will spread throughout the body, as all cancers do.

Spent the morning and afternoon with Daisy at the U of M. Hoping she comes home tonight. #Daisy

The day after surgery at the U of M.

On February 6, I took Daisy in to our regular vet to have her teeth cleaned and a lump (an benign outgrowth of a sebaceous cyst) removed. I expected to receive a call later in the day to be told all went well and she was ready to go home but instead, I received a call a few hours after I dropped her off to tell me that they could not perform the procedures because her blood sugar was really low, abnormally low (hers was in the 40s, normal is 80).

I knew it was serious, but I did not know how serious until Monday. That was when my vet informed me it was likely an insulinoma, and that she was referring Daisy to her teacher at the University of Minnesota. Within 30 minutes, I received a call from the U of M to schedule an appointment (yes, it really did happen that fast).

This was the moment when I got scared. A call within 30 minutes? An appointment two weeks out was not soon enough? Oh my God.

We went in on Thursday for a consult and a CT scan was scheduled for the next day. It would tell us whether or not it had spread and what course of action we would take.

The hardest thing I had ever done up until that point was to leave Daisy at her regular vet, with people she knew, but on that Friday, I had to drop her off with strangers (albeit, wonderfully nice strangers) and leave her there for the whole day. It killed me inside.

When I got the call that she was done, the vet also confirmed it was an insulinoma (just as we thought). I was also informed that it was a single tumor and had not spread to her chest or other organs. There was some concern over a slightly odd-looking lymph node nearby, but it was small (2mm) and not as concerning as the insulinoma. The recommendation was surgical removal.

As the vet and surgeon both told me at our post CT scan meeting, they almost never see a dog with an insulinoma who has not shown any major symptoms (collapsing, seizures, etc.), and who has not already found to have multiple tumors or to have it spread throughout their body. By the time they see dogs with this type of tumor, they are pretty far gone. They were both pretty excited that Daisy had been caught early. They wanted to schedule the surgery for Tuesday, February 17.

She slept for almost an hour. I sat with her for an hour and a half. The vet said she does better when I am there. Wish I could stay the night. #Daisy

The second day after surgery. Hanging out in ICU.

To say I was completely overwhelmed would be an understatement. I was scared and freaked out and not sure what to do. I needed time to think. Should I do the surgery and get the cancer while it was early? Should I let the cancer spread and just maintain Daisy’s glucose levels as long as I could with drugs? What was fair to Daisy? What was best for her?The decision was agonizing.

I could not bear the thought of willingly letting the cancer, this insidious, awful curse of a disease, spread through Daisy’s body, but, I was also filled with doubts. What if she died in surgery or due to complications from surgery? What if her quality of life was better without surgery, even though it might mean an earlier death? What if I lost her in surgery when I could have had her for a few more months without it? Was it fair to put Daisy, my fearful girl, through this?

In the end, I decided to go ahead with the surgery, partly because it was already scheduled and partly because Daisy was the anomaly, the cancer had been caught early, and I couldn’t bear the thought of letting the cancer spread. Not if we could remove it and give her a good quality of life for a year or so to come. I wanted her to have a quality life, not a life slowly seeping away as the cancer ate through her body.

HOME #Daisy #recovery

Thursday night – Home at last.

The surgery went well. Daisy came out of to with the left half of her pancreas gone (due to the location of the tumor), but her glucose levels we’re closer to normal and she made it through. In addition to the tumor, Daisy had the lymph node removed and a biopsy of her liver done. Both the lymph node and the liver biopsy came back negative for cancer. The tumor was, of course, positive for cancer, but they got it all out. Luckily, she can still function with the remaining half of her pancreas and her glucose levels have been normal since the surgery. Her prognosis is good.

But, I am still plagued with doubts. Did I do the right thing? 

On Friday, Daisy started drooling, drinking water excessively, pacing, seemed restless, and suddenly developed a bloated stomach. I thought I was going to lose her. I thought she had bloat. Only another surgery would save her and I did not have the money for another surgery.

However, after an X-ray and a radiologist consultation, it was determined Daisy had food bloat. A very different type of bloat and much less scary that the stomach-twisting kind. Supposedly, she got into something and ate a lot of it – they can see lots of particles of something like dog food in her stomach. Unfortunately, she had very little opportunity to get into anything and I cannot find any missing items that would explain what she might have eaten, unless it was poop. So, I worry and wait for her to poop out whatever she supposedly ate.

The girls are back together again. #Daisy #maggie

Back to the usual stuff, like sleeping side by side with Maggie on the couch.

For me, it is concerning that her stomach is still bloated, but it appears to be less so than Friday evening. The good news is that she is still eating and drinking and she is also acting more like herself. She is more tired right now, but that is to be expected after major surgery (not to mention the visits to the ER).

Being a lifelong worrywart, I think I will continue to worry about Daisy, and my decision to put her through surgery, for some time to come. Maybe I will feel better when I see Daisy back at the dog park with her siblings, running through the woods and begging treats from her friends at the dog park. Until then, I wait and hope and pray that I made the right decision.

While I would not wish this experience on anyone (who wants their dog to have cancer or major surgery?), I have learned a lot.

 

What I have learned:

  • No one can make the decision for your dog’s healthcare except you. Others will weigh in and may even scoff at your choices, but in the end, the decision is yours. Also keep in mind what your pet would want.
  • Know how far you are willing to pursue saving your pet. Ask yourself: How much is too much? How long do I keep trying to save them? What kind of quality of life is my pet getting? Before the CT scan, I had already decided I would not do surgery of the tumor had spread, even a little bit.
  • Having a great vet who knows your dog, and knows when to be concerned, is a blessing. Find a good one. We have and we love her.
  • Blood work before surgery is a must for my vet, I am guessing it is for most medical procedures involving anesthesia, but ask your vet beforehand. If my vet had not run Daisy’s blood work, she could have had a seizure on the operating table and/or could have died.
  • The University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center is a great place and filled with amazing people. They are responsive and kind and always willing to help.
  • Be okay with saying “No” to a procedure if you feel it is not beneficial to your pet or will not extend their life. I had a hard time with this one at first. There is always one more procedure that can be performed, one more drug given, but in the end you have to decide if it is worth it.
  • Get pet insurance. I wish I had. The costs add up quickly. My costs went above the estimated price, by a lot. Be prepared for it to do so.

 

 

 

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