Saturday, April 23, 2011

Clover's Birthday

Today is Clover's 14th birthday.

We celebrated at a house with a lot of stairs - all of which he climb by himself, many times.

It's been 16 and 8 months since Clover had his two cruciate repairs. It is an amazing thing to think that when I looked at my 12 year old Havanese, I really wondered if I was asking him to do the right thing. Then, at 13, if it was fair to ask it again.

Sure, he's a little stiff, and there are days he is sore. He is notably more sore in the knee I waited longer to do the surgery on; more arthritic, likely, just like everyone said it would be.

But then, at 14, of course he's a little creaky.

I have tried, very hard, to cherish my time with him, even with the pesky new puppy (who Clover adores, might I add). I know, after 14 years, our time together is limited. But I am so glad that I took the chance to repair both knees, to see him happy again, to watch him chase the puppy across the lawn.
I can't think of a better way to close up this blog about Clover's recovery.

Happy birthday, Clover.

For more on the continued adventures of Clover and The Puppy, visit Narwyn Havanese.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


Clover had his follow up testing the other day. He spent the night fasting (he was not pleased) and the morning at the vet. They test his blood at a fasting, then push something through their blood stream to activate the adrenal glands, then test again to see how they reacted.

Clover is borderline for Cushing's. At this point, Lindsey feels as though not treating makes the most sense. I would tend to agree - they can be some nasty medications, necessary evils in many cases.

Watchful waiting is probably the most sensible, and most difficult, thing to endure in medicine. It makes sense, sometimes, to see what happens. But wait-and-see, and the limbo that comes with it, is hard.

For now, Clover is back on his allergy medication, back to walks, and was happy to have a good lunch. For now, I'll just be happy to provide it for him.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Chem 20

Clover went to the vet for a fairly routine physical last week. In addition to a few suspicious lumps, he had a blood panel run.

I am happy to report that the two lumps turned out to just by lipomas - benign fatty tumors. Clover has a lipoma on his chest we looked at last year - they are generally soft, just under the skin, and relatively easy to move. The only concern with them would be if they grew large enough to interfer with the dog, such as being large enough or in a location that inhibits movement. Many vets call them "lumps" or something rather than tumors, because the word tumor often gives people the wrong idea in the case of lipomas.

Clover's two new bumps were suspicious because they were small, somewhat harder, and seemed to be further under the skin. Lindsey (my ever marvelous vet) felt them and said we should definitely aspirate them - use a needle to draw out a bit of the bump and examine what it is. After several nervous minutes, she did confirm both were simply lipomas - they were probably under a bit of connective tissue that made them feel harder. Phew.

We did do a blood draw follow up to his July 2010 elevated kidney levels. We strongly suspected it was his high-protein food, and agreed to follow up after he'd been on a lower protein food for a period of time.

When she called on Monday, she started with, "Well the good news is his kidneys look beautiful..."

Unfortunately, he had elevated liver and platelet readings. With his age, this is consistent with the early signs of Cushing's Disease. This is an adrenal disorder that affects the body's feedback system, making the brain and body miscommunicate things like hunger, thirst, or other hormone-based functions. Left unchecked, the body continues to go awry and opens up possibilities for more illness, from infections to diabetes. But, it's not uncommon in older dogs, and reasonably treatable.

Lindsey and I discussed some of the other symptoms, but they are sort of vague and easily confused with "just getting old." In Clover's case, the symptoms he has are also very reasonably explained by outside factors.

Has Clover been drinking (and peeing) more lately? Yes - but it started when my heat start running and my apartment got very dry. Has he gained weight? Yes - but it started when I switched his food. Does he seem hungry? Yes - but it started when he was getting fat so I cut back his ration. Does he seem to be panting (in his case, oinking) more than usual? Yes - but it started a few months ago when I put him on food with grain in it again, which is is clearly allergic to, and has been going away the longer he's off that food. Does he seem somewhat stuff, perhaps hesitant to jump on furniture - yes, but he had two knee surgeries in under a year, and he's certainly better than he was. Does he have a pot belly? No. Does he have skin or coat problems? No.

So it's a tough thing to call. You could say that ice cream causes drowning - after all, more people eat ice cream in summer, and more people drown in summer - but you also need to examine outside factors (more people eat ice cream when it's hot, more people swim when it's hot) to see if they do actually correlate or if they just appear to.

The other issue is Clover will have to come off his Temeril (which has prednisone in it) to test for Cushing's. The adrenal glands produce natural steroids, and prednisone is a steroid, so you can't test the natural steroid level with some other ones floating around. Since he's still detoxing from his grain allergy, and the fall pollen is still up, that's not a sensible option right now.

Lindsey's advice was to wait and see. We'll see if the eating, drinking, panting all settle down - signs that they were environmentally related - or if they stay the same or worsen. By January, the well-frozen ground and several months on the new food should have his need for Temeril to a minimum, so we might be able to get him off long enough to test and see.

I hate "wait and see." It's my absolute least favorite thing. But I guess we'll see how things look after Christmas.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Berry Powerful Indeed

There is a nearby holistic vet who intrigues me. I love my regular vet and plan to continue seeing her, but I've personally found a lot more relief from my various ailments through non-traditional means.

Example: I've had hip problems almost my entire life. When I was 15 or so, we tried to figure out exactly what it was. I had an osteo specialist at Children's Hospital Boston - a hip and pelvic specialist - look at it and my Xrays and me. He poked my muscles, measured my legs, noted one was longer, discussed the clicking and pain, and told me I would need a hip replacement before I would turn 30. Flash forward almost 10 years to a chiropractor who, when he didn't see the results he'd hoped to fix my pelvis, measured my legs and weight distribution and noticed one leg was different from the other. Oh, he said, your body has to compensate for that by rotating your hip back. Put this lift in your shoe of your shorter leg so your legs act the same length. That stupid piece of heel-shaped rubber decreased my pain about 80%.

Anyway - Clover went to visit his friend Pizza yesterday. Pizza is a 7 month old Shih Tzu with a name her owner finds hysterical and no one else understands (the notable exception was, when my friend went to pick her up after being spayed, she walked in and said, "I'm here to pick up Pizza"). Clover was happy to see her when she was slightly freaked out by him, then he started ignoring her when she decided he was ok, and then he found a toy of hers to play with. But weirdly, Clover peed in their house. Clover is a meticulously clean, house-broken dog. It was weird.

Then he peed on the steps on the way out of their apartment. Then again in my parents' house. And twice while we were walking. It didn't occur to me until late last night that he might have a bladder infection.

Both vets I regularly use (Lindsey in Providence, and Acorn where Clover had his knees done, which is near my parents) are closed Saturday afternoon and Sunday and refer to emergency treatment centers. It costs $300 to walk into one of those, never mind any subsequent (and generally over-priced) treatments. Still $1700 in knee debt, I had to consider my options.

Clover had a normal temperature and there was no blood in his urine. So I turned to my home remedy for low grade UTIs: cranberry juice. Ok, so I usually drink a container of juice which seemed like an unlikely thing to make Clover do, but the dog eats anything, and there were fresh frozen whole cranberries on hand. I figured, give him cranberries with dinner and reassess in the morning. I gave him probably 3/4 a cup of cranberries, lots of water, and took him out frequently.

He seemed to feel better this morning, so I gave him another serving of cranberries for breakfast. He was back to peeing on a normal schedule and seemed more comfortable. He's sleepy, but his temp is still normal, and he continues to seem better. He is less hunched up and is just acting more comfortable.

I plan on more cranberries for dinner and seeing the vet tomorrow - he is due for shots (I want to do titers), I found a lump in the muscle of his upper arm the needs to get looked at, and just an annual exam as well (which will show us some kidney function on the new food). This time at least, I might have avoided the $300 emergency fee.

As always I am not a vet and do not recommend self-diagnosis or home treatment. Please talk to your qualified pet professional with questions in regard to your dog's health and well being.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Now we're cookin'

Let's talk dog food.

As you might recall, in July Clover's kidney levels were elevated. After a discussion with the vet(s), he was moved off his no-grain, higher protein food. Please note that I think higher protein foods are fine; I personally believe that 40% protein or more is pretty absurd for a toy dog, but I was feeding Wellness CORE which was around 32%. However, his older and weaker kidneys seemed stressed, so we switched.

He'd been on no-grain food because we thought he had a grain allergy. But he'd since been diagnosed with year-round environmental allergies, so we thought that moving him back to regular wellness dog food (which has healthful grains like oatmeal and barley, not filler grains like corn) would be all right.

Apparently, Clover is pretty allergic to grain. Whoops. His oinking got worse again, and he was so itchy that even petting him made him pick up his hind leg and scratch. Even when he was on grain-free food before, I was kind of lazy in that he still ate treats and canned food with grain in it. I clearly had to cut all of this out.

So I did some research and asked for some input and Clover is now on what must be the only moderate-protein grain-free food in the world, Taste of the Wild (the salmon variety). Check. Wellness makes grain-free biscuts that he likes. Check.

But grain-free canned dog food costs almost $3 a can. (I picked up a case of high-end but healthful-grain cans at Job Lot for $1 each, and with some sale searching I usually find about the same).

As I stood their looking at a 200% increase, I thought, "It has to be cheaper to make this."

So I did.
  • Pork (three organic boneless chops)
  • Apples
  • Fresh frozen green beans and carrots
  • Cottage cheese
  • Parsley
  • Dried Seaweed
  • Olive oil
I had seaweed and olive oil. Everything else cost me about $20 at Trader Joe's. I cooked the meat, cubed everything, and threw it in the food processor with some water. The result does indeed look like canned dog food.

I refrigerated some and froze some. We'll see how long it lasts and do a cost-benefit analysis.

When I offered Clover a taste on a spoon, his eyes literally bugged out like a cartoon character. I'm lucky I didn't lose the spoon.

Note that I used canned food for supplemental feeding only. Please discuss diet changes with your vet or qualified pet nutritionist.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Moving Along

I apologize again for another hiatus. Life gets in the way, what can I say.

Clover is now more than 12 weeks out from surgery. He goes to the dog park (where he mostly just pees on things, but hey, he can lift his leg), goes for walks, likes to run, jumps on the sofa, even leaps over little creeks nowadays. He let me know when he was ready to do these things (generally, by doing them and not turning up limping that night). It's satisfying to see him trot like he never even had any knee problems.

I admit that some days he seems sore. He can move about gingerly in the rear, sometimes looks wistfully at me for a lift onto the sofa, and occasionally licks his knees as if they are bothering him.

But on the 23rd of this month, Clover will be 13 and a half. If you apply the x7 rule, that's nearly 95. I hope I am still leaping over creek beds when I'm 95.

At this point, the blog is going to start moving away from Clover's knee recovery and more toward general misadventures. I am still going to try to pull guest posts about various topics, and hope that you will continue to be entertained and enlightened.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Rather Less Fuzzy Dog

Those who know me know I'm a really even person. Even under pressure, I'm focused and plan-oriented. That's 99% of the time.

The remaining 1%, something like this happens.

With two knee surgeries, Clover has spent the better part of a year looking half normal, half like a Lowchen or Portuguese Water dog. The first time, I was pretty patient in keeping him at the length I wanted and waiting for the hair to grow in. That was my plan this time, too.

Maybe it was the recent stress at work, or my lack of coffee that morning, or my I just didn't want to be reminded of my credit card debt every time I looked at my dog. But today, I picked up my clippers with the intent of taking a little bit off Clover as planned, and did a few strokes down his back with the direction of his hair. Then I though - well, eff it - and started cutting him against the grain with my 1/2" clipper combs. Tossed him in the tub, scissored his legs to the right length, and presto: the notably less fuzzy dog.

I admit, he looks a lot cuter than I thought he would. Hair grows back. He's not 100% even (you can still kind of see the spot on his left leg where he was shaved for the IV drip, and the hind leg you can see is the surgery leg, pretty short still), but, it's not massively noticeable anymore.

He's still fuzzy, though. You know... like a peach.