Thursday, August 31, 2006

Reyna's Hips

For the last two months or so, I’ve noticed that Reyna has been having trouble getting in the truck and that she’s been limping occasionally. She even yelped once when she crouched to potty. When I asked the vet about it, he said it was probably just a pulled muscle, because she was acting fine otherwise. I didn’t particularly agree with that, but hey, what do I know? I’m no vet, I’m just the person that lives with the dog every day.

This past weekend, the issue finally came to a head. Reyna fell out of the truck twice because she couldn’t get in far enough. She was having trouble getting off the floor, and moving very stiffly (although it would smooth out after she’d been up for a bit). Marie noticed her limping, too. When she was running circles in the yard – one of her favorite activities – she would occasionally fall down, because her back leg would give out. She was also favoring whichever leg was inside the circle, and she was bunny hopping. So, Monday I called the vet and managed to squeeze in an afternoon appointment.

When we got to the vet’s office, she was just as excited and crazy as always. The exam, though, put a quick end to that. He extended her left back leg first, and she immediately started crying, whining, and trying to get away. When he extended her right leg, she lost it, yelping and crying and struggling. When he messed with her back, though, she just stood there, looking around the room. The vet said he felt some crackling in her hips, which was a potential sign of arthritis. He said he needed to get x-rays, and would need her on her back. I pointed out he’d need to sedate her for that, so we scheduled the x-rays for Tuesday morning. Before we left, he said it could be a back injury (doubtful), or just arthritis (also doubtful).

Tuesday morning, the x-rays showed just how bad the hip dysplasia really is. The right hip is severe, the left is moderate. The bones of her right hip have already become deformed; the ball is flattened (mushroomed) out somewhat, the socket has flattened instead of curving around the ball, and there are several arthritic spurs. Her left hip isn’t quite as bad yet, with fewer spurs and less deformation. Neither hip has any cartilage left, though, and both balls are wedged into the sockets, so she’s running around rubbing bone on bone.

According to the vet, the level of treatment we provide now depends on Reyna. We’re starting with Glucosamine for a month, in hopes that it will rebuild some of the missing cartilage. He doesn’t want to put her on pain killers just yet, because she’ll be on them forever, just at different levels. I think I’m going to over-ride that decision today, because she’s so clearly in pain. When my tough, stoic girl limps and yelps, there’s a lot of pain involved. Depending on how quickly the dysplasia progresses, its very likely that she’ll need a hip replacement – we just don’t know when. So, to help offset the cost, I’ve started a savings account specifically for that. For now, we’re having to restrict some of our more strenuous activities, which are, of course, her favorites. I guess it’s a good thing that its hot and we don’t live near any really tough hiking trails, since that’s something we both enjoy. She’ll never be able to be part of a SAR team, because her hips won’t tolerate that type of activity – long hours and generally rough terrain. I’m checking a couple of places this weekend to see about swimming, since that’s the best exercise for her. With luck, we’ll be able to find the right level of treatment to keep her pain free for as long as possible.

Happy Birthday to Me!

Yeah, yeah, I know I’m late.

I turned 30 last Thursday, and while I know that’s supposed to be a milestone, it really doesn’t feel any different than 25 or 28. I guess that’s actually a good sign, since I’m not stressing over being “old” or still single at 30.

Lots happened over my birthday weekend – new floors in most of the house, several projects completed, etc. But the best part of my birthday was my friends. They got together, gave me a party, and sent me to the spa for a day. Huge thanks to Marie and Natalie, who had the stressful part of the whole thing – the planning and coordinating. They did loads of work, making sure the decorations were great, everyone knew what was happening where and when, and setting up the group gift. And during all of this, they managed to keep a good bit of the specifics a secret. Very impressive.

The party was at my place, which I thought was great, because I didn’t have to go anywhere. And while I love the fact that it gave me the push I needed to finish a few inside projects, John may not have been as excited about that. But he survived the experience, and that’s what matters.

Lots of folks came, we had beautiful decorations, the food was great, the dogs were thrilled, Reyna fell in love again with baby Brianna, the “gentle roast” was fun, Brian got lots of photos, and the loose balloon didn’t destroy the fan. I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday.

Drugs Are Your Friend

Reyna’s puppy prozac kicked in about 2 weeks after she started taking it. I noticed it one evening, all of a sudden. There wasn’t a gradual change – one day she was insane, the next, she was relaxing in front of the couch. Its amazing. She still loves to play, and she still spins and chases her tail, but its not as frequent or as constant. She’s been a bit snottier with Duncan, but now that I know what else is going on with her (see Reyna’s Hips), I tend to think at least some of the snottiness is because she’s in pain. And that’ll make anyone grumpy.

The changes have been holding steady for a bit over a week now, and I’m still amazed every evening. If I settle down on the couch or in the office, she’ll spin for a minute or two, watch me for a bit to see if I’m getting up, and then she’ll lay down. I’m pretty sure she’s not napping, and she’s quick to hop up if I start to move, but otherwise, she just relaxes. Its great. I asked the vet if I could keep her like this for the rest of her life, and he said that if we found a nice, low dose where she still has her drive but isn’t totally nuts, he’s okay with it. As far as I can tell, nothing about her personality has changed except for her ability (and willingness) to just relax. I really like this.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Lock Me Up and Throw Away the Key

Its official – I am, however unintentionally, a baby bird killer. Would that be negligent aviacide or birdslaughter?

A small bird has been nesting in my dryer vent for most of the summer, which was fine. I would periodically check it, though, to make sure it wasn’t blocking the air flow. This Saturday I checked it and realized that there was a lot more debris in the vent and that it was blocking the air flow. And as much as I’m willing to help a bird in need, I’m not keen on the idea of my dryer getting messed up because the vent wasn’t working properly. I started pulling out some of the debris, and a nest popped out suddenly. There were five eggs in it, so I put the nest back in the vent, but not the rest of the debris, and I hoped that Mama would be okay with the new setup and not all upset that some human had been messing with her nest.

Sunday, John came over and we did laundry. When we went outside to play with the dogs, we realized that the air in the vent had pushed the nest out. Sadly, two of the eggs were broken. It never occurred to me that all the other debris was there just to keep the nest in place. I now have the nest – and the remaining three eggs – in one of my plant baskets outside, so it will get the warmth and hopefully be protected from any predators that might want to snack on little bird eggs. With any luck, these three weren’t horribly damaged in the fall and will actually manage to hatch. I’ll deal with the feeding and releasing to the wild issues later...

Monday, August 14, 2006

Tail Tips

My poor Reyna has a wound on the end of her tail that just will not heal. Of course, the reason it won’t heal is because she won’t leave it alone. You’d think she would, because it appears to hurt when she bites down on it, but oh, no, not her.

We went through the first round of antibiotics over a month ago, along with bandaging the end of her tail. The wound was starting to heal, and then she tore the skin off of it. So we started round two of antibiotics, as well as a round of prednisone in case there was itchiness that was making her chew on it, along with bandaging the tail again. As far as I can tell, all the prednisone did was make her eat every scrap of food she could find, including Duncan’s, and the antibiotics made her feel bad. But the wound looked like it was healing again. Then one afternoon, I noticed a couple of small cuts under the injured spot. And the next day, she ripped the skin off again. So what was a nickel size injury is now a nickel with three cuts below it and a gouge running from the top over it across the top of her tail.

And thus began round three of antibiotics, more bandaging, and the added bonus of puppy prozac. My dog has been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (just as a side note, my regular doctor thinks Reyna and I should stop drinking the water – I keep telling him I drink bottled and she drinks tap…). The vet said the puppy prozac shouldn’t change her personality, it should just help distract her from the OCDs. He also said it should take about two weeks to see a real difference, and we’re nearly there. So far, no difference. I’m supposed to call him this Friday with an update, and I have enough pills for two months, so we’ll see.

On top of all this, about six weeks ago she suddenly became very hesitant to jump in the truck. When I realized it was happening every time, I started stressing that now that she’s two, her hips are going bad. The afternoon of August 3 (the same day we went to the vet to get her prozac), she actually fell out of the truck while trying to get in it. Its been pitiful to watch her, because its so obvious that she’s scared to even try. The vet says it may just be a pulled muscle, which would be great, but how do you convince her that she really shouldn’t be chasing her soccer ball at full speed? I’ve seen her limp a few times and show other signs of injury, but she’s not consistent. Most of the time, she acts like she’s just fine. Of course, this is the same dog that didn’t indicate she’d nearly cut off the tip of her tail, and then when I was messing with it, didn’t react at all until I accidentally folded it in a direction it wasn’t supposed to go. And even then, her only reaction was to turn and look at me.

So, anyway, we’re going to try and heal the tail. Again. And then we’ll deal with the potential hip issue. And then I’ll ask for a pay raise so I can pay off the medical bills.

Hippy Hippy Shake

On August 2nd, Duncan and I went to the German Shepherd Club meeting, as we try to do every month. This month’s speaker was a vet from the NCSU Vet School, who specializes in orthopedic problems in dogs. His talk was on osteoarthritis in dogs of all ages, which, while interesting, really isn’t relevant to this particular post.

Duncan was up and down throughout the talk, visiting with folks and trying his hardest to get to a female dog that he likes. Apparently, the vet’s assistant was watching him, and she thought he was having trouble getting up and down, so she asked if I would let the vet look at his back legs. I’m always up for a free hip exam, so I agreed. Duncan’s breeder heard, and she immediately started insisting that he was perfectly fine, just hadn’t grown into his back legs. Which I tend to agree with.

So, the vet watched him trot and then did a quick manual exam of his hips – took maybe a minute. He then announced that Duncan has a disease called genu valgum. He said its mild now, and it might stay mild, or it could cripple him. No way to know without tests. He also said its been a relatively recent discovery in dogs, for vets to recognize it for what it is and diagnose it. A cat scan would apparently prove it, but wouldn’t necessarily show the extent. And for those that are scratching their heads and saying “ge-what?”, genu valgum results in a look that is similar to knock-knees, but instead of the knees coming straight together, the hip is rotated in to some degree. Its caused by a bone growing longer on one side than the other, and the only way to correct it is major surgery that involves cutting out the longer bone, pinning everything together, weeks of recovery, and lots of rehab. Somehow, I don’t think its particularly inexpensive…

While the vet is telling me all of this, the breeder is insisting that everything is fine, he just hasn’t finished growing. Of course, what set her off is that the vet said genu valgum is hereditary. So she’s naturally stressing over the potential for issues with Duncan’s littermates, the litter before his from the same parents, and how to find out which parent might have this gene. The vet also mentioned this might be why Duncan has trouble getting into the truck, although I’m more inclined to think that’s just laziness. But who knows?

After the meeting, I looked genu valgum up on the internet. I found a few articles about it in humans, but nothing much about it in dogs. Since I was at my regular vet’s office the next day, I asked him about it. He’d never heard of it, but he said that this vet is basically God’s gift to canine orthopedics, and that if this vet were to look at his dogs for even 45 seconds (never mind the whole minute Duncan got) he’d take anything he said as the gospel. He did say that he’d probably wait til Duncan is 2 years old and full grown before getting a cat scan, since they would be able to determine the severity a bit better then. So that’s what we’ll do. Sigh.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Happy Birthday, Mycroft!

My sweet Mikey is 6 years old today. His first few months with the family were a bit difficult for various reasons, but he grew up to be a good natured, affectionate boy. Happy birthday, Mikey!