Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Do Dogs Suffer From Nature Deficit Disorder?

We're having a quiet Tuesday night; the dogs are on various comfy surfaces (dog bed, human bed, couch) and I'm curled up ready to settle down with a book (I'm re-reading Merle's Door). We spent a couple hours this afternoon enjoying one of our favourite, isolated, secret dog off-leash spots. I know that I feel better after a short time out in the fresh air, feeling the sun on my skin, walking among the trees. A few minutes of unplugged stillness can feel like an eternity.

My dogs' dad, Eric, says that he believes that modern day dogs need to reconnect with nature, to counter nature deficit disorder. I can't help but think he is on to something, with the huge improvement in behaviour and overall happiness my dogs seem to have as a result of our increased time spent in un-organized, get-back-to-nature hikes where dogs just get to be dogs. Yes it's hard to find those places, especially in a dense urban area, and even more so with a reactive dog. I've made it my mission to find as many secret places where we can all let loose and reconnect with the dirt.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Joint Supplements

I decided to start my three dogs on a supplement for joint support. I've used glucosamine on and off over the years, and usually supplement their diets with an omega-3 fatty acid supplement. They eat raw diets and chew bones, which does provide natural joint supplementation from consuming cartilage. I decided that Fletcher (14 years old) seemed a bit stiff in his back legs at a run/gallop, and Granger (9 years old) had occasional reluctance to jumping, especially after exercise. They get tune ups of chiropractic and acupuncture treatments as needed, but I thought I would start adding something in on a regular basis. Jake (6 years old) is very active, and I'd like to start taking him dock diving, so I thought I'd include him in my experiment.

I wanted something simple to give, in treat form would be preferable. Synovial-flex soft chews turned out to be the most economical for 3 large dogs. I've started Granger (20kg) on two chews and the boy dogs (both over 30kg) on three chews. After 4 weeks, I'll decrease to a maintenance dose, if everyone is doing well. The dogs were very excited about their "treats" tonight and it should be a convenient way to supplement them.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

My own dog's battle with a Mast Cell Tumor

One day I felt a pea-sized lump on the back of Tiki-Granger, my 9 year old Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Tiki often gets small skin reactions, and being short-furred, it’s easy to feel every little scratch and scrape. However, this lump happened to swell after being prodded, which can be a sign of a mast cell tumor. The next day I took Tiki to work with me, and tried to find the lump, in order to do a fine needle aspirate (FNA). I had to shave her fur in that area in order to find it and to be certain I was aspirating the right area, as it had shrunk down smaller than a pencil eraser. I sent a slide of cells to Idexx for analysis. Later that weekend, I logged on to the Idexx site and read the words I’d be dreading: mast cell tumor.

That night, I arranged for Tiki to have the lump removed the very next day (ahh, the perks of being a veterinarian). My boss did the surgery, as I have too much of a mental block to operate on my own dogs. The incision stretched 8 centimeters down Tiki’s back, and went one tissue layer deep under the skin. 

Mast cell tumors can be deceivingly invasive, and can send tumor cells in all directions like tentacles. They can also metastasize (spread), so Granger also had blood taken for analysis and, a week after surgery, had cardiac and abdominal ultrasounds done (did I mention the perks of being a vet?). 

Granger recovered uneventfully from the anesthetic, and her dad was right there holding her. 

In order to keep her incision safe from her and from our other dogs, she wore a nifty pair of dog pajamas.

After a few days on pain control, Granger was pretty much back to her old self, bugging us to take her on walks and trying to jump on and off the furniture (bad post-op behaviour!). Her incision healed beautifully, thanks to good surgical technique, and I began applying coconut oil once or twice a day when the incision was dry. After 14 days, her stitches were removed, and she was happy to be able to do her rolling-back-scratch-happy-dance once again.

Her bloodwork and ultrasounds were normal, and the histopathology report on her tumor indicated a grade 2 (low) tumor with clean margins. I also ran Idexx’s Mast Cell Tumor Prognostic Indicator panel, which looks at the DNA of the tumor sample. This again revealed a low-intermediate grade tumor with only small risk of metastasis and death from mast cell tumor disease. It was not the perfect result I was hoping for, but I couldn’t have asked for a better surgical outcome for my precious little girl.
Taken 18 days post surgery