Friday, February 26, 2010

Stop it with the stereotypes

If you hate all pit bulls, I ask you to read through the pages of this blog.
You may find that you have to remind yourself I’m blogging about a dog who is 75 percent pit.
And for all those people who stereotype my dog’s breed and the type of people who own pits, I hope these pages also serve as reminder as to why stereotyping is ignorant.
I am sick and tired of hearing people say that all pit bulls are inherently blood thirsty killers and that the only people who own pit bulls are low life thugs.
I am a proud pit bull owner. I am a responsible young woman. I have a college degree. I have a full time job. I am married to a good man who also works a full time job. We are homeowners. We are taxpayers. We are good people and by God, we are pit bull owners too.
Reading some of the comments to stories on our Web site, like the some of ones on the dangerous dog ordinance being considered in Rochester Hills, just make me sick.
I am not ignorant and I will not defend the pit bulls nor the owners who allowed this atrocity in Rochester Hills to occur. Without a doubt, it’s owners like that who are responsible for the reputation the breed has.
I feel terribly for the owners of the little dog who was killed. I wish them not just healing, but justice. I hope that justice involves someone taking a serious look at whether the owners of the pit bulls are fit to own more dogs in the future.
If I ran the world, you’d have to have a lick of common sense to be an animal owner. Of course, I feel the most important lick of common sense to have is the one that tells you to keep your pets in your yard.
Unfortunately, I think the majority of dog owners out there don’t subscribe to that, so to those of you who like to let your dogs run loose, be grateful I don’t run the world.
There is nothing good that comes from letting your dog run. Nothing at all. Your not-dog-friendly neighbors get angry because little Fluffy poops in their yard, your dog risks its own life and limb each time it darts out into the road, your dog can also get into roadkill and other dead animals and I have known at least one dog who died after eating from a rotting deer carcass, and the worst of all is the risk that your dog could hurt or kill another person or pet.
Even if you think your dog is super friendly, that is only how you know your dog to behave when you are around. By itself, having to make decisions for itself and take leadership for itself, your dog could behave entirely differently. A little fear can turn into a lot of aggression very quickly.
And for the sake of good sense, if a fence doesn’t hold your powerful breed dog, modify. Find something that works.
Working on training too, and that goes for everyone and all the breeds out there.
But please, stop it with the stereotypes. Me and my dog deserve better.

Monday, February 22, 2010

E-collar alternatives

The owner of Maddie, a 5-year-old Yorkie/Silky mix, e-mailed me after my last blog with this photo of her darling dog sporting an inflatable collar.
“This isn’t the answer for all issues, depending on where the injury is, but for my small dogs it works well,” writes Debbi Lowry, owner of Maddie.
As the recipient of a couple different pet product catalogs, I have seen a variety of alternatives to e-collars that are on the market.
In addition to this inflatable type, there are also “comfy cones” where the cones are made out of a soft material and other alternatives. Another e-collar alternative, called the Bite Not collar, isn’t a cone at all, but rather a wide, stiff collar that extends from the dog’s shoulders to head, limiting the movement of the head.
A quick google search for “e-collar alternatives” turns up a variety of options, articles about them, and links to where they can be purchased.
While I only spent a cursory amount of time searching the web, I did not find any alternatives that would work for my dog’s situation, though.
Here’s the deal: The collar Maddie is wearing in the picture to the left, as well as the other collars I mentioned, are perfect for after spay/neuter procedures or any other time that you need to prevent your dog from turning around and reaching areas like their stomach, legs, tail, etc., with their mouths.
When the situation is reversed, though, these collars don’t work as well.
For instance, I am not trying to stop my dog from using his mouth to lick a wound on his back leg, but rather am trying to stop him from using his back leg to itch his ear.
Just about any time you have a facial injury, my initial thought is that the plastic e-collar is going to be necessary.
Small dogs may be an exception to this, though it probably depends heavily on the individual dog and type of collar used.
For Debbi, however, I think the inflatable collar will probably work in just about any situation. She’d know better than I would, but it looks to me like Maddie’s little legs might not be able reach beyond that inflatable ring.
The moral of the story?
There are options other than the e-collar out there — many of which are far more comfortable for the dog, but not all the options may work for preventing a dog from scratching his head or facial area.
But the most important thing to remember is that no matter what collar you use, introduce it to your dog in advance of any surgical procedures so he or she can get used to it.
Debbie — thanks for the e-mail and great photo!

Sensi update
He got his bandage off on Saturday and has been doing very well. We left the e-collar off for the bulk of Sunday while we were home and he didn’t mess with his ear at all.
Of course, we’re not taking any chances — the e-collar still goes on for each potty run, during the night and during the day while we’re gone.
The ear appears to be healing really nicely, though it’s not the most appealing sight with all those stitches. The stitches will probably come out this Saturday and I’m sure I wouldn’t be wrong to say that Sensi can’t wait!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Introducing the e-collar

As I thought about putting the elizabethan collar on my dog the other night, it struck me that I really didn’t have enough time to properly introduce him to it.
For those who may be unfamiliar with it, the elizabethan collar — commonly called the e-collar — is that plastic cone-shaped thing usually used on pets after surgeries to prevent them from scratching or licking their wounds.
Almost all pets will have an e-collar strapped around their necks at some point in their life, be it for a spay or neuter procedure or for a plethora of other reasons, like emergency surgeries.
The first time we put an e-collar on Sensi was when he was neutered at nine months old. I remember that he came home from the veterinarian’s office with it on. We quickly took it off and, because the dog had 24-hour supervision back then and he never tried biting, licking or scratching at his stitches, we never put it back on him.
That is, until this January.
His allergies were acting up and he was scratching and licking at himself like crazy, creating open wounds on his legs and muzzle. While we were able to stop him when we were around, it was whenever we were gone or asleep that he’d really tear into himself.
I kept that e-collar all these years and, before leaving to visit some relatives for a belated Christmas function, I decided he should wear it.
Five hours later it, I returned home to find my sleeping dog positioned on the other side of the room from the badly mangled e-collar.
Sensi had managed to fold over the e-collar’s edges with his paws, grabbed hold of it with his teeth, pulled it over his head and ripped it up. I’m guessing, obviously, but I think it’s a pretty good guess.
About a month later, Sensi has had surgery on his ear and the ear is now wrapped up in a big bandage. If he were to scratch it, there could be some very serious damage. It is now imperative that he wear the e-collar.
My first concern was ensuring that the e-collar was a good fit and I urge everyone who will have to use an e-collar to talk with their veterinarians and make sure the collar you’re bringing home is the appropriate size.
If the collar is not put on at the veterinarian’s office, you should ask them to show you which setting you should use (like a regular collar, there are different options to make it tighter or looser around the neck) and to demonstrate how to put it all together.
Sensi’s new e-collar is shorter than the last one and the vet encouraged us to use a tighter fit than we would’ve chosen on our own. Fortunately, the snug fit has kept the collar on and prevented any further injuries to his ear.
Rather than just throwing it on your dog one day, though, I encourage people to be proactive about this one.
The fact is, your dog is probably going to have to wear one these collars at some point in his or her life. Why not introduce your dog to it slowly and properly?
This might mean you pick-up the e-collar from the vet’s office a week before your pet is scheduled for surgery. I’m sure your veterinarian would be glad to give it to you in advance (though, these collars are not free, so don’t expect that).
Use treats to introduce it to your dog. Make it a positive thing. Teach your dog that he can go for walks, chew on bones, play tug-of-war and do all his normal and fun activities with the collar on.
Then, when he’s hurting from surgery and feeling downright miserable, you won’t be adding something unfamiliar and scary on top of everything else.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Hold me, Mom!

There’s nothing quite like anesthetic to make your dog behave like a wounded child.
When we brought Sensi home after his surgery yesterday, all he wanted was hugs.
For as long as I can remember, Sensi has periodically sought out “hugs” from us. A hug from Sensi means that, once we’re seated, he lowers his head so his muzzle is pointed at the ground and then walks right into us, burying his head in our chest. He fully expects us to then wrap our arms around him.
While Sensi was feeling good to be home last night, he was still very discombobulated from the anesthesia. He’d forget what he was doing and would wind up just standing in one place, staring at nothing until his legs began giving out on him. We had to remind him to sit and lay down.
Because I believe in spoiling my dog at least where comfort is concerned, I brought out his big dog bed from the bedroom and put it in front of the wood stove where he likes to lay and soak up the heat from the fire.
I invited him over, tried to get him to step on the bed but instead, he just scooted up next me and leaned in for a hug. He stayed put until he was falling into me, his eyes closed and breathing relaxed while he fell asleep.
It was about as endearing as endearing gets.
He did the same thing to both my husband and I as often as he could last night and again this morning.
If you think you feel bad leaving your dog at home every day, imagine trying to pull yourself away from a dog who just wants to fall asleep in your arms.
Here’s a photo from last night — note the cone-shaped bandage on his left ear.
I took the photo while getting dinner ready. Sensi always wants to be near me when I’m in the kitchen but doesn’t like to sit or lay on the hard surface of our wood floors. He meandered out there to watch me cook dinner, but when I turned around and saw his legs leaning precariously to one side, I figured I had better grab his bed before he fell over and broke a leg!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Another allergy side effect

The term cauliflower ear isn’t all that rare — you’ve probably heard it used at some point in your life.
It’s most general use is in describing a human ear and usually, that human is a wrestler who has sustained some sort of trauma to the cartilage in his ear.
So, what is cauliflower ear and how does it apply to dogs?
Cauliflower ear appears as a sac of fluid in the dog’s outer ear. It can begin looking like a puffy spider bite but can get larger and larger, until you’re feeling quite sure that this requires the attention of a veterinarian.
This injury is the result of a trauma to the cartilage in the ear — hence why it’s most closely associated with wrestlers whose ears are at the risk of a lot different ways to be injured during a match.
The way it was explained to me is that the blood vessels, once broken, can put a lot of pressure on the blood vessels around the affected area, causing those blood vessels to rupture as well, which then causes the pocket to fill with more fluid and expand in size.
Left untreated, the ear can eventually become completely disfigured — as is the case with many wrestlers.
The disfigurement, of course, is where the term “cauliflower ear” comes from in the first place. Apparently, the disfigured ear can look a bit like cauliflower on a person. I personally have seen this on at least one person in my life and I have to admit, the term “cauliflower” is quite appropriate.
The medical term, at least for dogs, is “hematoma.”
Anyhow, wonder how a dog can get this type of injury? Think it’s probably something extreme? Think again.
My dog gave himself cauliflower ear by scratching.
Of course, it wasn’t your run-of-the-mill scratch. No, it was the type of persistent scratching that is caused by allergies.
As my regular readers already know, I’ve been dealing with a particularly bad bout of food allergies since the beginning of the new year. Allergies in dogs most often result in compulsive licking and scratching, which is exactly what Sensi went through, tearing up his skin and ripping out his hair in the process.
At first, it appeared this pocket of fluid in his ear was going to go away. After filling to be a little larger than a quarter on the inside of the ear, the fluid levels seemed to decrease and later seemed to almost disappear completely.
But then it filled up again. Who knows why — maybe he scratched the ear again or shook his head just hard enough to rupture those blood vessels again.
Either way, our luck wasn’t so good this time. The pocket continued to grow every day until it was clear that we’d have to get our veterinarian to operate.
Sensi went in for the operation today at Oxford Veterinary Hospital, where he’s been going for years now. I have to say, if anyone is having a hard time finding a good veterinarian, you might want to try this place. There are two doctors at the hospital; we see Dr. Stephen Steep. There are lots of things that make him a great veterinarian — the fact that he’s quite knowledgeable of animal behavior happens to be my favorite.
And no, just because someone is a veterinarian does not automatically mean they know animal behavior. I’ve come across lots of veterinarians who are very good at what they do but appear rather clueless when it comes to the behavior side of things.
Anyhow, they let me to stay to watch the procedure. There are different procedures to correct the problem, but the one Sensi had began with a incision straight down the center of the fluid pocket.
After the mostly-blood fluid mix drained, Dr. Steep began stitching the skin back to the cartilage. This, I’m sure, required some finesse. The incision was left open so the wound can continue to drain.
After it was done, the ear was wrapped up like a cone.
Sensi is still recuperating at the vet’s office and I’ll be heading in later today to pick him up. It sounds like there is a substantial amount of aftercare to ensure he heals well — the hardest of which might be getting him to leave his ear alone.
That may just be the topic of my next blog — is it possible to train a dog not to shake his head?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Too many firsts for an old dog

Like having a child, a dog gives you so many of those heartwarming “firsts.”
I remember my dog’s first bark, the first time we walked around the block, the first time he successfully completed a “roll over.” I remember his first swim, his first birthday and first Christmas and so many other “firsts” too.
Not all firsts are quite so endearing.
For instance, I remember the first time he learned that leashes can be pulled on — after all, who can forget being pulled through a snowbank and smacking into an icy, wire fence?
I also remember the first time he broke out of his cage and left a path of destruction in his wake.
Or, how about the first time he thought he’d try out a gel pen as a chew toy and left ink stains in the form of paw prints on every piece of new carpeting we’d just purchased?
After a certain point in your dog’s life, though, firsts become rare. It happens so slowly you don’t realize it’s happened, but it has.
Your dog becomes incredibly predictable. A tail wag before breakfast, licks when you get home, barks by the front door to signal that it’s time to go potty. And of course, that way he always curls up by your feet and lets out a big sigh once he’s comfortable and settled in.
Through this whole allergy ordeal, I caught myself saying “for the first time ever” far too often. It felt strange and weird coming out of my mouth. It’d been such a long time.
And reflecting on all that’s transpired, none of it was good.
For the first time ever, he refused to eat his food.
For the first time ever, it took me longer to prepare his breakfast than it did to prepare mine.
For the first time ever, he refused to open his mouth so I could shove more pills down his throat (OK, to be honest, I can’t believe that one took as long as it did to happen).
For the first time ever, my dog tried to eat dirt and swallow wood chips.
For the first time ever, he didn’t spit out wood chips in his mouth when we said “drop it!”
For the first time ever, I was awoken at 4 a.m. by my dog, who whined and whined until I finally opened my eyes.

I’m ready to go back to the way things used to be. I want my healthy, predictable old dog back.