May Update

OK, I know it’s been weeks since I’ve updated things here! I wish I could say that things have been vastly improved with Lady, but it has still been quite a slow process.

Her cough and itching have been greatly improved while on the steroid, but as soon as I tapered her down too far, they both started coming back. So I called the vet and got another bottle. I’m not starting her back on the high dose though–just 1/2 to 1 tablet once a day, and it’s definitely helping.

Her fur is growing too-slowly but surely! In fact, I even trimmed her butt fluffs a few weeks ago because I figured it was less fur to soak up her pee when she piddles in her crate and then lays in it! So as you might have guessed, potty training is still a bit of a challenge.

John found this cartoon--couldn't be more perfect

We had great success with crate training Murphy when he was a puppy. Dogs have a tendency to NOT want to soil in their living space. But for a mill dog–that’s all they’ve known! When you’ve lived your whole life in a cage or other small area, you don’t have much choice but to lay in your messes. So unfortunately, that’s what she does. The past week has been better, but for awhile there it was an every day thing. The ASPCA has a good article on rehabbing mill dogs, and includes information on potty training. It points out that it’s no different than potty training a young child, really. A baby spends its first two years going potty in its diaper, and then at some point we train them NOT to do that. Same thing with a mill dog–they spend a good chunk of their life making a mess in their living space, and we need to patiently teach them that life is much more pleasant when their fur isn’t caked with poop and reeking of pee.

Other than that, we’re definitely seeing some tiny bits of progress. Not to mention cuteness! 🙂 John snapped this picture of her one night while she was sound asleep in her crate–

Yeah, I'm comfy...thanks for asking!

Another little surprise actually happened this morning. I was making breakfast for the dogs, and Lady was doing her usual romping back and forth in front of her crate to see if I was bringing her food yet. This in itself is hilarious to watch. The entire rest of the day, this dog is a virtual couch-potato. But the minute I take her dish into the kitchen, her ears perk up and she bounces out of her crate to pace around the dining room until I bring her food. So this morning I was spoiling the dogs by making some scrambled eggs to put in their food, and I guess I was taking too long! She scampered back and forth, pausing to peek around the corner to see if I was coming yet. I stopped and said, “Lady, do you want your breakfast?!” She looked right at me and let out the cutest little bark! It’s only the third time we’ve heard her bark at all in the three months we’ve had her, and the first time she barked in a communicative way. Shailee pointed out the irony of the whole situation….we’re always trying to get Murphy to shut up, but we get all excited when Lady barks. I guess it’s all relative, eh?


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Baby Steps

One thing I’ve had to learn with Lady, is to watch for even the tiniest hints of progress. After 8-10 years of living outside with little human contact, she has a lot to overcome. And think about it–she doesn’t know what she was missing all those years! It’s not like she sat there every day thinking, “Gee, I sure wish someone would rescue me so I can be a house dog!” To her, that life was just life, and everything that has happened to her over the last few months is just different, new, and scary.

So it’s easy to get frustrated that she doesn’t come to me for pets or treats, or that she wants to spend most of her time sleeping in her crate. It’s really sad to me that she seems to have absolutely NO Sheltie instincts at all. Heck, she barely seems to have any dog instincts–she’s kind of like a living couch potato with no purpose in her life now that she’s done having puppies. But I’m learning to watch for the little things and see those as progress, because really, we’re teaching her how to be a dog all over again.

One HUGE thing happened on Friday–Lady barked!!! I took her outside to go potty before we left for the vet, and there were some birds singing up in the trees. She looked in that direction and barked twice! The only other times we’ve heard her make a peep were once when we first got her and Murphy startled her with his wet nose while she was sleeping, and then last week John said she made a little woof in her sleep. Otherwise, she has been completely silent. I was so excited to hear her bark that I had to contain myself from scooping her up for a big hug, which would of course have scared the crap out of her. (What’s really ironic about this is that Murphy, on the other hand, barks ALL the time–like most Shelties do–so I had to laugh at the thought that I was so excited to hear a Sheltie bark. I may regret these words someday!)

Another small victory came about this weekend too. Lady has had no clue what to do with a bone. She’s probably never had one before! I’ve tried giving her a rawhide or even an oxtail when I made vegetable soup, and she just gives me a look like I’ve lost my mind. So this weekend I gave her a raw beef short rib in her crate. She sniffed it, then circled around it a few times, licked it, and then tried to take a bite. She couldn’t figure out why it wouldn’t just come apart into bites, but at least she kept sniffing at it instead of just giving up and ignoring it. So I finally got halfway into her crate with her and held the bone steady for her, and she actually chewed a few bites off of it. I tried to show her how to put her paw over it to hold it, but she didn’t quite get that idea. But again, it was progress…she has always pretty much ignored anything like that in the past, so it was good to see her show some curiosity!

She also continues to be more and more excited over mealtimes. Any time she sees me in the kitchen, she gets up, comes out of her crate, and paces back and forth to see if I’m going to bring her anything. Sometimes when I look up from the sink, she’s peeking around the table at me, and when I do bring her something, she wags her tail like crazy. It’s slow progress, but it’s definitely a step ahead of where she started.

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A Few More Weekend Doggie Photos…

Would you PLEASE stop pointing that thing at me?!

I think her fur is coming in more…she looks all fluffy after her bath Saturday night!

More Murphy.

She loves me--yeah, yeah, yeah!

Keeping watch...

Take my picture--I'm cute!

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Some Pictures from the Weekend

I think Murphy is getting jealous that Lady gets her own blog. So I thought I’d post some pictures of him too. Murphy is my boy–he is ALL Sheltie, ALL the time! One of his favorite games is “Pink Ball”. While our house does back up to a farm on two sides, alas, the farm has no sheep, so Murphy has to find other things to herd. “Pink Ball” fits the bill perfectly! I hope you’ll indulge a few pictures of my handsome guy!

One Happy Dog!!!!!

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Friday’s Visit to the Vet

Friday afternoon, I took Lady back to the vet with my laundry list of issues to discuss. Oh, and another poop sample, and a little vial of pee. I have to interject here that someday when I die, I think my family will note on my tombstone that I was a person who could successfully get a pee sample out of just about any pet. We used to have a cat named Stinker who would regularly get urinary tract infections, and would notify us of it by peeing on our new, custom-made futon cover. Seriously, we got to the point of covering the furniture in plastic tarps every night before we went to bed!  (But that’s a story in marital strife for another day!) Anyway, I used to plop the cat in the litter box, tell her, “Stinker–go potty!” and when she squatted down, I’d quickly hold an old film canister under her bum and sure enough, I’d get my sample to take to the vet! So Friday morning, I took Lady outside with the little tray and syringe the vet gave me, figuring that I’d probably scare her and she’d bolt back into the house without doing her doggy business. Well, I haven’t lost my technique I guess, because as soon as she “assumed the position”, I very quietly nudged the tray between her back paws, and thankfully, she didn’t notice! Oh yeah, I rock!

But I digress…..

So the good news is, her hookworms are GONE, and NO urinary tract infection!

We still had the issue of her constant itching and her cough though, as well as the incontinence. We decided to try Temaril P, which is basically a combination steroid/antitussive drug used for itching and coughs. (Who’da thunk it?) It may not do the trick permanently…she starts on a higher dose and then tapers down, so we’ll have to see how things go once she’s down to the minimal dose. I have to say though, after two days, she’s barely scratching, and her cough has diminished. If it’s in fact a collapsing trachea, the steroid might help that a bit, but regardless, the anti-inflammatory part of the drug should minimize the swelling and irritation.

As for the incontinence, our two choices were to either give her a bit of estrogen, or a drug called Proin, which increases the muscle tone in the urethra. The vet felt strongly that we should try the Proin first, because since Lady was a breeding dog, she’s is already at a higher than normal risk for mammary tumors, and the estrogen can increase that risk. The Proin comes with it’s warnings as well….it can increase blood pressure and heart rate, but since her heart sounds nice and strong, he suggested trying this first and only moving to estrogen if it doesn’t do the trick.

Hard to tell if it’s working or not yet…I can usually tell if she has “leaked” because her fur smells wretched even though there’s no telltale puddle. But, as luck would have it, we went out to Lowe’s yesterday, and while we were gone, she pooped a mother load in her crate, so any smell of pee was….ahem….overwhelmed by something much worse. Ohmygoodness….How can something so cute smell so bad? (I’ve said that about babies too!) It was probably from being on new meds, but wow! What made it worse is that it was close to 8:00 before we got back, and we still hadn’t had dinner. So I was trying to get the grill going while cleaning out her crate, wiping off her paws, and trying to keep her from stepping in it all over again.

After dinner, it was off to the tub for Miss Lady. And shortly afterwards, off to bed for me!

Did we really HAVE to do this?

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It’s Always Something!

Working with a dog who probably never had much vet care can be interesting, to say the least. I find myself wondering where to even begin. I (like most of us, I’m sure!) don’t have unlimited funds to run every test under the sun, so I’m often trying to research her various symptoms to get some idea in my head what might be going on, so I can present it all in a succinct way to the vet.

Here’s what we’ve been through so far…

Visit #1–I took Lady to the vet a few days after we adopted her for an overall checkup, and to have a broken nail looked at. The vet listened to her heart, checked her teeth and ears, and said she looks fine. We left with an antibiotic for her paw, and a poop container to bring back a stool sample the following month when she would be due for her heartworm check.

Visit #2–Heartworm test negative, (Thank God for that!) but stool sample tested positive for hookworms. (Ugh…)

The other symptoms I brought to the vet’s attention were slight incontinence, extreme lethargy, a persistent cough, constant scratching, and what seemed to be really slow fur growth, considering that she had been shaved about four months ago. Since I had done some reading on those symptoms, I requested a thyroid check, and asked about estrogen or other meds for the “dribbling”.

The thyroid check came back fine, and the vet didn’t want to medicate the incontinence situation until we ruled out a urinary tract infection. She also wanted to do more extensive bloodwork to rule out Cushings, but since we were there on a weekend, she couldn’t do the full blood panel–no weekend couriers from the lab! She also suggested that the cough could be a collapsed trachea.

So now the plan is to bring her back in for more bloodwork, a urine test, and a recheck on her poop test to make sure the worms are gone.

I had also read that the itching and cough could be due to the hookworms, so I was really hoping that after her two doses of wormer, we might see an improvement. No such luck. I almost think the coughing is worse. It sounds like the noise a cat makes when they have a fur ball, and then finishes with a big wet-sounding hack, but she never coughs anything up. (Sorry, that was probably TMI right before lunch! Ha!)

I’ve also been giving her Benadryl to see if it helps the itching, but no luck there either. I suppose food allergies are still a possibility…I can try switching completely to a fish and sweet potato formula. She’s not getting anything with corn or wheat at the moment, so maybe it’s chicken? I feel like Nancy Drew trying to solve a mystery!

Honestly, another thing I’ve thought about, is that maybe it’s just her fur growing in that makes her itch! Girls, we all know how annoying that can be! Right now some of her wooly undercoat is coming in, and it doesn’t feel like it would be very comfortable to me!

Sigh….so for now, I’m continuing with the fish oil, Vibrant Pets, and yogurt with her food. I’ll let you know if more clues appear. I’m certainly open to any suggestions!

A bit of good news though….I’m getting more regular tail wags from her at meal and potty times! When she sees me making her dinner in the kitchen, she will come out of her crate and pace around the dining room. When I peek around the corner at her, she stops in her tracks and makes a beeline back to her crate. Too funny….

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Fur Progress?

I had to give Lady a bath tonight–she seems to have a little incontinence problem and her fur gets to smelling so bad it can make your eyes water. We have an air purifier right next to her crate, and I wipe her tummy off with baby wipes just about every day, but it still builds up after awhile.

She was so cute and fluffy after I blow dried her, so I had to take some pictures! I compared them to some pictures of her from 2 or 3 weeks ago, and I think maybe she’s getting some new fur growth! Her flanks are still looking pretty sparse though. Blah….Everyone says it will probably take a good year before she really looks like a Sheltie again.

See what you think!

Taken a few weeks ago...

Taken last night...

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