Katie’s New Shoes

Recently Katie has had a hard time walking. Indoors her back legs will slip and sometimes she will collapse. Outdoors we went for a walk and her back right foot would drag a little, causing a scrape on the top of her foot. I don’t think she is in pain since the damage seems to be neurological, but falling down and getting scrapes can’t be good either. I do think the exercise helps. I had some of that tacky stuff that goes underneath area rugs to keep them from slipping so I put some of that underneath towels and comforters so she could get some good footing in places. But I couldn’t do the whole house. The comforter in the living room has become almost like a pen that she doesn’t want to leave. When I come home she stands up and stands at the edge, waiting for me to come pet her.

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The Neurologist

I took Katie in to a veterinary specialist today to see if they could figure out what is wrong with her back legs not working. I had guessed that it might be degenerative myelopathy earlier based on symptoms, but knew that it could be something like a slipped disk too. The neurologist asked me about what was going on then checked out her eyes and facial nerves. Then tried all four legs and then palpated her spine, finding a very sensitive spot about halfway down her back. Then we walked her outside and he watched her walk around. When we came back in he gave me his thoughts.

He feels like she has something wrong in one of her disks or maybe a tumor pushing on her spine. He said it isn’t just her back legs, but her front legs look like they are acting a little funny as well (though not nearly as bad). He then outlined a series of tests that could be done to pinpoint the exact problem. One of these is a myelogram where they put dye into the spinal cord and take an x-ray which then might show what kind of damage there is. Plus bloodwork, anesthesia, etc., the tests were going to be about $3,200. One of the possible problems he mentioned was Wobbler Disease, which is some kind of spinal cord problem which is usually associated with disk damage or something like that. I looked it up in my copy of Wikipedia while I was waiting for them to take x-rays of Katie and it said the treatment is usually either surgery which may not be effective, or steroids, which is what he was recommending anyway. On the bill, the steroids were $9. So we’ll see how that goes. He said the x-rays showed some arthritis in her spine, which is typical for old dogs and may put pressure on the spine. They didn’t see any tumors, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there. And they couldn’t see disk damage because the disks don’t show up without an MRI or CT scan.

Meanwhile I hope to get Katie’s sneakers in the mail which will give her better footing indoors (I put some comforters and blankets down in the house with no-slip things that go under rugs and she has quickly learned to stay on those) and keep her from getting her feet scraped up when she drags them on walks. For disk damage I need to cut back on her walks, rather than keeping up with the walks as therapy for myelopathy. I may order a doggie wheelchair if her back end doesn’t get any better. Everything I see on the internet is for dogs who got wheelchairs and then died later because the dogs are usually pretty old by the time they get a wheelchair anyway. The good thing about these nerve-related problems is she isn’t in much pain and is otherwise pretty alert and normal.

Degenerative Myelopathy

Lately Katie has had more trouble walking than usual. She has been arthritic for a while and had two knee surgeries, but things have gotten worse. A couple of times she has just fallen down. She doesn’t seem to be in a lot of pain, her back legs just don’t seem to work correctly. I took her to the vet today and they ruled out a couple of things and said they would try increasing the dosage of an anti-inflammatory that she takes already. They also said it could be neurological rather than arthritis and they could refer me to a neurologist, but the tests get pretty expensive. I asked would there be that many treatment options after going through all the expensive tests and the vet wasn’t sure. Katie is 12 years old, which is getting pretty old for a black lab.

Later I was reading about a condition called degenerative myelopathy. It is a disease of the spinal cord and nerves in older dogs where the myelin sheath of the nerves starts to degrade and disrupts the communication of signals from the brain to the muscles. It isn’t painful like arthritis, but it does cause dogs to fall down and affects their back ends usually. The degenerative aspect means it gets worse and worse and the back legs of the dog can be completely paralyzed in months and even spread to the front legs. If Katie has this, it is not good. But the decline has been pretty sharp lately making me think it isn’t just arthritis, though it could also be a ruptured disk. I am thinking that if I take her to the neurologist they may be able to narrow it down quickly or maybe just start treatments as if she has the condition and see if that works, skipping the expensive tests and hoping the treatment isn’t that expensive.

In the meantime, since her legs don’t work that great, I thought I’d get her some shoes and my vet recommended some good ones from neopaws.com. These will give her better traction on the floors indoors and can protect her feet if she drags them while we are on walks (I got the summertime/indoor type instead of some of the cold or wet weather ones). David helped me trace her foot so we could order the correct size. They cost about as much as my shoes, but I am only getting them for the back legs. Exercise is actually supposed to help slow the effects, so if it helps her exercise that will be good, even though it won’t do anything for the overall weakness and collapses. They also make those wheeled carts for the back ends of dogs that could work, including one that lets them still walk but the wheels keep them from collapsing. Fish oil tablets, which I would give her sometimes anyway, are also supposed to help, along with Vitamin E (3V Caps is a brand of fish oil tablet for dogs that has Vitamin E added). Changing her flea and heartworm medication may also help, and the brand Revolution is recommended by one site, so I may order some of that.

Puppy in the House

On the Avondale bulletin board a woman was looking for a home for a stray black lab puppy she had picked up in December. She has taken great care of the dog, taking it to the vet, getting him fixed, microchipped, and boarding him because she can’t keep a dog in her apartment. I offered to foster care for him while she looks for a home because I know boarding isn’t cheap, and I just don’t like the idea of any dog being boarded for so long, especially that young.

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She brought him over yesterday. He is incredibly skinny, but he has a ridiculous appetite so I know he will pick up weight. I can’t even feed my two dogs with him around because he just dives right into their food. They don’t know if they are allowed to put him in his place, so they just let him do it. He hops right up onto the sofa and stays right beside me, loves to fetch and likes to chew on a nylabone, or really chew on anything he can get to. One of the first things he did was stick his head in a waste basket with junk mail in it and had 3 or 4 pieces of unopened mail in his month, walking away like it was some kind of prize or like he should go deliver it. It was pretty funny.

Katie and Austin are tolerating him, but Austin is kind of freaked out and doesn’t even like staying in the same room with him. That’s terrible because Austin likes being next to me so much but this dog (his rescuer has named him Moses) just wedges in like other dogs aren’t even there.

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I’ll post some pictures this weekend. He looks pretty much identical to Austin except smaller and skinnier.

I only worked 6 hours today, but that still meant I was away for over 8 hours and he didn’t have any accidents or destroy anything (well, one dog toy was disemboweled).

He is estimated to be eight months old and is smaller than Austin or Katie and much thinner than either one. He probably only weighs 30 pounds, if that.

Friends of Dekalb Animals

On the community bulletin board I started, a person wrote in and asked for help for Friends of Dekalb Animals. This organization is independent of the Dekalb Animal Services but helps transport animals from there to the northeastern US where it is easier to find homes for dogs. It is very expensive to transport a dog plus some veterinary services are needed, but it basically saves the dogs life.

Anyway, they are doing a thing through Citgo right now called Fueling Good hoping to get a $2500 gas card to help them out. People visit Citgo’s website and vote for Friends of Dekalb Animals. You can enter every day and every time you vote you can then play an instant win matching game where you could win $25 in gas.

Once you have signed up, you can click Cast Your Vote on the upper right of the link above. Then enter your e-mail address. Then do a search by entering “dekalb” and click on Friends of Dekalb Animals. Then choose to vote for them and you can play the matching game. It doesn’t cost anything and maybe it will help them out. You can vote every day through January 4.

Giraffes and Big Canoe

Saturday I went up to Big Canoe to visit Mom, Carol, Bob, David, and Andrew who are staying all week as well as Jeb, Kathy, Kelly, and Claire who were just staying the weekend. But first I went straight to the zoo where it was announced this week that a baby giraffe was born. At least that’s when I heard about it in the AJC, but actually it happened on July 13. In the wild, giraffes have to be able to walk pretty quickly or they will be eaten. So they come out pretty big already, and this “baby” is already six feet tall. It’s amazing they survive at all given the drop from the mother which is also six feet.

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Austin Credit Card

Jenny at work, who adores Austin, has pictures of him that she has printed out on regular paper all around her desk. She has almost as many Austin pictures as she has pictures of Johnny Depp. So for her birthday last week, her friends gave her two framed pictures of Austin, so she would have something a little nicer than paper pinned to her cube. One of them was a picture I had take one day when I was taking pictures of flashlights outside during the daytime to get better light (my camera doesn’t take good pictures indoors). Austin got tired of me doing that and laid down. So I got a picture and it was one that Jenny printed out and then was one of that was framed for her. So that got me thinking that when I got my Capital One card, I could pick any picture and I had been waiting until I got a good picture of the dogs to use. So I went ahead and ordered a credit card with this picture on it:

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Opossum in a Fig Tree

I’ve had a lot of opossum activity lately. A few weeks ago at night, I let the dogs out and they were barking which they don’t do unless they’ve got something. So I rushed outside and they were barking at a tree. I used the flashlight to scan the tree and there were two faces looking back at me. Opossums about five feet apart in the branches. I thought it wouldn’t be good to take a picture because that might force them to play dead and they would fall out of the tree. Then just the other night we were taking a walk and the dogs perked up about something, but it was near a house where there are outdoor cats. I turned on my flashlight on low to look around and there was something scurrying towards us. It turned and came straight down the sidewalk towards us at a fairly casual walking pace, a opossum. I held the dogs back and it stopped as if it was just noticing us, thought better of its current path and turned to cross the street and away from us. The dogs loved this.

Then tonight I let the dogs out and they went bolting into the backyard. They don’t do this unless they are on to something. I grabbed the flashlight again (I keep one hanging right next to the back door for this kind of thing) and looked all around. Directly under the fig tree I could see out towards all of the canopy, but I didn’t see anything. I got out and went to the side and there was a opossum hanging on and watching us. I went back in and the dogs followed (amazingly) and got the camera. With the dogs shut inside I was able to snap this photo.

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Pandas

This morning Susan and I got up early to see the new baby panda, Xi Lan (pronounced shee lahn, which means “Atlanta’s joy” where Lan is short for Atlanta). Born in August and briefly rejected by its mother, Lun Lun, Xi Lan was named on December 8 after 100 days, and only went on exhibit in the last week or so, and only for short times in the mornings. We got to the zoo shortly after it opened at 9:30 and got to the Panda area before 10:00 when they typically would let Lun Lun and Xi Lan into a glassed in area. We got to see the father Yang Yang who is kept in a separate area (though he can see Lun Lun and Xi Lan through the glass, but doesn’t seem to care; in the wild male pandas don’t take part in raising the cubs and rarely see their mates). Also the earlier panda baby, Mei Lan, is in her own area. At two years old, she looks fully grown and will probably leave the zoo this year. It was very cold (in the 30’s) but the pandas didn’t seem to mind. Xi Lan came out, but seemed to want to go back into the off-exhibit area except that Lun Lun would go and drag him back so that she could keep an eye on him while she ate the fresh bamboo in the public area. The zoo staff was pretty good about keeping people quiet and saying that if people made a lot of noise the pandas would go back inside.

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Afterwards we went to see Susan’s favorite, the red panda. What I didn’t realize was this red panda is new, named Shandy. The previous red panda, Izzy, left in November to go to St. Louis to find a boyfriend.

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One nickname for a red panda is firefox. They do look a lot like a fox. But in the logo below they went with an actual fox instead of a red panda:

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Austin’s E-Collar

Austin had a growth removed from his backside last week. So that he won’t pull the stitches out, he has to wear an e-collar for 11 days. I already had one that I had gotten for Clio, but it was too hard for her to use, so I didn’t make her wear it. Thursday Austin had just come back from the vet and was pretty out of it from the anesthesia, so it wasn’t a big deal. Friday he kept running into things and would get the edge of the cone stuck on door jambs and just stop, waiting for me to get him unstuck. But by Saturday he was wandering around the house like a champ and avoiding (for the most part) running into things. By Saturday night, he actually broke it when I let him outside (I wasn’t supposed to let him out without a leash, but it was the middle of the night, so I just let him out; mistake). I was able to make repairs though and he wore it all day today while I was at work without a problem. I don’t make him wear it all the time, just when I can’t watch him and at night. The vet said a dog can pull the stitches out in a minute, so I don’t want to take any chances.

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He looks kind of miserable in the picture above, but he actually doesn’t mind. The cone attaches to his collar so when I take it off, he gets concerned, just like he does when I normally take his collar off. And then he wants it back on, just like normal. Wikipedia tells me that the E is short for Elizabethan since apparently Queen Elizabeth also could not be trusted not to pull her stitches out.

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