Vet Visits

I was going to post something else today, but was so annoyed livid on Tuesday evening (and most of the day Wednesday!) I decided to write and post this instead.

So Inka and I were sat in the reception/waiting area of our vets before our follow-up appointment about his haematomas.  Inka was stressing a little, so I was doing what I could to help him keep calm, including asking him to do some of the tricks he knows, the Look at That! protocol from Control Unleashed, and a little bit of Pattern Games too, as well as calmly petting him.

The waiting area isn’t very big, so I try to keep us within a small area, though this can be difficult at times, so sometimes I’ll ask Inka to hop up on a chair so he’s off the floor and out of the way; if the practise is very busy, I’ve been known to sit him on my lap, usually for his own sake, but sometimes for mine too.

Inka chilling out after being at the vets

You see, what a lot of people don’t seem to realise is that any of the other animals at the vets could be in a lot of pain, and an animal in pain doesn’t want some stranger’s sweaty hand all over him, nor does he want another dog right in his face.

It’s not as bad for small furries, and even small dogs because they’re usually in carriers or can be easily picked up. But bigger dogs, like Inka, are too big to put in a carrier, and too gangly, heavy and/or too unwieldy to pick up.  Or all three in Inka’s case.

That means that when someone walks in and has little to no control of their dog, he or she is almost immediately bouncing on the other dog’s heads, without even a basic show of politeness from the owner to ask if your dog is friendly.  Not forgetting, of course, the plethora of people who start petting and/or talking to your dog without first stopping to consider that even if your dog isn’t in pain, he’s likely to be quite stressed out just by virtue of being at the vets.

All in all, other people often do not make vet visits easy.  This is not helped by the fact that when you ask someone to remove their dog from your dog’s face, or their hand from his person they often don’t.

At all.

Some might ask why (and then ignore your response as well as the original request), some might say “oh, but he likes it” (I’m sorry, can really you not see the huge stress signals he’s telegraphing to you about how uncomfortable he is right now??!), or as the dog owner we contended with on Tuesday evening, they might smile gormlessly at you, while still allowing their dog to harass your, as you tell them your dog’s in pain and is likely to snap – complete with a lack of basic control of their dog and obliviousness while they speak to the receptionist/nurse (yes, the dog was on a flexi lead – thank goodness it didn’t also have a choke chain on!)

Meanwhile, as a responsible owner I’m left trying to separate their dog from Inka, and ensure enough distance is kept that the other dog isn’t pulled back to jump on his head, while the owner continues to discuss politics with fairies, or whatever it is that’s currently occupying their mind and obviously so much more important than their dog and his or her well being.

I’m generally not a nasty person, but between this dog owner as we waited to see the vet, the lady who was very intent on petting Inka as I tried to keep my very obviously stressed dog calm and pay the bill, and the woman with a staffy on a choke chain who moved to sit two feet away from us, and proceeded to strangle the poor dog rather than help keep him out of the way and keep his stress levels down (plus I’m sure she hit the poor dog, though as we’d just left I didn’t actually see it, but it sounded like it) I was ready to hit someone…well, maybe not, but I wanted to at least give them all a good talking to about appropriate human behaviour and their lack of it in that setting.

It’s very simple, all you need to remember is: when at the vets, don’t pet.  Not at all, even a tiny bit on the sly, and certainly do not allow your dog into the face or space of any other dog or human.  Also, it should go without saying (but I have seen it happen, on purpose, recently) keep hold of your dogs lead!  Even if he is “friendly” and “just wants to see” someone else in the waiting room, do not, ever, ever, ever let go of that lead – he may just want to say hi, but he may also be so stressed out of his head that he completely freaks out and bites the person instead, and while there are a lot of dog owners that would recognise the difference, I’ve seen many more that wouldn’t.

Thankfully, Inka’s preferred method of dealing with stressful situations shit clueless humans try to put him through is to flee, and even when he couldn’t really flee as he was on lead and in a small area, I would put money on the fact that he wouldn’t bite, unless he was seriously provoked – which, of course, I wouldn’t let happen.  He might threaten it, and on Tuesday, I wouldn’t have blamed him one bit.  And I probably wouldn’t have held back if someone had made a comment about him being aggressive, but I managed the situation so that nothing too bad happened, and then after we got home, Inka got to play in the sudden downpour of rain.  I still felt bad for what he’d been through though.

As for Inka’s ears, we’re to finish all of his pills, cream, and drops and see how he is from there.

Growling

I said in my last post that I was grumbled at when I tried looking at Inka’s sore ear last week.

I was happy that Inka growled at me, not only because it let me know how much his ear hurt (i.e. he needed vet visit that evening, rather than leaving it for a day or so to see if the swelling was going to subside); but also because it gave me another opportunity to let Inka know that I listen to him and respect his needs.

Good boy Inka for growling!

He growled, I stopped touching his ear.  I apologised.  I petted him.  I asked him to sit, and compared the external properties of his sore ear to his normal ear.  I thanked him, petted him again, and called the vets.

That was it.

No big worry about Inka thinking he’s “pack leader”, or “top dog” because I let him growl at me; and no thinking about how I might wrest this title from him.  He’s no more leader than I am (though I suspect that some days he might like to lead his “baby sister” down a forest track and leave her there).

Growling isn’t his way, or indeed any dogs way, of trying to “dominate” someone or something.  Growling is communication, and in this case Inka was saying “oww, that hurts”.

What sort of person would I be if I hadn’t listened to him, and kept looking at his ear – aside from, potentially, a person with a bite?

As it happened, once he knew I understood his ear was sore, he was OK with it being gently handled, even by the vet – who’s new by Inka’s standards, having only seen him once before – and who made him stand on the rather wobbly examination table.  If he didn’t trust me, I don’t believe he would have let me, or anyone else, look at his ear; so I’m glad that we were both able to show trust in each other.

There are , or at least seem to be, many people who believe “nice” dogs don’t growl, or that their dog growling means she’s now a “bad dog”, and must either be shown he’s not the “pack leader”, or somehow told off for this unacceptable behaviour.  This I find quite an odd belief, as dogs growl in many situations – when they’re unhappy, sore, when they’re worried a possession is going to get taken from them, or that they might get hurt, and of course they growl when they’re playing too.

People need to learn to listen to their dog, especially when she’s being so obvious in her communication.  What about you, has your dog ever growled to communicate with you?  What did she want to tell you?

Oh, Little Man…

Well, after our nineteen vet visits with Inka last year, this year was starting to look good. We’ve got almost entirely from January through to the end of April without so much as even seeing the surgery, aside from two routine visits to pick up worming tablets.

The reason for that however, is that Inka was saving up!

Me, save up for a big vet visit? Never!

I noticed on Monday that he wasn’t shaking himself off properly, and on closer inspection found that one of his ears was swollen and a little bit weepy, and it was obviously painful as when I gently touched it I got grumbled at (although on another note, hooray for communication!).

One vet visit later, Inka has two different drugs to take and is scheduled for surgery tomorrow (Friday).  Thankfully, the drugs seem to be doing their job, and his ear is less swollen, though he’s still wary of having it handled.

It’s just a haematoma, so it shouldn’t be a particularly long or complicated surgery; however that doesn’t stop me worrying about how Inka will handle being ‘alone’ at the vets – although one advantage is it’s not the first time I’ve left him there, so hopefully he’ll remember that I’ll pick him up later on in the day.

I hope you’ll be spending your Friday in a more enjoyable way!

Neutering

I’ve seen a lot of discussion lately about neutering your dog.

Neutering being the gender-neutral form of spay and castrate.  I don’t know when, or why, it became “cool” to say “spay and neuter”, frankly I think that makes you sound kind of silly – it should be “spay or castrate your pet”, or “neuter your pet”, but that’s not really the point at hand.

Then I saw this photo on Facebook.  For me, on that day, this was enough.

Yes, responsible ownership, responsible breeding, population control, reducing the number of ‘unwanted’ dogs – whatever you want to call it is important.  Hugely so.

Neutering isn’t rocket science, but it doesn’t always make it the right choiceNeuter appropriately to avoid health and/or behavioural problems.

Being responsible with your pet is much more important than paying someone to remove something you have control over them using.

I have two dogs, one entire male, and one entire female.  Well, we assume Starr hasn’t been spayed, but then again we don’t know how old she is, whether she’s already been in season, whether she’s been spayed and will never have (another?) season, and when she might be due to come into season again.  And I know Inka hasn’t been castrated.

Does this mean that we’ll have an accident if/when Starr comes into season?  Hell no!  We have crates, and dog/baby gates, and doors, and frankly – we have at least one brain cell in our house (though it’s occasionally debatable who’s in control of it at any given time!).

Regardless, on the days when Inka or Starr seemingly have the household brain cell, I still wouldn’t let them within touching distance if I even thought Starr was even a little bit in season.  That’s just the type of common sense that doesn’t leave your brain.

So Inka not being castrated won’t be a problem, and it means he’s had chance to grow properly, and he has, and continues to steadily grow in confidence.

And Starr not being spayed won’t be a problem, and it also gives her the chance to mature – mentally and physically.

If the time is ever right for one, or both, of them to be neutered then I will do it.  But not doing it doesn’t make me irresponsible.

Get a Vet Check!

A friendly vet, someone who can help you with a myriad of animal-related queries
http://www.flickr.com/photos/sean94110/240080740/

It might sound bad, but recently I’ve wanted to yell this at my computer a lot.

Your dog’s not jumping a low jump – get a vet check!

Your previously house-trained dog has suddenly started to soil in the house – get a vet check!

Your dog has started performing a new “strange” behaviour, or won’t perform a previously learned behaviour – get a vet check!

Your dog’s gone off his food, doesn’t enjoy her walks, or anything else that’s not normal – your first point of call should always be your veterinarian. Not your friend, not someone on the internet, not Google, but your vet. Book an appointment, or if it’s urgent, call and ask them, all vets will (or certainly should) have someone on-call 24/7 that you can ask a question of.

The one thing you don’t necessarily want to discuss with your vet, is training or behaviour modification – sadly some vets are still in the “dark ages”, and may recommend things such as alpha rolls, harsh ‘nothing in life is free’ programmes, lead jerks, and so on.

It Takes a Village to Raise a Child…

They say “it takes a village to raise a child”, and whoever ‘they’ are, they weren’t far off the mark.  I can say with certainty that in our case, it’s true; although by child I mean Inka, and by village I mean trained professionals.

Inka’s currently  half way through his sixth week on painkillers for a soft tissue problem.

When he first came home, I took him to the vets for a general check-over, and I mentioned to the vet we saw that his hips were visibly uneven (easily by a good inch or more), and he was rather stiff through his rear end.  The vet checked the range of movement of his hips and said it was nothing to worry about.  Given that Inka’s half collie, and collies grow hind-end first, I put it to the back of my mind thinking that perhaps he would grow into his wonky hips, and they’d be wonky no more.

Inka

Inka, before his pain management and restricted exercise regime started

Fast forward almost twelve months, and his hips and gait have improved somewhat; but I’m still having to lift him into the car – he won’t jump in.  In twelve months, Inka had jumped into the car a total of three times, the last one being almost seven weeks ago.  After jumping in the boot, eating a really nommy extra special treat, and jumping out again I put him back in the house while I nipped out.  Less than an hour later I returned home, and thought we’d brush up on his “puppy positions”.

His sit was perfect, his stand was good, brilliant sit again, then I asked for a down…nothing, I asked again…still nothing, I lured him into the down, then another sit, then I tried the down again.  No movement on his voice cue, I moved to lure him, he dipped his head, I tried again and he didn’t move.  I cued a stand, rewarded him, finished our session and began to think.  We were indoors with no distractions, and he’d trained that exercise in that exact location only days earlier without a problem…why wouldn’t he lay down??

The next day, after talking over the situation with a trusted friend, I booked a vet appointment.  This time, the vet wasn’t happy with the way his hips moved, so booked him in for an X-ray the following morning.  Thankfully, the X-ray showed Inka’s hips to be “perfect”, and in fact what was thought to be his problem hip was actually better than his other one.  He was sent home with some painkillers, and put on restricted exercise, with advice to book a hydrotherapy session.

Since then, Inka’s been back to the vets three times, had his painkillers changed once, been for three hydrotherapy sessions, and had a chiropractic adjustment.

Seemingly, now, things are going well.  His gait has improved, his ability to listen and focus seem to have increased, his hips are level, he plays with more vigour, he seems more able to regulate his speed when walking without using the back of my knee as a buffer (almost knocking me over in the processes!), and most impressively – last night he repeatedly jumped into the boot of my car.

We’re back at the vets again later this week; I don’t know what the next step will be as he’s currently on half a painkiller every other day (down from one half every day), but I don’t doubt that it will be positive.  I’m keeping everything crossed that Inka’s days of pain and painkillers will soon be behind us, and we can get back to “real life”, and the important things it holds for us.

Morgansr Got An Inkaling

Throughout this, I’ve felt lucky to have the friends that I do – those who I can confide in, talk through my options with, and get recommendations and suggestions from.  I know Inka is thankful for all of our friends too, even if he’s not sure what they’re all doing for us!

Product Review – Thundershirt

Soon after Inka came to live with us, I decided to get him a Thundershirt.  As a non-working sheepdog, he was really nervous, which at a guess was probably due to inadequate socialisation in the early weeks & months of his life, or to put it bluntly – living on a farm, and then living in a shed.

He frequently vomited in the car, not to mention all the drooling; he’d leave the car looking like I’d used it to bathe him, whether we drove 2 minutes down the road to the vets office, or fifteen minutes to training classes (the sick was kind of like and ‘added bonus’ for longer journeys only); he was nervous of people – especially men; he was very sound- and sight-sensitive, and would jump at the slightest visual or auditory hint of wind or heavy rain.  A Thundershirt seemed like it would complement the behavioural modification programme I was putting in place for him, and at worst it would do no harm (and it’s backed by a 45 day refund period).

Sizing it was a little difficult, though that was because of Inka, not the Thundershirt.  When he came home in July at about 9 months old, he weighed at the low-end of 19Kg (the breed standard for a Huntaway has an upper weight of 29Kg!!), we eventually decided on the large Thundershirt, and when it arrived it would wrap just small enough, though now he’s gaining weight & growing, it fits better each time he needs it (he now weighs ~21Kg and has grown about an inch or so).

Inka wore his Thundershirt almost constantly at first, he was always more settled in it than out of it; and he especially wore it any time the car was involved, or the weather wasn’t so great, or we were having visitors, and even for his first few lessons at our local training centre.  With his Thundershirt, alongside a behavioural modification program, Inka has improved immensely in the six months since he came home; and now he only wears his Thundershirt when the weather is particularly bad.

We were especially thankful for his Thundershirt over the Christmas break, as on two separate occasions we had localised, short thunderstorms, both of them in the early hours of the morning.  The first storm was just a single clap of thunder, the second was a bit longer and had hailstones, a couple of lightening bolts, and several thunder claps.  Both times, the three of us woke up, both times I got out of bed, said “lets go get your Thundershirt on” to Inka, both times he followed me into the front room, and sat waiting on the rug, had his Thundershirt put on, and we all went straight back to bed and fell asleep without any problems.  I’ve never regretted getting Inka his Thundershirt, as it’s helped in every situation he’s worn it in, but after the two mini-storms we had recently, I think I like it even more – if that’s possible!

When I first got involved in dogs, I must admit I wished I had a “real” problem dog to try this strange Thundershirt thing on, and now that I’ve used it with Inka I wouldn’t hesitate to use it with any other dog, or recommend it to anyone who was considering trying one for their dog.

Inka in his ThundershirtI was neither asked nor compensated in any way by anyone for writing this review; I wrote it simply to share my experience with the Thundershirt in the hopes of helping other dog owners make an informed decision about whether it may help their dog(s).

National Microchip Month 2011

Welcome to my blog! I hope you enjoy your visit, and maybe even decide to stay! This will, I hope, be the first of many posts, and in honour of June being “National Microchip Month”, I wanted to talk (or write?) a little about micro-chipping.

First, the important part, in the UK, Petlog is the largest microchip database, and throughout June pet owners can check & amend their contact details for free.

A microchip is a small device (people often say they’re about the size of a grain of rice, though I’d be pedantic and say they’re a little wider), which holds an identification number, which is linked to the owners details via a database. They are often called an “RFID chip”, which stands for “Radio Frequency Identification”. The type of microchips used to identify our pets are “passive”, meaning they have no power source and are designed to act only when they are acted upon (by the microchip reader).

A lot of people worry that implanting a microchip in an animal hurts it, and I can honestly say after witnessing several animals (dogs and rabbits) being micro-chipped, it seems to cause no more discomfort than a vaccination.

In the UK, micro-chipping is currently not compulsory, though in New Zealand, all dogs born since July 1st 2006 need to be micro-chipped.

I think micro-chipping is an awesome thing, because as long as the owners details are kept up-to-date, if a pet goes missing, or is stolen, it can easily be proved who it’s owner is and they can be reunited. Just recently I was watching one of the “Animal Cops” series of programmes on Animal Planet, and an owner was reunited five years after the dog had been stolen, simply because the dogs’ chip was checked. On the BBC News website there are two stories about pets who were re-united with their families after three months, and five years away from their families.

What are your opinions on microchips (or any other form of permanent pet identification), or do you have any stories about them?