Was he part German shepherd, as most people guessed? Maybe some mastiff, or Great Dane, to account for his size? Some thought they detected retriever, or ridgeback, Catahoula or coonhound. It was a true whodunit – who exactly got together to produce such a beast? What made him so big? Where’d that curly tail come from?
It was an enjoyable mystery, unlike the kind of guessing game that becomes more common as a dog ages.
Then it becomes not what he’s got in him, but what he’s got. (I know that’s bad grammar, but I like it better, and I’m in control, at least of the words on this page.)
It’s amazing, and depressing, all the things that can go wrong with dogs, not to mention us. And the path to figuring out which one has – even when you do have medical insurance — can be torturous.
Breed determination tests require just a simple swabbing of the inside of the cheek (or a blood test), but determining what’s wrong with your dog will likely take numerous even more expensive ones that may or may not yield an answer, or even a general category into which his ailment falls.
Is it orthopedic, neurologic, digestive, cognitive? Or could it be, instead of a purebred disease or disorder, some sort of mix?
But first things first, or at least now. Ace seems back to normal. Unlike the previous two days, when he was a mix of clingy and anxious and, while he would sit, refused to lay down – an American Clinganxious Setter, maybe? – he’s himself again, and seems to have no complaints.
He’s back on the futon as I write this — one of the areas he has avoided for the past two days – back in the role of muse, as opposed to object of my fretting. He’s laying — or is it lying — down at will. He’s eating, drinking, pooping, peeing, playing and breathing normally.
A visit to the vet — and yes, I still want to marry a veterinarian — brought no definite answers. A battery of blood tests showed that liver, kidneys and pancreas were all clear, and that he had an only slightly elevated white blood cell count.
He was dispensed some anti-inflammatory pills, which may or may not account for his improvement. Still, upon the vet’s recommendation, I will engage in the also-not-fun, though highly challenging, game of catching one’s dog’s pee in a cup, and will tote a urine sample to their office this week.
Then, depending on what the pee reveals, and depending on whether he shows any more symptoms or strangeness, more tests are a possibility — X-rays of his stomach to ensure no parasites or other foreign objects are lurking there, neurological tests because of his earlier problems, and a day-long test for Cushing’s Disease, which the vet mentioned was also a possibility.
Or, given what appears at least today as an apparent recovery, was it nothing at all? For all I know it could have been the full moon, a ghost, a sound he was hearing that I wasn’t, or an extended blonde moment, even though he’s more auburn.
Adding to the uncertainty, when your dog appears to be ailing, there’s always the question you ask of yourself, or at least I ask of myself: Am I under-reacting, or over-reacting? The answer of course is that, in circumstances like these, over-reacting is preferable, if not good for the bank account.
For you newcomers who haven’t memorized Ace’s breeds, I won’t repeat them here. You’ll have to look it up, just in case I ever move to one of those backward towns that enforces or is instituting breed bans — though I probably wouldn’t — but in the event of which Ace is a collie.
Let’s just say, of those breeds that showed up in the three DNA tests he has had in the past two years, one is Japanese, one is Chinese, one is German (but not a shepherd) and one is an overused and misunderstood catch-all that’s not really a breed at all.
As for all those friends and readers who have offered their opinions, I do appreciate the input, the sharing of your own experiences, and the support.
As for Ace, once he wakes up, I think he’s due for a not-too-strenuous hike.
It’s always good to work a little sunshine into the mix.
Posted by jwoestendiek December 18th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, ailment, animals, behavior, breed, cushings disease, diagnosis, disease, disorders, dna, dogs, guess, guessing, health, identification, medicine, mix, mutt, mystery, pets, strange, tests, travels with ace, uncertainty, veterinarian, veterinary, won't lay down
Better yet, I’ll spell it out: Single White Male in search of Single Female Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, and by LTR I mean not just long term relationship, but marriage.
I might be willing to give the institution another try, but only with a veterinarian.
This decision is based not only on certain financial realities with which I am confronted, not solely on being a journalist without a real job, but on my belief that anyone who has devoted her life to dogs — as long as they are not all self-righteous about it, or hoarding them — is going to be a good person.
So, yes, I plan to marry, and live happily ever after with, a yet-to-be-chosen veterinarian.
(The unidentified one in the photo above, which I found by Googling, would be fine, but I’m not sure if she’s a veterinarian or a model, or, since her left hand is hidden behind the dog’s ear, whether she’s spoken for.)
In the interest of being totally frank, even though my name is John — nice to meet you, do you come here often? – I will reiterate that at least part of this life choice is based on practical, in addition to any romantic, interests.
Ace is nearly 7, beginning to get up there for a big dog. I am 58 (though, by making it a point to take poor care of myself, I can manage to still pass for 60). I’m feeling quite fine today, but Ace is showing signs of another ailment.
He has taken to acting like a cow, but only at night.
While seeming otherwise fine, he has been exhibiting two unusual behaviors. The first is standing like a cow, declining both offers and orders to lay down. When he does finally consent to joining me on the couch, or bed, he insists on putting the front third of his body on top of me.
None of his appendages seem to be bothering him, and I’ve manipulated them all to no end. No other spot I press on seems to cause him any pain. His symptoms are not like those back-related ones he was experiencing a few months ago. He acts mostly normal during the day, but once night falls, he becomes a cow.
He’s eating regularly, his bowel movements are on schedule and his stool seems fine. (Mine, too, in case any potential suitors are wondering.)
I have Googled myself silly trying to figure it out. At one point, I was convinced it was carbon monoxide poisoning, because he was standing by the door a lot, as if to say we must leave the premises at once. When he went out, though, he did nothing, except stand like a cow some more. I went out and bought a carbon monoxide detector. It hasn’t gone off.
Last night, I began suspecting bloat, even though what’s going in, food-wise, seems to be coming out, and he doesn’t seem inflated.
I’ve even asked myself if his ailment might be something other than physical — a cognitive disorder, though it seems to early, stemming from his advancing years. But then I forget that I’ve asked myself that.
Each day he seems fine, recovered, running, playing and happy, and I cancel my plan to take him to the veterinarian. Then at night he becomes an unmoving cow again, but, unlike a cow, seems anxious about something.
So he’s going back to his vet, who’s not an option when it comes to my plan to return to wedlock with a DVM, as he is a he and he is married.
But how wonderful would it be, now and moreso in the future, to have someone right in the same house who could observe Ace’s behavior and — contrary to my uneducated guesswork — come up with an immediate diagnosis and treatment plan?
To spare me from the anguish — and, despite any jest herein, it is anguish — that comes with knowing something is bothering your dog and not being able to figure it out?
And perhaps, even though her background is in dog health, to detect any excessive panting, or drooling, or other warning signs, that I might be exhibiting myself?
Til death do us part.
What I haven’t mentioned yet — because it’s a small thing, which has only a slight bearing on my love for veterinarians — is neither Ace nor I have health insurance, and we’re both getting to an age where that might be handy.
If I married a kindly, female, financially secure, unattached veterinarian, I can only assume Ace would get free medical care — given that Ace would become her dog, unless we parted ways, in which case, as spelled out in a pre-nuptial agreement, full custody of Ace would revert to me.
And if, in addition to making a good living from being a veterinarian, one of those rare careers that actually has a future, she had her own human medical insurance — the kind that covered spouses — that would be some highly appreciated icing on the cake. That would just make our bond even stronger.
I think we would be very happy together.
Yes, I kind of like time and space to myself. Yes, I probably work too much, definitely too much for a person who’s unemployed. True, I can’t shower you with luxurious or expensive things, but I do occasionally shower. I’m probably not “a catch.” As I’ve already stated, I will be 60 in a couple of years.
Nevertheless – and I”m going down on one knee now — I ask you, female veterinarian, will you marry me?
And, whatever your answer, can you help me back up?
(Photo: From Topcollegesonline)
Posted by jwoestendiek December 16th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, ailment, ailments, animals, behavior, bloat, cow, diagnosis, dog, dogs, dvm, female, finances, health, health insurance, insurance, ltr, marriage, marry me, medicine, pets, proposal, sick, standing, symptoms, travels with ace, veterinarian, veterinary, wedlock
No, not in the manner you might assume. I am refraining from sharing his stash. Nevertheless, I have calmed down – because he has calmed down.
When I get on the floor next to him, or even glance at him there, it’s as if the drug is somehow passing into me. Seeing him more comfortable makes me more comfortable, just as hearing his yelps put me on edge.
By way of background, I took Ace, 6, to the vet last week after, a few days earlier, he began yelping every time he made a sudden motion. A herniated disc was the diagnosis, and the course of action recommended by the vet was NSAIDs to relieve the inflammation and doggie valium — Diazepam to be precise — to keep him unnaturally calm during the two weeks of bed rest prescribed.
I’ve heard of some negative side effects associated with NSAIDs and dogs, and I’ve never been big on pharmaceuticals that mask symptoms and alter moods, but the conservative – and least expensive – approach struck me as worth trying first.
The effect was almost immediate. Ace had been restless, pacing slowly and holding his head carefully, as if anticipating another burst of pain. His tensing up made me tense up, which made him tense up more, which made me tense up more.
It’s a phenomenon I’ve noticed before – how our emotions and moods tend to play off each other and snowball.
Say a big scary bug comes in the house. I, upon seeing it, will jump up and reach for a magazine, shoe, or other instrument of death. Even before I jump up, though, Ace, even if he hasn’t seen the bug, mirrors my startled (assuming the bug is scary enough) reaction, almost as if he can sense, like a pending earthquake, my heart rate increasing from the other side of the room.
There’s a kind of emotional synchronization that occurs between dog and owner – and maybe it’s true of any two beings that co-reside, even spouses.
In our duality, we find a oneness, to the point we think we can read each other’s minds – and often we react based on that.
When Ace is happy, which is usually, it makes me happy, which makes him even happier, which makes me even happier. One of the things at the root of our love for dogs, I think, is that spiraling contentment and joy. Of course, the same is true, at least with Ace and me, when dog or human are unhappy.
Our dogs are a reflection of us, and we are a reflection of our dogs.
This reflection stuff gets reflected on a lot in my book, “DOG, INC: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend,” which recounts the history of cloning dogs and its emergence as an industry that, in the view of critics, exploits the grief of bereaved pet owners.
One of the reasons losing a dog is so tough – on top of it bringing an end to all that respect and admiration we see in their eyes, all that loyalty and unconditional love – is, I think, that we see ourselves in them.
Cloning our dogs – as some people are doing – is not just a futile attempt to skirt death, but also, it can be argued, an attempt to recapture one’s own youth, via a puppified version of their own dog. When the old mirror dies, we can get a new, genetically identical one – one that looks exactly the same, but has the added benefit or making us feel younger when we look into it.
How dogs reflect their owners is the subject of another new and fascinating book, “Your Dog is Your Mirror,” which we will get around reviewing soon. (Those of you who visit ohmidog’s dog book page may have noticed it’s a bit behind, and doesn’t even include my book.)
Written by dog trainer Kevin Behan, “Your Dog is Your Mirror,” puts forth the theory that a dog’s behavior is driven by its owner’s emotions — that dogs respond to what their owner feels, even when the human isn’t aware they are feeling it. Behan says dominance – or being the pack leader — is not the key to dog training. Instead, it’s understanding what emotions you, the human, are passing on to the dog.
It’s the heart — more than dominance, treats or anything else — that connects dogs and humans.
For now, controlled substances are giving us a hand, providing Ace and me with a symbiotically snowballing sense of serenity. Yes, it’s somewhat artificial. And yes, I worry that the drugs will make him feel better before he actually is, leading him to attempt things he shouldn’t attempt.
So we are staying mostly in our current temporary lodgings — a mansion basement in North Carolina. He is under orders not to romp. So I shan’t romp, either. Instead, we’ll limit our outings. We’ll pop the occasional pill. We’ll read, and watch TV, and watch each other, the way we do, having plenty of time for some quiet reflection.
Posted by jwoestendiek March 22nd, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, books, cloning, diagnosis, dog, dog inc., dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, drugs, emotions, health, herniated disc, kevin behan, mirror, mood, moodiness, north carolina, nsaids, pets, reflected, road trip, tranquilizers, travels with ace, treatment, valium, veterinarian, veterinary, your dog is your mirror
Ace apparently has a herniated disc – a condition his temporary veterinarian hopes will go away with several weeks of rest, a ban on strenuous physical activity, some anti-inflammatory drugs, and multiple daily doses of doggie Valium.
Seeking to solve the mystery of the periodic yelps he has been emitting the past few days, we paid a visit to Ard-Vista Animal Hospital in Winston-Salem, where Ace – after two days of being poked and prodded by me – was poked and prodded by someone who actually knew what he was doing.
It was the first time, other than our stop in Santa Fe to get updated on vaccinations, that Ace required medical attention during our travels – ten months during which he has probably jumped in and out of the back of my Jeep Liberty 3,000 or so times.
There’s no knowing what caused Ace’s disc to herniate, but I suspect that’s the culprit, which is easier to say than I suspect I’m the culprit – for I’m the one who dreamed up this trip, I’m the one who repeatedly says, “Getinthecar, getinthecar.”
Veterinarians – the one Ace visited included – make a point of telling owners of dogs so afflicted that it’s probably nothing they did, that it could be genetic. But guilt is like an old faucet – even when somebody tries to turn it all the way off it still drips.
I’d felt the guilt even before we got to the vet, back three days ago when Ace, who is six, first balked at jumping into the car. I ordered a ramp the next day, and it came today, about two hours after we got the diagnosis — and thankfully before I had to lift him into the car, in which case we’d probably be talking about two herniated discs right now.
We arrived at the vet early, after a morning in which Ace’s behavior turned even more bizarre. He followed me everywhere I went, toilet included, and sat at my feet, peering sadly into my eyes. I’m not one to put words into the mouths of dogs, but many of us dog people receive messages whether they’re being sent or not, and the one I was getting was, “This pain I’m experiencing – the one I refuse to let on where it is (because, after all, I’m a dog and can’t talk)? It’s getting worse. Is there nothing you can do about it?”
Dr. Raymond Morrison ran his hands along all of Ace, moving his legs, testing his joints, none of which produced a yelp – only a couple of mild growls. When he pushed down on Ace’s head though, Ace yelped, just as he had when I did the same thing the night before.
Dr. Morrison’s diagnosis: A herniated disc, something that’s not uncommon in either little dogs, like dachshunds, or big ones, like Rottweiler’s. With Ace it appeared to be a disc located near the neck. The vet opted for conservative steps – a Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug (or NSAID), administered once a day. Despite having heard of some pretty bad side effects from NSAIDs in dogs, I agreed.
The drugs and bed rest might possibly take care of the situation. If they don’t, and his pain continues, he’ll need to get x-ray, CT scan or MRI and be evaluated by a neurologist. Surgery is a possibility.
A herniated disc is a tear that allows spongy material to escape from the disc and protrude into the spinal canal, like jelly oozing out of a jelly donut. By pushing on the spinal cord, it causes inflammation, resulting, in Ace’s case, neck pain. In more severe cases it can lead to weakness and a lack of coordination in the limbs, loss of bladder and bowel control, and paralysis.
Based on the diagnosis, there will have to be some lifestyle changes – some temporary, some permanent. No more jumping in and out the car. No more jumping in and out of my bed, at least not for several weeks. No more collar around his neck; instead we’ll use his harness. And for the next two weeks, no frolicking, no wrestling, no playing – except for perhaps a quiet board game.
Well be laying low in the basement, during which time I’ll likely continue to ponder that grey and squiggly line between pampering and over-protecting one’s canine and letting a dog – ala “Merle’s Door” — be a dog.
Just now, eight hours after our vet visit, six hours after administering medication, we stepped outside. Ace, for the first time in several days, gave his body a full shake, and crouched into a play stance, full of life. All his guardedness about moving his head – at least for a moment – was gone. As Dr. Morrison said might happen, he was raring to go, wanting to play and seemingly feeling no pain.
“That’s just the Valium talking,“ I said. “No playing. Stop being joyful.” He obeyed, and started looking sad and droopy again.
With that I grabbed his harness (his collar being garbage now) and, like two stoop-shouldered old men, we walked slowly back to the house.
At least for the next few weeks, I plan to err on the side of being over-protective.
Posted by jwoestendiek March 17th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, anti inflammatory, ard-vista animal hospital, car, diagnosis, dog's country, dogs, drugs, guilt, herniated disc, identifying, injury, jumping, medicine, merle's door, nsaid, over protective, pain, pets, raymond morrison, road trip, side effects, source, travel, travels with ace, under protective, valium, veterinarian, veterinary, winston-salem
He further advises that anyone who is licked by a dog wash the area immediately.
To me, a guy who has spent the last eight months with my dog nearly constantly at my side during our travels across America — including in whatever bed we happen to be sleeping in at night — that seems a massive over-reaction.
Bruno Chomel, a professor at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis, says that, while such cases aren’t common, people have contracted infections from sleeping with, kissing and being licked by their pets. Chomel and fellow researcher Ben Sun, of the California Department of Public Health, express their views in the latest issue of the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.
I don’t subscribe to that publication, because my theory is the surest way to get a disease is not from sleeping with your dog, but from reading about that disease.
Though I sleep with my dog nightly, I’m not so much concerned about Zoonoses, or diseases transmitted to humans by animals, as I am about Merckitis, a chronic case of which I’ve suffered from since childhood.
It stemmed from a big blue book called The Merck Manual, on my mother’s bookshelf, which allowed you to, based on your symptoms, diagnose your medical issue, read about the treatment and determine, in my case, if I was going to live to see 13.
I must have diagnosed myself with a dozen different diseases, many of them fatal, in the course of matching up my symptoms — usually those of a common cold — with the worst possible maladies.
I remember one night that — congested, unable to breathe through my nose and worried that my throat breathing pipe (non-medical term) might close up – I gathered the necessary supplies to perform an emergency tracheotomy (bic pen, with the ink part removed, pocket knife, duck tape) and kept them under my bed, alongside the book.
The Internet has made it much easier to wrongly self diagnose — just a few clicks and you can jump to the conclusion that you have the most dreaded disease imaginable. The key word there being imaginable. In a way, those medical self-help websites, rather than lessen the need for doctors, only create more of one as we, fueled by our fears, rush to confirm our faulty self diagnoses.
Pulled muscle? I was sure it was a heart attack.
Of course, such concerns are not always entirely baseless, and many of them should be checked out by professionals. But often, they’re only in our heads — having been placed there by WebMD, yourdiagnosis.com, familydoctor.org and the like. Often they are really far-fetched, instilling a fear out of all proportion with reality, which is the case with Chomel’s study, or at least his remarks:
“I think pets can be very nice in the home environment, but certainly, they don’t belong on the bed,” Chomel told LiveScience.
Chomel says humans can contract bubonic plague from flea-infested pets, bacterial infections resistant to multiple strains of antibiotics, and various parasitic worms.
Since 1974, Chomel says, multiple cases of plague have been associated with people in the southwestern U.S. who allowed flea-infested cats to sleep with them. And in a 2008 outbreak, a study found that people infected with bubonic plague were “more likely to have shared a bed with a dog than uninfected counterparts.” (Despite that, I still don’t recommend sharing a bed with uninfected counterparts.)
The authors cite surveys conducted in the U.S., the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands that show up to 45 percent of dogs sleep in their owners’ bed.
Several reports of bacterial infections have been attributed to sharing a bed with pets, and in “multiple” cases, they report, patients acquired various infections after allowing their dogs or cats to lick wounds or damaged skin.
That’s the total opposite of my philosophy. Whenever I get a boo-boo, the first thing I do is let Ace lick it. Then it feels better. If thousands of microscopic parasites enter my bloodstream by doing so, so be it … join the party, fellas.
Don’t tell me not to sleep with my dog, especially when it’s this cold. That’s like saying, because there may be some impurities in the air, I should stop breathing. I’m going to continue to engage in both risky behaviors.
And if worse comes to worst I can always, after consulting my Merck Manual, perform an emergency tracheotomy.
OUR FAVORITE READER COMMENT: “Pity poor Chomel. He has obviously not enjoyed the delight of a canine companion…I’ve spent the past 50 years sleeping with dogs – most of the canine persuasion – and if anything it must have strengthened my immune system … The plague? Only a plague of comfort and love. Poor Chomel.”
(For all the comments on this post, click the comment button below, and scroll to the bottom to leave one of your own.)
Posted by jwoestendiek January 24th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, bruno chomel, bubonic, davis, diagnosis, disease, dog, dogs, emergency, fleas, germs, infection, infectious, kisses, licks, medical, parasites, pets, plague, research, science, self diagnosis, self help, sick, sleeping with dogs, tracheotomy, transmit, transmitted, university of california, veterinary, zoonoses, zoonosis
With evidence both anecdotal and scientific showing dogs have the potential to sniff out diabetes — or at least detect the changes that occur when a person is about to have a hypoglycemic attack — a research center in southern England is training dogs to warn diabetic owners when their blood sugar levels fall to dangerously low levels.
As this 2007 video shows, some dogs already have the skill down, but the Cancer and Bio-Detection Dogs research center in Aylesbury, based on recent evidence suggesting a dog’s hyper-sensitive nose can detect impending attacks, is now working to train 17 dogs that will be paired up with diabetic owners.
A survey last December by researchers at Queen’s University Belfast found 65 percent of 212 people with insulin-dependent diabetes reported that their pets had reacted by whining, barking, licking or some other display when they had a hypoglycemic episode, according to Reuters.
“Dogs have been trained to detect certain odors down to parts per trillion, so we are talking tiny, tiny amounts. Their world is really very different to ours,” research center Chief Executive Claire Guest said.
The center is continuing work to perfect dogs’ ability in spotting signs of cancer. Guest said having a dog in every doctor’s office would be impractical, but the research could help lead to the invention of an electronic nose that will mimic a dog’s.
“At the moment electronic noses are not as advanced as the dogs’, they are about 15 years behind. But the work that we are doing and what we are finding out will help scientists advance quickly so that they can use electronic noses to do the same thing,” she said.
Pretty amazing stuff, but I think I’d rather be diagnosed by a dog than an electronic nose. And what’s so impractical about a dog in every doctor’s office? Seems entirely practical to me, and a good way — if shelter dogs could be trained to sniff out disease — to allow everyone to live a little longer.
Besides, it would make doctors’ offices far more inviting, and give us something to do in the waiting room.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 25th, 2009 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: cancer, detecting, diabetes, diagnosis, disease, doctor, doctors, dog, dogs, electronic nose, medical, nose, offices, ohmidog!, research, screening, sniff, sniffing, video