Dog trains man

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Hovawart, Next In "Pedigree Dogs Exposed?"

Two weeks ago I came across this heartfelt shout-out of Carmen Töller on Facebook:



The post was shared in a couple of Facebook groups dedicated to Hovawarts and quickly went "viral" - or, as viral as a post about Hovawarts can possibly go.
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Friday, February 19, 2016

Tilde Has HD and Why I Don't Freak Out About It



Tilde has Hip Dysplasia. It's bad news I could have done without. With that said, knowing her background as a rescue from the notorious Hovawart puppy mill, it doesn't surprise me. When we adopted Tilde, I knew the risk.
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Saturday, June 27, 2015

High-Five

Just a note from every day life this time, and a photo I wanted to share.

I shot this photo last week and can't help myself. I keep coming back to look at it.

After last week's encounter with the vet, Kenzo's smile and high-five speak volumes I like to think.

There is not much I can add in words, which Kenzo is not already telling in that photo.
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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Dogs Don't Lie

"You might need to consider if you want to offer him this life. You might want to consider euthanasia."

Silence.

"We need to discuss this next time we meet.", the vet said.
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Friday, April 10, 2015

Antidote


There was just that moment of silence. "It is probably the GOLPP" I said. The vet nodded her head. "Most likely" she replied.
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Friday, February 6, 2015

Nothing To Show For

I hardly had any clinical signs to show for. Usually, whenever Viva or Kenzo had any health-issue, there always has been some kind of physical sign, how tiny it might be. The vet always complimented me, for spotting things early on.

But this time I had not much for the vet to go after other than a change in Kenzo's behavior. Tilde, as a youngster probing her boundaries, had started to bully Kenzo. Not something out of the ordinary, as that is what young dogs do, especially young Hovawarts, and I already expected there would come plenty of opportunities where I would have to help her remember bullying is a no-go.
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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Degenerative Myelopathy Part 2: Should We Worry About The Hovawart's Future?

After Degenerative Myelopathy Part 1: What Can You Do For Your Dog?, we continue with part 2 about what scientists, breeders and clubs are doing, in the fight against Degenerative Myelopathy, DM.

***

The news hit like a bomb shell.

"From the samples of 1,200 Hovawarts we investigated, the DNA test for the SOD1 mutation, a gene believed to be a major factor in degenerative myelopathy, showed 45% are free from the mutation, 45% are carriers, and 10% are affected."

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Degenerative Myelopathy Part 1: What Can You Do For Your Dog?

"Your dog probably suffers from DM, Degenerative Myelopathy".

For my friend Thomas, the vets' verdict was like hearing a death-sentence.

After months of testing, x-rays, blood tests, and CAT scans, several vets couldn't find the cause why Cliff was dragging with his rear right leg. And when no diagnosis can be made, the final diagnosis is always, "it's probably DM". DM is only diagnosed, when everything else has been ruled out.

Thomas knew it was severe. Maybe one year, two at best, for Cliff to have some quality of life.

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Saturday, October 4, 2014

That Day To Day Stuff

"It's benign", the vet said over the phone, and the longest exhale in my life could start making its way to freedom. In fact, I had to call her back the next day to recite the whole report she gave me, as I couldn't remember a lot more of what she said, other than those three words.

Nine days of waiting, pondering, worrying, pacing, and some more worrying, it all came to an end in one exhale. Live from day to day, they teach us. Dogs that is. And didn't Kenzo gave me yet another lesson in that department when we returned from his surgery, when he tried to make a high-five. I am a lousy student of dog life-lessons.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Run, Stumble and Fall

Two comments Kenzo's surgeon made after his tendon surgery, regularly wake me up in the middle of the night, as in a nightmare. "Some never recover." was his most famous quote. When I asked questions, he downplayed it.

"Some need the same surgery over and over." was the next. Apparently, when you don't find the cause of why his tendon was injured in the first place - and keep on doing what you are doing - it is likely to come back. Which made sense, but what was the culprit?
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Friday, May 2, 2014

Kenzo's New Personal Trainer

You already guessed it, right? Indeed, Tilde is Kenzo's New Personal Trainer.

Kenzo is very close to his recovery, we just need a little more muscle and leg awareness before he can go - controlled - off the leash.

In Tilde's boot-camp, he is getting just that, with simple and plain old-fashioned play-wrestling.
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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Hovawart Health Problems and What to Look For

Dr. Eloise Bright, veterinarian from Love That Pet, offered to write something about the main diseases for the Hovawart, and what to watch for. I am sure this can help us all in keeping our Hovawarts sound and healthy, so the floor is Eloise's today:

***

Photo courstesy of http://hovawart-pp.hu/
Hovawarts are generally considered to be a hardy breed, highly intelligent, trainable and very energetic. Hovawart breeders have done an excellent job at ensuring genetically unsound animals are removed from the breeding pool, so those diseases that are purely genetic are extremely rare. However, as with any breed of dog, occasionally health problems occur. It is important as the owner of a Hovawart to know what to look for and when to worry. During 2004 a survey of purebred dogs in the UK attempted to identify important breed health conditions. The survey had a low response rate, but did have some interesting results (note Kenzo: the specific results for the Hovawart are here). Among the diseases identified in the survey, the more common and important diseases for Hovawarts are discussed below, with emphasis on what to look for and how to reduce the risk of the disease occurring in your beloved friend.

Hip Dysplasia


Hip dysplasia rates are estimated to be below 5% in Hovawarts, mainly due to selective breeding. Unfortunately it can still crop up in any breed of dog despite ‘good’ bloodlines and no previous hint of hip dysplasia in the parents. Hip dysplasia develops due to an overall genetic design problem that leads to loose or lax hip joints and leads to erosion of joint cartilage and osteoarthritis. There is more than one gene involved and environmental factors such as nutrition and exercise have a big part to play in the development of hip dysplasia. Bones and joints are constantly remodelling, particularly during the growth phase of development, so what we are born with can be changed through nutrition and exercise.

Signs to look for
  • A bunny-hopping gait where the hind legs move together rather than independently at a run
  • Excessive swaying at the hips when walking
  • Reluctance to run, walk or climb stairs
  • Difficultly rising
  • Pain when patting, brushing or walking
  • Lack of interest in normal activities like playing
  • Muscle wastage in the hind limbs
  • Narrow hind limb stance, or standing with hind limbs further forward to take more weight in the front legs

How to limit the risks

Overfeeding a growing puppy increases the risk of hip dysplasia in predisposed animals, so the key message is to ensure your puppy is not eating too much and is growing at a recommended rate. Your Vet can help you develop a good nutritional plan, but if you notice your puppy has wobbly bits, or a little tummy, you need to slightly reduce the amount you are feeding. Also avoid diet supplements, unless on medical advice, particular calcium.

Bloat and Volvulus or GDV


Large deep-chested breeds are prone to developing this devastating condition, for which early identification is extremely important.  In simple bloat the stomach becomes full of gas and fluid, while in volvulus it rotates, blocking the blood supply to the stomach. Volvulus is fatal if left untreated and decompression and/or surgery must be performed as quickly as possible.

Signs to look for
  • Restlessness, pacing and discomfort
  • Retching and unproductive attempts to vomit
  • Enlarged abdomen or tight feeling abdomen
  • Painful abdomen
  • Panting, particularly if associated with the above signs

How to limit the risks

Avoid feeding one large meal a day and, feed 2-3 smaller meals instead.  Avoid strenuous exercise for 1-2 hours after eating, particularly after a big meal. Other risk factors include eating rapidly (there are special bowls that slow down eating for the gobblers, or you can place an upturned bowl in your dog’s plate to slow him down), being thin or underweight, moistening dry foods (particularly if citric acid is listed in the ingredients), feeding a diet that contains animal fat among the first four ingredients), history of aggression (laid-back happy dogs are less likely to bloat) and feeding from an elevated bowl. Having a family member with bloat also increases the risk factor of your dog bloating, so ask your breeder if they know of any cases of bloat, so you know whether to implement some preventative strategies. In general a dog should rest after eating anyway to aid digestions, so at the very least feed your dog morning and night and let him rest for at least an hour afterwards.

Hypothyroidism


Hypothyroidism is a disease that has insidious signs and is very easy to treat and relatively cheap to diagnose. Thyroid hormone affects metabolic rate and can affect almost all the organs and cells in the body. It is the most common hormonal or endocrine disease in all dogs. Often the signs are so gradual they are confused with the aging process, but on treatment affected dogs gain a new lease on life. If you have any concerns that your dog is slowing down ask your Vet for blood tests to check for this easy-to-treat condition. Hypothyroidism is caused by immune-mediated destruction of the thyroid gland and can cause a variety of signs.

Signs to look for:
  • Lethargy
  • Weight gain
  • Skin problems
  • Thin hair, hair loss and dry skin and coat
  • Neurological signs such as weakness, head tilt, altered gait or paralysis on one side of the face
  • White patches in the eye

Otitis Externa


Ear infections are common in dogs that have floppy ears and can be seasonal in nature. The ear canal in the average Hovawart is approximately 10cm long and there is a sharp right angled turn. The combination of floppy ears, a dark, warm and humid environment can create the ideal environment for bacterial or fungal infections. Dogs that swim, have allergies or have hairy ear canals are also more likely to get frequent ear infections.

Signs to look for
  • Head shaking
  • Scratching at the ear
  • Smell from the ear
  • Red ear canal with increased discharge (a little bit of wax is normal)
  • Pain when touching the ears

How to limit the risks

Dogs that swim and get their ears below water level should have their ears cleaned regularly. There are many ways to clean your dog’s ears, and the main precaution is that if your dog is at risk of a ruptured ear drum, you should not put anything down the ear without the advice of a Vet. Generally a specialised dog ear cleaner is the only thing you should put down an ear canal. Never use cotton buds, as they will just push debris further down into the ear (and there is nothing worse than having the tip break off deep in the ear!).  If your dog is prone to ear infections, ear cleaning on a fortnightly basis can reduce the frequency. You could also book in for a chat to your Vet about allergies to see if there is an underlying cause.

Steps to clean the ear
  1. Get some treats, ear cleaner and cotton wool ready
  2. Fill the ear canal with the ear cleaner until it starts to overflow
  3. Without letting go of the ear, move your hand to the base of the ear where it meets the head
  4. Massage the ear canal for 10 seconds, you should hear a squelchy noise as you massage
  5. Again, without letting go of the ear, wipe out the external opening with the cotton wool
  6. Stand back and allow your pooch to shake out the excess ear cleaner and give a treat!

While I hope that your furry friend never has any health problems and lives to the ripe old age of 15 years, knowing how to identify some common diseases can help you keep your Hovawart healthy and happy. As a Vet, I love those owners who are so attuned to their pets that they know immediately when something is wrong. The best thing you can do for your dog is feel him all over and identify any lumps, bumps, smelly places or sore spots. Get used to what is normal in your Hovawart, but in particular look for these things:
•    Lethargy and weight gain
•    Hairloss, skin changes, red patches of skin or smell from the skin (including the underside of the paws)
•    Panting, breathing problems, discomfort, retching and a bloated or tight abdomen
•    Lameness, altered gait, abnormal stance, slowing down on walks or loss of play drive
•    Ears that are painful, smelly or red
•    Changes in appetite or thirst, particularly increased thirst

***

Bio: With 7 years of small animal practice, Dr. Eloise Bright came to Love That Pet with as animal lover and advocate for all animals from baby birds to stray kittens. With two sons in tow, Eloise mainly practices in Sydney, Australia. Chat with her and the dog, Duster and cat, Jimmy on Google+.
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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Viva Sunday #9: Improved Treatment and Diagnosis of Cushing's Disease

The treatment and diagnosis of Cushing's disease is under constant improvement and research. During the years Viva had Cushing's, a lot already changed, and more changes are ahead. If there is one thing Viva and me learned, it is that this is not not a disease you can manage by sticking a pill, but you have to be constantly on your toes, and take the clinical signs you notice very serious.

Cushing's is caused by a tumor in the pituitary or the adrenal gland, causing an over production of ACTH hormones which in turn triggers an overproduction of cortisol. A life threatening condition affecting inner organs like kidneys and liver. Some of the most common signs are hair-loss, a pot-belly, lethargic behavior, incontinence, and being overly interested in food and water. Cushing's is many times mistaken with normal aging signs of dogs, making it a silent killer.

This is what we learned along the way:

Diagnosis
Back in 2011, Viva was diagnosed with Cushing's based on a urine test and a ACTH stimulation test. During her life, she continued to have ACTH tests quarterly to measure her cortisol levels for possible adjustment of her medicin dosage. Although the test is reliable to measure levels for treatment adjustments, it proved unreliable for the diagnosis itself, when the results are negative. Negative test results should always be followed up by at least an LDDS test, and even better, by an ultrasound, to indicate the type of Cushing's which is significant for what treatment options are available.

Large dogs
The recommended dosage of Trilostane (Vetoryl), the medication for Cushing's disease, was set too high for larger dogs. Something Viva found out the hard way. But thankfully our vet read the signs correct and adjusted her doses far below the recommended dosage for a dog of her size. Later, in 2012, research was done that confirmed that at least dogs weighing more than 30 kg. need a significant lower dosage of Trilostane, maybe even dogs weighing more than 15 kg.

Once or twice a day administering of medication
The last has not been said on this subject. Basically Trilostane works up to 8-10 hours, and that might require a twice-a-day administration, instead of an only once daily which is standard. Research is still being done, and some vets are already recommending twice daily administration of Vetoryl. At least some research here and here has shown, there is hardly risk in trying. We never got that far with Viva, it was something I was discussing with our vet, as I could see she consistently was showing more lethargic signs during the end of the day.

***

A dog with Cushing's requires continuous research, together with your vet, and to be vigorous about measuring the clinical signs of your dog. We always kept a Cushing's diary, and it was a great help in supporting Viva in her battle against Cushing's. Whatever research was available at the time, or not, the diary was always right.

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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Frustrations

Three months into Kenzo's physical therapy to recover from a tendon injury, the side effects on his mental health are starting to show. Being leashed since December, his frustrations are mounting rapidly.

Physically he is doing great. Recovery is slow, but we are making progress. We do our exercises and a lot of extra training and activities to tire him out. People that already went through this, warned me how difficult it could be, but I underestimated it. What he lacks from walks, being social around other dogs, and expending his energy, can't be compensated by upping in other area's like training and nose work. At least, in Kenzo's case.

The first signs came when he started to misbehave when spotting other dogs - which I avoid as he is not allowed to play. Then the other day we met one of his long time favorite girlfriends, a nice calm girl, called Frida. I shouldn't have gone up to let them meet. I expected them to turn around each other with tail wags, as they usually do. Instead, he harassed her on a very rude way.

Kenzo and Frida last December, before his surgery, best friends
Kenzo is no saint, and he can be a bully on occasion, but this was past all limits. An explosion of cropped up energy and frustration.

We will have some serious re-socializing to do. I discussed it with our trainer from the club, who knows Kenzo since puppy hood, and his vet team. There is not much more we can do at this time. We have to finish our physical therapy first, before we can repair the mental damage. The only thing we do try is some damage control. After I tire him out with nose work, we go for a walk - on a short distance - with another girlfriend of him.

So far, it doesn't help, and his frustrations are very visible during those walks.

I am sure he will return as the Kenzo we know, but all of this is going to take a lot longer than I could ever imagine. Still 3 months of physical therapy to go. After that, rebuilding his social skills for an unknown time to come.

But we are in good spirit. We will get stronger out of it when we reach the other end, whenever that might be.
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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Pump That Biceps

We are one month in on Kenzo's recovery from a shoulder injury and I finally got my act together to write something about it on the blog. Progress is pain-staking slow, but there is progress, which is - and must be - the most important of all.

It started with a limp he developed in november last year. Actually he also limped sporadicly before that. But we could always manage with a couple of days of rest. When the days of rest got longer, and the interval between limps shorter, we started a more thorough examination at the vet.

To make a long story short, it was a month of examinations, x-rays, wrong diagnosis, second opinions, more x-rays and examinations, when finally an arthroscopic exploration was done of both shoulders.

The tendon of his left shoulder was bad, very bad, and it had to be surgically transected.

Agility dogs frequently seem to have these type of injuries to the tendons in the shoulders due to repetitive strains. Although I never did agility with Kenzo, the scenario is recognizable, knowing how he behaves when we are out and about.

By the way. Why it was necessary to shave his whole front for such a tiny incision needed for an arthroscopic procedure remains a mystery.

Although the fur will grow back, the tendon unfortunately will not, but most dogs do recover just fine, from the article Surgical Management of Bicipital Tenosynovitis via Arthroscopy:
"Arthroscopic transection of the bicipital tendon also referred to as tendon release is the ideal surgical option. It consists of completely cutting the biceps tendon at the degenerative biceps groove. The tendon will adhere to the humerus over time, allowing future normal biceps muscle function."
Although vets don't seem to agree if the biceps tendon will recover to a level that can support Kenzo's previous activity level, it should be possible to get very close, when we follow a rigid program of short leashed walks and physical therapy during the months to come.

And that's where we are now:

SHORT LEASHED WALKS

I thought it wouldn't be possible. Kenzo on short leashed walks - a maximum of  four walks a day, 15 minutes each - sound like a contradiction in itself. But it is going good. Very good indeed. His "shave" from the operation keeps others at bay, and people are, surprisingly, really nice to ask before they approach with their dogs.

I soon learned that the "Halti" was necessary, as Kenzo tried to expend as much energy possible in each short walk, and it became more like trying to keep my eyes on a bouncing ball, instead of walking a dog.

He is very aware of the "Halti", and it automatically seems to keep him calm during walks.

We find fun things to do, do a lot of sniffing, so we at least can stay out longer, and why not do a 45 minute drive to the beach, even if you can only walk for 15 minutes? Getting your paws wet and sandy, is always a feast.

He must miss his off-leash action, but he doesn't show it or complain, and I think he is quite content with what we are doing.

HOME EXCERCISES

At home we do excercises with Kenzo at least four times a day to strengthen his biceps and keep him flexible.

We let him stand with his front-legs on the couch, and move a treat up and down in front of him, and by following it he is working his biceps muscles, similar with push-ups.

The vet also provided us with a Fitpaws Balance Disk, which is also to strengthen his muscles. With his front paws placed on the disc we move a treat in a back and forth motion, or left to right, while he is balancing on the inflated disc.

You might wonder if getting your fingers nibbled upon by sharp front teeth for 5 minutes in a row is painful, yes, it is. No pain, no gain.

Next to the biceps excercises, we also do massages, and general stability excercises. Kenzo loves all the attention and we think we might continue with this also when he has healed completely. Who doesn't like a little bit of wellness and work-out.

UNDERWATER TREADMILL

Our biggest surprise. Kenzo hates the underwater treadmill. For a dog that loves everything with water, this is clearly the exception. We hope it will get better by time, as the treadmill is such an important part of therapy.

Not only because it is great muscle training. Also because you can control the duration and difficulty-level, giving a great insight in how he is doing, and if he could be ready to be let off the leash on walks.

We use toys and treats to no avail, the treadmill remains a chore, and the only thing on his mind is how to get out of there.

Thankfully Kenzo never lost a lot of muscle according to the vet, so it might not be necessary to do it more than 5, maybe 10 times. We'll see about that.


So. That's where we are now. If you have any suggestions for fun excersises we can do at home we would love to hear them. This will still take many months, before he is healed again, but we focus now on the first step, to go off leash.

His fur comes back rather quick when you follow the photo's, don't you think? I hope the tendon heals just as fast.
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Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Rock

The last photo I made, before the "steak"
When I would have a nose that was sore and looked like a raw steak, I would feel pretty sorry for myself.

Not Viva.

She invented some new tactics, on how to play with Kenzo, crash through low bushes, and greet her favorite people, without her nose being touched. I learned you can actually greet people with your side - or your butt - first.

And when the nose gets too painful or itchy, she shows me with some grins, or rubbing the side of her face, it is time for her pain relief.

She has always been bossy.

When we train, and I missed a perfect behavior, she reminded me so far with two quick nose bumps on the pocket where I keep the treats. Tap-tap. That has been exchanged by two snorts. She really wants to remain in charge of my training.

And she is as excited as always to go for walks. Sniff out the local dog newspaper - meet friends, play and act crazy. Learn the youngsters how to be polite to a lady.

Viva The Rock.

Me? Not so much. I second-guess myself and my vet. I go on wild-goose chases for treatments that don't seem to exist. I lost my control over the situation.

Fact is, DLE is illusive, and I have to face I might not be able to help Viva with this. This is her battle.

Thank god she is The Rock. And I am her biggest supporter.

***

Update November 7:

Viva's nose is deteriorating rapidly now.
The vet, bless her honesty, suggested it might be time to say our goodbyes. We still have a little time left to let her go without suffering.


I have to do what's best for her, and will use the next couple of days to spoil her rotten.
 

I write this to all of you beautiful people that have been so supportive for Viva and me during the last years, through all her ups and downs. You all helped me help Viva having a good life and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for that. I will give her a kiss from each of you.




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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Could It Be? A Sign Viva's Nose Is Improving?

A big crust came off from Viva's nose this morning, and it didn't reveal yet the next open sore. Instead, a clean and fresh pink piece of skin presented itself.

Woohoo!

A first sign Viva's nose is improving ... Knock on wood.

Since our last update, Viva had a biopsy taken to confirm it was Discoid Lupus (DLE) and our vet consulted a specialist if there was anything we hadn't tried that could help.

So far we had tried every known medication- and herbal based treatment, without success. Of course apart from giving her steroids, which works with most dogs, but cannot be used for Viva, because of her Cushing's medication.

The specialist recommended us one more, last treatment based on a special type of antibiotic together with another supplement boost of vitamine B, E, and fatty acids.

Other than that we just continued to keep her out of the sun, and the nose protector she wears as you can see on the photo, was a great help with that. Although the sun still shines, its power fades, and the days get shorter. We rub some vaseline on the crusts, and apply some xylocain - a local sedative - when we see her wounded nose bothers her.

I really don't know if the last treatment helped her. And it might be just because the sun is fading, we start to see some improvements. But who cares, just she gets better!




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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Spotting Pain

I'll keep on smiling
"Don't worry, she is not in pain" the vet said. Her comment left me baffled. Really. Viva's nose looks like a raw steak, and you tell me that doesn't hurt.

"It is itchy, which is uncomfortable of course", the vet persisted. "It is just not a nice sight." - the emphasis is mine.

We'll get back to that discussion later.

I really don't blame her. Spotting pain in dogs is difficult, and even worse, it is individual from dog to dog. I respond to completely different triggers depending if it concerns Kenzo or Viva.

It is best illustrated by comparing Kenzo and Viva's response to acute pain, with something they both have experienced, which is stepping into a thorn. They both start with a couple of short limping steps. After that, the similarity ends.

Kenzo stops walking almost immediately. He sits down, starts panting, and holds his injured paw up into the air for me to see: "Dad? I made a boo-boo". On investigation, I find the thorn and pull it out. When we move again, the same scenario tends to repeat itself a couple of times, as the paw is still hurtful, and Kenzo wants to double-check I did my job removing the thorn.

You can probably guess what Viva does. Right, after those first limps that look like a series of missteps, she just continuous like nothing happened. Not even a puff or a pant. After I stopped her, I pulled a 1 cm long thorn out of her paw.

Viva reminds me of Tom Sizemore in Saving Private Ryan, saying "I just got the wind knocked out of me" after taking two bullets in the chest. And I never forget when we treated her for her spondylosis - painful in itself - , and not getting it quite right as she didn't improve the way she should. After more investigation, the vet found a thorn completely embedded in her paw, that probably has sit there for quite a while.

Maybe she has experienced so much chronic pain in her life, she even responds differently to the acute pain caused by a thorn. Maybe she is just "tough". Either way, she does feel pain, even if she hardly shows it.

To be able to see how Viva is doing, I keep a simple diary, the "Chronic Cushing's Diairy", that would alert me of any issues or chronic pains. I use it to be able to compare for how long she played, walked and run on any particular day. Any slowing down in either department, and something is not right. The diary has enabled me so far, to predict each outcome of her quarterly Cushing's test and blood work.

Other than that I watch for the tiniest of clues which brings me back to the discussion with the vet. Viva soon started to make "grinning faces" and she sometimes rubbed her nose against me - both to relieve the itching - only to quickly stop. She also shows discomfort when she bumps into Kenzo with her nose when they are playing: she closes her mouth.

Other than that it is just plain common sense. She has open wounds on her nose. Her nose. That thing a dog sticks into literally everything. Put something in your open wound and see how that feels.

"Well, I don't have any other clients that are tuned in with their dog as you are, so I'll trust you on that", said our vet.

And therefore we both wondered again what it is we are looking at. Could it be a drug-induced side-effect, are we not dealing with DLE after all?





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Monday, August 26, 2013

A Hovie's Nose

The best summer ever in Denmark. According to meteorologists, the best since 1860.

The summer already started in early May, during our visit to the Danish West-coast. Viva's favorite place on the planet. We enjoyed being outside the whole day. Temperatures where not high, but nonetheless we all got a little sunburned. Also Viva was, on her nose.

The sunburn would soon heal we thought, and hoped the summer would stay, so we could go out into the light again and wash off the Danish winter and its short days.

Now, it is the end of August. We returned to the West-coast, and are looking back at this "best" summer ever. How different has the summer turned out to be. Viva's nose is still "sunburned". The vet thinks it is Lupus (DLE) - also called "Collie Nose" - an auto-immune disease, and in Viva's case, difficult to treat as the medication doesn't go along well with her Cushing's disease. We have been trying three different topical treatments so far that don't interfere with her Cushing's, to no avail.

The vet's best advice was to avoid the sun, as the ultraviolet rays seem to be a main trigger for lupus. We dodged the sun as much as we could in the short sunless window of opportunity, between 23:00 and 04:00, given to us in the South of Scandinavia.

We went for late walks, hunkered inside during the long summer days and only made short trips to potty in areas with an abundance of shadow. It did seem to help to an extend. Although about every two weeks it flared up again to it's worst state.

For us humans it is a strange experience going against the little Nordic voice in our heads telling us to suck up some sun and light now we had the opportunity. Although going nocturnal was counter-intuitive for us humans, Viva really doesn't care when she goes out, as long as she does go out. Her spirit is high, and I wonder how she can. When I look at her nose I know it must itch enough to make one crazy. It must be painful. I don't even have the stomach to add a close-up of her nose to this blog, it looks too horrible.

But somehow Viva sucks it all in and can muster enough fight to remain her cheerful self. Enjoying the little things like she always has. Tough girl.

Two vets and three treatments have not been able to help so far, leaving me in despair and self-hate for not being able to help my girl, and seeing no options other than doing a rain dance and pray this summer will soon end.

Let it storm, rain, hail and thunder. Go away sun and blue skies, you are not welcome any more.






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Monday, February 4, 2013

Celebrate Life With Cliff

Today I hand the blog over to Thomas, as promised in last week's Hovawart TV: Cliff's Smile. Thomas' Hovawart Cliff suffers from degenerative myelopathy. and they share their story on how they continue to fight back, and celebrate life against all odds. 

***

"Take him back!"
We always had dogs in our lives. Akki, a Siberian Husky. Mickey, a cross between a large and small Munsterlander. The story of Cliff the Hovawart actually starts with Pepper, our Dalmatien. Pepper was incredibly lively and couldn’t do anything at a walk – his slowest gait was a trot. In 2003, when Pepper was 6 years old, we got Cliff.

My daughter and I wanted to have a second dog, although my wife was not so sure about this. Our vet’s wife raved about the Hovawart breed and so we searched the internet for information before deciding that a Hovawart it would be. We preferred the black and tan markings and we definitely wanted a male. Finally we found a breeder in Saxony-Anhalt. There were two males still available – the strongest of the litter, a black one, and the slightly smaller blonde one, Cliff, who immediately pounced on my wife before she could even take her coat off. Who picked who? Four weeks later he moved in with us.

Young Cliff at 2 years old
Pepper was not so amused, his eyes said: "Take him back!" But after three days, they bonded and became firm friends. From the start, Cliff was very eager to learn and he has always been a wonderful dog – even as a young dog, he wasn’t particularly naughty. He has been content with his status as "beta" dog, and that only changed when Pepper was no longer so good on his feet and going a bit senile.

In the summer of 2011 we noticed that Cliff’s rear right leg wasn’t quite right. His claws seemed to be dragging on the floor at times, and they were shorter than those on his left foot.

Our vet found nothing, but as a precaution, he took an x-ray – everything was okay – no hip dysplasia, no spondylosis, nothing obvious could be identified. Then we noticed the dragging was getting worse, and when standing still, he would stand on the toes of his right foot rather than on the pads. The vet now referred us to a clinic for a CAT-scan and further investigation. Again all seemed well, and in the recovery room the vet confirmed that they could find no hip dysplasia, no herniated disc, no spondylosis – we breathed a sigh of relief. Then, the bombshell.

Because he was showing these symptoms, with no obvious cause, there was a high probability that Cliff had degenerative myelopathy. The vet's description of this condition didn’t fill us with hope, and when we went home and researched the internet we could only reach one conclusion. Shit! Shortly after the CAT-scan, Cliff’s foot drag even caused a claw bleed – he was very sore, very sad and his eyes said “I’m not moving now”.

We found a company called SABRO and ordered their Toffler Paw Protection Shoes. Two days later, they arrived – Cliff gave the shoe a thorough examination while we told him he would be able to run better with it on. He looked at us and I swear he understood every word. We put the shoe on his right foot – he looked at it once and that was it – “Yippieyeah! I can walk again!“

It didn't last long. Seven or eight weeks later, he had problems getting up, he could walk a few steps, but then his right hip would collapse, his right foot would cross over to the left and he fell over. He could no longer lift his leg to pee and reverted back to a puppy position for that.

In early January 2012, I therefore became more and more interested in buying a “dog wheelchair“. I found the German forum for disabled dogs “Behinderte Hunde Forum” which is well worth reading and I highly recommend it. All disabled dogs are represented – blind, deaf, three legged, dog in wheelchairs.

I found that the wheelchairs were expensive at 400-800 euros so I spoke with a friend, showed him some photographs and we decided to build a Dog Ferrari ourselves. Take a look at the photos and video to see the result.

During the building of the cart, Cliff had to have fitting sessions to make sure it was exactly the right size and shape for him – he was never scared by this strange thing, and in the middle of March, it was ready. We went out with Cliff into our courtyard and sat him in his “driver’s seat“. My wife, daughter and I were very excited at what he would do. He stood still, looked around at us, and I swear we saw him smile before setting off on his own exploring and sniffing every corner of the courtyard. An hour later we had our first little walk with him out in the fields. Once again he was a happy dog, free to go and sniff wherever he wanted.

Since March 2012, Cliff has gone everywhere in his wheelchair and we have only had one negative comment from a woman who had a hovawart girl and had to let her go due to her age. She said she would not do that to her dog. Everyone else so far has been very positive. Other dogs look suspiciously at the wheelchair at first, then sniff the tires, and that’s it!

Peeing and pooing whilst in the wheelchair is so easy for him too – he discovered he can just keep walking and his “trademark” is now a zigzag line on the road!!! Then in September /October 2012 his right rear let began to drag on the ground so we tied that leg up with a cord and he continued to walk in his cart with three legs. Then his left one also began to lose power and at the beginning of December 2012, we started to tie his left leg up too. Sadly, he is now unable to wag his tail...... We had reached the stage of needing to help him around the house.

He cannot use his cart indoors as he is unable to lie down when it is attached. I started to look for a harness for helping disabled dogs. After much research I found one in the deep depths of the internet, in the USA. It is called a Hartman’s Harness. He can wear this harness all day and it has a handle above the hips, rather like the handle of a suitcase. So, we can carry his back end while the front end is running – and I mean running!

He had to learn the meaning of the word “slowly“! Most of the weight of a dog is at the front, but the back end of a 40kg Hove is not exactly light – and 15 kg is a heavy load when it is moving forward at speed!

In summer 2012 I was looking for a second dog again, a while after Pepper passed due to old age. When I saw Cooper I fell in love. It took some persuasion to get my wife even just to go and see the puppies. It wasn’t that she didn’t want another dog or a puppy, but she was very worried that she would not be able to care properly for Cliff and also look after a new puppy, and make sure that neither were neglected in any way. It was a huge comittment and we had no guarantee that Cliff would be able to cope, either.

We talked at length between ourselves and also with the breeder, and finally decided to go and see them. Cliff came with us, and he was the first strange dog the puppies saw. He lay outside the puppy-area, behind a fence and looked at them. He was even nose to nose with one of them, but that wasn‘t Cooper. The next day my wife agreed.

Two weeks later, we drove back down to see the breeder and Cooper came home with us. Looking back, the first six to eight weeks were certainly very hard, but we have all adapted and grown used to one another, and even Cooper is more sensible now! He is very different to Cliff and announced his arrival on the first day in his new home by standing on the stairs outside barking at some pedestrians passing our property.

Cliff sometimes plays a little bit with him and sometimes even licks his nose. But when Cooper gets too wild, Cliff shows him his teeth. At the same time, however, Cooper can be very careful around Cliff. He brings him some toys and wants to play with him.... and Cliff obliges!

I don’t think Cliff loves him much, but he does accept him. For now, Cliff seems content and he is happy when we tie on the Tofflers and go for a walk with his wheelchair. We all hope that his condition doesn’t get any worse.


Degenerative myelopathy is an incurable, progressive disease of the canine spinal cord.

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Update May 22, 2013:

Late yesterday the news reached us that the lovely and beautiful Cliff passed away. We are so glad to have got to know him - although never in person - and his owner Thomas. For us Cliff will always be the one that taught us to celebrate life, even when it is against the odds. Run free, Cliff. You will be missed and we will always remember you. We wish Thomas Moers all the strength to cope with his tremendous loss.
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