Thursday, January 11, 2024

Senior Dogs _ Health check ups

Senior Dog Checks. 

In around October of 2023 I took 3 senior dogs to my long time vet to have wellness checks.  For one of the dogs this was the 2nd annual senior checkup.  Like the previous year everything looked great except there was some dental work that could be done.  

Early in January of 2024 this dog was taken to emergency Sunday morning becuse she could not keep food or water down for the last 24 hours.  It ended up being a 2 day stay to the tune of just over $5,000.  She had multiple issues but the one that reared its head as an emergency was severe thickening of the intestines with many lesions and scar tissue.   This meant her intestines were all stuck together by the lesions.  The vet wondered how long I had owned this dog.   I said “since she was 10 weeks.”   Bottom-line this was a case of very severe gastroenteritis.  Usually treatable but this would take lifelong maintenance.

This got me thinking about a couple of things.  The first was gut health in general, but that is not the topic of this blog.  The 2nd thing that came to mind is how we catch this sort of thing before it is a $5,000 emergency.  I do not have pet insurance and to be honest pet insurance would not have saved my dog all the discomfort, it would have only paid a good portion of the bill.  My concerns were what I missed and what did the senior dog checkups miss.

These lesions, scaring and thick walls did not happen all of a sudden.  This was brewing for a LONG time.  Quite possibly years which is why the vet asked how long I had owned this dog.  It was an ultrasound at the ER Clinic that discovered this.   I thought back and all I could say was that occasionally she would throw up.  Sometimes she appeared not hungry but then later would eat.   Nothing was a red light but in hind sight maybe a pale orange light. 

After chatting with her doctors I learned that it might be a good idea to do an Ultrasound at the senior check-up.  In this dog’s case the thickening and scarring would have been noticed and we could have looked deeper without it being an emergency.   So yesterday I took my oldest senior dog in for an ultrasound.   The doctor said it was unremarkable.   We talked a bit about the other dog and senior dog checkups.  He told me that his senior dogs always get an ultrasound with their senior checkup and then bi-annually they get chest x-rays.   AH HA!  He also told me that only about 10% of clients (would) do that.    I thought well, I would, and I did not know it was a thing.     

When our dogs go for surgery we are always offered to do an optional pre-surgery blood test.  I always say yes unless I know there was a very recent blood test for this dog on file.  But it is offered as optional.   I think for a senior checkups it might be nice to know other suggested options.  I did a quick search on the internet and to be honest only one site suggested ultrasound and xray for senior dogs at their annual checkup and it was at the bottom of the article as an afterthought.  In my opinion anyone willing to spend $400.00 for a senior check up would be fine doing an ultrasound too.    Why wouldn't our vets offer it.

I always talk about advocating for our dogs.  A $150 ultrasound each year for the last 4-6 years of my dog’s life is honestly very worth it.  Let me do some math here for 5 years.   

$400.00 annual check up   $2000.00

$150.00 annual ultrasound    $750.00

$200.00 biennially chest x-ray   $500.00

Total $3250.00 for senior checkups from 9 – 14 years. 

That is far less than the $5,000 emergency invoice and much less traumatic on the dog. Granted you may find something that does cost some money to treat but not involving emergency and long term suffering to your dog is good thing.  From now on, I will be doing ultrasounds each year and x-rays every other year on my three seniors.  Two of those dogs have had minimal to no vet expenses during their life.  We cannot expect no cost for our dog’s health thru their lives.  Whether you are self-insured or buy insurance think about what it covers and perhaps you may need to have more out of pocket to cover the optional tests.  I would not choose emergency over a $150.00 ultrasound.

This dog, my beloved Madison is ok now but she will be on a special diet for the rest of her life. 


Saturday, June 4, 2022

The Chopper Saga: Successes

 BISS GCh Ciera Homebrewed Jack Rabbit Slim, NW3-2

I want to tell this story for others.   It is awful to feel isolated when you have a difficult dog.   I personally struggled for years with this dog and I am pretty sure Chopper was not comfortable either. I think in general we don't want others to think we have failed or judge us.    I have no problem with that. I know exactly who I am and what is in my heart and my desires for my dogs.  Other people's gossip or opinions do not bother me and the information I share may help others. 

Chopper has been a challenge for me since he came out of the womb. He is the dog I would have returned to the breeder but I am the breeder. As sometimes happens 10% of your dogs get 90% of your attention, as is in this case. He is 9 now (I think). I have learned a lot. I have learned that it is not my fault and not everything can be fixed. I have learned that he has a very high arousal level in addition to high drive.  There were times that I did not think I could last 15 years with him. I have even momentarily contemplated euthanasia.

The good Chopper has a great work ethic, when working.  He is flashy and cool looking with a larger than life way about him.  He is sweet and lively and can be charming. He is my best trained dog.  He adores me.  He is super smart.  He has no social phobias.   Bold and fearless is his motto.   He gives the impression of confidence.  He is good with people and was always good with my girls.  I felt like he could sense or hear my heartbeat, like he was a part of me. 

The difficult Chopper literally cannot be crated without screaming tantrums starting at any time for no reason.  He does not have separation anxiety but he does have some sort of crate anxiety. He has never slept past 330am without starting to scream. I am dead serious.  Around 6 years old he started to pester the girls so I began to manage interactions heavily and eventually keep them all separate. He tried to hump me often.   He could never be unattended in the house because he was so busy and into EVERYTHING.  He never ever settled.  He literally could not stop.  Everywhere he went was full throttle, hi-speed, and hi-impact.

I did eventually neuter him to see if he would mellow and he did not but he quit humping me and that was worth it. Usually around 6-7 years old dogs find their zen, he did not.  Eventually I started to kennel him.  It was a huge relief that he actually seemed to be content in the kennel.   The biggest problem was his inability to be crated at night and screaming like a banshee starting at 330am.    It is so disruptive and to live with this for 7 years was unreasonable.   I probably could have put up with the other issues if not for that.

About 2 years ago I asked in this group for feedback from people who had used Prozac on their dogs.   What was life before and after?   I got some great information.   In most cases it was a last chance before tough decisions.   

Now Chopper has been on Prozac for at least 2 years.   It is not a quick fix. It has taken a lot of work.  Old patterns and habits die hard and Prozac needs time to build up.   Today I can play fetch with him without worrying about getting bit.  He no longer runs everywhere, he walks.   He will lay down and rest while I work. He can be in hte house like a normal dog. I still cannot crate him at night so he sleeps with me.   He no longer wakes at 330am usually 530-630.   I am slowly integrating him back with the girls.   He is not aggressive, he is just annoying to them.   All of the changes are subtle but they have made a world of difference.   Some days I feel bad I did not do this sooner.   I made the decision to try Prozac because my heart would break if my senior Chopper could not be a closer part of the family.    

In Bull Terriers we talk about bad wiring in the head.  We cannot always fix everything.  I did try something called Neuro Feedback on Chopper.  It is a process that helps to straighten the neural pathways in the brain that helps with how one reacts to situations.   There is a vet up here who works with shelter dogs and has had some success.  Usually neuro pathways are damaged from physical or emotional trauma.   Chopper was born this way.   Neuro feedback is actually gaining ground with people.  I had it done to me before I did to Chopper. 

Today I am grateful for the drug.   He is still 100% Chopper but easier to live with. Prozac has taken the edge off.  My only regret was that I was not more open minded about it sooner.   I wasted a lot of time feeling guilty for not being able to fix him.   I suspect he will be on this for the rest of his life.    He is more relaxed and content.  He is part of the family and life is calmer.   Chopper is sleeping next to my desk as I type this.  I never imagined I would see this.


Friday, February 11, 2022

Gender shift in colleges.

 Colleges Have a Guy Problem

A Generation of American Men Give Up on College: ‘I Just Feel Lost’

There have been a few articles lately discussing the number of young men who are not going to college and the rise of women who are.  Men are adrift in the new world where a high school diploma is really not enough. They have been for some time now.  I have been reading these articles with sort of a wide eyed astonishment and many thoughts come to mind.   Many of them may be silly to you, but many a true thing has been said in jest.  I have been dying to get these thoughts out of my head since I read the first article a few months ago.

  • First and foremost, where was all the worry in the last century that women were not attending colleges?
  • Does it really matter?   We have survived for 1000s of years with the vast majority of women being uneducated, so what if the role is reversing.   
  • Are men actually defeatist? 
  • Do they only want to compete with their same gender?
  • Who is going to rule the world if men start bowing out of the educational system? (typed with tongue in cheek)
  • Perhaps women with their compassion and nurturing instinct may be a kinder and gentler force needed to rule the world.
  • How badly do men need the educational system to help them find their place? 
  • Perhaps the physical genetic differences in men make them better suited for the blue collar and labor still needed by society.
  • Have men/boys gotten lazy because of coddling parents?  Has this laziness has turned to disillusionment.

I do have my own opinions of college.  I think it is wasted on the young, yep, that’s my opinion.  Not all young people but I see a fair number of students not taking advantage of the great gift of the time to go to school.  I also think student loans are a crime.  I do think education is important.   No matter what you chose to be educated in.  If I could go back in time I might even consider going to trade school and becoming an electrician.  I have long held the belief that military or college is sort of a finishing period for young people.  Sort of a safety net between the family security and the great wild unknown.  People come out of both a little more mature and ready to face life’s tough challenges that most are not prepared for at 18.

Are men genetically hard wired to be heroes, leaders, protectors and the bread winners?  We know it is cultural for sure but is it more than that?   I know many many couples who have a role reversed relationship.   There are 3 in my family alone: my brother, my male cousin, and myself.  I guess one could call it a power shift, money is power, right?   There are struggles and challenges.   I am in a FB group called working women with stay-at-home husbands.   Women share their problems with each other and help give support and advice and solutions.   I think there should be a support group for stay-at-home men who are facing the challenge of finding their value in non-traditional ways.   Recently I had an awakening to this issue.  I wanted to buy a new fancy generator because I was tired of the old one being, well, old and fussy.    It never let us down, primarily because Yanni tended to it like a loving parent tends to a sick child.   Eventually it died.  I was so relieved and purchased a new generator that runs faster and jumps higher, mainly just runs.   When you turn it on, you can walk away.  Little did I know the old generator gave Yanni value.  When the power would go out he would crank up the old generator that he got for free and check the duct tape and bailing wire and we would have power in the house.   Every time it hiccuped or burped he would run out and lovingly check it and put on new band aids to make it run a bit longer.  He found great value in being a hero 3 times a day and he was saving us money by not having to buy a new generator.   This was a huge moment for me. 

Today who wants to face life’s challenges when their parents have big houses with swimming pools and pay for all their conveniences, like internet, phone, car insurance etc. It could take years on their own to build the lifestyle they have been accustomed to.   There was a saying that goes like this: hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men, and weak men create hard times.  I am not sure I agree 100% with this cause and effect but I think there is some merit to the concept that when life is too easy we get lazy and let go of the thin thread that is keeping it easy.   There is always something waiting to erode complacency into despair.

When something has been so out of balance for so many 1000s of years, yes thousands it is bound to reset in the opposite direction until it settles to an equal position.  My dad used to call it the great iron that wants us all to be the same.   The pendulum has swung and it has gone to the side of women, it will come back.  In the meantime men will have plenty of time to find their groove, sense of worth and value.  It may not be easy and it will probably hurt.  Change works like that, though.  

I may sound like a child of the women’s liberation generation, and yes, I am.   I am really the first generation of women who have seen some great changes for us.   I was 14 (1974) when women were allowed to get a credit card in their own name.   This may speak more about the financial system needing more money to flow than gender equality, but that is for another blog.  The word sexual harassment first appeared in print in 1972.  It was not until 1976 that it was against the law to fire someone for refusing a supervisor’s sexual advances.   The list does go on.

I am very happy that I have lived while generations of women have risen up.  It is the struggle that makes us better.   Women rising does not mean men have to lower they just need to move over and share.   But until the great ironing board works it magic the pendulum will swing. 

*If you got this far in your reading. please try not to pick one crazy thought I have had out of this to shoot me with, this is meant as an entire piece of food for thought.  You might say "ensemble cast of things going thru my head".