Monday, June 25, 2012

A Trip to the Vet: Reader Input

Everyone has been helpful and supportive in response to my Trip to the Vet stories, as this community has proven to be time and time again.

There were a lot of suggestions and questions in the comments of the Part 2 post, so I thought I would take a minute to address them all in a post of their own.

Of course, once we have our appointment with the new vet in July, I'll follow up here.


Random pix of Des make me happy,
so I'm including them .
Mel from No Dog About It said, "If Desmond is one stressed out puppy than it could and likely is affecting his digestion. ... I don't know if you have looked into TTouch or music from Through A Dog's Ear, but it may be worth a shot to helping Desmond calm down."

Actually, we do have music from Through A Dog's Ear! We left it playing for Des while we were at work for quite some time but went through a period where we had misplaced our ipod and therefore were not playing him any music, and he was completely fine; so we decided to save ourselves the electric bill increase (it was noticeable) and not put it on anymore.

TTouch--and doggie massage in general--is something I've been interested in and would love to incorporate into my future training business, so I am 100% open to this. In fact, much like Jodi Stone, I have been inadvertently doing some TTouch with Desmond, and he does get very relaxed. And as it turns out, there is an affordable, three-hour TTouch workshop available at an awesome doggie daycare place not 15 minutes away from my house. I will look into that for sure.

Sarah, from Married with Dawgs, said, "If he gets moisture with food, then he should be less likely to gulp & gulp on a full stomach. ... Including fresher foods as part or all of the diet will likely help. Raw or home cooked meals take half the time to digest as kibble. At the very least, I would recommend adding a probiotic or Greek yogurt with each meal. Many people find the Pepcid is unnecessary once they add in the probiotics. ... My very last thought: a limited ingredient diet may help - one protein, one carb/grain."

Thank you, Sarah! Up until very recently, Desmond was taking a probiotic every day. The chugging/puking issue is not a new one, so I don't think it's related to the probiotic.

In fact, we recently took Des off of all of the supplements we were giving him, because we started to feel like we were giving him too many supplements and wanted to kind of get back to square one and figure out what he really needs. Plus, we upgraded from Blue Buffalo to Nature's Logic--the smallest pieces of kibble I've ever seen--and there may be enough probiotics in Nature's Logic to justify not buying a supplement. The jury is still out, as we're in the middle of the switch.

On the kibble note, we have been adding water to his meals for the last three weeks or so. Additionally, he gets his food supplemented with appropriate veggies and fruit on a regular basis; we periodically buy a big tub of yogurt to add to his food; and we often share with him the protein from our own dinners--whenever it's safe to do so. Maybe we aren't doing these things with enough consistency to make any claims, but I feel pretty confident poor diet is not to blame. 

That being said, I never thought about the L.I.D. aspect, and I never considered kibble as the supplement to home-cooked meals (instead of the other way around). Food for thought... (pun intended). I'll definitely talk to the vet about this.

What? Is this not what happens at your house
during doggie laundry/bath day?
Finn Howard's momma mentioned something I had been thinking about myself, "We do give Finn water with her food, but I'm not sure that slows down any kind of gulping."

I completely agree. Adding water to meals hasn't slowed down Desmond's eating--but his eating speed isn't really the issue. When we first got him, we wanted Desmond to eat slower, so we put toys in his food bowl. :-) Now we're adding water to make eating easier. And I have a theory that this might make him drink less water, but I have no official results on that.
Koira's mom, from My Life With Flyball Dogs, said, "I found a huge benefit in using anti anxiety medications with Koira. I have had a lot of success not just while she is on them, but in training to help her stay below threshold enough to actually be able to train. ... Also, it helps to be able to give her a pill before a long car ride so she can relax a bit instead of stress panting in my ear for hours on end."

Exactly. That's exactly what I'm hoping for from medication.

And I have to say, I really get what you mean about the car. We don't get stress panting, though. We get whining. And a lot of moving around--as much as he can strapped in. And attempts to get up to the front seat. But he doesn't get sick, and he's always eager to get into the car, so we can only assume it's his anxiety. We've noticed also that he doesn't like driving on the streets and he doesn't like being stuck in traffic; when we're moving along on a highway, he's fine (we've made many Speed jokes). Oh, and he hates the blinker. Goes nuts when we use it. We primarily take him in the car to go to the dog park, or other places where nothing bad happens, so I don't think it's like he's sitting there going, "OMG, we're going to the V-E-T!" We've tried positive reinforcement for calmness, but it has done nothing.

Bringing Up Bella's Leslie said, "Getting help and prescribing meds shouldn't be seen as a last resort. It should be seen as another tool in your arsenal to help your dog live a healthy, happy and comfortable life. Bella was so stressed for so long....  Since we have had her on the meds...we can now keep her 'under threshold'. ...
[M]eds aren't a cure-all. They don't provide a quick fix and getting the right combination/dosage is probably going to take some time and effort...."

Thank you, Leslie (and Sage's mom, from The (mis)Adventures of Sagewho also noted finding the right meds can be hard)! I know you are in a very similar boat. "Under threshold" is my ultimate goal. I may make it my mantra. The quest to find the right medication and the right dosage is not going to be fun--or cheap--but it is what it is. If I weren't willing to do these kinds of things, I would not have taken a dog into my life.

Jasmine had some great questions, "Is his problem mechanical (low motility) or chemical (the food is not getting digested? Could the anxiety actually be an effect, rather than a cause, if digestion not working properly, then some nutrients might not get absorbed and some deficiencies can also lead to psychological symptoms?"

Des is not amused that I'm amused.
If I understand the doctor's diagnosis correctly, his system is slow to digest food, so it's a matter of low motility. I absolutely believe the anxiety could be an effect of Desmond being physically not his best, but what I truly believe in my heart is that it's both and it's all connected as a vicious circle (think: I eat because I feel bad and then I feel bad because I ate).

Tanya, from Mazzie Takes Manhattan, said, "I ended up going with something holistic because of the potential side effects [of standard medications]. I also switched to a home cooked diet (lean proteins and veggies) with supplements to aid digestion and nutrient absorption, which I feed to her in food toys. This forces her not to gobble up her food in a nanosecond and also keeps her busy when I'm away. 
In addition to the changes above, I also did a TON of obedience and behavioral work.... [M]y current behaviorist/nutritionist, with whom I've been working for nearly 3 years.... Once I met her, I realized that there are ton of really fantastic trainers out there who have no idea how to manage and rehabilitate dogs with real issues. It just requires a completely different (and special) skill set."

First of all, Tanya, I am so glad you brought up the issue about trainers. Many people think a trainer is a trainer is a trainer.

Because I'm in school to become a professional dog trainer, I feel really weird writing posts about training challenges I'm having with Desmond. I'm afraid people are going to think I'm some kind of idiot.

Primarily, I am learning obedience training along with some basic problem solving. What's not part of my education is behavior modification--which is what Desmond really needs. I have no specialization for working with reactive dogs. Will I one day? Hopefully, but at the moment I know the same stuff anyone who reads Feisty Fido (affiliate link) and does a bunch of online research knows. I need help, too, and that's OK.

As for holistic options--which Peggy and Jodi also mentioned--I'm not sure they are going to work for us, as I feel like we've tried almost every option out there. Some of these things--or a combination of all of them--helped to severely decrease Desmond's separation anxiety issues (you can read all about this via the links at the end of this post). Unfortunately, nothing appears to have any effect on his reactivity-related anxiety.

Anna, from Vizsla Inspiration, said, "To me it makes total sense to try and feed him things that he is not allergic to (sometimes these are mild allergies that you never would know about otherwise as the outward signs are not strong enough) so his whole system is calmer. ... My friend's dog also takes a pepcid with every meal, which really does help too."

The more I think about things, the more I want to ask our new vet about an allergy test. Good thing we finally got Desmond on VPI. Oy vey. As for the pepcid, I still don't know what to make of it, because he went through a whole package of it, and I really didn't see results. Isn't that the type of stuff that should work almost immediately?

Karen, from Doggie Stylish, successfully scared the crap out of me by describing clomicalm as "*very* expensive". (Uh...what was I just saying about insurance? Let's hope this is covered!) Thanks, Karen! ;-)

Des and a friend having a staring contest at the dog park.
Finally, Donna, from Donna and the Dogs, said, "Meadow's on a very low dose of prozac, and we were actually dead set against medication at first, but it has helped her tremendously, so I am of course, no longer a nay sayer! Like you say, its no magic bullet, but it has definitely taken the edge off of her fear so we can actually get through to her."

I think Donna unintentionally found the reason why I feel so uncomfortable about putting Desmond on anxiety medication: I'm afraid people will think we have given up--that we're looking for a magic bullet, that we're assuming this will fix everything and training is no longer going to be necessary. Actually, that's what I'm afraid of in regards to what dog people will think.

Then there are all the people who are decidely not dog people. And they are likely going to think I'm nuts and making way too big a deal out of things for (and I repeat) "just a dog". Obviously, I don't consider Desmond "just a dog", and I'm pretty sure at this point that the people who say things like "just a dog" and I are simply not on the same page, probably in more ways than one, and I really need to stop giving a hoot what they have to say or what they think.

I may be a crazy dog lady, but that's unrelated to me wanting the pet I chose to take into my care to have his best physical & mental life possible. There's nothing wrong with wanting my dog to be happy and healthy. Why is it so hard to convince myself to feel this way with conviction? Am I the only one dealing with this particular kind of mental anguish?
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