Friday, November 2, 2012

Did you know that there are dog dentists?

My girl River has pretty clean teeth.  She hasn't needed a dental yet and she's 5 years old.  We brush her teeth at least once a week and she seems to love it.  We also play ball with her everyday, which she also loves.  We were even warned early on not to use tennis balls as they wear on the teeth, so we use kong balls.

So, when I noticed that her teeth were still wearing we started to get worried.  Then River started to drool only in the afternoons, but not everyday and months apart.  This drool was more like someone had turned on a faucet and had forgotten to turn it off all the way.  It was a little hard to figure out that she was only drooling after she played ball.  The drooling would stop after a few hours.

Last week she drooled for two consecutive afternoons so to the vet we went.  We got high marks for everything:  weight-excellent, teeth-great, eye and ears-great, heart and lungs-excellent, temperature-normal, coat-gorgeous and shiny.  Since the vet could not see anything wrong with her while she was awake they sedated her to look closer at her mouth.  And when the probe went into her right top canine stuck.  The vet hit a pocket of soft material which meant that the root canal on that tooth was open and probably infected!

The canine tooth on a dog has a very large root, so this is a job for a dog dentist!  

The dentist told us that the best option would be to try and save the tooth by doing a root canal.  This procedure is pretty much the same as the procedure done in a human, only dog's don't have dental the price is a bit painful.  But she's our pup and we do everything we can for her, so the root canal will be done next week.  The only other option is an extraction, which would be just as pricey, but way more intensive and painful for River.  The video below is from a different veterinary dentist, but what he discusses in the video is what my veterinary dentist discussed with me in order to make the choice to do a root canal instead of an extraction.

The big worry about having an open socket like this is that the root canal leads into bone.  When the canal gets infected the infection comes out the end of the tooth and starts to eat into the bone!  While the dog may not give you signs that it is in discomfort, the bacteria is eating into their facial bones and when it gets through the bone it starts to eat away soft tissue and creates an abscess.    

River does not have an abscess, but the tooth does need the root canal.  The procedure should only take about an hour and a half or less.  If your dog is going to have surgery make sure you ask questions about it.  The veterinary dentist we are going to does not work at our regular clinic and we had to ask the questions below.

Make sure you ask:
-How they keep your dog warm during the surgery.
Some vets do not have a way to warm the dog while they do surgery and the dog gets very cold and they are harder to wake up after surgery.  Other vets have heated tables and blankets that keep the dog warm and at temperature, which helps the dogs to wake up quicker and more comfortable after surgery.

-What type of pain management do they use before, during and after the surgery.
Some vets don't use pain meds as much as others.  It's very important that the dog doesn't suffer pain, and the vet should be using pain meds before, during and after surgery.

-What type of monitoring they do during the surgery.
Some vets don't have monitoring machines and do monitoring manually, don't use these vets as they cannot accurately monitor blood oxygen and anesthesia levels.

-If they use an IV catheter and fluids.
This is the best way to administer emergency drugs if they are needed and to keep the dog hydrated during the surgery. 

I hope that your dog never needs surgery, but if they do, do not be afraid to ask lots of questions.  The vet will appreciate your concern and should be happy to help you feel comfortable with the procedure and the clinics procedures. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Proprioception (muscle memory), or how to drink a cup of coffee without spilling

     Think about smoothness...proprioception is all about smoothness.  You are able to pick up your coffee cup and drink from it, with out spilling (most of the time), and you make it look like you've done this before.  And you have done this before, almost everyday.  You have trained your muscles, through proprioceptive memory, to pick up a cup filled with an unknown amount of liquid and to lift it to your lips, tilt it just so you can get to the liquid, and then put it back down on the table.  This little feat is amazing when you break it down to think about it, because we don't think about it.  Proprioception is a learned response by our muscles to a stimulus, that we don't have to think about.  It's is awesome, and very helpful.

     Our dogs, actually every animal with muscles, functions through proprioceptive memory for movement.  Our dogs don't think about every step they take, they just pick a direction and go, let proprioception take care of the fine details of moving each paw without running into the other three.    

     So, proprioception is a very important thing and saves our brains from having to worry about the little things, like moving.  What happens to it when we break our arm playing ultimate frisbee (or typing, or something else crazy), and our arm is in a cast for 6 weeks?  Well as soon as the cast comes off and you go to pick up that familiar coffee mug, things feel.....different.  You are still able to lift, tilt, sip and enjoy your beverage, but things in your arm feel different.  You are actually thinking about the motion of picking up the cup, looking at it as you lift it, and when you go to put it down you have to make sure your wrist is tilted in the right direction.  What has happened?  While your arm was in a cast the muscles took a nap to recuperate and heal.  The muscles didn't realize you expected them to be back on the job so soon and they forgot almost everything, as if they went on summer vacation and now they are expected to go back to school and pay attention.  So, go back to school they do.  You pay attention to what you are doing, you feel the shape of the mug and the tilt of your wrist until you don't.  And when you no longer pay attention, your proprioception is now back to normal and your brain doesn't have to help out anymore.  

     This happens to our dogs when they get injured too.  Hopefully your dog is not into drinking coffee, but running and playing and getting into all kinds of doggie mischief.  When our dogs get injured, even if it's a small cut on a paw, they compensate for it by using other parts of their bodies more.  Those parts, that aren't used to doing more work than they normally do get tired and sore, and eventually overworked (and massage can help them).  When the injury heals sometimes dogs continue to protect it and the dog needs help learn how to use the healed leg/shoulder/hip again.  Sometimes wounds heal too quickly and scar tissue develops, or muscles become stiff from under use, and these healed wounds need help to release that tension, develop normal tone, and to be stretched so that the muscles can start to rebuild and regain proprioception.  



Monday, July 30, 2012

Our camping trip with the dogs

First I have to say that my dogs are very tolerant of the car and of each other.  If they were not so tolerant, this trip would not have been possible because our car was fully packed and they were a bit squished together in the back seat.

You can see River there behind Fin.  They are very good puppies. 

We went out to a spot called Jubilee Lake in North Eastern Oregon.  It was gorgeous. 

Since we do have two labs, we were there for the water and there was plenty of it with a 90 acre lake just a short stroll from our campsite.

After hiking halfway around the lake on a hot day the dogs couldn't wait to jump in. 


 We had one unexpected visitor show up at our campsite and she expected to be fed, well until the dogs noticed her and started their defensive barking.  :)  It was their first time seeing a deer, and their second too as she showed up the next morning looking to see if we had left anything out for her. 

Camping with my dogs and my husband is a lot of fun, and a great way to spend a vacation.  I hope your summer trips are as fun and adventurous as ours.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Yea for summer!

Today is the first time we got to take out the pool to cool off the pups.  You can tell a labrador's favorite thing on a hot day is a very cool pool.   Remember your dog needs as much hydration as you do on these hot days.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Update Your Microchip Information

It's been a while since I've thought about the information that is inside my dogs.  I've taken it for granted that they won't get away and that they won't need that little microchip inside of them, but they might. 
This past weekend we were in the house making lunch and a little black female pug wondered into our front yard.  She was very cute, older, sweet, but she had no owners in sight and no collar on.  We put a leash on her and gave her some water, as she was very hot (a rare hot sunny day here) and very thirsty.  I figured her owners would be by soon, either on foot or slowly driving by in a car, to look for her.  We sat out front with our new little friend and ate lunch, and she happily gulped down a bunch of water and begged for some food. 

After lunch we took her down to the nearest vet and had her scanned for a microchip.  Luckily she had one, and the vet tech told me to go call a phone number that would lead me to other phone numbers and then eventually to the owner as long as their information was current.  We got home and the phone number directed me to a few websites, which directed me to a phone number that actually got me to a real person!  I was very happy that I was able to talk to someone on a Sunday that was able to contact the owner and have them call me. 

The owner called and she had been pet sitting a cat down the road and had left her dog in the house with the cat.  Somehow the cat had figured out how to open a door and had let the dog out (on purpose maybe?) and this poor little dog had no idea where it was or where it's home was.  I'm sure our house smells like dogs to a dog and she figured this was a place she could hang out.  :)  The owner was half an hour away and came over as soon as she got back.  We learned that our new friend's name is Princess Patti Patti, and we were so happy to reunited her with her owner!

So, after that it started me thinking that our dogs' microchip information needed to be updated, and you should do the same.  You never know when the cat decides to get even...and free the dogs on you!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Can your dog read you?

I was reading through a Popular Science Magazine and I came across this article at the very end of the magazine that I found interesting.  The title of the article says it's about dog listening, but really the experiment, done by Daniel Povinelli, was done on a dog's ability to read human body language and gestures, not on verbal language.  It describes an experiment where the researchers presented two buckets to a dog, a chimp, and a wolf. (I'm not sure how big their sample size was of each species.)  Under one bucket was food, and under the other bucket was nothing and both buckets were masked with a smell.  A human was present in the room and allowed to give non-verbal signals to the animal.  The dog was the best at judging even the slightest movement from the human to find the food.  The chimp and wolf did not do nearly as well as the dog.  PopSci Article on Dogs   The second part of the article asked which dog breed would be best at reading a human, the border collie was at the top of the expert's lists.  Border Collies have worked closely with humans as partners for a long time and have evolved to watch and listen for the cues that it needs to do it's job, and it loves it's job.

I don't think that most of us need to research to tell us that our dogs are paying attention to what we do.  All you have to do is walk towards the place the dog's leash is kept in a way that says, "We are going for a walk." and the dog will know, without a word from you, that you are going for a walk together.  They don't have a tv to watch, so they have become experts at watching us.  Amazing. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Dog Park from the Point of View of a Dane

This is awesome!  It's a great way to see all the body and facial movements dogs do to communicate with each other that we can sometimes miss because they happen so quickly.  Plus it is just fun to watch.  :)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Celebrating 5 years helping you to help your dog!

Thank you to everyone that has contributed to my 5 years in business!  I look forward to helping owners and their dogs for many years to come.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Easter Egg Nose Hunt

It was such a nice weekend here in Portland, so we held an Easter Egg Hunt for the dogs.  I went to the dollar store and bought a couple of packages of plastic eggs and filled them each with a few pieces of food.  Then we hid them around the yard and let the dogs find them.  They had so much fun, and it really worked their noses and brain!  It was great to see. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Wheel Chair

Several months ago I started thinking about building a dog wheel chair for our neighbor's lab across the street.  He had very weak hind legs that were making it hard for him to walk.  I really wanted to help this dog to go on a walk again.  I was hoping to build him a wheel chair out of recycled materials and a baby jogging stroller seemed to have all the right pieces.

This was our 1.0 model.  I found a stroller on craigslist and stripped it of all of the fabric.  Then took away all supports that would be in the way of the dog's feet.  I had the help of my husband and a good friend with an awesome shop.  We found that it was too unstable and that the material was not going to be strong enough, but the wheels were perfect!  I was really happy to start the project by reusing the jogging stroller, but in the end we had to start from scratch.

On model 2.0 we started with light weight aluminum square tubing.  It was the perfect material, super light and super strong.  Every hole, screw, axle, and bracket was made just for this wheelchair.

During this build our neighbor's dog became unable to breathe very well and was diagnosed with fluid in his lungs and told that he should not become too excited, or get much exercise.  So, we had a cart with out a dog and I was very sad that we were unable to help, so we stopped working on the wheel chair.

About two months after that I did an educational talk at Prana and met a wonderful Boxer named Otis.  Otis has trouble with the nerve function in both of his back legs, but other than that is completely healthy, happy, and very active.  I decided to ask his parents if they would like to have our 2.0 dog wheel chair, and they happily said yes!  So we started building again.

Our friend's shop was invaluable to the successful build of the wheel chair.                     

This is the final construction of the dog wheel chair.  It is incredibly sturdy and strong, and fits Otis well.  We did a few fittings to get it to be just right.
This is a video of Otis's first short walk using the wheel chair.  Normally he walks very very slowly and his hind legs criss-cross as he walks and sometimes he falls over, or his legs end up in awkward positions underneath him.   This wheel chair prevents his hind legs from moving out of a normal position and allows him to move without having to support the weight of his hind end.  I can't wait to see how Otis progresses using the cart.  His first time using it was wonderful.
We are so excited that Otis has this new wheel chair to help him stay an active happy dog!

Friday, February 10, 2012


Fin and River have been playing with each other a lot lately.  It's been really good to see Fin playing!  His knee is doing much better.  We continue to walk everyday, at least a few miles and hills as often as we can.  I'm very happy with his progress. 

We probably still have a few months until we will feel like Fin is back to 100% normal. 

Always a gentleman, as he tries to ask River for the sock politely with his paw. :)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Strength Training

Fin is doing great!  He has had one set back but he has continued to gain strength, both sides have symmetrical muscle (size, tonicity, range of motion), and both of his hind legs are a bit weak.  This past week or so we have been going on longer walks which are mostly flat.  We have also been allowing him to run in the yard by himself, so he can stop when he feels it is too much.  And when he tries to chase his sister around the yard, we are there to stop this silliness, at least for the time being.

This week we are going to be working on hills!  A hill a day, and in our area we really only have one hill to climb, but it has a few route up and down (steep and gradual).  

Massage and stretching continues and we are working on keeping his hamstrings loose and happy.   And all of the muscles in his hind legs well stretched and ready to work properly.