Sundog snippets: Pupdate, July 2013

So here’s a quick pupdate for you.

First, the story so far:

In January, Nuala had an ACL repair. On the heels of that, she contracted a UTI. We administered antibiotics. She somehow scratched herself an aural haematoma. Rather than having it drained, the vet recommended letting her body metabolize the blood. We agreed.

The follow up urine sample, however showed extra protein, which is usually a sign of a problem with the kidneys. Blood tests showed that Nu’s kidney enzymes were in perfect balance. An x-ray revealed no stones in either kidney or bladder, but an enlarged liver and spleen.

The vet recommended an ultrasound. This would require a journey of several hours for which Nuala would have to be sedated (she doesn’t travel well) and several days off work for Phil and me. The ultrasound may or may not have found anything and may or may not have resulted in a laparoscopic biopsy, which may or may not have proven clinically definitive. We declined.

We changed her food to a kindey health diet, and started her on a regimen of ACE inhibitors. Nuala subsequently redeveloped a UTI and this time we have the urine sample cultured. It turned out to be a massive e-coli infection. Uber-doses of antibiotics later, she was once again clear of infection, but the high protein in her urine remains a concern.

Where we are now

The vet is again encouraging us to consider the ultrasound. We’ve discussed things at length and here are the ultimate reasons Phil and I are not going to follow through with it:

  1. Nuala is behaving well, she’s feeling better than she has in a long time. Her residual limp from the ACL surgery is almost unnoticeable. By all accounts, she’s happy.
  2. What will the ultrasound reveal? The existence (or the lack of existence) of a growth of some sort.
  3. If the growth is benign, will it be removed? No (unless its negative impact on Nu’s health is severe).
  4. If the growth is malignant, what can we do? Not much. Cancer in dogs is notoriously fast-growing and often has metastasized before an operation can remove it. Though they do have canine chemo and radiation, the course of treatment would again involve travel and its effectiveness is not as good as human therapies.

While it may result in a better diagnosis and possible prognosis, we may not be able to act on it quickly enough to make a difference.

So we’ve decided to stay the course with her current medication and see how things go.  If Nuala’s health worsens, we may have to revisit and reconsider our decisions, but I honestly don’t think this will happen.

Our last dog, Zoe, had cancer, and we did what we could, but the cancer was aggressive and ultimately fatal. The operation to remove the cancer wasn’t effective, was very hard on her, and it may have bought her two weeks, but they weren’t a good two weeks. Her death broke our hearts and it was two years before we thought about adopting another dog.

Whatcha got there?

Nuala hoping to scam noms from Phil 🙂

You may disagree with our decision, but I hope you can respect it.

Here ends what I hope to be the last pupdate for some time. Nuala really is doing well and until we can see a reason to, we’re not going to put her through further procedures.  She’s been through enough this year already.


Sundog snippet

Caturday Quickies: Pupdate

Since the last time I blogged about my dear Nuala, we’ve had two veterinary appointments.  The first was on February 14, a month after the surgery.  I ferried Nu out to the Valley for her appointment with Dr. Hoscheit.

At that time, I was informed that Nu was doing well and that I could begin to walk her again.  Ten minutes, twice a day to start, graduating to twenty minutes, twice a day, then thirty, then a return to full activity.

Well, since she started having her difficulties, I’d cut Nu’s activity to a single twenty minute walk in the morning.  So I figured I’d just return to that activity and that we’d gradually reintroduce her to the stairs at my mom’s place, and hopping up of the bed and couch again.

We also started adding glucosamine to her food.  It’s stinky (green-lipped mussel extract) and she loves it.  Isn’t it funny/sad/wonderful how our pets can disappoint us so, just by being themselves?

I’ve always thought it odd that while dogs have these amazing olfactory powers, that it makes the smelly stuff more attractive (barf, poo, dead animals, unidentifiable fungus, other disgusting stuff).

It’s a dog rule, I guess.  Stinky = yum!  And I love Nu, even if she occasionally has poo-mouth.  I just don’t let her kiss me 😛

This past week, Phil and I took our pup to her regular vet, Dr. Wilkinson.  Dr. Hoscheit retired from his practice at the end of February.  We were lucky to get Nhappypupu in before he left.

So post-operative blood work was ordered, the sample taken, and we decided to take Nu off the Metacam to see how she would manage.  She has a lot of arthritis in her knee.  A lot.  So we’re going to wait and see.

So basically, life is kind of back to normal at the Marttila-Minaker household.

We’re happy to have our girl back to her usual antics.


Caturday Quickies

Pupdate, part the third

Yesterday marked the removal of Nuala’s staples.  She’d finished her cocktail of medications on Wednesday, and since then, had been increasingly restive.  I think as least one of the medications was to calm her down.

Nu doesn’t like to be this inactive.  She likes her morning walks, chasing her ball, wrastling on the floor.  After her meds were done, she wanted to get back to her normal routine.

This was challenging for my mom.  She called late last Sunday to suggest that we bring Nu over and that she keep her enclosed in the basement.  As Nu became more active, this became more demanding.  On Friday, Nu jumped onto the bed that Mom has in her basement.  She hadn’t even attempted it any time in the year previous.  She might be feeling better, but she’s not supposed to run or jump at all.

Try to tell her that.

A note on accommodations

I’m not talking hotel rooms; I’m talking about the ways that we’ve had to rearrange our lives to accommodate Nu’s recovery.

We have a small house, so limiting her activity isn’t too difficult in general, but we do have stairs that lead into the house and so bathroom breaks have been somewhat of a challenge.  We’ve been trying to help her up the stairs by slinging a towel around her abdomen, but lately she doesn’t have the patience for it.

While she was on the medication, we had to make sure that we administered it at the proper times and dosages.

Since walking was out, we had to make sure that she had relief before we went to work.  Nu’s a dog of habit and she doesn’t like to do her “business” in the yard.  She prefers to decorate the yards of others so I can show my love for her by cleaning up after 😛  This last week has been one of the coldest in Sudbury for the past few years.  Waiting outside, impatiently, for Nu to realize she had to choice but to drop a deuce in the yard was a B-triple-R challenge.

Our dog has the run of our house.  Normally, she sleeps on the bed (until it gets too hot) or on the couch.  These are two of her favourite places.  Because she’s not supposed to jump, we’ve had to get creative.  The couch isn’t so bad.  We can pull the cushions down and she won’t try anything.  The bed’s a different story, though.

We have a king-sized bed with a pillow top mattress.  Before Nu started to show signs of lameness, it was really high.  Neither Phil nor I had to sit down much to get in it.  When she was initially diagnosed with arthritis, Phil cut the legs off the bed, shortening it by six inches so that Nu could hop in again.

We’ve noticed something, though.  When we have laundry out on the bed, Nu won’t go near it.  So for the last week and a half, we’ve left the laundry spread on Phil’s side of the bed and he’s volunteered to sleep on the couch nights.  See, if we were just to go to bed as usual, Nu would be tempted to jump up.  She used to leap right over Phil to get into her preferred spot between us.  Then sometime in the night, she’d hop down again.

You see how we have a problem with this.

Tonight, however, we are going to bring Phil back from his exile and put Nu into hers.  He hasn’t been sleeping so well on the couch, so we’re going to try closing the bedroom door on her.  I anticipate some trouble …

We have to work some new system out, though, because Nu will be under restrictions for at least three more weeks.

It takes six to eight to heal bone completely.

naked pup bumSorry about the lack of a decent picture.  Nu won’t sit still enough for me to take one 😛

Unless something bizarre happens, you can expect pup-related silence for the next three weeks.  Our next appointment is February 16th, so I’ll catch everyone up then.

Nu thanks you for all of the support 🙂

Pupdate, part the second

Please find the last pupdate here.

While I was away Jan 8-11 for IPCTD, Phil made the arrangements for Nuala’s surgery.  He took the x-rays out to Dr. Hoscheit and took Nu in for her pre-operative blood test.  On Friday, he made the appointment for Nu’s surgery: January 16, 2013.

I was home for the weekend, but then returned to Toronto for an in-person team meeting including budget discussions and discussion on the revised code of conduct.  While there, I talked to my manager about taking Thursday off.  I was completely up front about it with him and he was very accommodating.

So after my whirlwind trip to Toronto (down January 14 and up January 15), Phil and I drove Nu out to Dr. Hoscheit and went to work.  Just after noon, we got the report.  The surgery was over and appeared at first blush to be a success.  Nu was in recovery and the veterinary technician would call and check in with us when she completed her evening visit.

In the evening, the tech called and reported that Nu was doing well.  She spent 20 minutes with Nu, checking, medicating, and comforting.  Nu would be ready to return home the next morning.  We arranged to arrive for 9 am.

When we arrived, we brought some of Nuala’s food with us.  While the techs fed and prepped Nu for departure, we met a very sweet chocolate lab who’d had the same procedure only six days before.  Other than being shaved, we almost couldn’t tell she’d had an operation.

We booked the appointments to have Nuala’s bandage removed on Saturday (yesterday), and her staples removed the Saturday following.  The final follow-ups could be booked at that time.  We received three prescriptions, an antibiotic and two pain management meds, along with instructions on when to administer them.

Nu would continue to receive her Metacam in the evenings and with luck, all would be well within a couple of weeks.  Of course, we’d have to keep her quiet.  Any activity, even normal activity, could set back her recovery and potentially undo some of the benefits of the procedure.  She shouldn’t put weight on her leg and definitely shouldn’t be allowed to lick or worry at either the bandages or the incision.

Nuala was handed over to us, shaved, bandaged, and wearing the Elizabethan collar or, ‘cone of shame.”



The drive home was largely uneventful, and we managed to get her out of the car alright, but Nu likes to sniff as she walks, and as soon as she lowered her head, the cone became a shovel as she repeatedly jammed it into the ground.

Phil ended up carrying her into the house as the cone got stuck on every step en route to the entry, plus the door frame.  Needless to say, the cone of shame was removed as soon as we were safely in the house 🙂

Nuala post-surgery

Nuala post-surgery


Looking good 🙂

Nuala’s been really good about keeping her leg elevated and not putting her weight on the leg.  I think we had to caution her against licking the bandage once.  We saw steady improvement, even on Friday.

Until the bandage was removed, we had to put a plastic bag over it when we took her out, and to assist her in getting up the steps, we used a towel wrapped around her abdomen to bear her weight on the way up.  The first couple of times we had her out, it was a bit of a production.

Yesterday, we took her to have the bandage removed.  Once again, she’s been very good, not licking at the staples and keeping her weight off the leg.  Phil and I are becoming expert (he more so than I) at cutting small tablets.  One of the three medications must be given in two and three quarter tablet dosages.

So that’s how my darlin’s faring this week.  Will likely have another pupdate coming in the next week or two to let you know how the staple removal and other follow-up appointments go.

The dog in winter … just because

If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, or even if you drop in occasionally, you’ve probably noticed that I write about my dog from time to time.  This is one of those times 🙂

Nu (Nuala) is a quirky beast.  First, she pees like a male dog.  Yes, she lifts her leg.  It’s a learned behaviour adopted from dog-friend Daisy, who in turn learned the skill from her dog-friend Colonel.  This is a particularly useful skill in winter, when snow banks often crowd the sidewalks.  Trust me, it’s better than the embarrassing (for me) pee in the middle of the sidewalk or driveway, which often occurs just when another pedestrian or the homeowner walks up.

She used to climb the banks, but I’ve had to curb that inclination.  More on that in a bit.

Nu also has a couple of behaviours reserved for winter.  She’s a sniffer.  The rest of the year, she walks with her nose to the ground and often finds the most interesting (read disgusting) things on the side of the road.  Used tissues are a favourite, but occasionally she’ll go for the feces of other animals or the leavings of feral cats (bird corpses mostly).  It’s so disappointing when your pet actually behaves like a dog 😛

Her reaction to having these things extracted from her mouth has resulted in one of her many nick-names: Clamps.  Nu will clench her mouth shut, and physically curl her body to prevent either Phil or myself from getting to the offensive bit.  She becomes completely rigid and I’ve often had to lift most of her 80 pound weight to get at whatever tasty she’s found.

The snow-nosian pupWhen the first decent snow falls, though, the sniffing takes on a whole new dimension.  Nu buries her entire face in the snow, snuffling and digging through it in her attempt to find whatever delicious smell has attracted her. She emerges as the snow-nosian pup.  The snow melts pretty quickly, but sometimes we see the abominable (adorable) snow dog.

I walk Nuala using a Halti.  She can haul anyone clear across the driveway when she has a mind to, so it helps to keep her in line without causing strain on her neck.  She hates the thing though, and during the rest of the year, she’ll rub her chin on the ground in an attempt to scratch beneath, or remove the Halti entirely.

In the winter, this behaviour turns into what I like to call her seal impression.  Nu slides on the snow, nose first, clearing a path for the rest of her to follow.  Her front paws fold back (kind of like flippers) and she slides across the snowy yard, wiggling.  She really does look like a seal.

In recent years, Nuala’s had a few minor health situations.  A couple of years ago, she sheared one of her molars in half.  This necessitated a lengthier-than-expected dental surgery that left her disoriented and whining in that particular post-surgical way.  Any of you who have gone through it with your pet will know what I mean.  Stumbling when she tried to walk, and moaning through a clenched and quivering jaw.  It was truly pathetic.

Last year, she developed what we thought was arthritis, and she was started on a regimen of Metacam and Cartrofen which seemed to be working, but this year, after her Cartrofen booster, she started limping more than usual, not less.

She wouldn’t put weight on her right rear leg and when we took her in to the vet last week, the tentative diagnosis was an ACL injury.  Yes, animals get them too, but unlike humans, you can’t tell them the reason why they can’t run around like a yahoo anymore, climb snow banks, and get overly excited over company.

Here are a couple of helpful videos from Vetstoria.  Note: The second one shows the actual surgery and those uncomfortable with graphic medical information should steer clear.

We’re trying to keep her quiet, and ‘easy,’ ‘whoa,’ and ‘no’ have become a large part of our communication these days.  If she doesn’t improve over the holidays, Nu will be admitted to the vet’s for a day where she’ll be sedated and a definitive diagnosis made.  At this point, she’s resisting the manipulation that could potentially reveal the extent of the injury.

Because the ligament is soft tissue, an x-ray won’t show anything about the ACL.  It will show any ancillary damage caused to the bone, however, so that too might be in Nuala’s future.

If the ACL is significantly torn or detached, Nuala’s headed for surgery, either in Ottawa or Guelph, and that’s an issue for us because both Phil and I work and Nu doesn’t travel well, even over short distances.  One or both of us would have to take the time off work, and neither of us has the vacation to accommodate such a trip.

Though expensive, the cost is not the issue with us.  Our last dog, Zoe, had a couple of Zoesurgeries in an attempt to remove the cancer (hemangiosarcoma) that she developed.  The bill was over five thousand and in the end, the cancer had spread and still resulted in her death.  Sad days, those.

Our cat, Thufir, developed diabetes, and we treated him for years with metformin and then insulin before he finally succumbed to complications.  Phil and I believe that pet ownership includes the responsibility for the animal’s overall health.  These unforeseen crises are some of the reasons we have credit cards and a line of credit.

So that’s life with Nuala these days, who’s earned yet Thufiranother nick-name, the Hoblin, as a result of her current injury.

Will likely update you in the New Year with the developing situation.  I won’t lay claim to prescience, but I have a feeling that surgery will be in our collective future.

Do you have a pet with health issues?  How are you managing it?  My best wishes to anyone dealing with anything serious.