Friday, July 31, 2009

A Diagnosis

Our doggie's doctor from the vet school called this week to let us know they got the results back from the blood tests and they had a confirmed diagnosis: Our dog has leptospirosis! I mentioned before that they were testing for the disease just to rule it out so they were VERY surprised when the results came back positive for it. Apparently there are multiple strains of the disease (similar to the flu) and she tested positive for two of them, one of which was pretty high in her system. There is a vaccine for leptospirosis but it's not routinely given to dogs that I'm aware of, and like the flu it's hit or miss for the particular strains out there.

The treatment for leptospirosis is antibiotics. Since she was being tested for the disease they'd already put her on the appropriate antibiotic as a precaution (part of their protocol at the vet hospital) so that explains why she's been doing better this week—her body has started responding to the antibiotic.

Thanks to the positive diagnosis we didn't end up having to use the eye drops that I talked about before. That's a huge relief; we gave her the first few doses before they said we didn't need to anymore and let me tell you, you haven't lived until you've tried to give a dog eye drops twice a day. She takes her pills with cheese and thinks that's just fine, but eye drops, well, that's another story.

We're definitely relieved to have a diagnosis and the doctor felt very confident that that's what was causing her kidney problems and other symptoms (including not eating, according to what I've read about the disease). Now I'm just continuing to work on getting her to eat regularly again; my purpose in life these days seems to be getting the dog to eat. It's pretty ridiculous. Getting her to eat is all about marketing: She won't eat unless she has some of her "special food" (the gourmet stuff) in her dish with her regular food, but luckily it only takes a tiny bit of the special stuff so that's not too bad. However, she has to see me put it in her dish: If I just put her dish down she comes over to check it out, sniffs it and walks away. If I have her watch me put her food in the dish, though, then she'll sniff it, take a bite, and usually realize she's hungry after all and eat some. Like I said, it's ridiculous and all about marketing with this dog. I'm not sure who is being more manipulated at this point, me or her. And I KNOW she knows perfectly well what I'm saying when I show her the dish and say, "Eat!"

Monday, July 27, 2009

She Ate!

Of course I'm talking about our dog. As anyone who's been following along knows for the past several weeks we've been dealing with our sick pooch, culminating in our taking her to the NC State Veterinary Teaching Hospital last week. The best guess is it's something related to her kidneys, probably either an infection or hormone-related, and for nearly a month now she hasn't wanted to eat. I made her chicken and rice and did everything I could to get some nutrition in her but she still lost 7 pounds over a month. She'd been carrying a few extra pounds (she wasn't overweight—yet—but we didn't want her to gain anymore) so losing a few was ok, but she now has a perfect shape (according to the vet) and she shouldn't lose anymore.

Now I have some good news: She finally seems to be getting better. She's definitely drinking and going less so we're hoping the trend continues. She's a walking animal pharmacy now so that may have something to do with it; maybe the antibiotics and thyroid medicine she's on are making a difference!

Over the weekend I took our local vet's advice and got some different types of canned dog food to try and find something she might like. Most dogs like routine and don't mind eating the same thing everyday; our dog apparently likes variety. I started giving her small amounts of the canned food, then mixed it with some of her dry food, and she's been eating it; she still isn't eating what I'd call a full meal but it's a HUGE improvement compared to her not eating anything at all. Her favorite is the expensive gourmet stuff I got, of course, but so far if I mix a small amount of that with other food it's enough and she'll eat what's in her dish. Up until she got sick she ate 2 meals a day; now I've been giving her small amounts 3 or 4 times a day and that seems to be working. I'm pretty sure her digestive system shut down while she wasn't eating so eating small meals multiple times a day will help with that.

As silly as it sounds I'm also fairly sure our dog has to be retrained to eat. She's always been a creature of habit and routine (as most dogs are, I think) and when she doesn't do something for a while she tends to forget how to do it and has to relearn. Like sleeping through the night: In this case her going out every night was due to being sick but in the past she's sometimes gotten up for a few nights and then "forgotten" how to sleep through the night. We've then "reminded her" (usually by putting her in her crate) how it's done. Now when she didn't eat for so long I think she got used to not eating and lost interest; she wasn't even interested in treats or her bedtime biscuits (as we call them) that she gets every night. For the past 2 days she's been interested in her treats and biscuits again. Not having so much water in her system anymore is also probably helping get her appetite back. Last night we could definitely see a difference in her energy level now that she had some food in her stomach: She was playing with her toys (and my husband) much more energetically than she had recently. I'd already taken her for a walk before he got home so pooch was pretty pooped; after playing with him she excused herself and promptly fell asleep on the couch.

Today our precious pooch has managed to eat some breakfast and lunch, so when I get home from class tonight we'll shoot for some dinner. And tomorrow I'll be going back to the store to get some more of that gourmet dog food... If a little of that is all it takes to get her eating again then I'm all for it!

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Today is my birthday.

Nope, I'm not going to say how old I am, not because I'm particularly vain about it but because I'd like potential employers to look at this blog someday and that isn't information I want to hand them on a platter; they can interview me and judge my age for themselves. I'm not saying I'm over-the-hill or anything like that (though my dad did tell me this morning that the hill keeps moving thanks to advancements in medicine), I've just read too many articles in the paper lately about age being a factor in hiring decisions. So I'm leaving my age out of this blog. Suffice it to say I'm somewhere between being old enough to vote and I'm not on Medicare yet. (Though while we were in CA my husband somehow got on AARP mailing lists and that seems to have followed us here. We still periodically get ads in the mail for hearing aids and retirement homes. Maybe we should take them up on it—some of those retirement homes look pretty nice!)

So far it's been a pretty nice day. A few phone calls, e-mails (including a link to geritol from a friend at church—thanks, Jordan), cards in the mail, and flowers and a cake from my hubby:

My hubby the pyromaniac. The fire extinguisher was a nice touch. He put this together while I was out getting dog food choices for our picky pooch.

He got a chocolate-lovers cheesecake. Mmmmm, chocolate—is there any other flavor?

The obligatory flowers. He's been trained well. :-)

Since my husband works today and won't be home for dinner we'll be celebrating the rest of my birthday with a special dinner out next week. For now I'm planning on spending the rest of the day doing homework for my class (I know, not fun, but it's now or have a stressful Monday when it's due), but before I do I thought since it's my birthday and the beginning of a new year (or era, depending on your perspective) I'd take some time out and list 10 things I'm thankful for as I begin the next year. So here it goes:
  1. I'm thankful for a God who loves me and gave His Son to die for me. That is without a doubt the greatest gift (birthday or otherwise) that I could ever receive.

  2. I'm thankful for a loving husband who loves God and me and wants the best for me. (He told me yesterday that he's thankful for me, and I hadn't even told him about my intentions to make this list yet.)

  3. Since it just started pouring rain outside I'll go ahead and say it: I'm thankful for the rain. Otherwise I have to water things by hand with the hose and I'm lazy and don't do it enough. I'm really thankful when Mother Nature does it for me.

  4. I'm thankful for the opportunity I've had to go back to school to get my master's in a field I enjoy. At this time next year I hope to be thankful for the great job my degree helped me get.

  5. I'm thankful for my parents who are helping us while I'm in school. Life would definitely be more difficult and stressful without their help.

  6. I'm thankful for having married into a wonderful Christian family and being able to spend holidays with them now that we're on the east coast. Admittedly I'm still getting used to having big-family holidays but I'm thankful to be a part of them.

  7. I'm thankful that I still have few enough gray hairs that I can still pull them out.

  8. I'm thankful that I still have plenty of hair so you can't notice when I pull a few gray hairs out.

  9. Having recently had surgery I'm thankful for my health.

  10. I'm thankful for another year, another decade, another quarter-century, and whatever God chooses to give me on this earth.

Here's to a great next year.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Home Sweet Home

I brought our precious pooch home from the vet hospital last night.

Where to begin (and be brief at the same time). They're still waiting for test results to come back to see if they'll shed any light on what's causing her problems. They still think it's kidney-related, but whether it's a kidney infection specifically or something else that's causing her kidneys to react is still unknown. And there's still the whole issue of cause and effect: They don't know if she's drinking a lot because she's urinating so much or if she's urinating so much because she's drinking a lot; in other words they don't know which is causing the other. They sent her home with antibiotics just in case it is an infection and next week we'll be doing a test where we give her an artificial hormone related to the pituatary gland to see if she reacts to that. (It's an eye drop where we have to give her 3 drops twice a day—that's gonna be interesting.) Right now we're monitoring (as in keeping track of and measuring) how much water she drinks to get a baseline measurement for this test. I replaced the buckets she usually has outside with a bowl so it would be easier for me to measure—that confused her. She keeps going over to the (dry) buckets and sticking her head in them, wondering where the water is. I'll fill the buckets again on Sunday when we're done measuring how much she's drinking for this round.

While she was at the vet school they also tested her for tick-borne diseases and they're waiting for the results to come back on that. They think the chances that she has one are very small but there were a couple things about her bloodwork that made it a possibility so they went ahead and sent the blood samples out for further testing. One of the diseases they're checking for is leptospirosis, a bacterial disease that can be transmitted to humans. Even though they think the chances that she has it are pretty slim the fact that they were testing her for it meant that the hospital had to follow certain protocols for our dog; in effect she had to be quarantined and everyone who interacted with her had to take certain precautions. Those precautions included wearing gloves to touch her and dressing up in a full biosuit to be with her in her cage—which I did when I went to visit her before they released her. Unfortunately I didn't have the camera with me but I had to have looked pretty funny. If you've ever been around a clean room or a sterile lab that's the kind of garb I had to wear. I call our dog my little biohazard now. Of course wearing the gloves and suit were only required at the hospital; at home we don't have to be quite that careful with her, we just have to make sure we don't come in contact with her urine until they've confirmed she doesn't have the disease. Not that I'd like to come in contact with her urine, anyway, thank you very much!

While our little biohazard (told ya I was calling her that now) was at the hospital they had her on an IV so they had to shave her leg for that. They also had to shave her belly for a couple other tests (the ultrasound, I'm guessing) so I thought you'd like to see how funny she looks with her shaved areas now:

Don't my leg and tummy look funny?

On the bright side she seems to be drinking and going less today and she's definitely alert and has energy (she slept like a rock last night!) but she still isn't eating... I saw our regular vet with the cat today (just for a check-up but that's a whole other story) and she suggested I get some different canned food to try and find something she likes. She's been eating the same food for years and never had a problem with it but maybe changing to something new—even just temporarily—would do the trick. Unfortunately I'm lazy and really don't feel like going to the grocery store right now... Maybe tomorrow morning. In the meantime she'll still eat chicken (particularly if I hand-feed it to her) so for this evening I'll probably just go with that. Thankfully she still likes cheese—a good thing since that's how I get her to take all her pills!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Visit to the Vet School

Today we took our precious pooch to the NC State Veterinary Teaching Hospital. It's quite a place. It was pretty crowded when we got there and I thought we'd probably have to wait a while but we were only in the waiting room for a couple minutes before we were called back. The way things work there is first you see a 4th year student who does a physical exam on the animal and gets their medical history from you; it's very thorough and they ask lots of questions. Then the student goes away and consults with a resident/intern, then the two of them come back and the intern asks more questions and discusses a recommended course of action. In our case they wanted to start with a full blood work up and an abdominal ultrasound to check her kidneys and other organs, then go from there. They also wanted to keep her overnight, at least, and start her on an IV and catheter so she wouldn't have to drink and go so much and could get a break from all that. Since I had surgery recently and had an IV and catheter myself I can't quite imagine how they do that on a dog... but apparently they do!

So we left our dog in their care. This evening the student assigned to her case called to report on the tests they ran this afternoon, and in particular the ultrasound: She said there are definite abnormalities on her kidneys and at least one of them is enlarged, indicating a kidney infection. When she started having problems and I took her to our vet we thought then it might be a kidney infection but the blood and urinalysis tests came back negative so we ruled it out. Apparently kidney infections don't always show up in blood tests or even in cultures if you don't get a large enough sample to grow the culture. They're doing some further tests now but they're fairly certain it's a kidney infection that's causing her problems so now they just have to identify the bacteria so they can put her on the right antibiotic. Once she's on that she should start to improve. They're probably going to keep her there for another day (and night) so they can start the antibiotic intravenously, then she'll come home on Friday with oral meds. The student who called this evening did say they got her to eat some canned dog food mixed with some cat food; at one point I'd wondered if she might eat cat food if I gave it to her but I never tried it. I guess I should have!

The fact that they found something is definitely good news since now they can head toward treating it. Even when we left her I felt a sense of comfort that our precious pooch is in the best place she can be right now and we did the right thing in bringing her. Everyone we met was very nice and helpful, and she'll definitely be well-taken care of while she's there. They don't rest until they track down what's wrong with the animals that come there; an element of being a teaching hospital, I guess. I'm very thankful we were able to bring her there. Apparently we were luckier than I realized: When we were leaving and paying our deposit the person at the front desk said they're very selective about what animals they take, even with referrals. (You can only go there by referral, they don't do routine animal care.) Our vet only faxed the referral to them on Monday and we were able to get an appointment on Wednesday so thankfully it all happened very quickly for us. When I made the appointment the paperwork they sent me included a list of pet-friendly hotels in the area so I guess people from all over (surrounding states) bring animals to this hospital for specialty services. The person we talked to at the front desk said NC State is one of the best and they do get a lot of referrals from far away.

So that's the current story on our dog. Thank you so much for your prayers for her. There is one positive consequence of her staying at the hospital overnight: We'll be able to get a full night's sleep. We've been taking turns getting up to let her out in the middle of the night for nearly a month now so it's been quite a while since we've had an uninterrupted night of sleep. I miss our precious pooch (the house isn't the same without her!) but I know she's being taken care of, and I'm definitely looking forward to a good night's sleep!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Dog Update

Thank you to everyone who has been praying for our dog. Unfortunately, things don't seem to be getting better as far as her eating is concerned. Over the weekend I pretty much gave up trying to get her to eat her dog food and made rice and chicken for her instead; at first she seemed to like that but I guess the novelty wore off and now she won't even eat that. Last night we had hamburgers for dinner so we made one for the dog as well; she ate some of it then but won't eat the rest of it mixed with rice today.

We talked to the vet on Friday who at this point doesn't know what else to do. She suggested we take our dog to see an animal internist at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine. The vet called this morning to see how our dog was doing before she faxed the referral paperwork over to the vet school. She said they would probably call us later today to set up that appointment.

At this point taking our dog to the vet school seems like our only course of action, so we're praying for wisdom regarding what to do. As anyone with pets knows when an animal has to go to the vet it's almost always a very expensive venture. Depending on what doctors at the vet school want to do just the tests alone could end up costing several thousand dollars. Money isn't exactly growing on trees for us right now (it never has and I doubt it ever will!) so for now we're just trying to take things one day at a time and do what we can to help our doggie feel better. We'll see what the vet school has to say.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Please Pray for Our Dog

For the past month our dog has been having various problems. First she seemed to be in pain when she got up or down and we thought it might be arthritis; a trip to the vet and x-rays confirmed that might be the case. The vet gave her some medicine for it and she seemed to get better. Then, a few weeks later a new problem emerged: She started drinking like there's no tomorrow, as if she can't drink enough to satisfy her thirst. Drinking so much also causes her to need to go a lot more; we've had several "accidents" in the living room and she can't make it through the night so we take turns getting up to take her out each night, which means we haven't had a full night's sleep for a while now. We thought maybe it was a kidney infection but another trip to the vet with blood tests and a urinalysis ruled that out. The vet now thinks it might be a thyroid issue (hypothyroidism) so now she's on medicine for that. (Ironically, our cat has hyperthyroidism and has been on medicine for that for several years. The cat's medicine seems to keep her condition under control; we're hoping this medicine for the dog will do the same—if hypothyroidism is indeed the cause of her problems.)

The biggest problem is she hasn't been eating regularly through all of this, as many animals (and humans) don't when they don't feel well. At first I was able to coax her to eat by putting some chicken in her dish with her regular food and she would eat some food with the chicken. Over the past few days, though, even that hasn't worked, and no matter what we put in her dish (chicken, steak, bacon, beef jerky—all her favorites) she just sniffs it and walks away. She'll eat the chicken, steak, etc. if we give it to her directly out of our hand but she won't eat her dog food even that way.

I know she's getting weaker now and doesn't have very much energy (except to still bother the cat occasionally). My husband tells me not to worry too much yet, that we'll call the vet again and that she'll eat when she gets hungry enough. But the dog and cat are my "babies" and I get very upset when either of them is sick or won't eat so this is definitely affecting me now. Please pray that our dog will start eating again and her thirst will go back to normal; if it is hypothyroidism that the medicine she's on now will help and not make things worse, or if it's not that the vet will be able to determine the cause and find a treatment plan that works.

We miss our playful dog. Thank you for your prayers.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Backyard Birding

Hummingbirds at our feeder in California.

Dan and I love to watch birds in our backyard. When we lived in California we had a hummingbird feeder hanging under our roof outside a picture window. CA has quite a few hummingbird varieties and our feeder was very popular. Sometimes we even had birds lining up for a drink!

Waiting in line.

We also had two special visitors to the feeder, a pair of Bullock's orioles. With their bright yellow plumage they were also so pretty to watch.

Bullock's orioles

Here in North Carolina we don't have the same type of house as we did in California and we can't hang feeders under the roof like we did in California. So Dan built a feeder stand for our deck instead. I can see it from the kitchen window and I love watching the birds while I'm getting dinner ready or washing dishes. The hummingbird feeder is pretty popular here, too, but what's really popular is the suet feeder. Some of our "customers" that enjoy the suet include:


Downey woodpeckers:

Red-bellied woodpeckers:

(This one is an immature bird that we've named Red-belly junior. He's a regular at the feeder.)

We've also seen wrens, mockingbirds, and robins at the feeder so it definitely gets a lot of use. Unfortunately, we also have a few unwelcome guests, including these fellows:

I know some people like to have squirrels come to feeders but we'd much rather leave it for the birds. When the squirrels come they hog the food, scare the birds away and make a HUGE mess. They go for the suet, the seed, and we even find them regularly trying to drink out of the hummingbird feeder, which explains why all the squirrels around us are so fat! They also perform amazing (or ridiculous, take your pick) acrobatics trying to get to the various feeders. I haven't been able to get good pictures of them doing it because they always see me coming but here's one I caught; it's not the best picture but it's definitely illustrative of what our squirrels do:

Pesky little fella!

Since creating the stand Dan has been at war with the squirrels, trying to find a way to keep them away from the feeders. He's tried putting the feeders on wires that the squirrels can't pull (when the suet was on a string the squirrels simply pulled the string up and muched away) and putting them far out from the railing so the squirrels can't stretch to them. The squirrels always find a way, however, resourceful little critters that they are. Now Dan has taken to leaving the hose on the deck with the water on and he tries to spray them as they run away. It doesn't deter them from coming back, of course (and they're usually faster than Dan can get to the hose and spray them before they get out of range), but it makes him feel better when he's able to make one a soggy squirrel.

Last but not least recently we've had an unwelcome nighttime visitor:

I took this picture at 2:50 a.m. one night so that explains why it's blurry. I was having trouble with the camera, or at that hour the camera was having trouble with me.

While squirrels are a nuisance raccoons can do real damage, including to your dog if you're letting her out at night and don't know the raccoon is there! Now we always make sure to check for raccoons before we let the dog out at night. We even take the suet down at night to try to discourage them, though as you can see some raccoons will apparently eat seed just as well!

Regardless of the challenges we always enjoy the feeders and watching the birds that come to them. It's our kind of reality show!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

What Day Is It?

During the summer my husband works most weekends. State parks are generally utilized more heavily during the weekend so it makes sense that rangers would need to be on duty then. This means that his "weekend" falls on weekdays instead. This isn't necessarily a bad thing but since I don't have a regular schedule right now, either, it does make it difficult to keep track of what day it actually is. For example, Dan went back to work today after having the past two days off so today feels like a Monday to me; I have to keep reminding myself that it isn't Monday, it's Thursday. It's important that I remember what day it is since not only do I need to remember when to go to class but I also need to remember when assignments are due. I'm fairly certain an excuse of, "I lost track of what day it was," wouldn't fly very well with my professors.

One advantage of hubby having days off during the week is with my relatively flexible schedule right now (other than needing to be in class at certain times) I can often join him on "weekend" activities during the week. Since crowds tend to be lighter then we often have places to ourselves. Yesterday we took our dog and had a picnic and went swimming at a local lake. We were the only people in the picnic area and the swimming area we chose. Thanks to shade the weather was bearable and we had a great time. Our dog isn't much of a water dog; she'll get her feet wet but she doesn't like to go in much beyond that. Dan thought she might follow us in so he tried to coax her into the water; apparently she went in farther than she was comfortable with. (She probably didn't like all of the mud in her paws, either.) So she tried to get the first solid ground she saw, which happened to be a log in the water. Have you ever seen a dog try to get all four feet on a log? It was pretty funny. Unfortunately, I was in the water at the time and couldn't get to the camera to take a picture. At one point she actually succeeded and had all four feet on that log. From there she got to the shore as quickly as she could and decided she'd had enough of the water for a while. She explored a little more on shore and then settled down for a nap until we left.

A tired pooch.