Monday, May 30, 2011

Ticks are EVIL!

Chandler finished two months of antibiotic treatment for anaplasmosis today. Like lyme, anaplasmosis is a tick borne disease. This saga actually started about two years ago, when Chandler's routine snap test for heartworm and three tick diseases showed a positive for anaplasmosis.

But I like this tick. I chose it myself.

The next thing I discovered was that it is difficult to find a veterinarian well-versed with treating tick borne diseases. My regular vet sent me home with the message "he's not showing symptoms, so we don't need to worry about it at the moment." I wandered online just to find out what anaplasmosis was and what symptoms I should watch out for and discovered that maybe I SHOULD worry about it.

I found an excellent webpage titled Tick Disease in Dogs, that led me to the Tick List information page, where I could do more online exploration and also join a listserv where people went for support and suggestions when treating their dogs for tick borne diseases. Both of these are excellent resources that I have since recommended to other people. I learned a lot from the people on the listserv. It turns out that many vets do not realize that there is no such thing as a "faint positive" on an IDEXX Snap4Dx test. Instead it is simply a yes or no test that indicates whether the dog is producing antigens or antibodies to the organism being tested for. I also discovered that misdiagnosing and insufficient treatment were common problems people had when working with their vet to try and treat a tick borne disease. The first is understandable since so many tick diseases have vague symptoms that can be mistaken for something else. However, it seemed like many people came to the Tick List after their concerns were ignored or their dog had been treated with insufficient antibiotics.

In 2009, Chandler was treated with 250 mg of doxycycline twice a day for 30 days. This was actually 30 days less than recommended by the Tick List, but I didn't fuss too much as Chandler's appetite had been badly affected by the doxycycline. Looking back, I should have had an initial anaplasmosis titer done when he started treatment, but I was short on funds at the time and elected to check his titer 6 months later. Unfortunately, without the initial titer, I had no baseline to determine if his treatment had been successful. Instead I elected to keep monitering his titer for changes.

That was the way things stood until this March, when Chandler's latest titer had jumped from 1: 1280 to 1:5120. That's a twofold jump in magnitude. I had not seen any behavioral symptoms, but further testing showed a drop in neutrophils, the white blood cells that anaplasmosis affects. Either Chandler's original infection had rebounded, or another deer tick had gotten to him, despite my religious use of Frontline.

I elected to treat Chan again, this time with a more rigorous regimen of 250 mg doxycycline twice a day for the full 60 days. It turned out that he did have a subtle behavioral symptom of anaplasmosis. Soon after we started treatment Chandler suddenly stopped "dithering" when choosing a spot during his "bathroom breaks". Things went fairly well for the first week or so of treatment, and then Chander started to show finickiness when eating. First he didn't want to eat his kibble, then he rejected the canned pumpkin that I was adding to help keep him regular despite the antibiotic. I switched him to canned food, and baked the canned pumpkin into pumpkin bread, which he would eat.

Then on April 10th, we went out hiking with friends and Chandler strained his iliopsoas muscle. This resulted in 10 days of Deramaxx being added to the pills Chandler was taking, to help manage his pain. As this treatment went on, Chandler got fussier and fussier about food, until he was only eating things like cooked chicken, lamb, or venison with his pumpkin bread thrown in. Since Chan normally eats just about anything, I was worried enough to take him in for some more testing.

It turned out that Chandler's liver values had risen to practically stratospheric levels. This was dangerous, so we stopped the doxycycline, switched to 250 mg of ciprofloxactin two times per day, and started giving Denamarin once per day to support his liver. Unfortunately for me, Denamarin should be given on an empty stomach one hour before eating. Chandler got his liver support pill at 5 am when the cats got breakfast, then I'd try to nap for an hour before getting his breakfast and antibiotic. The hour after that the cats usually ran me over again. With my work schedule, I usually try to feed the cats and then get a few more hours of sleep. Chandler's morning pills have made this a rough month for me. I am very glad they are finished.

I hope we managed to wipe out the anaplasmosis this time around. In six months I'll have another titer done at Protatek, and see what it says. In the meantime, I'll fuss about flea and tick treatments and try to find tiny deer ticks on a fuzzy black dog. It is a worry that will probably never go away, but I'll hope for the best.

I'm not sure why she smiles so much when I squeak my tick.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Saturday, May 21, 2011

We're off to see the Wizard, the Wonderful Wizard of Paws

We're off to see the Wizard, The Wonderful Wizard of Paws.
You'll find she is a whiz of a Wiz! If ever a Wiz! there was.
If ever oh ever a Wiz! there was The Wizard of Paws is one because,
Because, because, because, because, because.
Because of the wonderful things she does!

Chandler has been slowly recovering from his strained muscle. About three weeks ago, I decided that simple rest was not doing enough to help him recover, so I made an appointment with Chandler's physical therapist, Debbie Gross Saunders. Her business is known as the Wizard of Paws. To summarize the outcome, Chandler and I visited her new facility and my suspicions that he had strained his iliopsoas were confirmed. We were told to start a regimen of gentle exercise and stretches involving leash walking, ball work, and perhaps some treadmill time.

More information about iliopsoas strains and tears can be found in the following links:
Non-responsive Hind-limb Lameness in Agility Dogs: Iliopsoas Strains
Iliopsoas Muscle Tears
The Canine Athletes Blog (Not iliopsoas specific, but a good source for canine rehabilitation and conditioning links.)

Wednesday was our second appointment with the Wizard of Paws, and this time I brought along my smaller camera to try and get some photos. However, getting there turned out to be a bit less routine than I had imagined, as we experienced some delays on the Yellow Brick Road, aka Route 2 between Glastonbury and Colchester. Fortunately the problem was not witches or flying monkeys; instead it was this:

Don't ask me, I was in the cargo area of the car trying to be a good passenger.

Yes, it turns out that the President was giving the graduation address at the Coast Guard Academy. The weather was not good enough for him to take a helicopter as had been planned, so instead his motorcade was traveling down Route 2. A motorcycle cop calmly blocking the entrance ramp to the highway was the first hint that I got that something unusual was going on. I was starting to worry that some horrific accident had totally blocked the highway when about eight more police motorcycles zipped by on the highway, followed by numerous unmarked vehicles flashing red and blue, two limousines flying American flags, an ambulance, press vans, more black vehicles with red and blue lights, followed by more police motorcycles. We were finally allowed on the highway after the convoy had passed, and as we traveled at 5 to 10 mph under the speed limit, I had an excellent view of how all the entrances and emergency turn areas on the highway were being systematically blocked.

Despite the delay, we managed to only be three minutes late for Chandler's appointment. Immediately upon arrival, Chandler was greeted by Bogart, who was filling in as the resident munchkin that day.

Aren't Clumber Spaniels a bit large to be munchkins?

Chandler's treatment started with cold laser therapy and some massage. The strain in his right iliopsoas is also causing soreness in the muscles on the dorsal side of his pelvis, so Debbie made sure to treat all the affected areas. Chandler was not thrilled with being on the hydraulic table at first, but he did finally settle down for treatment.

Sore hips. Not fun.

After that, we moved on to ball work with the office's giant inflatable peanut. Chandler's job was to stand on it and keep his balance while Debbie and her assistant steadied it.

It's all about balance control.

This sort of exercise is supposed to gently work Chan's muscles and strengthen them. Chan had spent the last week at home doing this for 5-10 minute periods once or twice a day on his egg shaped exercise ball. At home I had noticed that Chandler had trouble standing for more than a minute or two. He kept trying to lie down or sit down. The previous year he had been able to stand on the egg for an seemingly unlimited amounts of time, so it was quite obvious that his leg was now giving him trouble. Chan was not in a cooperative mood, perhaps because the peanut was not egg shaped, perhaps because he hates going to the doctor, or perhaps because it was pressed up against the dreaded treadmill. He had to be lifted onto the peanut, and later tried to stealthily slide off one end of it.

Do you think they'll notice if I casually slide off this end?

Chandler preferred standing on an exercise disc while Bonnie massaged his hips again.

This is more like it!

But unfortunately, Chandler still had to face his nemesis, the treadmill. His first experience with a treadmill had happened the previous week during his therapy session. At the time it seemed to me that Chandler was of the opinion that floors that moved were just plain wrong. His opinion had not changed during the week when he had been using my mother's treadmill. Despite blatant bribery, getting him onto the contraption had required some pulling on his lead while he was trying to keep all four paws planted. Debbie's treadmill is built specifically for dogs of all sizes, so it is longer. I can't say Chandler enjoyed his treadmill time, but he did survive it in one piece. He also immediately forgave us for loading him onto such a heinous instrument of canine torture, having wags and kisses for us afterward.

Why do I have to walk on the treadmill? Why?!?

The good news is that Chan is slowly improving. He is now allowed to climb stairs as long as he is not being a wild maniac about it. His muscle tone is coming back after his weeks of rest. However, recovery is going to take time. I don't know when he'll be able to do more than leashed exercise. I can still see him favoring his right hind leg a little. Chandler has another appointment with the Wizard of Paws next week. He may get to try the underwater treadmill. I wonder if he'll like it better if water is involved?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I guess this means he's a header, not a heeler.

Survey says:
Bossy Chandler practicing his herding techniques.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Chandler, what ARE you doing?!?

I love my D5000. I’m still learning how to use it, but I can get some good results simply by using the “sports” setting and taking a burst of photos. The burst is fast enough that it sometimes catches sequences that the naked eye misses in real time.

When going through my photos from our trip to Goss on the 10th of April, I found an interesting series of shots that happened while the dogs were playing fetch. I’m not really sure what Chandler is doing while the dogs are running back with the ball. The best I can come up with is that this is some kind of canine version of bumper cars, or a teeny bit of bossiness showing up in play. The Golden Retriever looks more annoyed or disgusted than fearful or upset to me. I don’t think she appreciated being sideswiped, but it didn’t ruin her day either. Chan’s expression is a bit more serious near the end, which makes me wonder if bossiness was kicking in. However, it is also obvious that he is not trying to hurt the Golden. Perhaps this is an odd form of canine flirting?

Unfortunately, this just leaves me to wonder “Chandler, what ARE you doing in these photos?”