How not to medicate dogs

A frame Mia

After we started treating Leo for pannus, Mia’s eyes started looking goopy. Tempting as it was to just start giving her the same medicine we give Leo, I took her in for her own eye exam. While Mia has better social skills than Leo in many ways (as far as people are concerned), Leo is actually the friendlier dog. Mia is not very cooperative when it comes to being examined, and will try her hardest to escape.

We managed to get her up on the motorized, elevated exam table, and I held her still long enough to have her eyes looked at. I tried not to be offended when the vet tech asked if she needed to be muzzled. Nothing against muzzles, but in this situation it would have only increased her aversion. We have never muzzled her, and she doesn’t bite. It seems my eye doctor has had bad experiences with German shepherds before, so rather than be defensive, the best I can do is hope for my dogs to be breed ambassadors.

Anyway, she was diagnosed with dry eye. Not as serious as Leo’s pannus, but requiring one of the same medicines. They gave it to me in drop form, even though Leo was getting it as an ointment.

Mia hated the medicine. She ran away from me when I tried to put it in, and afterward, would wipe at her eye. I told the eye doctor this and she said maybe to try the ointment because the drops might sting. Owie! Poor Mia!

For several weeks, I only managed to give her the medicine once a day, because she clearly hated it so much. She didn’t wipe at her eyes like she did with the drops, but she ran away from me afterward. If I gave her a piece of cheese afterward, she’d run away from me next time I offered cheese. If I gave it to her after she came in the house at bedtime, she’d refuse to come back inside next time.

Mia is totally on to me. I have to vary the routine so she doesn’t form a negative association with anything that happens anywhere near the time I give her the medicine. She does hold still when I give her the medicine, but she obviously holds a grudge.

For several days, I gave it to her right before or right after we went on our evening walk, which was working out pretty well. But it became clear that getting the medicine once a day is not enough, so now I have to find a time to do it in the morning that doesn’t ruin our entire relationship.

I feed them right before I leave the house. I put Mia’s bowl in her little condo outside, and close her in the dog run. She used to trot right into her condo for breakfast. After just one day of my giving her eye medicine before feeding her, she refused to come back into the dog run from the big yard. I’m telling you, she holds a grudge!

Any trainer would say the trick is to give her a really high value reward to give her a better association with the medicine. But you see what’s happening here? The medicine is such an aversive it’s poisoning whatever reward I try to give her. I’ve made up my mind though, that it’s important for her to get the medicine twice a day. She’s due for her 3-month checkup, and I don’t even want to subject her to it until I’ve been giving her the proper dosage.

So I’ll be chasing her down twice a day, and hoping that she still loves me in between doses.

Positive TrainingThis post is part of the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop, hosted by Cascadian NomadsTenacious Little Terrier and Rubicon Days. This month’s theme is National Pet First Aid Awareness Month. The hop happens on the first Monday of every month, and is open for a full week – please join us in spreading the word about the rewards of positive training!

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Temple of the Dog

I recently had Lasik surgery.* Contact lenses had become really uncomfortable, so I preferred wearing glasses, but they interfered with my ability to take pictures using a DSLR. (Not to mention they got rained on and fogged up all the time.**)

That’s one of the reasons I’ve been slacking on taking pics of my pups.

No excuses now. Here’s the first batch of post-Lasik pics!

*Lasik is amazing, by the way. I highly recommend it. Find a good surgeon who’s done lots of surgeries. (I wouldn’t go to a discount place, but that’s just me). If you’re in the Pacific Northwest, go to Restore Vision Centers. The procedure couldn’t have been smoother, they were very calming, and they had chocolate and valium. Nothing but good things to say about the whole deal.

**I went on my first post-Lasik dog walk in the pouring rain on Sunday. It was magical to be able to see in the rain. It was also very cold and wet.

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Natural remedies for dog anxiety

Isis was on Prozac when she died. We’d just increased her dosage.

While I don’t think that caused her sudden death from bleeding near the heart, I have a bad association with it. I don’t even know if it worked. The night before she died, Isis cowered under a table shaking.

Ergo, I hesitate to give Prozac to Mia for her anxiety, which is relatively minor compared to Isis’s.

dog park_5

Is it though? Mia destroyed all the doors in our house. Isis just chewed on couches.

For the most part, Mia is triggered by very specific noises: 1) Beeping from the oven timer, ring timer (in martial arts videos), smoke detector. 2) Clicking from our security cameras.

She shakes and tries to crawl on our laps.

On other occasions, seemingly unrelated to environmental clicking and beeping, she whines. We call it squeaking and whistling. Sometimes she does this in the middle of the night for an hour straight.


I asked my vet if there’s something we could give her occasionally for anxiety (although I don’t know how I’m supposed to predict when she’s going to have an episode). The vet tech mentioned Zylkène, a natural product, derived from casein, a protein in milk. I guess it’s supposed to be calming like a momma dog’s milk? As you can tell from the link, this is a UK product. It is extremely expensive. About $60 for a two-week supply for a dog Mia’s size.

What the hell, I ordered some. It’s a powder inside capsules you can open and sprinkle in food. Apparently it tastes good enough for her to eat without additional flavor-enhancement. I tried to stretch it out by giving her only half the dosage and noticed no change. Then I gave her the correct dose until I ran out. Two weeks isn’t really a long enough study length for statistically significant findings, but she did have a late-night squeak and whistle attack after we ran out. And I don’t think she had one while she was taking it.

I tried to find it for a cheaper price and stumbled upon Composure, which contains colostrum, a form of milk produced by the mammary glands of mammals in late pregnancy. It was an eighth of the price. During this time, I won the rafflecopter from Rubicon Days for PL 360 Anxiety Relief, which contains chamomile and tryptophan.

PL 360Both of these are chewables that Mia ate easily… neither had any noticeable effect. So I reordered the Zylkène.

Last week, we had a violent windstorm overnight. I was kept awake by the rattling of the gate outside. Mia started whining. She’d had Zylkène with her breakfast. I gave her two of the PL 360 and she immediately quieted. The change was so drastic, I actually leaned over her bed and poked her to make sure the anxiety relief pills hadn’t instantly killed her.

The next night she squeaked again and I gave her two more PL 360 and she went right to sleep. So maybe I’ll be reordering those after all. Thanks, Rubicon Days!



This post is part of the Positive Pet Training blog hop, hosted by Cascadian Nomads, Rubicon Days & Tenacious Little Terrier.

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When in doubt, go to the vet

I have been known to take my dogs to the vet for something that turned out to be nothing. And I have found that I’m given the same medicine for a multitude of ailments.

Mometamax: works on itchy spots and stinky ears alike. (Buy it online and save.)

And who hasn’t googled something like “Why is my dog’s tooth turning brown?” and believed only the most dire web diagnoses?

You don’t feel so foolish though, do you, when it turns out something is wrong with your dog, and thanks to your early action, he’s going to be just fine.

Sometime in the last year, we noticed Leo’s eyes getting crustier than before. I thought it might be an allergy to all the cheese we shove in his face, but when one eye started oozing green goop, we went to the vet. We got some neo-poly-dex drops and the goop seemed to clear up. Or at least it wasn’t green for a while.

Then his eyes got crusty again, then goopy, and the day I picked him up from camp, he had green goop in both eyes.

Lucky for us, we have a doggie eye doctor in the neighborhood! And lucky us, she could see us that afternoon!

Leo tries to read the smallest line on the eye chart.

Leo tries to read the smallest line on the eye chart.

After a couple of tests and a peek in his beautiful brown eyes, Dr. McCalla diagnosed Leo with pannus, or chronic superficial keratitis, which is very common in German shepherds.

The bad news is that it needs lifelong treatment. The good news is that it’s not painful and we caught it very early. Usually, the dogs Dr. McCalla sees are in a lot worse shape. If left untreated, it can cause vision loss.

So, I’m very relieved that we took Leo in when we did, and I’m happy to put eye drops in his eyes twice every day for the rest of his life. He’s less excited about that part.

I sensed a little bit of uncertainty from the vet tech and the doctor when they first approached Leo. One of them even said something about not being able to trust (some? all?) German shepherds, but he was a prince. He squinted a little when they tried to stick stuff in his eyes, and we had to back him into a corner to do the tear test, but he didn’t cry or menace in any way.

The doc made a big point of saying that in 30-plus years of working with dogs, Leo is one of the nicest German shepherds she has EVER met.

Prince Leo

BlogPaws Wordless Wednesday Blog HopNot so wordless today, but you should check out the other blogs in the Wordless Wednesday Blog Hop
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Blame it on the pit bull


Just kidding. Don’t blame Gracie. It’s not her fault!

Gracie is a total wiggle butt/snuggle bug available at the Humane Society of Skagit Valley. At least she was the last time I was there, which was May 22 … !

What happened to me there, and the reason I haven’t been back yet is not her fault, but because of her breed, even though she’s a very petite pittie, the news media is bound to sensationalize it and place the blame on her.

All right. Here it is. I fell down.

Somebody that I told my story to, before I even told him how I got hurt, before he knew it happened while walking a dog, asked “Did your dog pull you down?”

Seriously, I swear. No.

I was walking Gracie between a fenced play yard and a berm. The ground was uneven; I think I was walking on fist-sized gravel. Smooth rocks. I’ve walked Gracie before and she is flawless on leash. A larger dog was in the yard, one I haven’t walked because his sign says he’s not available because he’s “working on his manners.” He raced toward the fence and I thought very calmly, What a great opportunity to see if Gracie is at all reactive to other dogs.

And then I went down. It is a testament to both dogs that I don’t even remember what they did. I’m pretty sure Gracie just stood there attached to me via leash. The other dog didn’t even bark.

I had simply tripped over my own feet, and when I landed on my left shoulder, the wind was knocked out of me.

That’s a phrase I’ve heard a lot – “wind knocked out” – and now I understand what it means. I couldn’t breathe. Specifically, I felt like I couldn’t get air out. I also sprained my right thumb.

My thoughts at the moment: I’m hurt. I’m hurt. No… I seem to be okay. Nothing broken. No scrapes. No one saw; thank god! So embarrassing.

So I kept on walking Gracie. Then I walked two more dogs. My thumb hurt quite a bit, but that seemed to be the worst of my injuries.

Until I woke the next morning with pain on the side of my chest. I googled “bruised ribs,” and yep that’s what it was. Even if they were cracked, the Internet says the treatment is the same: ice, rest, drugs. Six weeks to heal.

That was almost four weeks ago. I’ve mostly been functional when upright, as long as I don’t overexert myself. Walking is fine. Getting up from a lying position is hard. Sneezing was excruciating, but that has improved. I was able to do my part to separate two fighting dogs (ours).

I did wind up seeking medical help a week and a half ago when I had sharp chest pains and was short of breath. Thought I was having a heart attack, maybe a Vicodin overdose? Nope, just strain in the interstitial cartilage or something. A house call from paramedics and four hours in the ER later, I was disappointed they didn’t see any fractures in my X-rays.

So that’s my deal. I hope to be better and back to walking shelter dogs in a couple of weeks. And though I’d love to see her again, I hope Gracie’s not still there when I go back.

Heart Like a Dog

Since my injury, I have neglected not only blog posting, but blog hopping. I’m getting back up on the horse right now with the Thursday Barks and Bytes Blog Hop hosted by 2 Brown Dawgs and Heart Like a Dog

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O is for Old

mature mia

I confess that when I first saw Mia’s gray face, I thought, “Oh, she’s too old.” (Who knows what I thought she was too old for.)

I’ll also admit to asking other dog owners how old their dogs are, because I want to know how long I can expect to have these guys around.

So I know it’s just out of curiosity that people are always asking us how old Mia is. Still, I’m insulted on her behalf. Recently, Rob was walking Mia at his work and ran into a grandmotherly sort who asked Mia’s age. Rob wondered if that made it appropriate for him to ask the woman how old she was.

Since our vet estimated Mia’s age at 7 when we first got her, I usually say, “We think she’s about 10.” And after June 4 (the anniversary of the day we got her), I’ll say, “We think she’s 11.”

Mia’s grayness and agedness came up in a piece I wrote for The Crossing Guide about a fun trip we took to San Juan Island.

Mia reminded me again last week how young at heart she is. We took the kids to a new park and she raced around so fast, just like she did on San Juan Island. This must be a “new place” phenomenon. Or maybe just a sign that her arthritis meds are working.

The last time someone asked me how old she is, I said, “We think she’s almost 11, and she’s in great health!”

sunshiney mia

Mia gets all the balls

Mia gets all the balls

For the A to Z Challenge, I’m using all positive language in my posts. Read about how I discovered positive reinforcement training in my book, Bark and Lunge!


fitDogFridayThe FitDog Friday Blog Hop is brought to you by SlimDoggyTo Dog with Love, and My GBGV Life. Join the Hop or just visit the links below – lots of fun fitness tips and advice!

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Keeping my senior dog spry

meezyballsmile pt

November is Adopt a Senior Dog Month.

We didn’t set out to adopt a senior, but Mia fell into our laps three years ago and I have nothing but good things to say about adopting seniors. I’d do it again (and probably will). You should too.

With younger dogs, I’ve been guilty of not taking them to the vet for regular check-ups when they seem perfectly fine, but I decided to be more proactive with Mia.

It’s odd to have no idea what your dog’s medical history is. When we first got Mia, we tested her blood, and learned that she had high antibody levels for parvo, distemper and rabies. As far as I’m concerned, that means she never needs to be vaccinated again. And I’m lucky that my local licensing agency accepts titers as proof of rabies immunity.

On the first anniversary of her life with us, I had Mia’s hips X-rayed. She had some arthritis in her right hip, but nothing serious or unusual.

A few months ago, the vet made Mia squeak when he checked her right hip. I didn’t even notice, because she squeaks a lot, especially at the vet. He suggested I consider putting her on arthritis medication, and I said I’d give it some thought. I’d gotten pretty lax about adding the K9 Glucosamine to Mia’s meals; maybe I should try that first. And add salmon oil to the cocktail.

No need to rush into drugs since Mia hadn’t shown any signs of discomfort in her right hip.

She could still keep up with Leo in the yard and leapt on the couch easily as always. Until the one day when I watched her hop down from the couch favoring her right leg. I followed her around the house and outside, watching her. She was clearly limping, not putting weight on her right leg.

The limp went away a couple of days later, but my decision had been made. I googled all the side effects of NSAIDs for dogs and no question, the benefits of easing Mia’s pain outweigh any potential risks. We’ll have her blood checked regularly to make sure there’s no liver toxicity.

On the way home from picking up her prescription, I asked, “Mia, how would you like to take your pill? With peanut butter or cheese?” She voted cheese.

Three weeks later, we had our first blood test. The doctor said the levels in her liver were fine, low even. He asked how she was doing. I said, “She’s running faster.”

I expect that sooner or later, she’s going to figure out to swallow the cheese and spit out the pill, so to make life easier and save money, both on the pills and the string cheese, I mail-ordered meat-flavored generic Quellin chewables. I can’t wait for them to get here.

fitDogFridayThis post is part of the FitDog Friday Blog Hop hosted by SlimDoggy, To Dog with Love and My GBGV Life.

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It’s also Pet Health Awareness Month!

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