Our Riddick Loves His Vet!

On Wednesday our Riddick spent the day at our vet again, to do another sugar curve.

It was about time for him to do another one (we do one more or less once a month to make sure his insulin dose is working properly) and I check his blood sugar at least once a day – usually before supper. I would prefer to do it before breakfast as well, but this winter his ears are just too cold in the morning to get a little pinprick blood sample for the glucometer!

Riddick has never been crazy about going to the vet, often slamming on the breaks and refusing to even enter the exam room, and even with regular visits he is hesitant, but he has gotten to know the incredible people at VVAH so well, that he is quite happy to go into the exam room with one of the two vets who are treating him, and even head down the passage to the hospital kennels where he spends the day. The vet’s staff are even playing with him as they get to know him better, and whilst it’s kind of sad that he knows his vet so well, it makes my heart glad that he is okay being there, and getting some attention too.

He’s been on insulin twice a day since last September, after being diagnosed with diabetes, and I have been checking his blood sugar at least daily since April, but his blood sugar is still not properly under control (the pink lines are his supper readings, the yellow is breakfast, the green line is our target).😦

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We have decided, with the vet’s advice, that we will now have to put him on a specialised diet as well. We’re opting for the Hills Science Diet W/D rather than Eukanuba or Royal Canin’s diabetic food, simply because its a little cheaper. And at between R915 and R980 for a 12kg bag of this specially prescribed diet food (which is most likely only about 25 days’ food for Riddick), we really do have to find an affordable option!
His insulin already costs over R1600 a month, add to that the cost of the insulin syringes and the little test strips for the glucometer we’re spending a fortune at the vet!
Hopefully the specialised diet will help get his blood sugar stable, and perhaps even decrease his insulin dose.

A couple of people have asked why we don’t just leave things be, since he looks and acts like a perfectly healthy Lab, and you’d never guess there was anything wrong with him to look at him.
Part of my determination to make sure his blood sugar is stable is having grown up with many diabetic family members. My human family, yes, but diabetes has just as great an effect on a dog’s body as it does on a human, and I want my Riddick as healthy and happy as I can have him for as long as possible.
He’s a mama’s boy and I adore him.

So what can happen if we don’t properly treat his diabetes? Or if we wait-and-see?
Riddick has already proved to be atypical in his diagnosis, and when he developed the cataracts we should have thought to check for diabetes, but Labs are not classified as high-risk when it comes to diabetes.

Wikipedia: Dogs can have insulin-dependent, or Type 1, diabetes; research finds no Type 2 diabetes in dogs. Because of this, there is no possibility the permanently damaged pancreatic beta cells could re-activate to engender a remission as may be possible with some feline diabetes cases, where the primary type of diabetes is Type 2. There is another less common form of diabetes, diabetes insipidus, which is a condition of insufficient antidiuretic hormone or resistance to it.
This most common form of diabetes (type 1) strikes 1 in 500 dogs. The condition is treatable and need not shorten the animal’s life span or interfere with quality of life. If left untreated, the condition can lead to cataracts, increasing weakness in the legs (neuropathy), malnutrition, ketoacidosis, dehydration, and death. Diabetes mainly affects middle-age and older dogs, but there are juvenile cases. The typical canine diabetes patient is middle-age, female, and overweight at diagnosis.
The number of dogs diagnosed with diabetes mellitus has increased three-fold in thirty years. In survival rates from almost the same time, only 50% survived the first 60 days after diagnosis and went on to be successfully treated at home. Currently, diabetic dogs receiving treatment have the same expected lifespan as non-diabetic dogs of the same age and gender.

Managing diabetes is very important. Too low blood sugar leads to seizures and coma. Too high blood sugar leads to ketoacidosis which can quickly be fatal.😦

Topolino Dog is Settled!

My parents’ dog, Topolino, has lived with us for a few months now, and he has really started to come out of his shell.

He loves that he can sleep on the bed with the other dogs, and if he gets half a chance he’ll snuggle with whomever else is on the bed.

He’s very clever, quickly learning the routines and “rules” of our home. He’s even started bringing toys back when he fetches something, which he never used to do before. He and our Guide Dog puppy Nimble play so well together, alternating between the Labrador wrestle that she loves and the “keep away” running game that he loves. He doesn’t always like to eat his breakfast with the other dogs, and for a while he was waking up very nauseous so I increased his supper so that he could have his breakfast a little later without feeling like he was starving.

He also gets colder than our other dogs – not having a thick double coat like our other dogs. He has a doggy jersey that he wears, but he also likes being covered with a blanket!

Nimble Has Started Her Guide Dog Training

Our Nimble has now officially started her formal training as a Guide Dog – today was her “intake day”.

Isn’t she beautiful! This picture was taken shortly before her first birthday.

This morning we went through to SA Guide-Dogs to meet with GDMI Joel, who will be working with her for her first two weeks until her trainer, GDMI Moses, takes over. She’s actually been at GDA’s kennels for a couple of weeks already, as she was supposed to be spayed shortly after her first birthday, but she went on heat so her op was postponed! We got to have a bit of a cuddle and a visit with her this morning before meeting with her trainer, and she was very glad to see us.

Today’s intake day was also different to before, in that today we had cake and coffee with a few of the other puppy raisers who were also bringing their dogs in to start their formal training. That was really nice.

Luckily for us puppy raisers, our pups get to come home on weekends while they are in formal training. As Nimble is in kennels for another week while she’s in heat, and will then be spayed, it’ll be a few more weeks before she gets to come home on weekends.
Thankfully she spent lots of time in GDA’s kennels while she was being raised by us, and they are kenneled with a puppy-friend so she’s not worried about being there.
And very sweetly, the volunteer who helps with the puppy handling sent us a couple of pictures of Nimble in kennels! Here she is with puppy-in-training Opal as a kennel-mate, they are both in season.

It’s been really strange not having our girl at home, and we miss her lots.

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We Have A Week Left…

Raising Nimble has gone by so fast!

On May 9th, Nimble will go back to GDA to be sterilised, and she’ll stay at kennels until the 20th so they can ensure her surgery wound heals properly and her stitches come out. Then she’ll be home for a weekend, and on May 23rd she will return to GDA to start her formal training with GDMI Moses.

Nimble’s formal Guide Dog training will begin with her bonding with her trainer at kennels – they will spend time together playing, and walking, and he will groom and feed her as he gets to know her before they start the formal training process. Luckily for Moses she already knows about the clicker.😛

We are convinced, of course, that our puppies are smarter than all the other puppies, and Nimble is no exception.🙂 She’s a big, strong girl, and she’s a fast learner.

Luckily for us as puppy raisers, she’ll be coming home on weekends, which makes it a wee bit easier to say goodbye than if we weren’t going to see her again until her graduation!

We will also be celebrating her birthday a couple of days early as she won’t be home on her birthday.

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The Dreaded Intake Date Email…

We got the “dreaded” email from SA Guide-Dogs… Nimble’s intake date for her formal training is May 23rd, and she will be trained by GDMI Moses.

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It’s a strange message to receive…
You’re sad because your pup will be leaving, and you’re a little nervous about whether you did enough with your puppy while raising her. You’re excited about the next step in your puppy’s training, and you’re wondering how she’s going to do, and who she will eventually be matched with. And you’re excited about your puppy’s graduation.

It’s bitter sweet indeed.

This is also the only time, in my puppy raising adventure with each of our dogs, that I cry.

What that means though, is that we only have two weeks left with our little girl. On Monday 9th she goes back to GDA so she can be spayed, then she’ll be there till May 20th, and her stitches come out. She’ll be home for the weekend and then she goes back to start her training. We’ll be celebrating her first birthday a few days early as she won’t be here on the 10th.

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We’ve Come A Long Way!

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Our Penny went today for her annual vaccinations.
I wanted to go in the morning so we could avoid a reception area full of dogs but I was too late, so we headed back at 12 noon, not realising people would be getting there well before 12 anyway!
I had a hoof for her, as well as some treats and her favourite toy so I could keep her attention on me, but it didn’t really work until we were about the only people there, waiting our turn.
I am SO proud of her! It’s been a long, tiring journey, and we’re still on it, but she was great with the other dogs! There were no hackles, and she didn’t bark at them. She was interested, but I didn’t let her get too close.
There was a guy with two Yorkies in the waiting room, they weren’t on lead and I was very close to confronting him about it, but I took Penny outside instead.
The vet gave her her shots, recommended she lose a couple of kilos (she weighed 34.6kg compared to last year’s 31.2kg), and off we went.
It was so good to see her like that. Make no mistake- she’s anything but calm, but she’s so much more relaxed than before, and she hardly paid any attention to the other dogs.

With Bells On!

About a week ago, I put bells on all the dogs in the house, except Riddick.

As any readers will know, Riddick is my blind Lab, and I often wear a one of those rubber “awareness” bracelets with bells tied on it, so he can hear where I am.
I kept noticing though, as his eyes got worse, that he would try to play with the other dogs and lose them mid-game if they bounced in a different direction, or he’d stand in the garden and bark trying to get their attention, but they wouldn’t be near him anymore. He also often ran into them ‘coz while he knows his garden, they would often run in front of him or just be standing in his path and he can’t see them.

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Now he can actually follow them around as they play, even if they change direction, because the bells jingle when they move!

He’s having so much fun!

And – touch wood – it seems we have his diabetes under control! I am testing his blood sugar twice a day, before he eats, and he’s so much more himself again! He’s not even snatching at my fingers when I offer him a treat, he’s sleeping well and his water intake and the number of times he pees is normal.

It’s almost strange not to visit the vet every week!

Our Louise Has Crossed The Rainbow Bridge

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Two months ago I took our Louise to the vet as she’d been a little “off” for about a week. She had developed a bit of a pot belly and was breathing very hard, sleeping or lying down completely stretched out on her side or on her back.
The vet found a large mass in her chest, not in her abdomen as I had suspected, and it was squashing her lungs which was why she was breathing so hard. It didn’t look good since it had grown so fast – Louise and Thelma had their annual vaccs a month before and they were both fine!
I know what it feels like to battle to breathe, but we took her home with a course of cortisone, because apart from her breathing she was still okay and enjoying her food, and she wasn’t in pain, but the vet didn’t think it’d be too much longer, and we watched her closely.

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After a week on the high Cortisone dose she was less swollen and her breathing is easier, then we dropped the dose a little for another week and continued to watch her like a hawk, but she was still enjoying her food and behaving normally. We had decided that when that changed we’d take the next step.

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After three weeks Louise had made a recovery that surprised even the vet!
The growth was still there, of course, and her breathing was still laboured, but it was much better, she wasn’t working as hard to breathe. Her swollen tummy was back to normal, she was still eating like she was never going to be fed again, and she still came running if she thought there was a treat to be had, so it looked like she may be with us for a while yet. At this point she was on the low dose of Cortisone and skipping a day inbetween, and we were hoping she could stay on that dose.

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Once she finished the first course, she was still loving her food, and behaving pretty much like normal, but the last two nights she was up every hour again, asking to go out, and her abdomen had swollen a little again, so we started the Cortisone from the beginning to get her back to normal, and planned to taper it off till we were on a dose and skipping a day like we did for the previous two weeks, but the smallest dose would be slightly higher than the one she had just finished to try and maintain her “normal”.
It was amazing… A month before we thought we were about to say goodbye to her!

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On the last day of her smallest Cortisone dose (on the second course) where we were skipping a day between pills, our sweet Louise was not herself… The Cortisone worked but soon as we reduced the dose she started to decline again. On Friday and Saturday morning she didn’t eat her breakfast – a very bad sign for greedy Louise.😦 She was also very miserable, not wagging her tail or coming when you call her without real coaxing, and she’d lost weight fast, just in the last week. Thankfully she has not been in any pain, just uncomfortable.

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We went back to the vet this morning, and he could feel another large growth in her abdomen. With the speed they are forming there was no way we could make her feel better, not without daily shots and pain meds, so today was the day.
Our sweet, silly, always-looking-for-a-cuddle Louise crossed the rainbow bridge while I held her and whispered in her ear.
😥
I will miss you my sweet little stupid.

Forty Weeks With Nimble

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Our little girl, our Nimble, has been with us for 40 weeks (last Friday), and in a week she will be eleven months old! She weighed a smidge under 30kg on the vet’s scale this morning, and she’s 54cm tall at the shoulder.

She spent some time at GDA’s kennels this month, and this is an important part of her puppy raising so that when she starts her formal training she’s familiar with the smells and the routine – this reduces any stress she might experience. She had several outings with our Puppy Development Supervisors while she was there.

She had great fun, and she was very glad to come home.

Nimble has the funniest habit of sleeping with either her head, or her bum on one of the dog beds (‘scuse the tear in the cover above – they all need repairs), she starts out on the bed, and gradually stretches and rolls in her sleep till she’s almost on the floor!😀

Nimble loves napping in the bath! We seldom bath, preferring to shower, so the bath is usually dry so no muddy footprints – and she’s decided it’s the coolest place to snooze!

If there’s a towel on the bathroom floor, which we use instead of bathmats, she scrunches it up and uses it as a pillow!😛

Nimble is so much more relaxed in the car lately, sometimes even falling asleep!

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Thirty Six Weeks With Nimble

Lookit her little white spot on her chin! Picture by GDA’s Gail Glover

Our “little girl” is almost 10 months old! She weighs just over 30kg and she’s admired wherever she goes!
She’s jet black, with a slightly longer coat than a Lab thanks to her Golden Retriever mommy, and she’s beautifully proportioned.

After a walk at Woodmead, chilling in the shade with some water

Nimble doing the treat challenge!

She’s smart, and lovable, and big for a female Lab.
She loves jumping into and out of the car, and likes to look out the window when we’re going somewhere.

In the car on the sexy new car seat cover

Relaxing in the car more and more

Focused on mommy on an outing

The armrest makes a handy headrest!

Nimble takes the towels from the bathroom floor (we don’t use bathmats) and uses them as pillows.

Nimble and I visited a nursery school with a few other GDA puppies a few weeks ago – Sawyer, Tanner and Whyla. Nimble was very well behaved, and the visit went very well with the older kiddies coming for cuddles with the puppies.

This week Nimble is staying over at GDA’s kennels – an important part of the puppy’s first year so that when they start their formal training the people, and smells, and routines are not completely strange to them, which can cause stress. She’ll be home for the weekend, and then she’ll be back next week for another stay. While she’s there our Puppy Development Supervisor will also be working on her dog distraction issues with dogs barking at her from behind gates.

Nimble in training with our Puppy Development Supervisor, a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor, and Guide-Dog-in-training Juliet.

She likes the cushions, but usually sleeps on the floor!

And even when she is on a cushion – her head is on the floor!

Her daddy had a bath, and as we rather shower than bath, it needed to be investigated!

Bath time for Nimble, the corner bath makes it so much easier!

Asleep with her her on the floor, as usual!

Mud…? What mud?

Nimble on the scale at the vet, 42 weeks old.

Nimble’s new favourite nap spot – in the bath!

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