Author Archives: Angel

Our Dog Has Epilepsy

Our dog is epileptic. This is not news to us.

Our five year old Labrador, Riddick, was diagnosed with Canine Epilepsy a little over a year ago.
This is also not the first time we’ve had an epileptic dog – our mixed breed rescue, Louise, crossed the rainbow bridge just over a year ago due to cancer, but she was medicated for epilepsy for a few years before she died. She was fairly stable, with occasional general seizures, but she picked up weight – a common side effect – and we had to put her on a strict diet.

Thankfully Riddick did not gain weight on the Phenobarbitone medication (AKA Phenobarbital, Pb), but he did experience a few of the other side-effects of the AED – lethargy, sedation, loss of coordination, increased thirst, a bigger appetite, and an increase in urination. Long-term use of Pb can also affect the liver, and this concerned me as he was only four years old when he started on the meds, but we monitored the levels of Pb in his system with blood tests.

The “fun” part about treating our Riddick (he’s diabetic as well) is that he doesn’t EVER react to meds the way the vet expects him to! He even has professors baffled! This means we have got to know our vets very well, and Riddick loves them.
Riddick hit an especially rough patch last month, where he seemed to develop a rare sensitivity to the Pb that severely affected his mobility – it made his hind end completely weak and it was about two weeks before he was strong enough to get up, walk, and busy on his own without assistance, and another two weeks or so before he was back to normal. We had to lift him and carry him as he got stronger every day, and during that time we weaned him off the Pb tablets (the only way to fix the hind end weakness) and started him on a new AED with fewer side effects, but it was really rough on all of us!
We are exhausted.

Living with an epileptic dog has proved to be really stressful, even when their epilepsy is relatively under control. If they hit a rough patch where their meds need to be changed or they are having seizures, it can be exhausting. And finding the right meds can be a challenge – especially if your dog is like Riddick! The majority of dogs are successfully treated for epilepsy with Phenobarbitone tablets (about 20c a pill), but as our Riddick has now shown he may have a sensitivity to the Pb, we have to switch to a new, imported option, Pexion, at R12 a tablet!

With the last month so difficult for our Riddick, it made us reluctant to leave him at home without someone to watch over him. And I find myself watching Riddick’s every move to look for his “aura” – the little signs he shows when a seizure is pending. I don’t sleep too deeply because I am listening for him… And as he can’t go everywhere with us, we have become a little home-bound…

Yes, I know – he’s a dog, not a child – but he’s my dog, and I love him very much.

Riddick’s epilepsy is also different to Louise’s. Where she would have a general seizure every other month or so, and be absolutely fine in between, Riddick typically has what is called a focal seizure. He is wobbly and disoriented, his head and front legs twitch, but he is still fairly aware, and this is when he paces and walks into things. These fits can last a few minutes and take him about an hour to recover from, or he can have a few of them in a row and they absolutely exhaust him.
Occasionally he has a general seizure, a grand mal seizure which is very scary to watch. He lies on the floor, thrashing and flailing, his jaws pulled wide in a grimace, and he pees himself. This kind of fit will exhaust him for half a day, and immediately after the fit he has no idea where he is, who I am, or how to navigate his house. This can last quite some time. At the same time he is super-hyper-excited, but also unsteady on his feet, and he wants water but he doesn’t know where the bowl is. He can be quite a handful until he is back to normal! And for several hours after this kind fit he is very insecure and will stay as close to me as he can get.
Hopefully his new medication will prevent him getting any fits at all.

With the help of many wonderful friends, we got a Holistic Vet disability harness for Riddick a few months ago, because when he is having a seizure – or recovering from a seizure – he tends to want to pace and walk around (also one of his “aura” signs). The worse he feels, the more he walks into things and falls over his own feet, so the harness helps us help him – we can stop him walking into things and I can keep him from losing his balance.
When he is having a seizure, the harness helps me pull him away from walls or furniture so he doesn’t hurt himself.
When we got the harness, we only needed the front half to steady him during and after a fit, but when we went through the days where he couldn’t walk on his own – the full harness proved invaluable in assisting our 35kg boy to walk and busy until he could stay on his own feet again.
I wish I could give each and every one of those dear people a big hug! I don’t know what we would have done without the harness!

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So here’s my two cents if you have an epileptic dog.

Whether or not they are on medication, keep a careful log of their seizures as this can be invaluable to your vet – or to a new vet. I have found this is a great way for ME to stay calm and focused during a fit, and I guarantee you won’t be able to remember every detail and every date when you get to the vet!

Try to note the time and duration of the seizures, and what your dog does during the fit. Note how long it takes for your dog to recover and how they behave after the fit. Try to note whether your dog was playing or sleeping shortly before the fit, or if something else happened that may have triggered it – maybe they were surprised by a sudden noise or some such.

Also record changes to your dog’s diet or environment (new house, new dog, new baby), as well as vaccination dates, vet trips, whether you missed a medication dose, even weird weather!

Make sure you know your vet’s hours, as well as where your nearest 24-hour emergency vet is. And if you go to the vet, take your log book with you.

If possible, get copies of blood test results from your vet that you can take with you if you have to go to a different vet.

Be aware of your other dogs while your dog is seizing. If you have more than one dog, a seizure may trigger an instinctive “pack” reaction causing the other dogs to try and attack the “weaker” animal.

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Fourteen Weeks With Riggs #GDApupRiggs

Riggs is 21 weeks old already! This morning he weighed a whopping 23.2kg on the vet’s scale!

I found one of his baby teeth when it fell out! Usually they get swallowed, so you don’t often find them. 🙂

 

On the weekend we were at OR Tambo to drop someone off, and Riggs was so well behaved! We climbed stairs, waited in queues, and popped in at BYTE Cafe & Restaurant where Riggs happily lay under the table and napped or chewed on a Nylabone.   He barked a little at the SAPS dogs, but I quickly got his attention and we did a little obedience work (WATCH, DOWN, SIT, STAY, etc) to get him focused on me again.

We had our last Puppy Club class with Riggs and his siblings at GDA today (there are 13)! It has been so much fun, and the time has flown by! It was a good class too, with the pups spending some time together in the kennels while we discussed how we will be continuing forward for the next six months or so. We fetched our pups from kennels and did some walking exercises with the STOP, DOWN, and SIT cues. Then headed into a free-run area where we practised the STAY cue and a recall where we were hiding from the pup.

 

And just ‘coz he’s so gorgeous, here are a couple of pictures of our beautiful boy!

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Thirteen Weeks With Riggs #GDApupRiggs

Riggs is 20 weeks old! I can’t believe how time flies!

This morning he weighed 21.85kg on the vet’s scale!

And look – almost all his front teeth have been replaced with his “big boy” teeth!

Our puppy was so happy to be home after his week with Guide Dog puppy Newton! They had a wonderful time playing together and wore each other out every day, but we missed him lots!

Puppy Club this week was at a stable, so the puppies could see horses and chickens and such. You’d be surprised how often Guide Dogs come across horses in their daily working routine, and they have to be okay with them. Riggs wasn’t thrilled about being near the horses – so we’ll be going back to the same stable yard soon so he can get used to them. Then we’ll find a different stable so that Riggs can see that horses are okay no matter where they are.

This week Riggs and I went with another puppy raiser and puppy-in-training Lyric to visit a school and speak to the children about SA Guide Dogs and the work they do. Riggs handled it really well, even when he had several children touching him at once, and trying to give him cues to DOWN and SIT! 😀 There were also chickens roaming the school grounds, and they were a little distracting but he did so well! After the children had gone back to class, Riggs and Lyric had a chance to explore the jungle-gym on the playground.

 

And just ‘coz he’s so gorgeous, here are a couple of pictures of our beautiful boy!

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Twelve Weeks With Riggs #GDApupRiggs

Riggs is 19 weeks old!

Puppy Club this week was at GDA with our Puppy Raising Supervisor, and Riggs, Ringo, Rocco, Ronnie, and Raffi spent a few minutes in kennels with only each other for company, discreetly watched by our Supervisor. This short stay gave her an opportunity to see if any of the puppies were looking for their Puppy Raiser mom, or whining at the gate rather than playing together without concern. They were all quite happy, although Ringo came out of the kennel drenched thanks to Riggs jumping on him and rolling him as they wrestled, and Riggs got a little nip under his eye when Ringo had had enough of Riggs not “listening” when he told him off. 😛
We fetched our pups and headed for an off-lead play pen, and then we then practised SIT-DOWN-STAY, SIT-DOWN-UP SIT, and SIT-DOWN-STAND with our puppies on our left “at heel”.

This week I had to go and fetch the renewed license disc for our car, and while we were waiting Riggs got to check out a different kind of staircase!

We also went to visit my mom, and this meant a good long car ride for Riggs, chickens to check out through the fence when we got there, and my little niece walking around the house – inevitably with tasty things in her hands that Riggs has to learn to ignore. He did very well, and even though my mom’s little Yorkie didn’t want to play with him – he’s a little too boisterous for her liking – he had a fun day. He fell asleep shortly before we were due to leave for home, and as the air conditioner in our car isn’t working, I put him in the doggy hammock on the backseat for the trip home so he could sleep in comfort.

We didn’t see much of our Riggs this week… Our pet Lab is recovering from a bad reaction to medication and it meant I wasn’t able to spend as much time with Riggs as I should, so he went to stay with another Puppy Raiser and her black Lab GDA pup Newton. They had an absolute ball! Riggs and Newton played until they were worn out every day! We missed him terrib;y, but this is an important part of a Guide Dog puppy’s learning curve – to be happy wherever they are, to know that obedience cues and lessons apply wherever they are, and not to stress when they are away from their Puppy Raiser family.

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Eleven Weeks With Riggs #GDApupRiggs

Riggs is 18 weeks old today!

He weighed a whopping 18.8kg this morning, gaining 1.3kg in the last week!
He’s now getting 180g Bob Martin’s dry puppy food three times a day, and he does a beautiful SIT-STAY-EAT when I put his food down, even when he’s drooling!

Riggs’s little front baby teeth are being replaced by grown up teeth. His canines will soon follow suit.

Left: Riggs and Raffi hoping Puppy Raiser Wendy still has some liver bread Top right: Raffi Bottom right: Ronnie

Thirsty puppies after puppy class 

 Puppy Club today was at Fourways Crossing with our Puppy Raising Supervisor, and Riggs, Ringo, Rocco, Ronnie, and Raffi all did very well on their walk. We crossed roads, climbed two different kinds of staircases, rode in the lift, walked past open shop doors, did some recall exercises, looked down through the open railings to the floor below, and had a coffee in the Wimpy afterwards. They were all proper tired when we drove home!

Last Friday night we took Riggs to the SA Guide-Dogs Golf Day prize-giving and dinner. He got to meet some golfers, and practise sleeping under my chair while I ate. He also got to experience some applause and meet a working Guide Dog. He was a star, as always!

 

Riggs loves his crate, napping and playing in it, and sometimes he’s happy to share it with one of his housemates!

 

     

And just ‘coz he’s so cute, here are a whole lot of pictures of our gorgeous Riggs for you to enjoy, some of which he’s with his “housemates” – our other dogs!

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Our Kitties Have A Catio!

I have wanted to put up a catio of some kind for my indoor cats ever since I first saw one on Pinterest about two years ago, and we finally have one!

We looked at a few construction options and suggestions, and decided on PVC piping with plastic mesh and cable ties, in order to ensure it would be weather-proof and relatively easy to construct. Its about two metres wide, about 180cm tall, and half a metre deep, with two corner shelves on one side covered with fake lawn. It has a plastic crate on its side in the bottom, and a towel as a hammock (attached to the window bars) on the one end. There’s a strip of carpet attached to the side that they can use to do their nails (they don’t use it yet), and a couple of toys hanging from ribbons inside.


It took a couple of hours for the cats long to start investigating it, and venturing out, and had it occurred to me I may have left the finished catio inside the house for a few days for them to explore before mounting it on the wall outside.

  

 

It is used mostly by Magic and Twister at the moment, with old man Greebo only going out when its very hot in the sun, or there’s catnip on the corner shelves. 😛

  

 

Ten Weeks With Riggs #GDApupRiggs

Riggs is 17 weeks old today!

He weighs a whopping 17.45kg, gaining 1.5kg in the last week! He’s now getting 170g Bob Martin’s dry puppy food three times a day, and he loves his food! He does a beautiful SIT-STAY-EAT when I put his food down, even when he’s drooling!

Look how he’s grown! And Riggs’s nose has a little bit more brown on it every day – I loved his black nose but it looks like its not going to stay that way.

Puppy Club was at GDA this week and it was a really busy hour. We started with the puppies greeting each other – calmly and on lead, and then we did a bit of handling with the pups. We did some loose-leash walking exercises, and added the signal for STOP to our exercises. Then the pups got some time to play off-lead and we practised our recall while we discussed the pup’s progress with our Puppy Raiser Supervisor.
After class we popped in at a shop and headed home for a tired Riggs to sleep off his lunch.

Last weekend Riggs went with us to Gilroys for a friends’ birthday party, and he handled it all really well. The Ngwenya Glass Village has a lot to see and do, and Riggs got to check out sculptures and meet different people and experience the noise of live music and applause. We took his towel and toys with us, and he was quite happy to stay on his bed. 😀

Riggs loves his crate, napping and playing in it, and sometimes when he falls asleep he lies all scrunched up against the side!

We had an unexpectedly long morning at a doctor’s office (waiting for someone), and Riggs was a 🌟! Most people didn’t even realise he was with us wherever we were. We even popped in at Mugg ‘n Bean for a coffee. 😎 Here he is, nicely out of the way under my chair, with a rawhide bone we went and got him when we realised we were in for a long wait.

And just ‘coz he’s so cute, here are a whole lot of pictures of our gorgeous Riggs for you to enjoy, some of which he’s with his “housemates” – our other dogs!

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Nine Weeks With Riggs #GDApupRiggs

Riggs is 16 weeks old today!

He weighs 15.9kg, and he’s now getting 160g Bob Martin’s dry puppy food three times a day. This week we exchanged Riggs’s puppy small jacket for the next size up as he was already too big for the small one, and – surprisingly – it looks like his black nose may be turning brown!

Guide Dog Puppies are not permitted on the furniture, and Riggs tries his luck every now and then – like all puppies do – especially when the dogs are playing. He does love to bring a Nylabone toy and chew on it while he rests his head on the bed, so technically he’s not breaking the rules… 😛

Puppy Club was at GDA this week and it was really fun – we also had two of the trainers observing our class.
We always start the class by letting the pups greet each other – two at a time – but this has to be done calmly and on lead, with praise and treats for a quiet hello. Then we have water and a busy break, find a shady spot, and let them off-lead with “GO PLAY”. This week we were on the big field so it was quite something keeping up with the five long-legged pups as they ran and played.  We recall our pups and put them on lead again, and start with the obedience cues – we added the verbal cue “LEAVE IT” to the non-verbal work we started doing last week, and did a few repetitions of SIT, DOWN, UP SIT, TOUCH, STAY, and WATCH. Then we let the pups off lead to play for a few minutes again, before heading for the “obstacle” course that is made of different floor surfaces – a sheet of metal, strip of rubber, a couple of raised platforms, small paving stones, glass, a carpet, a course grass welcome mat, and a low “see-saw” plank. We also did work with a vacuum cleaner, and with our Puppy Raising Supervisor shaking a metal sheet to make a noise sort of like thunder – all with us and the pups at a distance so we can monitor their reactions as we slowly go closer. To end the class we did a little distraction exercise with the pups on lead, and being rewarded for ignoring a thrown toy.
After class Riggs and I had to quickly stop at a shop, and then we headed home where a very tired Riggs wolfed down his lunch, had a big busy, and went to sleep in his crate!
I wish I had taken a picture or two – Riggs did so well with the obstacle course! ❤ 

This week Riggs went with me to visit a friend at Sandton Mediclinic. We were greeted and escorted to the ward by security, and had a lovely visit with my friend.
Riggs was very well behaved, got to meet a few people, ride in a lift, climb some stairs, and was thoroughly worn out when we got home!

And just ‘coz he’s so cute, here are a whole lot of pictures of our gorgeous Riggs for you to enjoy, some of which he’s with his “housemates” – our other dogs!

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Eight Weeks With Riggs #GDApupRiggs

Riggs is 15 weeks old today!

He weighs a whopping 14.8kg, he’s getting 150g Bob Martin’s dry puppy food three times a day, and he’s doing a beautiful SIT-STAY while he waits for me to say EAT! ❤

Puppy Club class this week was at GDA, and we started in the Kennel Office where a vet was giving our pups their inoculations. Then we let the pups play in an empty kennel space before beginning our class with a handling session, and our Puppy Supervisor checking the pup’s ears and toenails.
We are using the verbal command and the hand signal for DOWN, STAY, TOUCH, SIT, WATCH, STAND, UP SIT, HUP, and LETS GO. We continue to practise loose-leash walking, and we now started work on the hand signal for LEAVE IT.
I have also been attending a clicker training course for puppy raisers (I have been clicker training for a while, but I didn’t finish the first course I did), its great fun and Riggs loves the clicker.
I was also very proud of him when – after our first clicker class – Riggs walked past two big groups of school children who were visiting GDA, and didn’t pay them any attention!

We had such a giggle last weekend! Around 11pm in our house is last busies – all the dogs go out for a busy and then to bed, and hopefully they sleep through the night. Riggs has been so good about bedtime – heading into his crate with no trouble, and curling up on his blankets.
Last weekend it got really cold and rainy, REALLY COLD, and as Murphy would have it, I had washed the dog bed covers that morning and they weren’t dry yet!! This meant we were “short” a few cushions (but we still have loads of beds for the dogs). Riggs would go into his crate but instead of sleeping, he sat and whined. We thought maybe he needed a busy (all the dogs rush back inside when its raining), but if we let him out of the crate to go outside he headed straight for one of the dog cushions and curled up – even snuggling up to a sleeping “big brother” Riddick.
We put him back in his crate, and got a repeat performance. Then my husband put one of the dog beds inside the crate, and Riggs hopped right in and went immediately to sleep!  😀
He has had a big cushion in his crate – but he was hanging off the end and I thought he needed more space, so about a week ago, I took the cushion out (rest assured he has LOADS of blankets even without the cushion), but we put his cushion back in his crate. 😛

On Mothers Day we went to a quiet restaurant for lunch, taking Riggs with us. He was very well behaved, and he got to check out and climb a circular staircase. He sat looking around and sniffing the floor when we got to our table, but he soon settled down and slept on his towel that we took with us. He had a few people come and greet him but he was quite content.

This week I had to exchange Riggs’s puppy collar for his “big boy” collar! Doesn’t he look handsome! ❤

Riggs is now tall enough – on his hind legs – to reach the kitchen counters and tabletops, and the top of the chest freezer where our cats are fed. This is a typical and normal Labrador behaviour, and we will be working on discouraging him. We keep the cats bowls out of reach, and we praise him for ignoring temptation.

And just ‘coz he’s so cute, here are a whole lot of pictures of our gorgeous Riggs for you to enjoy, some of which he’s with his “housemates” – our other dogs!

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Seven Weeks With Riggs #GDApupRiggs

Riggs is 14 weeks old today!

He weighs a whopping 13.9kg! He’s now eating 140g Bob Martin’s dry puppy food three times a day, and he LURVS his food! He’s doing a beautiful SIT-STAY while he waits for me to say OK to start eating! ❤

Riggs is a “card carrying” member of the Upside Down Club!

One of the “risks” of Puppy Raising, and having a Labrador in your house, is a little destruction. I try to keep an eye on my pups as much as I can because they can’t learn how NOT to behave if you aren’t with them to teach them – which is one of the reasons a Guide Dog puppy can’t grow up in a kennel environment. One day this week I got a little too busy and distracted, and Riggs and his “big brother” Riddick decided this uncovered dog bed cushion was a little too stuffed (the covers had got washed)! 😛

lining up the, erm… pups, in front of the car for a photograph

The day before Puppy Club we went along to GDA for a PR photoshoot, which was tricky ‘coz the pups are all a year old and younger and are quickly distracted by each other! It was fun and chaotic!
Puppy Club class this week took place at a school again, where the pups spent 10 minutes in three different classes with kids of different ages. They could interact with the children (2, 3, and 5 year olds), with the children sitting around them, touching them, all talking at once, and feeding them treats. Riggs handled it all like an old pro! We then went through a few of their obedience and dog distraction exercises in the school parking lot – which teaches the pups that their learning applies no matter where they are.
He learns really fast, and responds really well to the clicker. We are now using the verbal command and the hand signal for DOWN, STAY, TOUCH, SIT, WATCH, HUP – which is the command for him to jump into the car (and he literally jumps), and LETS GO.
We also continue to practise loose-leash walking which is very important for a Guide Dog.

Last Sunday, I went to #Hostex17 to see the cakes (I am a cake artist), and Riggs went with me. We were only there for about an hour since thats about as much as he can handle, but what a busy hour it was! I saw the cakes – which were fantastic – and Riggs got to see police horses in the parking lot, and peacocks in the garden! There were stairs to climb, metal grates to cross, and hand driers in the bathroom. There were so many smells with the nature of the show, and lots of people to impress! When we got home he had his lunch and went straight to sleep! 😀

Here’s little Riggs practising his SIT-STAY with “big brother” Riddick (left) and “big sister” Penny. They are waiting for me to say “LET’S GO” or “OK” so they can join me outside. 🙂

And just ‘coz he’s so cute, here are a whole lot of pictures of our gorgeous Riggs for you to enjoy, some of which he’s with his “housemates” – our other dogs!

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You can find SA Guide-dogs for the Blind on Facebook and on Twitter
Check out my Facebook page: Its a Pup’s Life