Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Change Of Pace

 Happy National Dog Day. Isn't every day national dog day? Around here it is.

Last week when I heard Morgan's diagnosis, I made a decision to make some easy changes in her routines. One of the most difficult challenges I have now is getting her to eat enough. The only thing she consistently likes is her 'milkshake', so now she's getting one in the morning as well as her evening treat. I've also tried to find things with a strong smell or taste that will cut thru her fog and tempt her. Bacon is always popular but I don't want to cook bacon daily. We've done sardines and they were very popular. Strong cheese and other fishy treats mixed into her kibble have helped keep her interested in her dinner.

Last night another old trick worked. I was preparing Mackey's dinner and taking some dog food out of a little bag for her. I noticed that Morgan was watching me very closely. I offered her a couple pieces of the kibble from the little bag and she ate them right up. Then I remembered that dogs equate food in little bags with special treats. I fed her some more and she remained interested. I was doing a couple other things so I asked Rob to continue feeding her the 'special treats' and she finished the bag.
So tonight I'll refill the treat bag with kibble and see if she'll fall for it again. I've used this trick before and it almost always works.
I've started Morgan on the new supplements that Dr B recommended but it'll take some time before we know if they're helping.

Another problem we've had is sleep issues. She's been sleeping hard during the day, then wakes at 2AM and paces for hours. I've decided to put a gate across the steps so she won't fall while pacing. I also wanted to see if we could reverse her sleep pattern. I've been trying to stimulate her during the day to keep her awake and more interested in her surroundings. She no longer is interested in toys, but does like to go onto the deck and watch the other dogs play in the back yard. We've also started taking her on short walks during the day and at least once in the evening. When I say short, I really mean short. We go from the street light at the corner of our property to the garage door and back. These walks take some time because she walks very slowly, but I think the exercise is important for her.

I'm happy to report that this all seems to be paying off. Saturday night she woke up at 2. I took her outside, then allowed her to pace for about ten minutes. Then I took her back to her bed and she went back to sleep. Sunday ,Monday and Tuesday nights she slept thru and didn't do any pacing. I don't know how all this will play out, but we'll do our best.

My Grandfather always told me that to train a dog, first you had to be smarter than the dog. Lately I've wondered if I am, but I do have a few tricks up my sleeve and so far , so good.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Something Fishy

Our Chewy review is very late this month but it turned out to be a good thing.

When I made my selection for August, I chose Grandma Lucy's Freeze Dried Singles in the fish flavor. There were a number of reasons for this choice.  My dogs have had other treats by Grandma Lucy. They've had pumpkin, blueberry and banana and loved them all. By the way, all of those fruity treats smell wonderful.

This time the selection was a little different. The freeze dried singles are exactly that, one single protein source, chicken, pork, liver, tuna or whitefish. My boys are all on special diets made of turkey and duck so I looked for a treat that my girls would enjoy. Porties LOVE fish. Their native food is fish and they would eat fish daily if I cooperated. In this case I chose the whitefish flavor and the one and only ingredient is freeze dried pollock.
Then we got the new about Morgan suffering with dementia and I was doubly glad that I had this bag of fishy treats. I'm feeding Morgan as much fish as she'll eat and so far she's been more than happy to eat it. When I opened the bag of Grandma Lucy's fishy treats, I saw what actually looked like little chunks of fish and a warning here -  don't hold the bag too close to your nose because they sure smell like fish. That was probably one of the things that attracted Morgan. She likes smelly stuff.
Morgan ate the first piece without any hesitation and immediately asked for another. I even crumbled a couple pieces on her dog food and she gobbled it right up.
Thanks Grandma Lucy and Chewy for making it easier to feed my sweet old girl. And don't worry, we'll get another bag for the Portie girls to try.

Chewy sent us this bag of treats at no cost in exchange for our honest review.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Getting Old Is A Bitch!

Sometimes I'm torn as to what I want. On Wednesday Morgan spent the morning with Dr B. She had a bile acids test to see how well her liver is working. If the test results were abnormal it meant her that her liver function was getting worse and she was probably getting a buildup of ammonia in her brain. I don't want her liver disease to be worse, but on the other hand, it would explain almost all of her symptoms and we could treat the condition with an antibiotic to reduce the ammonia level. So what did I want to hear? When I looked up the condition we were expecting, hepatic encephalopathy, Morgan had eight of ten symptoms so I was prepared for the diagnosis.
This morning the results were in and they were not what we expected. Her liver is functioning well. That's good but it also means that her ammonia levels in the brain are probably within accepted levels. So what are we dealing with?

Canine cognitative disfunction   or doggie alzheimers. Most of the symptoms are the same but there is no really good treatment. Dr B and I discussed her diet and that isn't going to be easy to address. Morgan doesn't like to eat the same thing two days in a row, making it a challenge to come up with something that she is interested in. Often she'll take a mouthful, then wander off.  I've been hand feeding her most of the time so that I know she's getting enough calories. The only thing she consistently likes is her milkshake, so we're doing that twice a day now. I'm also going to try to feed her fish more often since fish is a brainfood.

We're adding a couple of supplements to her daily routine, l-carnitine and alpha lipoic acid. We'll increase her fish oil capsules from six to eight and continue her sam-e.  Dr B says it may be two to three weeks before we notice any significant changes in her behavior. Till then we'll continue adjusting our routines to keep her happy and safe.
Having her with us makes all the fuss worth it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Morgan Update

Several of you have contacted me to ask how Morgan is doing. We appreciate your concern more than I can express. Watching a sweet old dog becoming unsteady and confused is so very hard, as many of you already know. I just had a long conversation with Dr B, so I thought I'd catch you all up on where things stand.
Morgan has some good days and some bad days, which make my thought process much harder. If they were all bad, I'd know it was time to let go, but when she then perks up and demands her dinner or chases a squirrel in slow motion, I think we may have more time together.

She sleeps hard most of the day, so hard that I check to see that she's breathing. If we wake her during that time, she refuses to eat anything at all. I give her water by syringe to keep her hydrated. When she wakes up in the afternoon, she likes to wander around the yard or the deck. That's when the slow squirrel chases happen. She eats a pretty good dinner, though she doesn't want the same thing twice, so I have to get really creative.

At 8:30 sharp, she appears in front of me demanding her Ensure milkshake. The agreement we've worked out is that first she goes outside, then she allows me to feed her a cup of kibble by hand. When that is finished, she gets half a bottle of Ensure. She loves it. Then she settles down till it's bedtime. She goes out, has a cookie, then goes to sleep, but she wakes up right about 2:30 every single morning. Then she starts to pace and continues for hours. Because she staggers a bit and bumps into the other dogs, one of us takes her downstairs and dozes on the couch while she paces around the kitchen and living room. After a while, she settles down and goes to sleep. Then in the morning the whole routine starts over.

Last night, while drinking her milkshake, she had a mini seizure. It didn't last long, a couple minutes, and she didn't show any ill effects afterwards, but I awoke this morning expecting a last trip to the vet's office. She greeted me when I came downstairs and the doubts all came flooding back.

I put in a call to the vet and said I needed to talk. He called me back after hours and I described her behavior and the seizure. I asked if it was time and he said no, that I have several options before we have to make that decision. Because of her strange behavior and her history, he suspects that she has high ammonia levels in her blood. Tomorrow morning she'll spend a few hours with him and have a bile acids test. If her ammonia is high, we can treat her with an antibiotic and may see some improvement. The catch is that she'll need that antibiotic for the rest of her life, but that's OK.
 I feel as if a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. There's a chance that Miss Morgan can continue to enjoy a good quality of life for some extra time.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Slipping Away

Wow, we haven't been around here much and we don't really have a good reason. I've been a bit lazy and I've spent most of my time with my fur kids. Some of them need some extra attention. Fudge is heading into the home stretch with his recovery. The vet said that we'd see improvement for about six weeks and where we are at the six week mark is probably where we'll stay. The news is pretty good. The boy gets around as if nothing ever happened. He runs and jumps and is generally annoying again. His left knee seems to be a bit stiff and we sometimes see it when he walks, especially if he's tired. Then he has a slight limp. He still can't scratch that ear and isn't happy about it, but we're happy with his progress.
Sebastian had a vomiting problem over the 4th of July. Dr B was out of town but the other doc thought it was a stress ulcer. At first he responded to the treatment but within a couple weeks he was vomiting again. It would usually happen in the morning about three or four days a week. I spoke with Dr B and he wanted to see him.

When Sebastian first came to live with us, we did some blood  tests and they showed a possibility of pancreatitis. Since that time we've tried to help him lose weight and were very careful about his diet. When Dr B examined him, he didn't exhibit any pain in the area of the pancreas, but vomiting is a symptom, so we decided once and for all to see if he actually had pancreatitis. There's a specific blood test, so we did it, then waited for results.
The test showed that Sebastian does not have pancreatitis. He does have something going on, so he's now eating a homemade diet and taking Reglan three times a day for nausea. Rob and I both noticed that after only two days Sebastian was happier. Not only was he not vomiting, but he had extra energy and was running and playing with the other dogs. He loves his dinner and dances around while I'm preparing it. I guess he was feeling nauseous most of the time and it's hard to be happy under those conditions.

Miss Morgan is getting a lot of our attention these days. This morning we sat down and discussed her current state. We know that she's slowly slipping away from us. She sleeps hard during the day and then paces a lot during the night. Rob and I are taking turns sleeping on the couch, so she can pace without disturbing everyone else. She isn't eating enough, though I try everything I can think of to encourage her. Most days I sit on the floor and hand feed her a piece of kibble at a time and hope we get thru the whole bowl. She does remember each night at 8:30 that she gets her milkshake. She appears in front of me and leads me to the refrigerator.
She's very frail and shaky on her feet. We help her up and down stairs and sometimes carry her. But, it isn't time to act yet. She still is aware and isn't in any pain, so we'll just enjoy whatever time we have left together. I check often when she's sleeping to see if she's still breathing and I expect one of these mornings that she won't be.  After almost sixteen years, it's hard to think about not having Miss Morgan around demanding this or that.

My priorities just now are caring for my  pups and treasuring my time with them. Everything else is secondary.