Sunday, April 29, 2012

Bad news

We were able to do Amber's scope and biopsy last week Monday and got the results on Friday. She DOES have transitional cell carcinoma. So the bladder tumor antigen test was not correct. It does say there is a 90% rate of accuracy so I guess we fell in that 10%.

I was so not expecting that. I mean I thought about it, I had read about it a little, knew that it was the most common cancer of the urinary tract but that it was fairly uncommon in general. I somehow didn't actually think that MY dog could have it!

So now what? She is still acting normal except for having to pee a lot. It is not in an area that is easily accessed for removal (it's in her urethra), and these tumors don't respond much to chemotherapy. So she is on Deramaxx, used as an anti-inflammatory. The most common drug used to treat TCC is Piroxicam which is also an NSAID (non steroidal anti-inflammatory) but that is an older drug with more gastrointestinal side effects than Deramaxx. I will have to watch her carefully to make sure she can still pee and that it's not blocked off from tumor growth. If that happens I have a very short amount of time to get her to a vet to put in a catheter to empty the bladder and then we can put in a urinary stent to open up the passageway again. That will only last approximately six months according to my vet, and then it's the end I guess.

Information online says it is linked to chemical exposure like flea dips, bug sprays, lawn fertilizers, things like that. In humans it is linked to second hand smoke. I have always been one of those people that is very cautious with chemicals, I don't fertilize my lawn (but that's because I'm too cheap to buy food for my lawn when I could be buying food for us or the dogs and I don't care about the dandelions), I don't use pesticides, I buy environmentally friendly dish soap. I DON'T smoke. I HAVE brought the dogs to various parks near our house at least three times a week when we can't get to the foothills and I'm sure they don't use fertilizer that is safe for kids and pets (why????). I keep thinking of that woman who saw Amber swimming in the canal one summer day and said "you let your dog swim in that nasty water?". At the time I thought she was just being overly cautious, now I wish I could go back and be more careful with where I took them to play.

I know it's possible that it's genetic and wasn't caused by environmental toxins but I can't help but want to know where it started. One little carcinogenic piece of something she licked off her feet that lodged itself in the lining of her urethra and stayed there.

Another thing I read was that feeding yellow/green veggies at least 3 times a week, steamed and pureed, had some influence on reducing a dog's likely hood of getting this cancer (a study done on Scottish Terriers who are the breed most likely to get this). So eat your veggies, people! I've been making myself a breakfast smoothie and the dogs get a little on their food every morning. I make it without the banana first and then add the banana after they get their share. It is one banana, a handful of spinach or baby greens (organic), a few leaves of either oregano or parsley from my garden and lately I've been adding a few slices of zucchini and some ground flaxseed then add water. REALLY it tastes pretty good. Maybe I've just gotten used to it.

Anyway...Amber says she hates the vet. I took this picture for our website at work.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Our obedience/rally-o teacher also teaches tracking so I thought it would be fun to learn something new. It's really neat and different! Different in that you aren't telling the dog to do anything, they are just using their natural sense of smell and following a trail, that is all. It felt very low pressure and easy. I'm going to try to do it a few times a week at the park and see how far we go with it. There are no tracking tests being held in Idaho at this time so we'll probably never enter one but you never know.
Things you need to get started:

A leather glove, some sort of marker, like these flags from Home Depot, and lots of treats that are easily seen by the dog, like string cheese torn into little strips.

You will also need a harness for your dog. Amber is modeling my homemade fleece lined harness.

Find a big open grassy area with not a lot of people to start with. Your yard doesn't work well since it's already covered in your tracks. To begin with, either have your dog in a sit stay, in a kennel or tied up somewhere that they can watch what you are doing. Pick a landmark like a tree to make a straight line from where you start. Put a flag in the ground at the start line. Place a piece of string cheese at the start. Taking normal steps walk in a straight line toward your landmark placing a piece of cheese in every footstep. Don't make it too long at first, maybe 20 or 30 feet. Put the leather glove at the end of your track and put some pieces of cheese in the glove. Place another flag at the end. Then walk straight another 10 feet or so and make a wide turn to come back to where you left your dog, making sure you are well away from your track.

Hopefully your dog has been watching you, wondering what you are doing with Her cheese and wants to find that cheese now. Take the leash and point to the first piece of cheese and say READY??? TRACK!
You are supposed to be well behind your dog, and in a test I believe my teacher said you use a 30 foot lead, but I just used my 6 foot leash to start with. Amber immediately followed the track, vacuuming up cheese.

They are not supposed to lift their noses from the ground and the leash is supposed to have a little tension in it. If they start following your track right away, eating the cheese, don't say anything to them, just let them work. If they get off the track or become distracted, just point at the ground and the next piece of cheese and say TRACK!

When they get to the glove at the end, throw a party! Give them treats out of the glove, make the glove very exciting. In a test they have to indicate to you in some way that they have found the glove, by looking at it or they can even pick it up and give it to you.

Apparently some dogs like the tracking so much that they don't stop at the end of the cheese trail, they keep on sniffing past the glove, so don't encourage that since you want finding the glove to be the rewarding part.
Don't put any turns in your track for a little while and start with cheese in every footstep, slowly working your way up to every other footstep, every third step and so on.

I got very excited about this! Can you tell? It sounds so simple but it was a lot of fun watching her sniffing the ground and wondering what she was smelling. I know in the beginning she is just sniffing for the cheese but just imagine your dog tracking a 400 yard track that has been aged for an hour in the rain and wind with who knows what else having crossed that track and you are just holding the leash, trusting your dog...

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Doggy doors and Easter

We've had a lovely weekend, full of gardening and yard work. My husband and I put in a new arbor at the garden gate, and he tore out some very old and ugly junipers that used to be by the street.

The dogs got a present a few weeks ago, a dog door! Amber is still having to pee a lot so we needed it. They learned it fairly fast. The first week or so though, they would both go out it on their own but then would come to the door and wait to be let back in like they used to have to do. It was pretty cute. I have always thought Amber was a genius of a dog so it was a little surprising that she didn't get it right away. Obviously it wasn't because she is not intelligent, just that it was a habit she'd known all her life.

I wonder how a dog door changes the way a dog thinks. If she'd been raised with one, would she have been just a little more independent? Rye seemed to get it just a tiny bit faster than her and he is the more independent of the two, though not by much. They are both dogs that like to be close and want to make us happy for sure. I also wonder about the next puppy or dog of the house, someday in the distant future. What does it do for their view of the human in the house if they don't have to rely on us to let them in, let them out? Or does that not change anything at all? Have you read "Merle's Door" by Ted Kerasote? Great book.

They have it down now though! They love it. Amber is a sunbather and will lie out in it all day when it's warm enough. And squirrel patrol is so much easier now.

Hope you all have a wonderful day today! Happy Easter from the creatures at Barks and Recreation.

I think they look more like angel wings on Rivet the cat (and he would like you to think that's what they are).