Thursday, June 19, 2014

Piper's LIfe Story - The First Six Months -

Well, since we picked up our new puppy, Piper from the RSPCA back in February (or was it January 2014), she has been an endless source of joy, and ..... education.  If you think you have had problems with your pet, let me share with you the story of Piper's first six months!
Piper - during her first week with us.

The fear of thunder...

Firstly, she was fearful of thunderstorms and lightning - we spent many days of desensitizing her - this was successful with the help of her Adaptil collar and constant playing of thunderstorm music.  Now a thunderstorm happens, and she is a cool dude.

She then decided that any new noise needed her own bark to improve it.  And so she does.  No sooner that she gets over a noise, that there is a new one that she has never heard before.  Her reactivity to noise is a work in progress, but she is slowly getting better, or maybe we are running out of "new noises"? Either way,  it is improving.

And then it was kennel cough....

Within a couple of days of her entering our family, she started sneezing, and having gunky eyes.  No coughing though!  So, it was either allergies or viral.  And like a worried mum, I did the Canine Respiratory PCR test on her - and she had kennel cough.  I did advise the RSPCA on that one, but not sure what they could do to stop it given how it loves areas where there is a high concentration of animals. What could they do?  Nothing!

She made a full recovery.  Some antibiotics and staying away from everything including work.  We had to change our clothes as soon as we got to work to ensure we didn't infect any of our beautiful pets that come to visit us. 

Diarrhoea was to follow...

Piper's Giardia antigen test - two bands means
it is positive!
Puppy classes then began.... and she had severe diarrhoea.  Again, the worried mum did a faecal test, and found that our poor baby had Giardia.  We started her on treatment, and after her diagnosis, was screening more pets, and  found we had five other cases (thanks to the rain we had at the time).

 All would've been infected by drinking infected rain water! And thanks to Piper giving me a heads up to screen for it, I was able to test them, and treat them effectively.

A limping puppy....  one leg, then the other....

So she then hurt one leg - her front one, limp for a few days, then be fine.  Then it would be another front leg - again, limp for a few days.  And then she started limping on her right hind leg. 

We thought, as you do, that she would be fine again. After all, it hasn't stopped her from running, or jumping onto the bed, going up the stairs and having an overall amazingly good time!

More later on how important this ended up being.

And some missing teeth too ...

It was about this time that her adult teeth were erupting, and boy, was she chewing everything she could lay her little mouth on - toilet roll is shredded in two minutes (actually less).

Perhaps I could lend her to the government to their shredding of important documents department?  She is very very effective (and fast).  Highly recommend her for her paper shredding skills.

The car accident...

And then she was in a car accident with Tegan - and with that brought the realisation that we needed to xray her mouth, and xray her hips.  On this day, her limping was significantly worse.  So Xray her, I did. 

With her mouth, we found that she had unerupted first premolars on her left and right lower jaw.  These needed to be extracted to prevent a future complication of a dentigerous cyst. 

By this stage, Piper's nickname was  "the problem child".

And then the news of her "bad hips"....

When we radiographed her hips,  we found she had bilateral hip dysplasia, with her right hip much worse than her left.  Our hearts sank. 

 It was so obvious on the radiographs, and she also had a positive ortolani sign (which indicates crepitus or laxity). 

Oh my stars!  What words do I use to express our sorrow at our beautiful girl suffering this disease.

She had been on the best food, we had kept her lean, controlled her exercise.... and we had to realise that it was not our fault.  Hip Dysplasia is an insidious horrible disease, that can target any breed.

We booked her in to see an orthopaedic specialist straight away, and she spent a day there.  Initially she was a candidate for surgery, but after further review, it was felt that perhaps it would be better to protect her joints, keep her lean, and see if she "outgrows" the lameness.

  I received the same advice from colleagues on VIN (Veterinary Information Network).

And then I heard about a Hip Dysplasia talk that was due to be given by SASH (Sydney Animal Specialist Hospital) which was sent to all of the vets. It was a long way to go for a topic close to my heart!

I went, and heard about a newer technique which they were doing, and had great success with. It was a DPO (Double Pelvic Osteotomy)

It wasn't risk free, and not all dogs are candidates for it. Was Piper, I asked them?  They didn't know until they examined her.

How much was it, I had to ask?  About $6500 not including the preliminaries and post op tests. Big Gulp!

Would Pet insurance cover it, I had to ask?  Some do, some don't they said. Bigger Gulp.

You see, we took out Pet insurance for our dog from the moment she entered our household.  Many people told me I was nuts for doing so, because I was a vet.  Well, yeah... I am...and I didn't take it out because I am a bad vet, because I'm not... I am a very good vet.

  I took out pet insurance because I know the amazing technology that is out there for our pets, and I did not want finances to get in the way of my family's pet getting the best care that she deserved.   I see it all too often when finances mean that pets are euthenased instead of treated.
Pet insurance, for me, is like  a protective blanket
It was for my peace of mind that Piper could have
the best that veterinary medicine could offer.

For you see, despite the belief that vets are rich, and business people are rich (and I am both), I am not a rich vet business person.  I am a solo vet, mother of four beautiful children .... and the bank loves me due to the level of debt I am in!

OK, let us get back on track .....

Whilst I was at the AVA conference in Perth, Piper underwent extensive tests.  Tegan and Dirk took her to SASH, and yes, she is a candidate for the DPO.

Piper recuperating at home with her "Cone of Shame"

She had her surgery  at SASH - (June 2014) and at the time of writing, is recuperating at home. It's possible to keep a 7 month old previously active dog quiet... its called "training" - always rewarding and reinforcing the calm behaviours of being in her crate (of course, with the help of her Adaptil collar, spray and medications).

And then the mange....

The mange.... or more accurately, demodectic mange. It started with two bare patches on her toes, which we noticed a few weeks after reducing her activity (because of her hip).  This was prior to her surgery.

I often call this mite "little alligators" as this is what it looks like under the microscope.  To treat it takes at least 4 months of medications.

When I scraped those bald spots, well, I am sure you could imagine the way I felt, and the look on my face!.

The look on my face.... when I saw the mites!

 And this is just the first six months of her life.... what will the next 15 plus  years bring?

So you can see - Piper is a very special, very lucky dog.... actually, I will rephrase that.... we are indeed lucky people to have met her, and have her as part of our family. 

Yes, she has had a lot of medical problems, and yes, she has cost a lot of money, not all we will get back with pet insurance, but she is full of joy when we come home of an evening, and sadness when we leave in the morning.

 She delights in all the little things in life, and, well, isn't that what life is all about?  Sharing and caring with your family?
Piper and Tegan at more happier times - at the dog park in
April 2014.

I am Dr Liz, and I am the mad vet from Russell Vale Animal Clinic. If you have any questions about any of the conditions listed above, I assure you, I am now the local expert on it... one of the upsides of having a pet like Piper!

Do you have a story that can beat mine?