Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Boys Go To Grandma's

I can't even say the word "Grandma" around my oldest because he goes goofy! Both boys love when she comes to visit and love it even more when we take the two of them over to her house. She has a huge fenced yard where they can run, dig (well, they try but I stop them!), sniff flowers, bark at the neighbor's dog (who gets into trouble because he barks back and he's been to "no barking" school), chase each other around the apple trees, play hide and seek under the big old spruce, eat leaves, play "get the stick" and generally cause mayhem.

But dogs are a lot like people. Sure, we take them for walks...usually the same old boring route. Make no mistake...they are just happy to be out with us in the fresh air, but they too need some variety. Taking them for a visit to a "dog friendly" home is a great outing for them. They can explore the yard or house, be around new people and generally they tend to be more well adjusted when they have new things to stimulate their minds and noses. They eat less and sleep better after a visit too!

So try and incorporate some variety in your dog's day. Even if it's just a new route to walk, you will notice that your pet will be much happier.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Creating a "no pee" zone

Shih-Tzus are stubborn...there's no getting around that one. Even if you train them, there are times where they are going to defy you because they are mad and will pee wherever they feel like it, regardless if you are there watching them.

My oldest did that when I first brought Rocki home. He was in such a full-blown snit that he trotted over to the couch, lifted his leg, proceeded to pee on the couch and carpet, and then looked at me as if to say "so what are you going to do about it?". Then he marched away with his held high, sat in the opposite end of the room and turned his back to all of us. When I tried to get his attention, he's turn his head the other way and stick his little snout in the air.

Shih-Tzus can also be high strung. When Rocki gets really excited, he often has a slight accident. Just two or three drops, but enough to create a smelly mess. When the two of them were particularly frightened during a severe storm when we were hit with an extremely loud clap of thunder, I had a couple of other accidents to deal with. Fortunately, I've found a solution.

First, I found Oxyclean is the only thing that cleans my carpet completely. And you all know that if you don't get the scent out, the dog will return to the same spot over and over! I have pale grey carpets, so believe me I've spent a lot of money on different products that claim to take out pet stains and odor. They don't. That's why I'm recommending Oxyclean on my web site.

I was told that dribbling white vinegar onto the stain worked...and it does. Unfortunately, your home smells like vinegar rather than urine (which I guess is the lesser of two evils) but certainly not the best solution.

I've also tried ammonia. It does remove the stain and the smell. The downside is I almost keeled over from inhaling the fumes, so using ammonia...not so good if you pass out. I've also read that it's not healthy for the dogs to smell (or lick, as mine are inclined to do).

So that's my answer...Oxyclean. As for the attitude? I'm still searching for a solution.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Do you want to be my dog?

A guy I know asked me today if he could apply to be one of my dogs because he thought they had a better life than a lot of people he knew.

I guess in a sense that's true. They are well loved, well groomed and, judging by their somewhat finicky taste, well fed.

But owning a Shih-tzu, or any pet for that matter, is a serious commitment. They are not toys to be played with when you feel like it; they are not little dolls that you dress up when the mood hits; they are not ornaments that you just look at. These are living, breathing creatures with feelings, wants, needs and individual personalities. They are relying on you to care for them because, in our world, they can't look after themselves.

Some people just don't think when they run out to get a dog. Can you afford all the things they need, including regular grooming and veterinary services? Do you have the time to take care of them and give them the attention they need? Do you have a fenced in yard to keep them safe? Do you have other dogs who may not be welcoming? Do you have young children who are not old enough to understand that they cannot hit, choke or squeeze them? These are just a few things that many people just don't consider until after they've brought the dog home and by then, it's too late.

Dogs who are well treated are the most wonderful, loving companions you could ever wish for. Dogs who are neglected can become angry, destructive and, at times, vicious. There is a beautiful Siberian Husky down the road from us. His owners have a large, fenced back yard. The dog is never in it. Rather, they tie him to a post in the front yard where he sits morning, afternoon and evening. I had never heard a dog audibly sigh in my life, but this one does whenever someone walks past. There are two teenagers and two adults in that house, yet no one takes this big, beautiful animal for a walk. So why have it? And sadly, I don't think this is an isolated case.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Can a dog be mentally challenged?

I've wondered about whether a dog can be "slow" and have questioned vets on this matter. The simple answer is yes.

When Rocki was born, our breeder told us she had come just come into the room. She ran over to Rocki when she noticed the placenta was covering his face and he was unable to breath. She removed it and began giving the little guy mouth-to-mouth until he started to breathe.

Now we know in humans that babies who lose oxygen during the birthing process often have some form of disability (yes...I know...not politically correct!) but the amount of time spent without oxygen will determine the severity of the disability.

In our case, we don't know how long Rocki was without oxygen. What we do know is that he did not and does not pick up on things the way his brother does.

For example, if I caught our oldest peeing on the floor, I'd raise my voice, say "no" sternly, and he would put his head down and promptly shimmy to his kennel which was the "time out" area. With Rocki, if I went through the same process, his response was to wag his tail and excitedly jump up for a hug. Our oldest was toilet trained within three weeks. Rocki is almost a year old and still has accidents on the floor. Thank god it's linoleum and not hardwood!

I've taught our oldest a number of commands, from the usual "sit", "stay", "lie down" and "come" to the unusual like "where's your toy?" (and he'll promptly run back outside to retrieve it and bring it in the house), "Is Grandma coming to visit?" (where he'll jump up and down and run to the front door and wait) and "get to your house" (which is the kennel if he's bad...but he knows when he's been bad and goes there on his own most of the time!)

Rocki doesn't understand much. He knows where the food and water is, where the beds are, and how to attack his bigger brother. He gets that he has to poop outside, but peeing is another matter. Peeing, to him, is a free-for-all event that occurs whenever he feels like it and wherever he may be. Raising my voice doesn't work. I caught him one day lifting his leg on the carpet and spanked his bum while yelling "no". His response was to wag his tail, jump up and down happily and run to the treat cabinet in expectation of a reward.

There are many other examples, but I think you get the point. We love our little guy and would never trade him for the world, but some days it can be a real challenge dealing with his inability to comprehend.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Who do you believe when it comes to your dog's health?

We all care about the health of our pets and, in particular, keeping them around as long as we can. After all, they are a part of our family. But when it comes down to what you feed them, who do you believe?

I've recently talked to many dog owners who tell me they are really cutting down on commercial dog food and dog treats because of the latest poisoning scare. In particular, what is really frightening, is that a handful of dog food manufacturers produce most of the brands. So if one bad supply comes in, it affects many different dog foods and dog treats.

People are also telling me that they are starting to feed their dogs more "people food" in an effort to protect them from the risk of tainted dog food.

On the other side of the coin, we have the vets. When little Rocki was in the hospital, the aides and the vets all said do not feed them any people food. In fact, when we mentioned our dogs loved lettuce, one told us that lettuce causes diahhrea. I've never seen either of my dogs get diahhrea from eating lettuce, but it got me thinking. Mind you, this is the same place that is peddling a certain brand of dog food and, if you read one of my previous posts, you will see that they charged a case of this dog food to my vet bill without even consulting me.

A friend of mine, who breeds Scottie dogs, said that his vet told him that fresh vegetables were good for the dogs and that he recommended that my friend continue to feed his prized dogs their favorite veggies.

Another friend of mine related the story of his dog, Snoops, who died at the ripe old age of 21 years. Snoops was a white lab who never even so much as got a whiff of of commercial dog food. Once a week, my friend's mother made up a big pot of rice and a big pan of ground beef. She mixed it together and Snoops had rice and ground beef every single day of his life. According to my friend, Snoops did supplement his diet with grass, bugs and fresh mud. However, his main staples were rice and beef. 21 years, eh? Not bad.

I believe we all try our best to be responsible owners and do what's best for our pet. However, with so many conflicting opinions, how do we decide?

I think talking to your vet and other dog owners is a good start. Keep in mind, though, some vets are selling certain brands of dog food so be aware that their opinions may be biased. If you think that buying commercial dog food is the way to go, find out what to look for and which brands are best. If you want to feed them "people food", teach yourself what's healthy and what's toxic. If you are a vegan or vegetarian and your beliefs carry over to the feeding of your pet, read about what to give them for proper nutrition. If you go to my Squidoo page on Shih-Tzus, I've compiled a list of books that hopefully cover different points of view so you can make an informed decision.*

*at the time of writing I had compiled 5 books. However, only three are showing up. Hopefully the server is working properly very soon.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Can I change my dogs' names?

When we first get our precious little pups, we have so many names we've chosen it's hard to pick just one. Finally, we do make a decision and our pup grows into a healthy dog with it's own distinct personality. And that's when we often find their puppy name just doesn't fit and we come up with all sorts of nicknames for them.

For example, our oldest is named Bruiser. Why? Well, he was the runt of the litter and typically had to fight for food, a place to sleep, a toy and just about anything. When all the other puppies were too frightened to venture into the backyard, our little guy took the lead and boldly went to inspect the concrete sidewalk. The other puppies followed hesitantly and, in the end, just dropped onto the concrete too scared to go any further. Our little Bruiser, though, dared to go where no other pup would go and ventured forth to the bedding plants where he found a wonderful place to dig.

Our youngest, Rocki, was named for the boxing movie (although I did take a bit of artistic license in changing the last letter) because when we got him, his left eye had a large, round patch of black and dark brown fur that looked like a black eye. Now, of course, it's pretty much disappeared.

Had we been able to wait until their personalities really came out, I think I would have renamed Rocki to Kato because, like Kato in the old Pink Panther movies, little Rocki is fond of hiding behind chairs or on top of them and attacking his brother as he passes.

As for Bruiser, he is the big boss. Even when he's visiting with his mother and other brother, he tries to control all of them. He needs to know what's going on at all times and is quite the little inspector when it comes to ensuring that everyone is doing what he thinks they are supposed to be doing.

In all, it doesn't much matter because over time, Bruiser's name has evolved into Brewsie Bear and Rocki has been labelled "Munchkin" by most people who have seen him. Bruiser responds to both names. As for Rocki, he responds to all names, including Bruiser.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Beware of veterinarian retailers

After bringing Rocki home from the pet hospital, we got a call from the vet saying they forgot to give us a couple of items that we had paid for. So, my husband drove back and picked them up. I wasn't surprised that there was a bottle of antibiotics. What did surprise me was there was a case of canned dog food.

When did they decide they had the right to arbitrarily charge me for this and then tell me after the fact?

I could see from the can that it was a wet food. Both of my dogs hate wet dog food and have refused to eat every brand I've tried on them. Thankfully, this turned out to be a blessing because of the recent contaminated dog food scare which was mainly in wet food. But, thinking that maybe there was a reason that they gave us this food, I opened it up to give to the dogs. Firstly, it looked like pre-chewed food. Not good. Then, I divided up the can and put it in their dishes. They wouldn't eat it. So, I left it for them in case they came back to it later. Of course, I was concerned about Rocki as he had just gotten out of the hospital and needed to eat to get his strength back.

Well, a few hours later and nothing...they wouldn't go near it. Meanwhile, Rocki is trying to eat every leaf, stick and piece of fluff he can find because he's so hungry. That was enough. I threw it out and gave them their regular food. So now I have a case of food that is sitting here. The sad thing is I looked it up on the company's web site and it appears that it should be good for them. But it looks vile and the dogs won't touch it, so quite frankly it doesn't matter how good it seems to be for them...they won't eat it.

And I might have bought some if the vet had asked. But they didn't...they just charged me for it and then told me to pick it up. It's the principle of the matter that seriously bugs me. So, if vets want to be taken seriously and respected, they need to cut out this kind of practice.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Temperamental Shitzu

We were pretty excited to bring Rocki home from the pet hospital as the house just didn't seem the same without him. We also hoped to bring some life back to his brother, who had been despondent since Rocki left. So, imagine our shock when we arrived and Rocki's brother was in a complete and total snit.

He was so mad he was salivating. He turned his back on Rocki, growled at him whenever Rocki approached and refused to be anywhere near him. I couldn't believe it!

When the vet called to tell us we had forgotten something at the hospital, we asked why Rocki's brother would be so mad at him. The vet speculated it was because Rocki smelled of other dogs. perhaps our oldest, who has always been Rocki's inseparable companion, thought Rocki was "cheating" on him! If only he knew what that poor little guy had been going through.

As night turned into the next day, Rocki's brother finally started to come around a bit, but not much. I thought perhaps if I gave Rocki a bath the scent of other dogs (and not to mention the sickly "medical" smell) would not be so strong. I know it sounds kind of simplistic, but it actually started to work since my older dog began sniffing Rocki more after his bath. He even allowed Rocki to nibble on his ear...but not for long, of course. He is, after all, the oldest and the self-appointed boss of the two so he has to be mad just a wee bit longer to make his point. At night, I noticed the older one gradually coming closer to Rocki. He wouldn't actually touch him, but he would lie down within a certain distance that was carefully monitored at all times.

After a couple of days it was business as usual. There was wrestling to be done, food to share, toys to squeak, cushions to beat up, bugs to chase, grass to dig up and chewies to fight over. It warmed my heart to finally see them both back to normal.

My puppy wins...the Parvo virus loses!

The little guy pictured on the right has beaten the Parvo virus!

Although dogs can be hospitalized for up to 10 days before they are well enough to return home, my little Rocki was released in just 2 days and boy, was he glad to come home! After a good night's sleep on his favorite lambskin rug, he has been seen running circles around the coffee table, doing flying leaps from couch to floor to chair, beating up his stuffed toy, and gobbling up every piece of food he can find.

Although he has 10 days worth of antibiotics that I must cleverly conceal in a dog treat, his recovery is heartwarming. I knew he was a healthy dog before getting the virus, but his determination to get back to normal and winning attitude has just blown me away.

So this story is one of hope: even though the Parvo virus is deadly, a healthy happy dog can recover from it's effects.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Beware of the Parvo virus

Thought Parvo couldn't happen to you? This blog is about Rocki, our little cinnamon and white Shitzu pictured in the bottom right of the photo. We rushed him to the animal hospital last night where he was diagnosed with Parvo, or Canine Parvovirus.

Parvo is a severe infection that causes intestinal damage. This leads to septicemia and severe dehydration that could be fatal. For some reason, certain breeds (Rottweiler, Doberman Pinscher and English Springer Spaniel) have a much higher fatality rate that other breeds. It is a highly contagious virus that requires aggressive medical treatment immediately.

In our city, there is an epidemic outbreak of Parvo. Clinics are running out of supplies. I read about it in the paper but thought our little guys were very secure on their home turf. How wrong I was!

Because the main source of the virus is from the feces of infected dogs, I stopped walking my dogs in the area as poop is one of their passions: they love to sniff it and touch it. If it's goose poop, they wolf it down like they've never seen food. Since not every dog owner is a good citizen picking up their messes, I decided I would keep my dogs safe at home until the epidemic passed.

Despite all my precautions, Rocki still picked up the virus. How? I figured it out this morning when I was cleaning up the yard...he contracted it from flies. Think about it...flies congregate on feces and then come into your home. I was killing them with the flyswatter, but a couple of times I was too slow on the draw and Rocki ran over to eat them before I could pick them up.

So what are the symptoms? Well, Rocki threw up yesterday morning. We weren't too concerned at first. After all, Rocki is one of those dogs who puts everything he sees into his mouth so we figured he just ate something that didn't agree with him. Then he got a bit of diarrhea and I cleaned him up. That too has happened before when he ate something that didn't agree with him. However, what made me keep an eye on him was when he continued to vomit a white, frothy mucus. He wouldn't eat and didn't drink anything, yet he kept vomitting. As the day turned into night, he became more listless and unresponsive. I called a 24 hour emergency veterinarian and described the symptoms. They told me to bring him in immediately.

At 9:30 p.m. we arrived at the animal hospital where the vet began testing. Unfortunately, the one tried and true test for Parvo was unavailable. Because of the severe outbreak in the city, they ran out of the test. They called other local vets and they too had run out. The second method of determining Parvo was a rectal exam (which Rocki did not like too much and I couldn't even watch). The vet showed me that there was blood in the stool and she was able to detect Parvo by the smell of it...apparently, it has a very distinct odor. As a precaution they also took some blood because many dogs with Parvo (but not all) have a lower white blood cell count. Rocki's was normal.

Without the one test that determined whether or not Rocki definitively had Parvo, we had to make a decision: do we leave him at the hospital and treat him as if he has it, or do we take him home and treat him as if he just had vomitting and diarrhea and take the risk that he doesn't have a potentially fatal disease? The vet also told us that treating Rocki for Parvo will cost between $2,000 and $3,000.

In the end, we chose to treat him as though he had Parvo and left him at the hospital so treatment could begin. We were told that it could take between 2 and 5 days in the hospital before he is well enough to leave, and that there is a chance he may not make it. At this point he is in the hospital...we are waiting to hear how he is doing.

Some facts about Parvo: - it's hard to kill. The virus is resistant to heat, detergents, alcohol and most disinfectants. The only thing that will kill it is a 1:30 bleach solution. The virus has even been recovered from surfaces contaminated with dog feces after three months at room temperature.

- it's easily transmitted via the hair or feet of infected dogs, contaminated shoes, clothes and other objects or areas contaminated by the infected feces, so direct contact between an infected dog and a healthy dog is not necessary.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Shitzus going snakey...

There are some nights where I don't know what has gotten into the little guys but they go completely snakey. Nights like tonight where there is nothing happening outside but they are poised to leap...where no one is in another room but they are dying to get into that room to the point that they leap and jump at closed doors while they cry incessently...where if you are not with them they whine, bark and throw themselves at chairs and other objects that they don't normally go after.

It is a weirdness I see on rare occassions and quite frankly, on nights like tonight when I'm home alone, it's kind of creepy.

I'd like to blame the full moon but we don't have one tonight. Nor anything close to it. If I could point a finger at a party next door, firecrackers, a loud car, sirens or anything else I would. But our area is still and quiet as can be.

I've seen it a couple of times and with two of them I get double the fun... one is either emulating the other or they've both lost it. Hopefully, they will calm down in the next while, but right now I need to attend to the whining that threatens to send me over the edge. :-)