Posts Tagged ‘Health’

If you talk to 100 Great Dane owners, you’ll get 100 differing opinions on what and how you should feed your Great Dane.  The opinions differ greatly, and some people are very, very adamant that the way they do it is the only way to go about it… and they’re willing to call you all sorts of things on the interwebz if you disagree with them.  It’s funny – it’s almost like arguing with another set of parents about not spanking versus whoopin ’em for even looking at you wrong.  That’s the level of intensity that this debate escalates to. I’ve seen perfectly sweet people go into fits of rage if you disagree with what they think is correct.

Why?  Well, I think most of that is due to the fact that the leading killer of Great Danes is bloat.  Couple that with the fact that we’re not sure exactly what triggers bloat, and you’ve got a maelstrom of opinions being fired off by people that think what they do for their baby is the absolute best.  But here’s the thing – what THEY do for THEIR baby might not (and probably won’t be) what’s best for YOURS.

I’ve read and read and read on the subject of Great Danes and diet.  I’ve probably put more hours of reading into this subject than most people spend researching vehicles when they buy a car.  There are probably a lot of people that have or have had Great Danes and they just threw out whatever kibble was the cheapest, never giving it a moment’s thought, and their dogs grew to be healthy and have long lives.  However, I’m just not willing to take that risk.

So what exactly should you feed a Great Dane?  It’s not an easy answer.  You could go the BARF diet route, which is Bones And Raw Food.  The thought behind this is that you feed the dog what they would eat in the wild.  It’s an intriguing approach, but the cost, food prep time, and making sure your dog receives all the balanced nutrients is a BIG undertaking and I don’t know enough about it to feel like I could give my dogs the proper nutrition.

The other approach is a grain-free kibble.  This is VERY popular among Great Dane owners.  The rationale is a lot like the raw diet, but if offers the convenience of it being already prepared and the assurance that the proper nutrients are in there.  Most dog foods are full of corn as a filler, which is a cheap way for companies to give you 50 lbs. of dog food at a lower cost to them.  But you have to think – when is the last time you saw a dog leaping through a corn field chomping down on ears of corn?  Never?  Yeah me neither.  So you have to wonder why it’s in most of our dog foods.  Also, it’s believed that this grain filler is a contributing factor to bloat.

Then of course there’s the grain-laden kibble approach.  This is what the majority of pet owners do, and for the most part it works out fine for their dogs.  There may be times when a vet will put a dog on a special diet because of kidney stones, sensitive stomachs, etc. but as a whole, we pretty much buy whatever brand we think has the cutest dog on the package, or what we think is the healthiest from the shelves at Wal-Mart and go on about our business.

I really can’t blame anyone for this.  For instance, I went into our tiny Petsmart this weekend to look at the food options and if I didn’t know anything about dogs or how to feed one, I’d be overwhelmed.  Just take a look…

Are you kidding me?  That’s 4… count them, 4 aisles of dog food!  And not to mention, I didn’t see a single bag there from one of the 10 – 15 brands that are highly recommended on Great Dane forums.  Also, this isn’t a big store either – I’m sure the selection is even bigger in larger markets.  I tried to picture what it would be like to have never owned a dog before, buy one on a whim, then head into Petsmart to pick up some food.  I would think it would be incredibly overwhelming.

Almost every single bag says “Veterinarian Recommended!” on it, and all of them proclaim to be the best, most wonderful, super healthiest thing you’ve ever given to your dog and he/she is going to love you even more if you choose their food.  That’s where you have to put all of that aside and get to the boring, drab details of it.  The nutritional analysis and the ingredient list.  That’s all that matters.  Period.

Luckily, you don’t have to get out your kids’ Chemistry Set and start performing analysis tests in your basement (but if you do, call me because that could be fun).  We’ll talk more about feeding, what to look for, resources for information, and what we’re currently feeding as we revisit this topic from time to time.

Not the most entertaining of things to read about, but with all the love and joy that our pets bring us, we feel it’s important to invest that same sort of time and commitment into making sure they’re as healthy as we can possibly help them be.  They’re already with us far too short of a time, so we need to make sure the limited number of days we have them are the absolute best that they can be.

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Puppy Food?

I know you readers hate it when I get serious (the hate mails, the letters to Congressmen, the old ladies standing on their curb shaking their fists at me) but feeding a Great Dane is a serious undertaking so I’ll be visiting this topic from time to time.  I especially find it important because thanks to the great marketing engine of corporate America, we’re to believe that you can go pick up a bag of puppy food at the grocery store, slap it down in front of any puppy, and he’ll grow up to be a show dog.

I know this will come to a shock, but that’s not always true.  In fact in some cases like a Great Dane, it can be debilitating.  There are several bone diseases that are prevalent in giant breeds.  Of course the genetics of your puppy play a factor in this, but diet has a very large role.

Puppy foods are very high in protein for growth (around 30% if I’m not mistaken) and have supplements in them such as calcium.  Feeding a high-proten, calcium supplemented diet to your giant breed dog can cause them to grow TOO fast.

Now wait a minute – isn’t that what we want?  Don’t we want our puppies to grow up to be big, giant, strong, healthy dogs?  Well… yes we do.  However, we want them to do so in their own time.  A puppy food can accelerate their growth rate too fast and the result is a long laundry list of horrible bone diseases.

There’s a great (and short) article to read here about the various diseases that feeding a puppy food can contribute to here. I wouldn’t have known anything about regulating Duchess’ protein or calcium intake if I hadn’t researched this before we got her (remember, we pretty much rescued her from white trash ghetto-land where she was most likely being raised on a diet of pork skins and Pabst Blue Ribbon).

Oh, and don’t be fooled by “Large Breed” puppy foods either… the protein is still too high in those.  We’re looking for a protein percentage of 21% or so to promote a slow and steady growth.  So I know what you’re thinking right now.  It’s probably along the lines of “I don’t care.  I seriously don’t care.  I can’t believe I’ve even read this dribble this far.”  Am I right?

The rest of you that do care are probably freaking out because you’re either a) realizing that you have a dog that you probably shouldn’t have fed puppy food to, or b) wondering just what it is that you’re supposed to feed to a giant breed dog.  I mean, really… what are we supposed to do – strap on our loincloths, fashion primitive weapons out of things laying around the house, and go all caveman on some poor unsuspecting cattle just so our big doggies can get back to nature?

I guess you could go that route.  If you had your own cattle.  And lived really, really, really far away from other people.  And was certifiably batpoop crazy… but for the rest of us, there’s a simpler option.  But we’ll have to get to that another time because I have a big puppy that’s dying to eat and then crawl in my lap to go to sleep.

P.S. – please keep in mind that these opinions of mine included in this blog are my opinions about feeding GIANT BREED dogs.  So don’t go all crazy and throw your bag of puppy food out in the street, set it on fire, and put your dog on an intestinal cleansing product because you fed it to your Lhasa Apso.  It’s all cool.  Your little Swiffer dog will be just fine.  So just put the bag down and step away from the torch.

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If you followed my Twitter today (it’s on the sidebar on the right, or you can follow it directly at http://twitter.com/lifewithduchess ) then you know that Jake had to go to the vet today.  What’s a week without a vet visit anyway?  It’s kinda cool being the “Norm from Cheers” to the vet office anyway… not having to use your full name when you call, everyone there knows you – even the techs that work in the back, and you get a fancy VIP badge that you get to wear around the office and flash in the faces of the everyday Joe’s that are hanging out in the waiting room.

Those suckers.  Lackeys, slackers, ne’er do wells.  They’ll never know the glorious perks of the VIP backroom at the veterinarian’s office. The flowing champagne, the paparazzi… it’s a little much but I have to say I enjoy it.

Actually, I think it’s more like, “Oh, it’s THAT guy again.  The one with the crazy dogs that ALWAYS have something going on.”  Nevertheless, they always take excellent care of our pets and are wonderful people – every single person that works there.

So I know this post isn’t about Duchess – and it’s not about Great Danes, but it’s about the Golden Retriever that lives with her, so it kinda counts.  Kinda.

Last night Jake started scratching his ear and groaning a little bit.  This isn’t unusual.  Jake seems to get quite the enjoyment out of it.  Much like a scruffy guy getting out of bed likes to stretch, scratch around, and do his own bit of groaning as he greets the new day.  We didn’t think much of it.  Jake has taken up groaning ever since we brought Duchess home (she’s famous for groaning).  It’s kind of his new hobby… a new thing he’s trying out.

Well, I looked in his ear at bedtime and it was… gross.  I’m not posting a picture of it here because – well – it’s gross.  You might have just eaten or something, and then I’d be sued for Overabundance of Grossness, or something else lawyers come up with.  Just trust me, it was nasty.  All goopy and brown and junk.

It was decided he was going to the vet today.  I made the call this morning, just using my first name (thankyouverymuch) and his appointment was set for 3:00.  By the time I got home at lunch around 1:00 he was walking with his head all cockeyed like he was giving you the skunk eye, or the facial expression of, “Oh really?”.  I knew it was pretty serious by then.

A friend of ours has a cat that has permanent damage to her ear from a bad ear infection and now walks permanently with her head cocked like that.  It’s uber cute and she needs a home actually, so post here if you’re interested in giving her a loving home.  Let me rephrase – it’s uber cute on that cat… but not a new look that I’m going for with the dog.

I came to pick Jake up a little before his appointment and he knew something was up.  He’s old enough to know that when I call for just him and him alone, that there’s a bad moon on the rise.  He played coy.  “I’m sorry, I can’t hear you call my name because I have 5 pounds of gunk in my ear.  I’ll just lay here on my bed.  The vet you say?  Oh no no no… no thank you, I’m fine.”

I finally got him out of the bedroom and he quickly ran for the dog bed in the living room where he planted and was quickly regretting ever leaving the confines of the bedroom.  Here he is in full-on denial mode.

Notice the complete lack of eye contact?  Yeah, he’s trying to figure out every way possible to not get the leash on.  After much consoling and prodding, I finally got the leash on him and loaded him into the truck (to which he had to have “help” getting into… it’s funny how he doesn’t need any “help” when leaving the vet).

Here he is in the truck, looking out into the driveway plotting his escape.

Still no eye contact.  This is the last stage right before locking down and going into the complete shivers.  The “Oh my goodness they’retaking me to the vet and I’m gonna get poked and prodded or even worse LEFT behind NOOOOOOO!!!!!” stage.

You see, he has separation anxiety and being left at the vet is much akin to going “in the box” like in Cool Hand Luke (one of the greatest movies of all time by the way).  I really don’t see what the big deal is – maybe I should leave my VIP badge with him next time.

We got unloaded at the vet and here’s where he turns into the biggest. chicken. ever.  He puts his belly on the ground and starts flailing his legs trying to move in any direction (preferably towards the door) and acts like a general idiot.  (sorry there are no pics of this… trying to handle an inconsolable thrashing Golden Retriever is a little much)  Once he gets over his little tizzy, he then tries to crawl in your lap for protection.

Here he is trying to get in my lap, and me trying to keep him off of me since I’m wearing pretty much all black today.  Why oh why did I choose to wear black on the day I take Captain Insane-o to the vet?  *sigh*  I bet Johnny Cash didn’t have Goldens.  Oh, and notice the bald spot on the left side of his face?  That’s from his last visit a few weeks ago when he got a hotspot from us leaving him in the house while I got on the roof to take down Christmas lights.  Yeah.  Did I mention he’s INSANE?

The doc checked him out, cleaned up his ear, and checked the goop for bacteria.  Luckily no bacteria was found, just a yeast infection.  He said they get yeast infections from moisture getting in the ear or allergies.  We figure he must’ve gotten some snow in there from his romp a few days ago.

We got sent home with some medicine and cleanser for his ear that we need to do everyday – more medicine to add to the giant stockpile that we have for all sorts of doggie maladies.

At least he doesn’t fight it.  Apparently some dogs have big issues with you messing with their ears.  The doc said, “Man, he’s a great dog.  He’ll just sit there and let you do whatever you need to.”  I agree… Jake’s one of the best.

He also checked Jake’s eyes since they’re getting a little cloudy.  He said they weren’t cataracts (thank goodness) but just some natural aging, so that was a big relief.

So thanks doc for taking care of our dog (again) and here’s hoping we can go a few weeks without seeing you again.  If I could make one suggestion though – how bout some bacon wrapped shrimp for the VIP room?  I never get to eat enough bacon.

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Von What?

We have a very long history of weird stuff happening to our dogs and family members.  It’s something in the genes I think.  Or perhaps one of our ancestors built something on top of an Indian burial ground.  Whatever it is, the cosmos, fate, karma… it’s usually stacked against us.

Whether it’s purchasing a flawed item, a home repair project gone awry, or a medical situation – we usually hear “Out of a million times this will only happen once.  You just have bad luck.” from someone involved in the fiasco.

So of course when Duchess got old enough to be spayed, it was time to research all the possible things that could go wrong… because that’s usually what happens when it comes to us.  Giant breeds such as the Great Dane have special requirements when it comes to surgeries, and there is a fantastic post on the DOL forum that outlines the things to discuss with your vet before scheduling the surgery.  Actually, it’s a great idea to discuss any potential problems with your vet prior to any surgery for all dogs.  You’d be surprised – if your vet is a good one like ours, they really enjoy conversing with owners that take the health of their pets seriously.

You’ll notice on the post I linked on the forum, that number 4 states:

Ensure that you elect to have the pre-surgical blood work done (CBC and serum chemistry panel) and ask them to also include a CLOTTING PROFILE.

So that’s just what we did.  I dropped Duchess off early that morning before work so that they could get the blood work done.  About an hour later I got a phone call on my cell – it was the vet’s office.  I couldn’t answer the call immediately so I let it go to voicemail as my heart began to pound faster with each passing minute.  Many people have lost their Danes on the spay table due to bleeding issues so of course my mind went to the worst possible scenario – because as mentioned above, that’s just the way it goes in our house.

When I got the voicemail a little later, it was my vet saying, “Don’t worry, nothing is wrong… I just need to discuss Duchess’ blood work with you.”  *sigh*  Of course we need to discuss the blood work.  We’ve obviously purchased one of the only 2 Great Danes known in the written history of the entire world to have the uber rare form of Doggie Ebola.

I called the clinic and they patched me right through to the doc.  Having known us over the past 15 years or so (and the many nights I’ve called and awakened him because our dogs refuse to have emergencies during normal business hours) he knew I’d be thinking the worst.  If I remember correctly, the first words out of his mouth weren’t hello – they were “Everything’s fine, don’t worry, we haven’t even done anything yet.”

Mmm k.  So then what’s the phone call about eh?  I was told that her blood was not clotting well, which had been my fear all along leading up to the surgery.  He said that he had taken some blood and sent it off to the hospital to have a full workup done.  Wait a minute – did I hear that right?  My dog’s blood was going to the hospital for a workup?  Maybe I didn’t hear that right, but in my adrenaline rushed, panic stricken state that’s what I understood – so I’m sticking with it.  Can you imagine if the samples had gotten mixed up with some patient there?  I’m sorry Ms. Smith, but it looks like your child doesn’t have H1N1 as we thought… we need to talk.

The vet also said that he wanted to rule out Von Willebrand’s disease.  Von who?  Van Helsing?  My dog has a disease that turns her into a vampire killer?  That doesn’t sound bad at all – kinda cool actually.  The late nights would eventually wear us down, but maybe I could take a different job to work around her schedule… all in the name of making the world a safer place of course.

He explained this disease several times, but I still couldn’t get my head around it, so I had to google it.  Von Willebrand’s is a form of inherited hemophilia in dogs I found out.

Here’s the kicker.  The only place in the U.S. that tests for Von Willebrand’s is Cornell in New York.  So we had to ship her blood across the nation and wait for the results.  I was told we needed to postpone her surgery until we got the results back and that I could come pick her up.

I went to pick Duchess up, who was thoroughly confused as to why I felt like the vet’s office was an appropriate place for morning doggie daycare and the receptionist informed me that I could pay later because, “I have no idea what to charge for that blood test, we’ve never had to do that before.”

There it is!  That line we always hear no matter what we’re doing.  Of course you’ve never had to do that before – because we’ve never owned a giant breed before.  If we’d had giant dogs this entire time, it would be a routine procedure for our local clinic by now because we’re cursed obviously.

A couple weeks went by with us sitting on pins and needles.  What if she tore off a claw and bled to death? (Our dogs have torn claws off several times – we’re quite adept at the ghetto triage method of packing the paw in flour now.)  What if she got a scrape while playing with the other dogs?  What if she happened to bust out the door, run away, and join up with some bad dogs and get in a gang fight?

Things were pretty tense around the house for a while.  Luckily, after a couple weeks the test came back negative which was a huge relief.  We rescheduled the surgery for another time (which is a whooooole separate ordeal unto itself).  She’s completely recovered now as you can tell by the snow pics taken the other day, but it was a rocky road there for a while.

So she’s evidently free and clear from Von Willebrand’s (and Van Helsing’s as well), which is all good.  However, I’m just waiting for the next thing to happen where we have to send off a fur sample, mouth scraping, and a piece of her ear to test for something else that’s potentially life threatening.  Let’s hope Cornell has a test for that.

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