Day 12 and counting…


Touch wood, all is well and Dora seems to be taking the assault on her immune system in her stride – in fact her stride seems to have more of a sprightliness in it these days.  Her eyes are looking less sore, although they still weep, but generally she seems to be thriving.  I dare not be too optimistic but hope that eventually her blood tests will reveal that the Milteforan has done its work.  Still not quite half way through the 28 days but we have been lucky compared to some of the suffering of the dogs I read about on the facebook group “Living with Leish”.  Some of them really struggle with the regime but the positive comments lead me to believe that even those that struggle the most, seem to benefit from it in the end.  The best one could wish for is that on blood testing after the 28 days, the antibody count is low enough to count as remission and that eventually if the dog’s own immune system is robust enough, there is even the possibility that the maintenance Allopurinol dose might eventually be stopped.  But that’s a long way ahead so let’s take it a day at a time for now.

I feel like an apothecary’s apprentice at morning mealtime.  Weighing the food, making sure the drug is drawn at the correct dosage (complete with the protective gloves and instructions supplied with the drug), adding in the apple cider vinegar with mother (apparently helps to prevent crystal formation) and the Myconutri PS7 with a good dollop of my home nurtured Kefir sloshed all over to cover the two Allopurinol pills as well.   This dog is being bombarded with immune boosters!

After the snow and a few days when both dogs turned their noses up at even the suggestion that they were required to go out for a walk (luckily they both share a dislike of wet, cold weather so are happy to do whatever the other is doing!), we have had some glorious sunny walks to the beach just returning before the heavens open in their pattern of heavy showers between the bouts of sunshine.  The photo at the top was taken today – our favourite view across to St Ives, looking every bit as blue as if it were mid summer.


Day 1 of Dora’s battle with Leishmania


Breakfast this morning included a first dose of Milteforan – helpfully the instructions were all in Portuguese.  At least it can all go in with Dora’s food which then gets wolfed down hardly touching the sides.  Two Allopurinol tablets for each meal as well.  The gloves included with the pack makes me a little nervous that this stuff is pretty heavy duty.

I really hope that in 28 days’ time, those parasites are reduced in number and Dora’s eyes will be less sore.  Fingers and paws crossed.


Life with Leishmaniasis

So it turns out that our Dora has lived with some nasty little Mediterranean parasite in her system for some time before she even knew she was destined to a new life in the UK.  This was confirmed on blood testing at our caring vet practice who, unlike many in the UK, seem to know all there is to know about this potentially unpleasant and in some cases life-threatening disease created and spread by the sandfly which lives predominantly in hotter climes and at present, touch wood, not yet residing in the UK. The disease is not curable but manageable with medication.

The positive result showed that she had high antibodies to leish but luckily blood tests for liver and kidney function indicate that there is no major organ damage which will hopefully give her a better chance of keeping the buggers at bay.  The buggers are zoonotic which means that they can spread disease between animals and even to humans in countries where they thrive.   “…Leishmania is a vector borne zoonotic disease. Zoonotic diseases are diseases that could be passed from an animal to a human. However because this disease is a vector borne disease, it relies on the presence of a vector (a means of transmission) which in the case of Leishmania is the female phlebotomine sandfly.” 

Thanks to the power of social media, I have already learned quite a lot about this disease by joining a Facebook group “Living with Leish” and it seems like this is an increasing problem in Mediterranean countries, USA and Brazil.  In Brazil all dogs with leish are euthanised.  How sad.

Today, out and about in Cornwall in the early Spring sunshine, nobody would know that Dora has a disease.  She bounds about, eating anything mucky that she can, and so I am cautiously confident that once we have reduced the numbers of the parasitic invasion that she hosts, her minor symptoms like her conjunctivitis and one or two skin lesions, plus her enlarged lymph nodes, will get better.  My ‘glass half empty’ view on life is, in this case, feeling more like glass half full.



Some home truths….

After another really helpful and interesting visit to the vet, when we met a charming young woman who trained in Portugal and who is really familiar with Dora type, rescued hunting dogs, it seems that Dora is more likely to be at least middle aged than a 3-4 year old as per her passport!  Well I think in my heart of hearts as the months have gone on, I knew that her whole history was based on speculation and presumption and that in order for dogs to have a chance of being adopted from rescue centres overseas, they must have a little poetic licence when guessing at the true age of such dogs.  It is also possible that our Dora has one of the diseases which are seen quite commonly around the Mediterranean – such as leishmaniasis.  On balance, as she is actually generally healthy but had slightly enlarged lymph nodes, we decided that it would be better to know so she had a blood test today which will be tested for various of the possible diseases seen in rescued dogs from Spain etc plus screened for anaemia etc by the surgery.   Whatever the outcome, she is Dora and we will look after her and cope with whatever is thrown at us.  The main thing is to give her a good quality of life and seize the day!

The familiarisation sessions with vet nurse Rachael are going well – Dobby now allows her to look at his mouth, ears, eyes etc and hold him around his middle.  The next hurdle is getting him used to a muzzle so that eventually it will be just another thing that happens in the vets but which he will not react negatively to.  Dora just goes along with whatever happens at these sessions, and this morning got quite playful when faced with a number of soft squeaky toys in addition to the usual treats.  She looked beseechingly at me as the vet took her off for the blood test, desperate for me not to desert her, but apparently stood quite meekly and resignedly for them to take blood from her neck.  She bounded out to meet me again – so it didnt have any negative effects!  Tomorrow she and I are heading off to St Just for an afternoon recall workshop.  Now that I kind of know that she is older, probably arthritic and possibly with some medical issues, I dont think the recall is going to be paramount as the only time I am happy with her off lead is on the beach, but still it will be a useful experience and might give me pointers as to how to distract her from pulling me up and down sand dunes in search of rabbits.


New Year, new Vegan lifestyle, same but different Dora

It was September 2017 when I posted the last blog entry about Dora.  Time passes so quickly and these past four months have covered a lot of ground in terms of Dora’s continued character development.  The last remaining physical health concern is that I haven’t managed to solve the problem with her sore and discharging eyes.  The benefits of the drops dispensed by the vet were short lived and I always thought this was likely to be a chronic problem possibly related to her previous life and/or her general health.  Her gut is now fine and the transition to both her and Dobby  starting a raw diet was easy as they loved it from the word go.  It certainly appears to have solved her previous runny tummy issues and  lack of weight gain and Dobby no longer chews his rear end or scratches, which must mean that it is helping them holistically.  I would never go back to feeding them anything but Natural Instinct despite the few loud voices from the veterinary world who continue to spread negative opinion.  If you judge a dog’s health by the state of its poo, then these dogs have a healthy gut and easy to pick up poos!!

At our newly found Regent Court vet practice in Penzance, the nurse has suggested that Dora may have a problem with tear production (like her elderly owner who struggles similarly), that there is a simple diagnostic test which can be done and then lubricating eye drops which can be used.   Looks to me from the ingredients list that Dora and I could use the same drops since both human and canine drops contain identical ingredients.   Two separate tubes of course.

Dora is largely more chilled and confident now and apart from the occasions, which are now fewer, when she lets us know that there is someone in her presence who scares her or makes her uncertain, she spends a lot of time curled up on the various animal beds or human beds around the house.  Playing has started to be on her agenda – mainly with the squeaky blue hippo that she likes to carry along the beach as her prize while her housemate Dobby chases a ball.  Their weekly familiarisation sessions with Rachael, our behaviourist/vet nurse, involves many treats and now also a clicker and a whistle.  We humans have to do home work which also involves many treats .  She remains, however, not the kind of dog who bounds up to meet people (except her housemates when we come through the door) nor does she seek much human attention, preferring her own space; she approaches people only on her terms which are usually when there is food or when it is dog mealtimes, which she strictly adheres to, reminding us morning and afternoon when it is time for food!  I have a sneaky suspicion that she may be older than her guessed at age of nearly 4 years – probably a couple of years older,  The longer she is with us, the more I wonder about her past and what happened that remains in her memory and causes her to leave the kitchen when I get out the mop or the broom.  However, reassuringly, Continue reading New Year, new Vegan lifestyle, same but different Dora

Getting there

Brief update – her hips, it seems, need no intervention except conservative management for the time being.  Her digestion system is thriving on the raw diet and I think she is beginning to gain weight.  The barking at visitors is still happening but seems to be her way of conveying her nervousness and uncertainty rather than plain aggression.  So now we just reassure her, ask whoever she is directing the bark at to ignore her and keep their distance so she does not feel her space is invaded, and just wait.  Eventually she trusts and now seems quite happy that our semi permanent “lodger” Nigel is part of her family.  Patience definitely pays off.

The remaining challenge is persuading her to go out and have a last wee – she will not budge once it gets dark.  Short of dragging her at the end of her lead and making it an ordeal with no definite result except terror, I scratch my head about how to entice her or encourage her to wee.  Sometimes there is an accident during the night.  Only occasional.  Hmm.  All suggestions gratefully received.  We are getting through our weekly Guardian newspaper supplies.

The adorable Dora – guarding my slipper in case anyone else wants it.IMG_7383

A few challenges for us and Dora

There’s been quite a lull in my blog about Dora, our beloved rescue dog.  This is mainly because a few things cropped up which have needed time to sort out.  Having settled in to our routine, however haphazard it is at times, we then had a few problems trying to get to the bottom (sorry for the unintended pun) of her upset tummy and consequent nocturnal accidents which started to happen quite frequently.  The dry food recommended by the vet in order to increase her weight was completely useless – and as I have since learned, was mainly carbohydrate of dubious origin, and served the purpose only to bulk out in her digestive system when she drank water.  Her poos were copious and mushy – not easy to extricate from our Cornish gravel garden or between the floorboards of our bamboo sitting room floor! Needless to say, she lost weight rather than gained.

The other challenge presented itself when our eldest grandson came to stay.  She really didn’t know what to make of him and barked whenever she saw him.  This completely threw me as she had seemed completely passive previously when I had had friends staying quite soon after she came over from Spain.  She also barked at grandson No.2 as if she found him a threat also.  She remained unmoved by toddler grandson, thank goodness, as he was far more likely to approach her than the other two who were quite scared.

Challenge No.3 was that at times she struggled to get up from lying down and limped quite badly on her back left leg.  This was not apparent when we first had her and started probably after about two months.  I thought we should watch and wait before jumping to any conclusions as to the cause (in my mind, she had hip dysphasia or cruciate ligament damage – my glass half empty mind racing ahead).  Perhaps she needed shorter walks, perhaps we were letting her leap about too much on the end of her long line on the sand dunes, perhaps, perhaps….  the scenario lent itself to me worrying about vet bills and long term prognosis.

Priority was given to challenge no.2 which was the behaviour around grandsons – so we managed to find an amazingly enlightening dog behaviorist (thanks to Nick Benger) at West Cornwall Dog Training who paid us a visit (primarily we had enlisted her help for our reactive little bugger of a Jack Russell, Dobby) and showed us how we should encourage visitors to give Dora space, not engage in eye contact or any interaction that would make her feel any more anxious and to slowly show her that strangers in the house meant extra dog treats and all things nice .  We also learned to recognize body language which showed when a dog was uncomfortable, nervous, afraid etc.  All things about which we had little knowledge previously but which would have been so helpful.  From Carolyn we also got information about someone who has spent a lot of time researching a raw food diet for dogs and who has been a fount of knowledge for us to tap into.  This dealt with Dora’s digestive problem almost from the word go – so both she and Dobby are now fed an entirely raw chicken/turkey diet which has made life so much easier.

The lameness continued so after a consultation at our local vet, they suggested hip x-rays and poor Dora had to be carted off for sedation and hip x-rays.  Apparently these showed that her hip sockets are not normal, with possible dysplasia and the films were to be sent for an orthopaedic opinion.  The vet also surmised that her intestinal walls looked thickened and jumped to the diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease with suggestions of more blood tests etc etc.   I had to stem the flow of things he was wanting to do by saying that I was not surprised about her bowel as we had no idea what her nutrition had been like before we had her, that she had undergone a huge amount of stress over the last few months BUT for the last few weeks her new raw food diet had transformed her digestion and I felt that we should just monitor this and not do anything else.  The vet acknowledged that at her young age she should not be on a regular non steroidal anti inflammatory for her hips as this would conflict with any inflammatory bowel disease.  He recommended a supplement (interestingly only available via a vet) for her hips and agreed with me that Metacam should only be used as a last resort if she was really in discomfort from her lameness.  When I told him that we were giving her goats milk kefir for her bowel – he had never heard of kefir.  So I think we will need to temper the conventional and go with the nutritional, devils claw and all, until we know a bit more about what we are dealing with and whether she truly does have a degenerative hip problem.

The month of September will pose a bigger challenge for her in accepting strangers as we have visitors staying throughout the month, ranging from family to previous neighbours, to old friends and new.  All of them will need to gain her trust and we will need to ensure that there is no conflict.

It is still early days and because her character with us seems so gentle but also shy and apprehensive, it will take time for her to feel properly at home and unthreatened.  IMG_7151