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.