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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Case Study: PitBull & Aural Hematoma

Note: Small change made for clarity - thank you Catbird!! :)

Patient and Symptoms:
A 2 1/2 year old female American Pit Bull Terrier presents with a swollen ear. She seems to be in some discomfort demonstrated by shaking her head and flapping her ears vigorously. Then again, the patient does that periodically - especially when tired but trying to wake herself up to be part of the action - so examiner draws no conclusions.

About half of the ear flap is puffy and looks like it's filled up with air. The examiner uses the snack method to distract patient for ear observation. The ear feels full, almost, if the examiner remembers correctly, like a water balloon not full enough to break unless thrown really hard. Examiner notes patient's appetite undeterred by ear problem.

Diagnosis via Google:
Aural Hematoma
The various descriptions of the condition seem right but are finally clinched on the aural hematoma page of the Mar Vista Animal Medical Center. Although a technical medical description, it is the confirmation the examiner is looking for: "The ear flap will feel fluctuant and fluid-filled, like a water balloon."

Diagnosis via Veterinarian:
The patient is brought by examiner to Channel Islands Veterinary Hospital for a consult. Everyone is very nice and examiner makes an additional note that patient's tail is functioning normally - even exceptionally well if encouraged by office staff and free treats.

Dr. Anderson comes in for the consult and listens carefully to examiner's assessment, (proving, yet again that Patience/Good Humor 101 is a required course for vets -- not the elective it seems to be at some other medical schools.) He does a quick exam and verifies the aural hematoma. He also examines the ear canal to make sure there is no infection causing patient to traumatize ear and to show that Google can't do everything. The ears are reported to be clear, heart beat is good, etc.

Treatment Choices Offered:
1) Not recommended - do nothing. The ear can eventually heal itself. This will probably leave the ear cauliflowered and uneven and could even affect patient's hearing. (Examiner has brief flashes of ears she pictures as cauliflowered: Rocky, Someone Up There Likes Me, Raging Bull.) Before the possibility of hearing loss is mentioned, examiner has dismissed this choice.

2) Perform an aspiration (drain it) and inject it with some anti-inflammatory to take the swelling of the blood vessels down. This treatment doesn't have the highest rate of success and there is a good chance the condition will recur. It is usually the first method tried, though.

3) Surgery. The patient is put under....The examiner's brain again short-circuits and tunes out the next part of this choice.

Option 2 is selected.

Treatment and Outcome:
The ear is aspirated and 6mls of fluid are drawn out. It is reinjected with 1 mg anti-inflammatory.

After a week and a half with one re-check, the area of concern is looking good. The ears are still very cute and floppy but there is a very small fluid build up which finally disappeared a few days later.

No calls from the veterinary medical journals yet but other floppy-eared dogs might like to take notice.


Friday, September 15, 2006

Pit Bull Graduate

Honey has completed her Intermediate Training class and I have a certificate on the refrigerator that proves it. In dog world, it's not a huge deal but don't tell her that. For her final, Honey played "Simon Says" with her classmates and they went through the commands they've mastered. It was like a synchronized dance music video, all the pups moving in step with each other while the owners clicked and treated them through it - clicker training is a really easy, positive way to train a dog. What was kind of surprising (or maybe not, actually) was, when they were demonstrating the commands separately, each of the dogs stumbled on one thing or another but, doing "Simon Says" as a group - they worked together like pros.

Here was the repertoire they learned from Beginners and now Intermediate:

Paw or Shake. There are other ways to teach this trick but we did it by waving a treat kind of in a circle in front of their nose until they finally put up their paw to make you stop. As soon as they do that you click the clicker and give them a treat. Basically, you annoy them into it.
High Five. The next version of paw. You put the treat between your forefinger and thumb holding the rest of the fingers up with an open palm. It's a Paw but higher.
Watch Me. Put the treat up to your forehead and have them stare at it for longer and longer times. Honey immediately took to this trick and could've watched me for hours as long as I had a piece of cheese between my eyes. (The trainer told me early on that she was a good subject for training since she's so "food motivated.")
Stand. This was a hard one for her to learn. I watched the wheels turn in her head-"Did you mean sit, no, down. Paw - I'm sure you're trying to tell me paw," and then finally she just sat there and stared at me with a kind of glazed expression. I realized she had the same expression as a store clerk I met in Austria where I was apparently ordering "cute grapes." He also came to a stand still and just stared at me.
Touch (touching an object or wall with the paw) and Nose (touching an object or wall with the nose). This is how you can teach them to turn the lights off or close cupboard doors.
She also learned Roll Over as her last trick. I had options - Crawl (seemed demeaning), Play Dead (seemed not as cute on a pit as it was on the toy poodle demonstrating) and Speak (Honey is not much of a bark-er and I'm afraid I'd be opening the flood gates with that one.)
I'm debating on the Advanced class (is that when she learns to drive a car?)

Simon says "Hey Honey, lie sprawled all over my bed with muddy paws on my freshly-washed bed cover." Oh look, she's doing it...

Monday, September 11, 2006

Traveling without Honey

I went to Portland, Oregon, this week - just got back - and, I did not take Honey. Since Honey is not one of those dogs that will fit under the seat and, for some reason, dogs can't get their own seat on the plane -- no matter how many mileage points you have -- I went with a friend, instead. It's too bad because I knew from this post on The Poodle and (the Dog) Blog that Dog Fancy rated Portland this year's most dog friendly city in the U.S.

Since I was visiting a family that has a couple of dogs, I went with them in the mornings to see an off-leash park in action. I saw lots of very happy dogs. I also saw a ton of pet stores, drove by some doggie day cares (including a great-looking one with one of my favorite d.d.c. names: Virginia Woof) and saw plenty of restaurants with outdoor eating places where dogs sat comfortably by while waiting for the opportune food scrap to appear.

It's funny, though. It wasn't until I saw dogs walking around the
Portland International Rose Test Garden

that I knew this really IS a city for dogs. I think the fact that Portland thought, given the opportunity, dogs would want to stop and smell the roses - I think that was the final giveaway.


Monday, September 04, 2006

You can't trust a dog alone with a sandwich

A couple of months after I found Honey, I left her alone in the car with a takeout meal from Zankou Chicken - a great Mediterrean chicken chain in Los Angeles. I had ordered my favorite:

The quarter white chicken with hummus. It comes in a covered styrofoam container that has a small section for the hummus, one for tomatoes, pickled turnip and hot peppers and the chicken sits in the middle with a piece of pita bread thrown on top of it all. They put it in a plastic bag and toss in small containers of white garlic topping. Besides making a very crunchy-skinned, flavorful, juicy roast chicken, Zankou is famous for their garlic topping. It's very delicious (and, it's also, let's say, fragrant, so you should encourage anyone around you to share at least a few bites.)

I had to make one last stop before getting home with my meal. Yes, I should've known better - the smell of the chicken filled the car but, it was early days for Honey and me. She was so well-behaved, never chewed anything, never an accident in the house....the perfect dog.

I left Honey in the backseat and ran into the cleaners, quickly picked up some clothes and got back into the car. As I settled in, I moved the stuff on the front seat which included the plastic bag from Zankou. It seemed a little light. I lifted it again. Very light. I looked in the bag - seemed fine - and then I lifted the lid of the container which was popped slightly open. There was my meal: the hummus neatly in its section, the tomatoes, pickled turnips and peppers in theirs and....nothing. The wing, breast and all the bones of the wing and the breast were gone. The pita bread also - vanished.

Since I am familiar with food sneak-thief dogs, I didn't question where my meal had gone. And, dog lover that I am, even though I was very hungry and had really been looking forward to my Zankou chicken, between some muttering about dogs who crawl from the back seat to the front, reach into a bag sitting there and carefully take out only the food they want, leaving the rest behind perfectly untouched - almost as a taunt -- I also was concerned Honey would have some problems with the many chicken bones she had ingested. Especially since I knew she had carried out the whole act within five minutes or so.

Honey was fine and I had learned my lesson and wasn't going to make that mistake again...

But, that was over a year ago and Honey and I are now pretty comfortable together.

I was in Ventura and again, I had to pick up lunch so I went to another chain I like: Tacone. All their food is very fresh and very tasty. The people that run it are extremely nice and there are outside tables so I can eat out there with Honey if I'm so inclined. But, I thought I'd just get something to go:

One of their wrap sandwiches with a side of spicy sweet potato chips. I ordered the spa wrap - grilled zucchini, yellow squash, red bell peppers, carrots, spinach, feta and balsamic vinaigrette wrapped up in a tortilla and had them add chicken - big chopped slices of warm chicken breast. I took the meal packed in a styrofoam container in a plastic bag and I put it in the front seat.

I had to stop at the market before I went home so I found a space in the shade, rolled the windows partially down, and went into the store. I had to pick up a few things, there was a little bit of a line in the store so it took me about 20 minutes. When I got out to the car, Honey was sitting calmly in the back - maybe a little too calmly.

I went around to the passenger's side to put my bags in the front seat and I couldn't believe it. My seat was covered in garbage. There was old food and torn paper thrown all over the front seat. Someone had obviously tossed a bunch of trash in my open window - an act of pure vandalism. It must have been kids - it was such a senseless act.

And then, as I put my bags down and bent over to clean it up, the garbage started to look familiar - like spinach, and zucchini and squash and carrots...the torn paper looked like it might say Tacone.... As I cleaned up, I would like to assure you there was not a scrap of chicken or tortilla or cheese or potato chips around...

What I've learned? Honey doesn't eat vegetables.