Category Archives: poodle IBD

Moonstones Elinor Oct. 1, 2003 to September 19, 2012

Elly shows off her ability to fly (photo by Joe Camp)

My Elly died yesterday. I don’t know which of her many physical problems killed her. I’d love to be able to say she was cheerful and full of her characteristic joie de vivre right to the last, but in fact, she wasn’t. Yesterday morning, she woke up vomiting, everything she’d eaten the day before, completely undigested. Her gums were raw and bloody again, and she stood and looked despairingly at her food when I offered her some. When she lay down, she hunched into herself in pain. And we were out of drugs to give her. The prednisone worked for a few days, but when I got to the vet, despite the healthy appetite she’d had on the pred, she’d lost another pound and a half.

None of the possibilities were good, and we made the decision to euthanize her. She’d survived so much, and always so cheerfully, but the dog I saw yesterday was not the dog she’d been. I didn’t struggle with the decision at all, and Paige completely agreed with me.

I first met Elly in the kitchen of her breeder, Kim Koopman (Moonstone Poodles), where she came over and snuggled and chewed on my hands, and wagged her tail, and in general was about the most lovable cream-colored poodle puppy you’ve ever met. I fell for her hard, immediately.

She came home with me a month later, at age 5 months (the delay caused by a long-planned trip), and immediately starting making life both excellent and impossible. She loved to snuggle and it took her only a week to persuade Jay that she belonged on the bed, stretched out next to him, her head on his shoulder. But she chewed everything, she wouldn’t listen, she was distracted by everything. (It didn’t help that I had no real clue how to train a puppy.)

If I didn’t keep her mind active, she made up mischief. I took training class after training class with her, all offered at the Bellevue Humane Society and using the latest idea in training: clicker training/reward-based training. Elly adored clicker training. She loved the challenge of trying to figure out what I wanted. I found I loved training that way. By July, when Jay left to bicycle across the country, being gone for 28 days, I was desperately looking for more things to teach her.

We tried agility. I was lucky enough to stumble into private lessons with Pritamo Kentala, and she gave Elly and me an excellent introduction to agility. Elly loved it, and finally she had enough to keep her brain busy and focused. I loved that there was always something new to train.

Interspersed with training for agility, there were problems. She had a sore shoulder; she developed inflammatory bowel disease (and spent two visits at the vet in intensive care recovering from her episodes before we got it under control). I controlled the IBD with diet, mostly, and the occasional metronidazole prescription. We did x-rays after a particularly bad patch of limping; she had hip dysplasia, and oh-by-the-way, that mole that was biopsied at the same time was a slow-growing skin hemangiosarcoma.

She was four and a half then. The stats say that a dog with skin hemangiosarcoma has about a 50-to-70 percent chance of surviving a year.

At seven, she had an episode of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis. I went to the vet sure she’d never come home. There was blood everywhere and she was so sick. In fact, she came home the next day, happy and cheerful. (In fact, she was cheerful when she arrived at the vet that day, sick as she was. She greeted everyone at the vet as if they were her best friend, usually. Not yesterday. Yesterday she just lay on the couch and thumped her tail gently.)

We were not particularly successful with agility. Her injuries (caused by her poor structure) and her illnesses meant that we took long breaks for healing. In the end, she had her Open titles in AKC (OJP, OAP, OFP), her Novice Versatility and her Regular Elite in NADAC, and her CL-1 and Level 2 Standard in CPE. She retired herself from agility about a year ago, taking the first obstacle and then walking tiredly to her leash. She went to a few trials after that, where she greeted her human friends happily and enthusiastically, and persuaded them all to massage her shoulders. (She could persuade perfect strangers to massage her shoulders. I timed her once: less than ten seconds for a guy she met out at the Delta.)

Elly made me love agility. When she was focused, she was so much fun to run! We Q’d and took first on our very first run in our very first trial. She was just two. It was months before she Q’d again; Elly was a master of intermittent rewards. Later, when I fell and hurt my knee and it just wasn’t healing, the agility community encouraged me to see a sports medicine specialist, who took my pain seriously (after years of being told “some arthritis is normal at your age”). It was chondrosarcoma, and it was caught early enough that the surgery to remove the bone cancer was completely successful.

Elly may have saved my life; sadly, I couldn’t save hers. I will miss her deeply.

Moonstones Elinor, Vampire Poodle

I’m pretty sure Elly can’t be killed.

I’m not sure if the last few days have been good ones or bad ones for Miss Elinor Grubby Paws or not. So here goes….

About two weeks ago, I noticed that Elly had been losing weight and muscle mass and just generally didn’t seem to feel so good, so I made an appointment for her with her vet, for Monday of this week. A few days before the vet, Elly chewed on a mole on her foot that I hadn’t noticed; in fact, she chewed on it until it bled, and she walked around the kitchen leaving bloody pawprints. The last time Elly chewed on a mole–over four years ago–it turned out to be a skin hemangiosarcoma, so of course I was slightly panicked. It did stop bleeding pretty quickly, after I cleaned it up and painted it with New Skin (liquid bandage).

I took her to see Paige on Monday, and yes, she’d lost weight, and some muscle, and her gums were bleeding, and so we did a blood test. And a fecal. And a urinanalysis. Everything looked great…. except that her platelet count was 10,000. Platelets are needed for blood clotting. Normal numbers for dogs are from 150,000 to 500,000.

Further tests were done: no tick-borne disease. I took her off Metacam in preparation for going on high dosage prednisone to treat the thrombocytopenia (formal name for low platelets).

Which bring us to today, five days later. I took Elly in and Paige and I looked at the cheerful, happy dog (who has lost a bit more weight), whose gums are pink and healthy and not bleeding at all, and we talked about maybe not doing the high-dose prednisone for the immune-mediated thrombocytopenia after all, since maybe that wasn’t what it was. We decided against biopsying the various lumps for the time being, and instead adopted a wait-and-see approach.

But Elly still needs anti-inflammatories of some sort, for her IBD and her hip dysplasia–and because she’s losing weight and muscle–so we’ve put her on a low dose of prednisone to see what happens next.

(For those of you who may not be familiar with Elly’s medical history: at age almost nine, she has inflammatory bowel disease and bilateral hip dysplasia; she had a skin hemangiosarcoma removed four years ago; she had tumors (benign) on her eyelids removed a year ago; she had an episode of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis about a year and a half ago. I’m sure I’ve forgotten something; she’s just not an “easy keeper.” She’s really not at all healthy, but she just keeps on keeping on, surviving one day at a time, with a wonderful happy attitude toward life and all people, including everyone at the vet.)

(And if the concept of a vampire poodle amuses you, there’s an amusing book series available through Amazon for the Kindle: MITZI MAGEE: VAMPIRE POODLE (The Vampire Poodle Mysteries). I’ve only read the first book in the series, but it was funny.)

I have THREE dogs

It is sinking in that I now have three dogs. I have Elly, the now-eight-year-old escape artist. I have Dancer, the 5 1/2 year old companion, and I have Rush, the puppy who ate my life. (I believe this would fall into the category of “what was I thinking?” but the problem with that is that I know exactly what I was thinking, and I’d do it again.)

This summer Elly had another episode of her IBD–bloody diarrhea. I immediately put her on metronidazole, which is one of the most awful tastes in the world. By the end of the week, Elly would not come near me. She’d lean on anyone but me. Rather than continue to make her hate me and my pills, I opted to take her off Rimadyl entirely and simply let her rest. She was on Rimadyl for nearly a year because she was clearly sensitive to touch along her spine, not moving well, and so on. After stopping the Rimadyl, Elly pretty much spent about two weeks just lying around the house, seeking out the softest bed, growling at the puppy when he came near her–in short, being old and cranky. It may have been from recovery from the IBD as much as from all the arthritis.

But after a few weeks, Elly started perking up again, and now, as long as I don’t push her and let her get all the rest she wants, she seems to mostly be moving well and feeling okay, even without the Rimadyl. I think being able to move freely while on Rimadyl may have helped some things to heal. It’s been about two months now and she’s willing to come near me, as long as I reward very consistently.

With feeling better came a return to her old escape artist ways. She’s stayed within our fenced yard for two years, but about a month ago, I looked out to find her in the neighbor’s yard. There’s a fence all along that side, but part of it is a stone wall, wide and only two feet tall, with a five foot drop on the other side. When the neighbor’s pine started producing pine nuts and the squirrels moved in, it was too much for Elly. Somehow she got into Mollie’s yard. I walked around the block (I’m not going over that wall), brought her back, and let her go in the yard. She was over the wall in seconds: she jumped to the top, then jumped down the five feet. No hesitation. I blocked off the top of the wall with an exercise pen; she went to another section, with a seven-foot drop. I blocked it. She then found a section with a bigger drop, where she climbed a grass plant, knocked down half of it to cover the fence, and slid down the stems.

I want Elly with me if I’m ever locked up and need to escape. If nothing else, she can help with digging the tunnel.

(I have fixed the fence problems and she hasn’t gotten out in three whole days. Of course, it took her two years last time, so I shouldn’t feel too safe.)

Elly’s fine now, but…

Warning: “oh my god, that’s disgusting!” level of this post is pretty high. I’ll try to give a heads-up when it’s coming, but be prepared.

Elly has IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) and has shown symptoms for at least the last five years. I mostly control it with diet, probiotics, and the occasional course of metronidazole, but… last week she had the absolute worst episode ever. I thought, seriously, that it was all over.

It started with ordinary diarrhea, the kind she gets from time to time. I treat that by not feeding her for about twelve hours, then given her white rice made with broth and a tiny bit of meat. So Tuesday she got no food, and Tuesday evening she got white rice. Wednesday she seemed better and I gave her some rice and vegetables and a little ground beef, and then she had some more diarrhea but not too awful. She woke me up at midnight to say she needed to go out RIGHT NOW! (Grossness alert for the rest of the paragraph.) She had liquid diarrhea about every half an hour until around 4 AM, which is when she started spraying blood from her anus. She was trying to get out the door as I was opening it, and she failed. Fortunately the door is glass and was easy to clean. She came back in, and it happened again a few minutes later. At that point, I decided I would be at the vet when they opened (7:30) (instead of calling first); I put her in my shower and closed the shower door.

(More grossness coming for this paragraph too.) At 6, I put a crate in my car, lined it with old stained towels, and went to get Elly. The walls and floor of the shower were covered with blood. The mat I’d put on the floor had bloody footsteps. Jay said it looked like a horror movie scene. It smelled of carnage and the smell was quite alarming to poor Dancer.

Amazingly, she didn’t not have another attack on the way to the vet. We saw the first vet to arrive, and she immediately put Elly on intravenous fluids and metronidazole. I left Elly there for about 30 hours and she had no further bleeding. The vet said she was calmly accepting of all that had to be done for her.

When I picked Elly up the next evening, $450 poorer, she was happy to see me, but clearly exhausted from the whole thing. She slept for 12 hours straight, barely moving.

But Friday morning–what a difference! She was cheerful, happy, unfazed by all that had transpired. She even wrestled for a few minutes with Dancer before she went back to sleep.

Today, Monday–I’d say she’s absolutely fine. She’s had no further diarrhea, no further bleeding. Her feces are completely normal. I may never be the same, however.

Reading about dog diets

I’ve been curious for a long time about how raw diets became so popular for dogs, since there’s a lot of misinformation about them. (Dogs can and do get food poisoning, for example.) When I started reading, it seemed like I found more and more people cited the same studies, studies that weren’t about dogs at all, like the Pottenger study on cats.

I went back to the original research on canine nutrition.

It’s mostly presented in the book Nutrition of the Dog by Clive McCay. It’s readily available used for fairly cheap if you do a search on (the website of the American Booksellers Exchange–great for finding used books). It was published in 1943 and is about how to maintain research dogs if you’re going to be doing research.

Dogs were used in much early medical research, on diabetes, rickets, and in early B-vitamin research. I had the good fortune at MIT to take biochemistry from Gene Brown who did the original research on B vitamins in the ’30s and he’d mentioned some of the research; it was mostly done by elimination diets. When I started doing working out diets for Elly, as a result of her inflammatory bowel disease, I kept hearing all the stuff about raw diets and was curious where it originated.

Lots of people will tell you that raw diets are a result of the study with cats where cats died if they were given cooked food. True. That’s because long cooking destroys taurine which is an essential nutrient for cats but not for dogs. And cats are obligate carnivores while dogs are omnivores. Dogs evolved from wolves as scavengers in village dumps, according to Coppinger, and I think his research on that makes a lot of sense. (McCay also talks about the role of dogs in scavenging and thus keeping villages healthy.) So dogs evolved from wolves as scavengers and part of that was eating cooked food, because we do.

I wanted to get more information on the original research on dog diets. I went back to Clive McCay and I read his book. He was maintaining populations of dogs for researchers and his interests seem to have been having healthy dogs for the researchers and not the dogs themselves. They bred the dogs so as to have a large controlled population. (John Gibbons, the developer of the heart-lung machine, was a family friend; he did his first surgeries on dogs, too. Dog research used to be a lot more common than it is now.)

McCay–like any good lab–wanted to keep his costs down, so he was mostly feeding stuff no one else wanted. One of his diets used tomato pomace, which is what’s left if you press tomatoes for juice. (I notice it’s also used in the Wellness food I feed.) He feed “meat scraps from the butcher” as well. And here’s the quotation: “Over a century ago, Magendie found that dogs could be kept alive for long periods upon fresh bones; but if the bones were boiled, the dogs died within a couple of months.” (p.26, third printing, 1946). He goes on to say “the cooking of meat for dogs is a waste of time from the point of view of nutrition.” (p. 26)

With regard to the tomato pomace, he says it “is a rich source of pectin, which regulates the water of the feces within limits and safeguards the dog from diarrhea and constipation under normal circumstances.” (p. 103). Here you have the reason why the diet rich in fruits and vegetables works so well for IBD.

(I also like McCay’s observation that “probably the greatest evil in over-feeding either men or animals is the deposition of excess body fat. It shortens the span of life.” (p. 21))

McCay notes that some foods are dangerous for dogs when fed raw. Corn and eggs both should be cooked. Carrots provide more useable vitamin A when cooked.

While McCay’s book is almost seventy years old, I’ve found the research in his book stands up well. He discusses calorie-limited diets. His proportions of various vitamins and minerals in the canine diet are still recommended. He talks extensively about how different diets affect the feces (dogs feed just meat and bones apparently defecate as little as once a week). He even addresses the needs of dogs (and humans) for adequate amounts of vitamin D. One thing I like is that his book predates the chemical approach to nutrition that is now so common; his recommendations for vitamin supplementation usually require adding a specific food to the diet, not a chemical powder.

Shopping and cooking for the dogs…

With Elly’s IBD, I long ago got used to making the girls “dog soup” every day–I use Veg To Bowl (a dry mix of vegetables to which you add boiling water to rehydrate them) and meat–so I’m always looking for good prices on the meats I put in the soup. Yesterday must have been meat sale day at QFC, because I ended up buying 6 pounds of ground beef, 2 pounds of ground turkey, two packages of chicken and apple sausage (dog treats!), a package of steak for more treats, and 4 pounds of chicken livers–all on sale. Then it took me two hours to get everything divided up into meal-size portions, cut up into treats (that would be the sausage and the steak), and made into my famous chicken liver dog treats. Whew! But I’m stocked up for quite a while.

Elly’s health

Elly seems to be recovering at last from her IBD. I took her to see her vet yesterday, who found no masses, swellings, obstructions, sensitivities, fever, parasites, etc. That was a relief. Today she still seems a bit under the weather but mostly perky. She ate with enthusiasm. We are taking it easy.

Worrying… (do not read while eating)

Elly ate something, and has spent the last few days with a nasty bout of her IBD. Bloody diarrhea, vomiting. It hasn’t been fun, and I credit Jay, who has cleaned up several messes without any complaint at all.

She’s lost some weight in the last few weeks, and I thought it was because I’d been working so hard on her fitness. Now, of course, I’m worried about her IBD. Poor Elly, it’s not easy.

Another damn sarcoma

This one is not mine.

Poor Elly. IBD. Hip dysplasia. A sore shoulder off and on for months now. I took her in to get the shoulder xrayed to see what the story is–and while she was there the vet, the excellent Evelyn Robertson, removed a mole from her flank and sent it for biopsy. It came back as a LOW-GRADE hemangiosarcoma. Low-grade hemangiosarcomas are not as bad as some others, but it still sucks, the prognosis is good but not great.

So today she had three more moles removed and biopsied. Sunday I washed her and checked her skin, and yesterday I shaved her all over with a 10-blade and Stacia and I checked her skin again. We found five spots that I pointed out to Evelyn, and she felt three of them needed to be biopsied. She did the removals under local anesthesia, apparently Elly behaved quite well. She is home and wearing a sweater, both to keep her warm and to keep her from chewing on the stitches. Results in a few days.

It’s New Year’s Day…

Well, it’s New Year’s Day. I always use it as a day to think about the coming year and what I want to accomplish. Not resolutions so much as plans.

Anyway, this year I want to accomplish these things in agility:

  • run faster (me and the dogs)
  • run clean more often in competition, which will mean being more precise about my handling
  • get Elly some titles that aren’t novice titles (she has nine novice titles!) while making sure she’s still having a good time
  • teach Dancer the teeter so well that she loves it

I have some big dreams that I want to make progress towards:

  • I’d like to move both Elly and Dancer into Excellent level competition

Outside of agility:

  • I want to get the book my sister and I are working on out the door and get it published.

Yesterday in the afternoon I took Elly and Dancer to Camp Charlie to play with Raven and Diane. The dogs had a lovely time and ran and ran and ran. Elly, of course, dug and dug and dug in between bouts of racing and chasing. She didn’t catch anything though. But there was another dog there that joined us for a bit and I got nearly knocked over in the course of the roughhousing, and ended up so sore that I took a hot bath and two advil, skipped dinner, and went to bed with a book. (In this case, it was a trashy murder mystery about knitting) I was asleep by 9. This morning I’m fine, though.

I’ve been surprised that Elly had no ill effects from her meal of vole. She’s allergic to so many things. But nothing. In fact, at the trial Saturday she was running like her tail was on fire.