Thursday, June 19, 2008

When It Rains...

Yes, it pours. And unfortunately I'm not talking the wet stuff that comes out of the sky and which we desperately need, but rather veterinary issues.

The good news is that I took Twist to Robin's on Saturday and swam her for a while in the pond. She came out sound and was sound later after being tied out and left in her crate for some time. So the combination of prolo therapy and "lock down" must be working (personally I think probably the strict crate rest was the greatest benefit, but who knows for sure?). Yesterday morning I had to use her to get the rams and wether into the stall so I could catch the wether and take him to the butcher on my way to our next vet appointment (both in Siler City so trying to save gas by doing two errands at once). Twist is really the only dog I trust to handle the ram--you just don't want to risk your health training youngsters on mature rams after all. Anyway, one of the ram lambs bolted and Twist ended up doing "airs above the ground" to get him turned back. I thought right then that if anything wasn't well on the way to being healed, we'd certainly know it after those acrobatics. She then went into a crate where she spent the good part of an hour while I delivered the wether and drove to the vet. When I got her out of the crate, she was sound. Yay!

Dr. Redding still wants her kept very quiet for a week after each therapy session (we have one or two more), with slow build up to activity in the couple of weeks before the next session. The bad news is that he said he didn't think he'd realease her for work and trialing till fall. Okay, I can live with that as I have youngsters to train and run. At least I managed to get two of the three pounds she'd gained back off, even while on strict crate rest. She probably thinks she's turning into a green bean though.

Then it was Willow's turn. She had been marginally better after our last visit and while on Previcox, but once the meds were stopped, she was as lame as ever. I let her off crate rest at the same time as Twist because I couldn't see that nearly three weeks of strict rest had made any difference. We sedated her and X-rayed that leg and Dr. Redding checked her for drawer signs and sure enough it seems she's got a torn cruciate ligament. He also suspects that the lateral ligaments are damaged as well. Ugh.

On top of that, when Willow had the mast cell tumor removed from her groin area in January, the operating vet talked to me about a heart murmur she's developed (in relation to the anesthesia protocols she elected to use). When I first took her to Dr. Redding for her lameness, one of the questions I asked him was whether this type of tumor ever traveled to the bone. His answer was that it doesn't usually happen; instead such tumors, if they reappear, usually show up in the lungs. So, back to the heart murmur, which is a 4 on a 6-point scale. The problem with a heart murmur is that it's the result of valves that don't close completely--the murmur is the sound of blood leaking backward from those valves. The result of this leakage is that the heart has to work harder to pump blood in the proper direction, and since the heart is a muscle, the extra work causes muscle (heart) enlargement.

So Dr. Redding wanted to X-ray Willow's chest to see what shape her heart is in. It is a bit enlarged in the upper half and is actually beginning to impinge on her esophagus a little bit (if it continues to enlarge, it will eventually also put pressure on her trachea, which will cause her to start coughing). The good news is that we've caught it pretty early and there is no fluid in her lungs. The other bit of good news is that her lungs also appear to be free of anything that looks suspiciously like cancer.

So we've decided to put Willow on heart medicine (Enalapril) now because there is good evidence that starting treatment early in the course of the "disease" can greatly extend her life expectancy. Sigh. I really don't like giving my dogs a bunch of medicines, but I don't want to jeopardize her health either, so for now, I'm doing as instructed. As soon as we get past the ACL surgery, then I'll plan to consult with Regina and see if there are any alternative approaches we can take to heart health.

What Willow has going for her in all this is her relatively small size (36 lbs) and extreme athleticism. She's always been quite healthy--generally vet visits have been the result of self-induced injuries, since her style has always been wide open, to say the least.

We started the prolo therapy on her yesterday and scheduled the cruciate surgery for mid-July (to give me time for my bonus from work to come in--so that it can promptly go to pay for surgery), which is when her next prolo injection will also be given. There is no real choice to take a conservative route (like I did with Jill's partial tear) because the damage to the ligaments is painful and will result in major arthritic changes in the joint. I want to get a consult with Regina after the surgery and see if we can't work up a physical therapy protocol that will give her the best chance of regaining full use of her leg.

Willow just turned 11 on June 7, so she's not really an old dog. I think she's just always been really hard on herself (how many dogs do you know that have broken metatarsals while making quick turns chasing a ball?) and now it's catching up with her....

Training Notes
On an somewhat unrelated note, Raven continues to make good progress. She's letting go of a lot of her tension and is approaching her work with a more level head. She's still a bit tense and tight going to the right, but she can do short outruns on that side, and compared to when she got her just a month ago and refused to go to the right at all (as in lying down and refusing to move), she's making great strides. The dog broke hair sheep I bought from Robin are perfect for her. Although my tunis ewes were working okay in the round pen, their propensity for running made it difficult to let Raven do any sort of fetching. She felt and worked all the time as if she were going to lose her sheep. Get sensible sheep and we were able to skip the round pen altogether and start working in the paddock instead. I think she'd actually be fine with these sheep out in the main pasture, and we'll move there soon enough, but right now I want her to learn to relax working sheep in a closer quarters, so we're staying in a smaller area.

I've also been working Phoebe on these sheep and this morning for the first time since she went in heat back in April I felt like I might just have my old dog back. I don't how long it takes for the hormonal changes to subside, but I have to say that for the past six weeks or more Phoebe has been something of a moron on stock. That's why I backed way up and put her back on the easier sheep in a smaller area. It never hurts to go back to the basics when you're having problems. Going back to something that should be easy for her has helped her regain lost confidence. When we were finished with our session this morning, she was eager to go work the main flock. We didn't--no sense in tempting the fates of regression!

I worked Pip on the full flock this morning. I alternate days with him and Lark on the main flock because it's hard on the sheep (they aren't used to being worked a lot), especially those with younger lambs. The main flock is really more like three or four smaller flocks that don't really want to work as one unit, so the dog has to work hard to keep them together. And then of course the mothers of the younger unweaned lambs are still a bit feisty in protective mode. So I've basically been working both Lark and Pip in silent mode, letting them figure out how to cover, when the push, and when to back off. I've been doing "walkabouts" with Lark because all the pushing sheep off feed bunks that she's done for the past many months (thanks to the drought) had gotten her thinking that her job in life was to come around to my feet and push sheep away. By just letting her wear sheep to me around the pasture, she's having to come most of the way around toward me at times to contain the sheep, but instead of continuing to me and starting to push, she's realizing she needs to go back and cover the back and other side as we go. I haven't been giving her any direction beyond an occasional little correction (Ah, ah!) if she appears to want to go all the way to the heads. Doing this very basic work should help free her up more and hopefully help with her boring tendencies (bore straight into the sheep and keep pushing the ones directly in front of you while those off to the sides just peel away). Well, and remind her that fetching is part of her job too. Some of the issues I've seen with her you wouldn't see working just a few sheep (she can do a lovely silent fetch at a trial on three or four sheep), so it's nice to have a larger flock that brings out some of these issues so they can be worked on.

I canceled out of the VBCA summer trial and have decided against going to Don McCaig's trial as well. For the former I can't justify the expense when I have to pay $1,000 or more for Willow's surgery, and for the latter, it's a long way to go (gas $$) to run just one open dog, and maybe a youngster on Monday. Instead I'll aim for Roy's trial at the end of August (Twist may still not be cleared to run by then) as it's close and so won't cost me an arm and a leg in gas and lodging.

And I guess that's about it for now here at Willow's Rest.


Becca Shouse said...

Whew, what a week. I'm glad Twist is holding it together. Good luck to you with Willow. I can't wait to see you all Sat and especially the world-traveling pup Raven!

Rachel said...

Man, you do seem to have the worst luck with vet bills...nothing for a while then bam. Can't wait till Saturday!

Anonymous said...

Sucks about Willow, but good to have a diagnosis, and get things back on track. Neat to hear about how the dogs are going. You are going to be super fit! Have fun this weekend- wish I could be there!