Monday, March 22, 2010

Pads, Ears, Weak Stomachs, and Tails

For 11 and a half years, I was blessed with a son called little Alex, a yellow Lab who was more human than canine. Bright, happy, and a quick learner, he expressed emotions beautifully. But there has to be a listening human on the receiving side, and when he needed one the most, she wasn’t there.

Throughout his life he never had a problem, so I didn’t worry much about him. But in April 2000 when he grew lethargic and could barely make it around the block, I learned he had a cancerous growth on his spleen. I still cannot discuss it or write about his final month without crying. I will just share with you that I should have seen in his warm, brown, forgiving eyes something was wrong, but I was not conscious.

For my daughter’s Christmas present in December 2003, a friend and I bought Shiloh, our yellow Lab—a gift to whom we keep giving. Maybe we just unwrapped him too soon: Shiloh has been a problem child and very costly. People need to understand prior to adopting animals, each is different, and yours may be the one that moves retirement from age 60 to age 80.

Shiloh is like a mustang, rambunctious and always creating work for me. Before he turned five, he mellowed a bit and I actually started to like him. Shortly after our relationship improved, though, tragedy came.* I nursed him slowly back to health and have done my best to accept the inevitable challenges Shiloh presents.

Cut pads. Even after he healed, Shiloh’s pads still bore deep cuts. Following our daily hikes, I wash his feet in warm water with baby shampoo.** Once dry, I occasionally rub Palmer’s Cocoa Butter in the cracks and find he heals within a couple days. Palmer’s works on almost anything [].

Ear infections. For more than a year, Shiloh’s ears produced volumes of black cerumen, so I thought he had mites. He’d scratch himself bloody many times, even though I thought I’d sufficiently cleaned his ears the day before.

As with any health problem, I headed to my reference closet and pulled out Home Remedies. I tried warm almond oil, vitamin E oil, olive oil, mineral oil, and 10W30, all blended with garlic, then gently massaged it into his ears. VoilĂ ! After daily applications for two weeks, it didn’t work. So I looked toward harvesting yellow dock to brew some ear tea.

Finally I discussed the matter with my friend who owned a veterinary hospital, and she said, “I have not seen one case of mites in this area (Colorado). If he has ear problems, it’s either a bacterial or yeast (fungal) infection. You’ll be able to tell by the smell.”

Armed with that knowledge, I grabbed my trusty, big French nose and stuck it into the dog’s ear. Sure enough, I never wanted to eat bread again and ascertained he could have a food allergy related to wheat or corn.

I traveled on the Net and continued my research. After trying several concoctions, here is my solution: 50–50 hydrogen peroxide and vinegar (clear or apple cider), sometimes with a tinch of isopropyl alcohol to wick away moisture.

Absorb a bit on small pieces of cotton, warmed if you’re nice, and gently massage it into poopy-doo’s ears for half a minute. Toss the old, and take two new mini cotton pieces and lovingly dig out the dirt. I also use cotton swabs under bright light with great care to thoroughly extricate each black morsel. (Bet this is making you hungry. And our next topic…)

Vomiting. I have always had a weak stomach, yet one continual problem is Shiloh’s vomiting. No matter what I feed him, he vomits at least weekly. His diet has consisted of:
• raw ground beef or muscle meat (also cooked, raw beef bones give him diarrhea)
• infrequent raw chicken backs
• frequent chicken soup with organs, veggies, and herbs
• ground alfalfa and kelp (2–3 t.)
• salmon, cod-liver, or other fish oil
• vegetables, such as carrots, lettuce, celery, broccoli
• extra vitamins C and E
• good-quality dog food
• homemade yogurt (2 T.)
• infrequent apple cider vinegar, more might help with the ear problem

For those who believe cereal-type dog food is bad and dogs should only receive raw food, I come close to that goal.*** And I don’t give him foods that dogs don’t tolerate.

His exercise schedule doesn’t follow too closely to food consumption, though his regurgitation sometimes follows drinking water after a hike. The jury’s still out on this problem, and he’s promised to cut back on deer droppings.

Before Shiloh’s time on earth is over, I believe he will save someone’s life just to make up for all the trouble.

No, wait, he already has. He brought home two kittens—that I have to take care of. Oh well, when I leave for five minutes he acts as if I’ve been gone all day. I mean really, what guy does that?

* See
** See
*** Schultze, Kymythy R., Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats, 1998.

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