Friday, May 15, 2009

Darlin's Heartworm treatment

Well, if I was ever going to feel like I poisoned my dog, it was this past week. Darlin’ tested positive for adult heartworms and microfilaria (immature heartworms in her blood) last month. She was scheduled for treatment last week, but the mobile vet had to cancel. She had injections here at home in the Vet’s van on Tuesday and Wednesday. She is much too fearful to take her to my Veterinarian. To do so could set her progress back and that’s the last thing I want, nor do I want to do anything that could stress or frighten her.

Surprisingly she did not defecate when the Vet’s assistant carried her out of the house Tuesday. Usually I wouldn’t want anyone else to handle her, but since carrying her I’ve discovered I have a hernia.

If you’re not familiar with the procedure, the dog gets an injection deep into the muscle in the lower part of their back, then a second injection 24 hrs later. She did fine and didn’t show any signs of discomfort. After her injection I had the Vet clip her nails because they have gotten long since having her. The day Animal Control came by to get his trap he saw Darlin wedged between the fence and the dog house. He commented that the pavement kept her nails nice and short.

After the injection I took her back in the house and she ran under my desk to a dog bed. I quickly updated her Pet Finder thread to let her friends know how well she did. I wasn’t online 5 minutes when she started panting and drooling like she does during a thunderstorm. I really had no idea that she was about to experience side effects from the drug.

Within a few minutes her bedding was soaked from drool and she was extremely uncomfortable so I called the Vet and asked about the side effects and how soon should I expect them to occur. I knew about the possibility of shock or seizures, but I didn’t know about other symptoms. She told me that it sounded like Darlin’ was having a reaction and to go ahead and give her the prednisone, then to give her Benadryl. It took her about two hours to relax. She laid down under a piece of furniture in my room so I laid across the bed and watched her.

I had hopes that the second injection the following day wouldn’t affect her as bad. As soon as Darlin heard the assistance voice as she entered my room she started trembling. Dogs may live in the moment, but they don’t forget negative experiences right away. I certainly have witnessed that in a number of dogs throughout the course of my life. The assistant carried her out to the van; I figured she wouldn’t defecate even though she was so scared since she went outside shortly before they arrived. Besides, she did so well the day before. Nope, her anal glands (pardon me) leaked all over the assistant. The Vet said they have no control when they are that frightened.

The Vet gave her something to help counteract the side effects of the injection, plus she had prednisone 30 minutes before she arrived. The second injection was harder on her than the first and it was pretty scary.

Her heart was racing; she was breathing and panting deeply. She was drooling again and no matter what she did she could not get comfortable. If you follow this blog you know she is a very calm and sweet dog. She demands nothing and she is so well behaved that if I didn’t interact with her you would never know she was asleep in my room or under my desk.

She was biting at dog beds, scratching at the dog beds, she stretched out one minute and balled up the next minute. This went on for two hours and it was about 4 hours before she could really relax. It was more like she collapsed from exhaustion. I never saw the whites of a dog’s eyes like I did this week. I watched, took some pictures, and had a long talk with God.

We moved to my bedroom long before it was over. I laid in the floor for awhile, then I watched her from my bed. Two of my dogs crawled over beside her and took turns being near her while another was in a bed nearby. There was no doubt in my mind that the dogs knew something was wrong with Darlin’. You can see that in Sam’s eyes.

She didn’t move out from under that piece of furniture. She did eat two peanut butter dog biscuits and most of her dinner later that night so I knew she was feeling better. She also drank about 12 oz. of water once she relaxed. The next morning she was acting more like herself again and today she was even better.

I’m so glad it’s over. Now I will carefully monitor her activity and stressors over the next two months. Once the worms begin to die off (beginning 5-10 days post treatment) if the heart or lungs are stressed it can be fatal because the worms could cause a clot in the lungs, also known as a pulmonary embolism. Since she is still very fearful it won’t be difficult to keep her calm, however I am concerned about the stress and anxiety that her fears cause on her body.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Building Confidence through Curiosity

Once Darlin’ was living upstairs she became more curious about her surroundings and I began to notice her behavior changing. She started showing some interest in living as one of the pack and seemed to be enjoying her new location.

At first I’d have to carry her out to the deck after putting my dogs away. I wanted her to get comfortable going out in the yard from the upstairs and I hoped she would follow me without the fear of another dog in her way. She did it! She had not used the bathroom for 11 hours because of storms so she didn’t hesitate getting down to the yard. Since she took those steps with ease, I continued working with her, spending lots of time encouraging her with words to “go potty, that’s my good girl, and you’re doing great!” Usually I go down first and as soon as I start back up the stairs I hear her collar because she’s running right behind me. I’m hoping she’ll get comfortable walking down with the other dogs so that I won’t always have to lead her out to the yard.

Darlin’ was afraid of the dogs and they were a little too eager to meet her so that didn’t help her anxiety. I kept them all separated from her the first three weeks, after that I gradually allowed them all a little time in the yard under my strict supervision. Her tail was always down tight between her legs, she would freeze when one approached her, and most times if she could get away she tucked herself tightly in a corner. She is more comforable now, but still not acting like one of the dogs.

First introductions

Living as a pack member, not real comfortable with the dogs.

I loved to see her relax enough to roll and scratch her back.

In the daytime no one was home except myself and the animals so getting Darlin’ to go out wasn’t hard too do, but when my family came home she would stay in her bed because she’s still fearful of new people…or anything for that matter.

In the evenings I had to carry her out back. She ran down the stairs, but getting her back inside took a lot of encouragement or I had to carry her upstairs. There have been many times she would make it to the top step, but as soon as she saw me in the doorway calling her in she ran back down. I’ve have to be patient with Darlin’, but I have to admit it can get frustrating. I started trying the leash again on the nights she wouldn’t come when I called her, although most of the time I was standing in the yard with her. She doesn’t let me out of her sight for very long and follows behind, but she’s so careful about coming back inside. She’ll be walking around the yard and freeze because she heard something in the kitchen, at that point she goes on high alert.

When she does come in she runs to a dog bed by the couch, that’s her first stop. That’s also where I started giving her treats that she will now eat in front of me. For her to lean over for food within seconds after I lay it there is truly a miraculous thing for Darlin’. She went from not eating for three days, to eating late at night, to eating when I offer her food while I’m still present. I’ll take it! I believe she will be taking food from me within the next month. Paws crossed!

One mistake I have made is thinking (or expecting) that she’ll make progress everyday when in fact it takes a few days for her to try something new, which isn’t bad at all. During her sixth week home when she was doing so well living in the dining room, she discovered the shed out back. This girl has gotten herself stuck in some tight spots when she was scared so I don’t know why I was surprised that she could crawl under the shed. She went under and came back out twice one afternoon! And she came when I called her to go get her treat.

My daughter and her boyfriend walked out on the deck just about the time that Darlin’ made it to the top. She saw them and ran back down and went straight for that shed! And she was still under there 8 hours later!

I was pretty upset, I didn’t want her hiding out all night, and yes, I knew she would come out eventually; it just seemed like a setback for her. I took the dogs out late and could see her muzzle under there so I started calling her, but she moved further back. I started throwing Frisbee for my JRT and spent a little time just standing around the yard with them.

Once we were finished playing I called all the dogs to go get their treats, a word I know that Darlin’ has learned, and I called for Darlin’ to go “eat”, another word I know that she understands. She had also missed her dinner so I hoped she was hungry. I went upstairs to the kitchen and called each dog by name and started passing out treats, over and over with the back door wide open. Then I heard Darlin’s collar from when she shook herself in the yard. I kept calling out names and passing out treats and within a few minutes, guess who goes running to her bed in the dining room? I closed the door and went to praise her, when I reached for her head she sniffed my hand. I had been passing out Beggin Strips and that hand sniff meant a lot coming from her, it was a dog thing and I don’t get to see much natural dog behavior from her. She got her Beggin Strip and dinner followed, which she didn’t waste any time eating that night. The next morning my husband nailed boards across the bottom, now no one gets under there.

That weekend she had been outside and on her way in the house when she ran into my son, so she took a detour and ended up in my office. She found an empty space under my desk and laid there and napped. I figured that was the best place for her since I’m in my office a lot. Well, she spent the next two days under there and it became her new safe place. She hasn’t been back to the dining room!

It's nice to be trusted.

I gave her a bigger bed

Darlin’ made great strides last week in feeling more secure. There were many times when it was work getting her out from under my desk, sometimes having to carry her out, but she made several successful attempts to come out on her own. During the day I took time out of my usual online schedule, closed my office door and spent time watching television. I knew she would want to be where I was so she laid in her bed in the living room. One afternoon she even slept on the couch with her head against my leg! When my daughter walked in from school she scooted and hid behind me, but she did keep looking back at my daughter which is a good thing.

I went to check email and lost my spot on the couch.

At night I would sit with her on the couch, then I leave her there and she has slept there all night for a week. The nights when we had thunderstorms I did leave my office open so she could hide under my desk if she needed to. In the mornings my husband would open my office so she had a safe place to go if she feels nervous. She usually disappears when he’s not looking.

She walked through the kitchen a few times when I called the dogs for treats. She’s more curious now, but since she doesn’t take food from me she doesn’t stay long. Just seeing her in the kitchen really warmed my heart and gives me hope about what kind of dog she’ll be in the near future.

"Darlin', come get your treat."

There she is.

She didn't stay, but she showed up!

I have reminded my family that it took five to six weeks for Darlin’ to bond with me and we are still working on our relationship; therefore we should expect it to take as long for her to get comfortable with my family.

She’s doing fine around the dogs these days. There are occasions where the pack gets over excited for whatever reason, and she may freeze up, or may run to my office, but most times she seems to understand what’s going on with them.

I make a big deal out of everything I do with my other dogs, from playtime to treat time. I call everyone by name in front of her, they have to sit for food which she sees, and I praise like crazy. If she runs in from outside to her bed, then I pet her head and tell her, “Good sit” just like I do the others. If she has to learn basic commands by association, that works for me right now. Since she doesn’t play, is still fearful and cautious, and isn’t food motivated, it’s the best I could hope for in less than two months time. And more than I ever expected after researching fearful dogs.

I’m doing better these days. After bringing Darlin’ home it didn’t take much for me to get emotional. There were times I couldn’t talk about her before I went to tears. It wasn’t easy having a dog that was shut down and trembling in fear, a dog that was so frightened of everything that she wouldn’t eat. It made me angry that someone dumped her or abandoned her and left her out there to fend for herself…for who knows how long before I met her. Once I saw in her eyes that she was learning to trust me, each day brings me a renewed sense of hope for Darlin’ in the months ahead.

I take a lot of pictures. One day I took 140 of the dogs! I’m ending this post with some of my recent favorites. Keep in mind that Darlin’ appears like a normal happy dog in these pictures. I don’t take pictures of her looking afraid, I see that often enough. She has a long way to go before she has adapted to her new home and family and feels safe around everyone. She has gone from a feral dog to more skittish now, but a skittish dog is a fearful dog.