TOOTH AND NAIL!
Excepting for her regularly impacted anal glands, Skippy has turned out to be a very low-maintenance dog, which cannot be said for the other two, for no sooner had we moved to the coast than they both, in very separate ways, became anything but low-maintenance.
Bessie was first in line with an alarming rash which nearly drove her (and us) crazy. She scratched and scratched and scratched and scooted over the grass on her stomach until she was bleeding. Eventually we kept her off the grass for a week and this, together with antihistamines and cortisone spray, finally did the trick. We assumed it was a grass allergy.
There were still a few minor flare-ups, and then all was quiet for such a long while that we thought she had become desensitised to the grass, or whatever it had been.
Then, three years later, the puzzle was solved.
All unsuspecting, I came into the kitchen early one morning to a repeat performance of the lake of stinking muck which had enlivened one morning in Hermannsburg. (See Rescues to the Rescue!) Only this time it wasn’t confined to the laundry, but spread over the entire kitchen!
I will not disgust you with another description of the horror. Suffice it to say that it took several hours to clean up and, not noticing that their blankets in the laundry had also been bedaubed, I managed to besmirch my sheepskin slippers. (It was the middle of winter.) Sadly, I only noticed this after walking to my bedroom, leaving behind me a trail of evidence.
That afternoon we noticed that Bessie (whom we had soon identified as the culprit) was once again scratching and scooting, and we were not surprised when an inspection revealed a severe rash.
It did not take any CSI skills to deduce that Bessie was having a serious reaction to something she had eaten. Nor did I have any trouble remembering that I had mixed a liberal amount of left-over gravy from a (mildly) curried chicken dish into the dogs’ food the night before.
Yet another lesson learnt. Keep Bessie’s food plain! (Fortunately, we are not big on spicy food, so the problem seldom arises.)
This brings me to Mufasa.
Our neighbours, who take animal rescue to admirable heights (many dogs and even more cats), acquired a beautiful pitbull puppy to be a companion for Luka, their labrador cross. These two were soon engaged in exciting wrestling and chasing games and Bessie simply could not contain her curiosity. Totally ignoring the rules of etiquette which demand that you do not stare into your neighbour’s yard, she began to leap up to peek over the precast wall. (Her lack of grey matter has turned out to be a great advantage. She has not figured out that she is perfectly capable of leaping over the wall.)
Naturally, Luka and Mufasa could not but notice the brindle head which kept appearing above the wall, especially as Bessie was advertising her presence with a volley of barking.
Mufasa accepted the invitation, and very soon a brown head was appearing above the fence from the other side.
All our attempts to stop Bessie were, and continue to be, in vain.
Frustrated yells of “BESSIE, NO!!!” from this side and yells of “MUFASA, NO!!!” from the other side are no deterrent whatsoever. And neither does it help to sneak up on Bessie to throw her on the ground and force her to submit while you read her the riot act. Tasha has even marched out to whack her with a pillow! All that happens is that the moronic dog grovels and cowers and wags her tail apologetically. You go back inside and within half an hour the game starts again.
It’s all super fun! For them. For us, not so much.
As Pixie joins in to add to the tumult, pandemonium ensues. Skippy also has to have her say, and goodness knows how many of the canine inhabitants next door also add in their five cents’ worth. It has to be heard to be fully appreciated, if appreciated is the word.
The only thing which stops it is to confine both Bessie and Pixie inside the palisade fence around the back of the house, or when Mufasa is kept inside his house.
Eventually, the expected finally occurred.
One afternoon I was summoned outside by a frantic commotion. Mufasa had managed to snag Bessie’s cheek!
Several hundred rands worth of veterinary costs later, Barry put up a temporary barrier at the main jumping spot, but, to our eternal gratitude, our neighbour took the responsibility for erecting a permanent barrier all along the wall. Apparently Bessie had also managed to inflict a small hole on Mufasa’s head. (As we are situated higher up than the neighbours, Bessie strikes downwards while Mufasa grabs from below.)
So far, the barrier has prevented further serious injuries, though recently they found a weak spot in the barrier and Bessie ended up with a minor split lip, which, fortunately, did not need veterinary attention. The gap in the barrier has now been reinforced. The jack-in-the-box antics continue unabated, but, we hope, will remain injury free.
Pixie’s problem started about two years after our move.
She appeared to have developed some sort of OCD, and lay endlessly licking and munching at her paws. After a few days, Tasha took a closer look and was quite horrified to see that one of her nails had come adrift, exposing the inner quick, which was bleeding. The vet removed the loose nail, but the licking and munching on all her paws continued.
A careful inspection revealed that another one of her nails had split vertically, exposing the quick. It was not long before the outer nail was digging into the quick causing severe pain. In desperation and frustration, Pixie pulled it off herself, crying out in agony.
Then yet another nail split, also vertically. As soon as it was loose enough, we paid our second nail visit to the vet, who was quite perplexed as he had never come across a similar case. He sent us off with pain medication and a promise that he would do some research.
One by one all her nails went the same route. We always knew when one was coming off as she would not leave it alone.
Tasha developed a routine. The moment she saw that a nail had split, with the quick exposed and bleeding, she fetched a plastic bag, filled it with ice and and salt water and then forcibly kept that paw in the bag for a few minutes, both to numb the pain and disinfect the wound, and then dosed Pixie with the pain killer.
Although she did not enjoy the ice treatment, she would voluntarily come to Tasha for help whenever she was in severe pain. She very clearly understood that the treatment and the pain medication helped, and was so good and obedient, even though she was in excruciating pain, that Tasha’s heart was wrung. It was a toss-up as to which of the two of them was more distressed.
Sometimes, if the nail was loose enough, we removed it ourselves, but what a performance!
Barry holding her head down; me lying with my full weight over her hind end; Tasha with the clippers; and Pixie screaming fit to bring the SPCA down onto us!
But even with the outer nail removed, the exposed quick was very sensitive and she even gave up on the mad dashes down to the gate to tell passers-by to get lost. It goes without saying that all cycling exercise had come to an abrupt halt. Sometimes a screeching yelp from the kennel would alert us to the fact that a loose nail had hooked into her blanket.
Some nails just would not loosen enough for either Pixie or us to do the removal and we would have to return to the vet.
It was after our third visit to the vet that he sent a nail off to be tested.
The results were daunting.
It was aspergillus fumigata - which is a fancy way of saying: a pernicious fungus which grows between the nail and the quick and which is extremely difficult to treat. It was anyone’s guess where she had picked it up as the spores are everywhere, but usually only dogs with compromised immune systems succumb to it.
Not exactly what any dog owner wants to hear.
There is one effective medication only and it is eye-poppingly expensive. The treatment was spread over three months and cost a cool four thousand rands.
And then we waited.
It was not too long before the splitting stopped, and gradually the stumps which were left when the quicks had dried out began to be replaced by healthy nails. Six months after the treatment, Tasha was able to report that all Pixie’s nails were perfect. Still short, but thick and healthy.
Great relief all round.
Not three weeks later one of the nails split.
Yes, the horror had begun again.
A further, more intensive treatment of the same medication, costing six thousand rands (yes, that is not a misprint) followed. To our dismay, this time there was no immediate improvement as there had been previously. We had to hear the comforting news that dogs sometimes develop an immunity to the drug. We intensified the dosage and gradually there was an improvement, but by the end of the treatment we had to face the unpleasant fact that the aspergillis was still there.
Great. Just great.
We love Pixie dearly but we are not prepared to bankrupt ourselves. We decided to manage the disease as best we could, and if her life became a misery then we would have a decision to make: either we would have to take that final step or we would have to find her a home in a dry climate.
Tasha had done some Internet research at the outset. She had found the website of a vet who recommended a carb-free, anti-fungal diet, and we had already changed Pixie’s food to help things along. With the failure of the only known effective drug, we decided to implement the dietary change extremely strictly.
At first she lost a tremendous amount of weight, but with some trial and error, we eventually got the mix right. But, dear readers, do not for one minute imagine that the preparation of this food is a simple task.
Let me explain.
Imagine taking nine coconuts, removing the coir, drilling a hole in each to drain the coconut water, breaking them open, chopping them into very small pieces and then processing them in a food processor with the water. (I assure you, your legs will be quite tired by the time you have finished.)
To this, add nine mashed avocados, a few cups of extra virgin coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil and six cups of ground flaxseed. (Fortunately we eat a lot of ground flaxseed ourselves, so we already own a grinder.) Further, add a packet or so of dried origanum and turmeric powder. (They have strong antifungal properties.)
Now take three raw, free range chickens, debone them, chop the meat into small pieces and process it. (Your legs will now be even more tired.) Take the carcasses, skin and fat, and pressure cook them for 90 minutes and then process them - stock and all.
Add to the raw chicken: three packets each of raw chicken livers and raw chicken hearts, and add a packet of raw beef or lamb liver for good measure. All to be processed.
Take 3 kg of frozen pilchards/sardines and pressure cook them, then process them whole - bones and all.
Are you exhausted yet? Well, have a cup of tea and take a rest. We are only about half way.
Next, chop up a large cabbage, several cauliflowers and broccoli, a large bunch or two of chard and kale, a bunch or three of celery and parsley, and several packets of brown mushrooms. Now process them quite finely.
Place the raw vegetables in a large container as you go along (I use a cooler box). Mix them thoroughly.
Now mix in the coconut and other fats. This is a good upper body workout as there is no spoon big enough for the task. You simply have to get in there, with both arms up to the elbows.
Finally, add the raw proteins and the cooked stock and get back in there with your arms.
Not only is it quite a revolting, sloshy mess, but you will have attracted a thousand flies.
Now for the packaging.
Measure out the daily amounts into plastic containers and freeze them.
And voila! You have approximately a five week supply.
Yes, in just over a month, you will repeat the whole, painfully exhausting process.
To increase the anti-fungal properties of the food, we add raw apple cider vinegar, raw garlic, and a cup of green tea to the daily portion, besides the omega three oil capsule for her joints and raw eggs to increase the protein intake.
The crucial factor is cutting out grains. This cannot be over-emphasised. NO GRAINS AT ALL!!!
We feed the others a similar diet, (but we add raw beetroot, carrot and sweet potatoes to the mix, and they also get pellets (biscuits), so at least their supply lasts for three months. Just as an aside - all of them love it. I have never, in all the dogs we’ve had, seen such enthusiasm for their food.
And, my word, don’t they all just love food mixing days, with the endless supply of bowls and plates and dishes containing delicious dregs to lick out!
It is now more than a year later and Pixie’s nails are all growing beautifully and all sensitivity is gone.
I cannot begin to describe our relief and delight. It had looked very much as though Pixie would be another of our dogs to have a shortened lifespan, but we have, quite accidentally, achieved the exact opposite.
Her coat is glossy, her eyes are bright, and she has boundless energy. Cycling has been resumed with gusto. Her muscle tone is excellent and she is nimble and lithe. Although she is now six years old there is not the slightest trace of the stiffening we saw in our other Rottweilers as they aged. We are fully expecting her to reach a grand old age.
And the other three are doing very well too. (Yes, that is not a typo. You will hear all about dog number four if you carry on reading.)
I just regret the wasted ten thousand rands on that useless medication. (That would have covered the cost of two weeks’ accommodation in the Kruger Park!)
Several people have suggested that we make a small business out of selling this food mix.
Sorry, folks. It’s not going to happen. (I have told you how to do it. Go for it. And may the force be with you.)
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