Sunday, June 7, 2009

Raw Food Diet, Day 498- A Good Egg

Hi fellow feasting friends! My stinkbutt bro and I have been chillin' like villains on this Sunday morning. It's just a super laid-back drizzly day.Yesterday, on the other paw, was a rather exciting day for me. I got to go on a long walk with my family to the PukeMobile, and we took a nauseating ride to the Place of Tile and Steel. And you know how a trip there can get your adrenaline pumping!! Normally, visits to the vet go a little something like this:

I make my dramatic whining, lunging, and sliding-about entrance and my folks attempt to have me Sit Like Good Boy on the scale. After many only slightly successful attempts and a guess at the final poundage, I'm dragged to the back of the waiting area where my whines turn into screams and wails and I leap at the window and thrash to get at any fun-looking dog that might be hanging out there with me. I become totally manic and move in double-time. Once the humans that work at the front desk can no longer answer phone calls or hear themselves think, they usher me into an exam room to wait "where I'll be less excited" until the doctor is ready. In that little room, I continue with my futile attempts to grip the floor and my shrieking elevates in that voice-enhancing little space. My people hold me, pace around, offer treats - but NOTHING soothes the beast. When the doctor comes in I'm PUMPED and every piece of me heads off on its own trajectory and I thrash about with way too much excitement. If I'm not being held or touched I'm busy screaming and staring into the reflective garbage bin that sits under the exam table and the humans can't hear each other talk. After all this, the vet gives up on conversation and writes everything out on paper for my people to read, then they make my folks check out in the little room and we run out the door to go home.

Not too terrible, right? SO NOT!! At least I don't think so.

But yesterday's trip was a little unusual. Prepared for the worst, my folks came armed with treats and the knowledge 0f how these visits generally unfold. We zoomed up to the check-in counter and I was gingerly place on the scale to get my weight. Mom half-heartedly held a treat and told me to "Sit Like Good Boy and Stay, Please, Just for a second longer, Wait, Don't Move, Hold On"... And I did. I didn't take my eyes off that treat and my bum didn't move an inch. Hmmph. And then we scooted to the back of the waiting room, my people preparing themselves and their ear drums for the screaming to commence, as dogs and doctors and techs swirled around us. Boy was I into it! I was so excited! There was one totally awesome looking Golden Retriever near us and a Golden Doodle puppy that looked like a party animal!! Big Pupi was busy doing Good Boy stuff for treats but I was taking it all in. Tail wagging, bum bouncing, body buzzing. And just when it all seemed like too much, my people were certain that this was the moment... Stanislaw's about to EXPLODE!!!!

I lied down.

I placed my belly on the cool floor, pressed my legs back frog-style and exposed the ol' groin to the fabulous iciness. I stayed there relaxed, observing, interested, and quiet. YES... QUIET. I performed some tricks for mom. Shook with my right leg. Shook with my left. Earned myself some little treats. And we were never banished into the little lonely room to wait out our waiting time.
Eventually we were brought back and my doctor met us. Boy was I happy to see her! I wiggled and woozled and presented my bum for her bum-scritching delight. When she lifted me onto the table I'm pretty positive I gave her more kisses and wet willies than she has EVER had before. It was so awesome!! She gave my ears and my teeth an A+ and said that I am the beastliest of all beastlies. She stole some of my blood (I didn't care much), shoved a thingy up my schnozzle, and then talked shop with my folks.

I've been feasting on 1.5mg of melatonin with breakfast each day for about a week now, and at first I didn't really notice anything. But as the week went on I kept forgetting that I was supposed to scream, and I figured that sizzling sounds aren't that scary after all. (I heard some major sizzle on Thursday and came to the kitchen to see what it was.) I'm a long long LONG ways from better, but because I've made such improvements on such a low dose, Doctor said that she didn't want to prescribe me any other kind of medication. Not yet, anyways. Maybe we could add a little tryptophan to my food, but that was about it.

I'm on 3mg of melatonin now, and today was my first dose. Mom said I looked a little woozely from it~
And she thinks I'm crazy laid-back right now and is wondering if that's okay or if the dose is too high. But, so far my people have only seen one twitch today and otherwise I've been a normal beastly boy. I've been relaxed, sprawled out, doing the Flat Stanley and chewing merrily on a chewy.

I'm still begging dad for his scrabbled eggs and showing off my funky pokey rib:
And I'm still a Stuffy Thrasher of the First Order:
They're going to play with my dose a little - trying to find a good balance that doesn't make me too sleepy. Mom thinks 3mg makes me a little glassy eyed but that may go away in another day or two. Doctor lady wants me to stick with this treatment for 3 weeks before changing anything up, but if the improvements continue as they've been I'll be able to avoid any real medication completely.

My people are impressed. I'm not surprised... I'm one impressive manly beast of massive proportions. Heck... I'm so incredible I even amaze myself sometimes - like when I projectile puked in the back of the PukeMobile on the way home from the Place of Tile and Steel. It was beefy explosions of the awesomest kind! I am SO TALENTED!!

Your feasting, beasting man is on the mend,

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Raw Food Diet, Day 497- Short but Sweet and Salty

Whazzup my crazy canines?? We just got back from the vet and I am POOPED! I was a super good boy and practically drowned my doctor in kisses. I have lots to catch you up on regarding my appointment and planned course of treatment for my CD (compulsive disorder), but I am in SERIOUS need of snoozels at this very moment. So in the mean time, I will leave you with this delicious image~

Photo of Bo Goat, courtesy of Shepherds' Ledge Life

~and a link to the tastiest blog post I think I've ever seen: Click Here.

Dreaming some meaty dreams,

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Raw Food Diet, Day 495- Chasing the Melatonin Mystery

Big Pupi types again:

Hello my feaster friends. I'm making good on my promise to tell you a bit about Stanislaw's melatonin therapy. "What's that?!" you ask? Ah.... you've come to the right blog.

Melatonin is a hormone that is derived from serotonin. The body creates melatonin naturally, and this chemical is most well-known as a sleep hormone. Beyond aiding in sleep cycles, melatonin also functions as a powerful antioxidant, anti-aging agent, immunoregulator, and anti-depressant (this is proven in humans).

Want to learn something interesting? My folks knew that eating turkey can make you sleepy. But what they didn't know is that the tryptophan in turkey is related to melatonin, because serotonin is created from tryptophan and likewise, melatonin is made from serotonin. Sound relaxing? We learn something new every day here...

Anyways, back to my stinky brother:
My mom had a theory about Stanislaw's exercise and his behavior. It seemed that as long as Stan got out for a good long run or solid wrastlin' match at the bark park, his compulsive symptoms were greatly reduced. In fact, on the days of the longest runs his compulsions were reduced so much that he could do his Good Boy outside almost immediately. That's a pretty big deal around here, as often times Stan is too distraught to lift a leg. While the benefits of exercise are great, they are far from a cure and my brother still suffers from many of his anxieties. But... it does take the edge off and every little bit counts. And we all know - weebles and poobles outside are GOOD things.

Our folks have heard about other humans using melatonin as a natural way to put their dogs at ease during long car rides, vet visits, dog shows and thunder storms. It is even a common treatment for epileptic pups - especially if they suffer from seizures during the night. If done right, melatonin therapy has no discernible side effects and for some can bring great results. Plus, it's a natural treatment to boot.

So then came the challenge of linking exercise to melatonin. Surprisingly, it wasn't that difficult thanks to our research assistant, Google. Apparently, there have been studies (1, 2 and 3) done on female humans that tried to figure out why exercise reduced the risk of breast cancer. What they discovered was that exercise during daylight hours increased the daytime production of melatonin (usually associated with sundown and sleep). Melatonin acts as an antioxidant, and also increases the sense of relaxation after exercise. It continues its influence hours later as it increases the effects of melatonin come nightfall, and brings with it more solid and deep sleep. According to one study, aerobic exercise immediately upon waking brings the greatest positive results. Conversely, exercise after sundown causes the body to delay the production of melatonin and it disrupts the sleep cycle.

So there IS a link between exercise and melatonin - in humans. That being said, dogs and people have extremely similar brain and body chemistry, and so it can't be too off the mark. Now, admittedly assuming such similarites is NOT the way to go about medicating your dog. Ever. But the positive, relaxing effects of melatonin has been shown in dogs with various phobias, especially thunder. A quick call to the vet was made and we got the all clear to start Stanislaw on 1.5 mg of melatonin, given once daily. This is a low dose and in some instances melatonin can be given up to 3 times per day, but any increase in dosage and/or frequency will be discussed at our vet appointment on Saturday.

So he's been getting 1/2 of a 3 mg tab in his breakfast. Has it made a difference? Perhaps. Slightly. The weebling has been easier and the whining has stepped down 1/2 a notch. His post-feasting whine- and scratch-a-thon has changed from an all-morning event to just 30 minutes or so after breakfast - the time which we expect the melatonin begins to have an effect.

Today we took it on a test: the bark park. We wanted to see if it would decrease the frequency of his running patterns. The result? Good. Very very good. Normal visits include a few ear-flapping games of Chase The Stanislaw, which would often be disrupted mid-race as Stan would skid to a stop at one of his "stations" and he would freeze, stare and scream at some imaginary squirrel. Every time he would hear a train rumble by that would trigger him to run a set pattern around the perimeter of the park with screaming fits at his set stations (it's the same places every single time). However, on this particular visit, mom was able to disrupt and redirect Stan at the very first sign of him going in to this pattern and he NEVER ONCE ran it through. He did freeze at one point (mom could wiggle his body without a response) but that broke quickly. He also screamed at 2 of his stations, but the majority of the time was spent finagling scritches from the humans, and engaging every single dog in the park one-by-one for a nice wrastlin' match, chase, or solid bum sniffing. Games would last consistently longer and not a single one was cut short by a screaming and staring session. He truly felt mentally present for about 80% of the visit, which is great, considering a visit on a good day previously would be about 70%, and a bad day brought closer to 20%. We always left super early those days.

Melatonin probably won't be the miracle we're looking for, but it may be a good addition to his therapy - especially once he is weened off the medication. The most essential function of the medication is to lessen the severity of Stan's reactions, which will create a window through which my folks can interrupt and redirect his behaviors, and little by little recondition his responses and attitude towards the triggering sights and sounds. The goal is to keep Stan on the meds temporarily. As he improves his dosage will decrease and in a few months or a year we hope he's off them completely. If he's this responsive to melatonin then we're hoping that a very low dose of an SSRI or similar med will be all that's required. But.. we'll know more about that after a trip to the Place of Tile and Steel this weekend

Ahh, yes. We do love these optimistic days.
Big Pupi


Do NOT start your dog on melatonin without talking to your vet. While it is normally a very safe supplement to give, it can cause severe side effects if a dog is already on another type of medication. If your dog is suffering from anxiety or other behavior problems, please do your research and schedule a trip to see your vet to plan an appropriate course of treatment.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Raw Food Diet, Day 492- The Truth About the Stan-Man

Big Pupi spills it:
Hey guys. It's the cool canine (sans 'hawk) reporting. It's about time I tell you a bit about my brother, the beastly man himself, Stanislaw.
We've posted previously about Stanislaw's unknown abusive history that has left scars on his body. We've posted about Stan's quirks and general wackiness that were believed to be emotional scars left from his past experiences. However, the more we all research, the more we realize the depths of Stanislaw's disorder, and it's far more serious than we had ever realized.

Stanislaw had been improving - slowly but surely - through the (almost) 2 years since his adoption. It took a full year before he was physically well, and mentally many of his most severe symptoms had lessened or disappeared. For example, it wasn't too long ago that Stan would collapse during walks and writhe on the ground, screaming at pawing at his face. He also used to suffer from separation anxiety so severe that my folks would return home to find vomit, diarrhea and urine all over the apartment. Less than a year ago the collapsing went away and never came back, and his separation issues have been reduced to a touch of howling and whining when first left at home. HUGE improvements and in a very short amount of time.

Recently, however, Stanislaw has stopped making such great strides forward. My folks had always felt that as long as Stanley was progressing, they would hold off on medicating him as most anti-psychotic medications bring with them a laundry list of side effects. Stan is a thin and physically sensitive boy, and the thought of medication being the cause of a new set of issues is a very scary thing.

But Stanley has stopped progressing. In some ways, Stanley has been getting worse.

My brother has what is called "Canine Compulsive Disorder." It is very similar to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in humans, in that the animal is compelled to go through a series of repetitive behaviors and stress-induced habits. Stanislaw, unfortunately, is quite a severe example of the condition and his triggers are numerous and live everywhere.

Stan's compulsions are both visually and aurally stimulated. The sound of the train, reflections in a puddle, headlights from a car, a siren... It seems that just about everything sends Stan into a serious of ticks and twitches. His symptoms (a very brief list) include:

- whining/screaming
- staring and freezing
- twitching - biting at his side as if he was just bitten by a fly
- sitting suddenly and harshly, followed by fly biting and lip licking
- lapping at his nose
- licking the floor, the sofa, the food bowls, people's pant legs, etc. etc.
- placing his head underneath objects and freezing, eyes glazing over
- chewing his paws immediately after eating (not allergy-related)
- whining and freezing in front of any reflective surface (puddles, picture frames, mirrors, the oven door...)
- running a set pattern at the dog park and whining at various "stations"
- lunging and biting at marks or nails in walls and on the floor
...i could go on...

Sure, I lick and nibble at my toys and do this repetitive behavior every single night. But, I don't have a compulsive disorder. Why? Because this behavior does not prevent me from functioning normally. If I'm in the middle of a good nibble session and my folks say the magic word - "Weebles!" - I will drop what I'm doing and skip merrily to the front door. The behavior, while it is a habit, is not a problem.

Stan's behaviors, on the other hand, greatly and negatively effect his life. He simply cannot function when in the throws of the disorder. He cannot urinate. He cannot sniff. He can't even walk or move and once in the depths of his disorder my people have to scoop him up and carry him home. He won't play and at the worst of it, he is completely unresponsive to his surroundings. It's kind of scary stuff.

When Stanislaw first came home with us he would go into a behavior in which he would sit, lick his lips, and gently move his left hind foot so that it scratched the back of his left front foot. When he was like this, my parents could wave their hands in front of his face and he would not respond. He wouldn't even blink. Although this habit has not gone completely, he is at the point where he no longer "disappears" into it and he can be distracted.

But it seems that every time a habit is overcome it is replaced by new one. As we move from one to another the new behaviors can become bizarre (remember the poobles on the sofa?), they can improve, and even get worse. It's completely unpredictable and it makes it so difficult to judge whether we are making headway, standing still or just moving backwards.

It's been a rough road. Scary at times and incredibly hopeful at others. Perhaps the most difficult thing for my humans was the process of coming to grips with the fact that Stanislaw needs something more than love if he is to get off this plateau and continue on the road to recovery. They are facing the reality that Stanislaw's problems go beyond an abusive history and bad habits - they are the result of a chemical imbalance and he is suffering from an illness that no number of kisses, scritches or snuggles will fix.

My sweet little brother needs medicine.

It will bring side effects. Hopefully it will bring recovery too. What Stanislaw has is not curable, but with medication, obedience, reconditioning and lots of love we pray that he can quiet his demons enough to truly enjoy every day. During his good moments, my brother is an extraordinarily happy, wiggly, playful and bursting-with-joy kind of dog, and our goal is to keep him in that mindset and give him more good days than bad. As of now, the bad outweighs the good and Stan suffers. It's not easy to watch.

He will see the doctor on Saturday and we will discuss treatment options. I also owe you posts about his melatonin therapy and other behavior studies, but for now I think I have left enough letters and words for you to sniff through. In the mean time, I want to thank everyone that has offered their help and well-wishes because Stan thrives on the good vibes. So do I. So do my people. It's been two tough years but we're prepared to make the rest of the uphill journey. I mean, seriously...
...look at that beast. It's impossible to give up on him.

We'll keep posting and we'll keep you posted.
Big Pupi