Magical Milestones & When Normal Hurts

SAVORING EACH MAGICAL DAY

My canine best friend, my buddy, my heart–Magical-Dawg–has been declining in recent weeks. No surprise there, since he will celebrate his 11th birthday in July. Because I work at home, it is my joy to spend nearly 24 hours a day with my baby-dawg, and his furry “siblings.” I get to make pets the focus of my life’s work.

That’s a blessing, but also a curse. After working as a vet tech and a certified animal behavior consultant, and having picked the brains of the most savvy veterinarian experts in the world, I know what the future holds for Magic.

No, I’m not a veterinarian, and I don’t have a crystal ball. But with each canine gray hair earned, and every missed doggy step-and-stumble, I see.

I worry.

And I mourn what will be.

He’s a senior German Shepherd. So what’s happening to him could be…this.

Or it might be …the other thing.

But please doG, don’t let it be…that.

MAGIC’S DECLINE…IS IT NORMAL?

Magic’s athletic prowess has amazed me from the beginning. He tackles life (and toys!) head on, and used to bang himself up by tearing dew claws or slicing paws during play. Our first dog (the one who launched my pet-writing life) didn’t know how to play, suffered horrendous allergies, and had hip dysplasia. So to have a robust, play-tastic over-the-top healthy German Shepherd has worn us out while offering plenty of laughs along the way.

For instance, balls and toys and especially Frisbees offer nonstop fetching delight. He’s been known to stack and retrieve as many as he can carry (10+ I think!). Here’s a video example from 2010:

MY SENSITVE BOY

GSDs are known for their sensitivity. Magic tunes in on his family’s stress. I know I need a vacation from “life” when my baby-dawg insists on more petting/play time, and interrupts me until I pay attention. When I had to travel quite a bit, Magic began stress-licking his paws and developed acral lick granuloma sores. We’ve fought them ever since. You can read more about them (with an update) here.

The past couple of years have been incredibly stressful. I’ve had some work challenges, as has my husband. That’s one reason that I’m making several changes this year in my professional life–more about that in a future post–and Magic and the other fur-kids really helped us through.

Now it’s our turn to help Magic.

Our first dog lived to be 13 years 4 months, and passed away on Halloween night–he waited until my husband got home, and we were all together. Thirteen years were not enough.

Magic still has time to share with us. For I wish it to be so… I have to hang on to that. So today, we went to the veterinarian for Magic’s annual check up. There’s a special kind of hell when the vet listens to your concerns and says,

“We’re going to hope it’s just arthritis.”

Magic waits for his fav vet-buddy to come pet him.

WHEN “NORMAL” HURTS

Dogs can’t tell us when they’re in pain, or how much discomfort they feel. Oh, they can yelp when hurt, or snarl and warn away your touch with a growl. Many pets (cats especially) are stoic and do their best to hide discomfort. I think Magic may have hidden his pain for a long time, perhaps from stubbornness and determination to keep on keepin’ on. Or perhaps, living so closely with him, we too easily overlooked the small signals until only the obvious problems shouted loud enough for us to notice.

Magic loves car rides. He thinks it’s his car, and gets treats at Starbucks (a “puppy-whip” cream cup) and crunchies at the bank drive through. He used to bully his way into the front seat to drive, before we installed the barrier bars. But these days, he needs a running start to vault into the back seat. Could it be…arthritis? That’s a normal part of aging, right?

Frisbee-Fetch no longer goes on forever, and is limited to three or four tosses kept low to the ground so he’s not tempted to leap since I’m sure he does have arthritis. Because he’ll still try–and pay for the failure with a painful cry and hurt feelings. Maybe that’s why Magic no longer remembers the bring command. He simply stands over the Frisbees and wags, waiting for us to come to him, rather than prance and dance them back to us for another throw.

Magic has eaten a special food that also has made a marked change in his brain acuity. I wrote about that here. But now he forgets (or ignores) requests/commands he’s known forever. Even the treat-word doesn’t get the same response. And this past weekend, he began to howl, for no apparent reason. He’s suffered an appetite loss the past several days, and has been incredibly restless at night. He doesn’t want to play with his best friend Karma-Kat. Could it be…aging brain changes or *shudder* canine cognitive issues?

One of my Mom’s shelties had such severe hip dysplasia by five months of age that he “bunny hopped” when he ran. My first shepherd had hip dysplasia, too, and never jumped. Magic jumped so high in his youth, he’d nearly levitate. But last week, Magical-Dawg adopted the bunny-hop gait when running. More alarming, though, he’s also noticeably weak on his left rear flank, and can no longer “pose” to leg-lift. That leg and foot toes inward when he walks, and he frequently loses his balance. Could it be . . . dysplasia? Or something worse?

MAGIC’S CHECK UP

Last year, Magic got a senior blood panel screening to establish a baseline, so we repeated that. He also received a heartworm check, fecal exam, and vaccines for lepto, distemper and kennel cough (the others he received last year). I waited, trying my best to be hopeful, while the tests were run and Magic was examined for neurological signs. *gulp*

You see, old German Shepherds can suffer from a progressive disease called degenerative myelopathy (DM), for which there is no treatment. It’s thought to be an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the spinal cord, resulting in progressive paralysis. DM is not painful, but affected dogs eventually stop walking as the paralysis ascends from their flanks upward.

There is a holistic modality developed by Dr. Roger Clemmons, a neurosurgeon at the University of Florida, that seems to help some dogs. A combination of herbs, amino acids and antioxidants appear to help reduce the inflammation and protect the nerves to help slow the progress of the disease. You can ask your veterinarian about the protocol, and share this information. Most dogs succumb within a year of diagnosis, however.

Did I mention I’ve not slept well lately? I held my breath when Dr. Clay came back into the room.

In the drive-thru at Starbucks to celebrate the good news exam!

WHEN THE VETERINARIAN SMILES…

Good news! Positioning Magic’s rear paws toe-under prompted him to immediately correct. The veterinarian said most dogs with DM don’t correct. In fact, the claws on the rear feet of DM-afflicted dogs often become rounded with wear from dragging. Magic’s claws had no tell-tale rounding.

Magic’s blood panel came back great, too. All values were pronounced not just good, but VERY good. That means he’s a good candidate for a canine arthritis drug, Rimadyl.

I’m breathing again.

And I didn’t cry (not very much anyway). Magic was given a prescription of Carprofen, the generic form of Rimadyl, to use as needed, beginning with twice daily. I was told not to get my hopes up (TOO LATE!) but that the meds can make a dramatic difference.

After all, pain muddles brain acuity–how well do you think when you hurt? And how do you play when you hurt? And how do you eat when you hurt? I bet you’d howl if you hurt.

But through the hurt, you still love. Magic always loves.

The meds WILL make a dramatic difference. For I wish it to be so.

My canine best friend, my buddy, my furry muse–Magical-Dawg–hasn’t finished with us yet. He still has work to do, races to win, more thrillers to inspire with his antics, games of kitty-tag to play with Karma. And keeping me sane.

No time for mourning. We’ve got Frisbees to chase!
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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE

Covering Thrillers & Hide And Seek Give-Away + 50 Books

Many of my Facebook peeps have already seen this, and you may also have noticed a few changes on the fiction book slideshow. I’ve updated the covers of my thrillers, YEE-HAW! And today, I’m announcing a contemporary thriller book giveaway.

Amy Shojai thrillers

WHY CHANGE BOOK COVERS?

Why, you ask? Well, the other bit of news is that the books have been released under my own FURRY MUSE PUBLICATIONS imprint. Yes, I have my own publishing company, woot! And while I loved the previous covers, they didn’t “say enough” about the human-dog connection portrayed in these stories. I hope that the new versions help clarify for potential readers.

I’ll soon share more about how FURRY MUSE PUBLICATIONS came about. I’m making some major changes in 2017–it’s been a rough couple of years–and time to REINVENT AMY once again.

CONTEST GIVE AWAY!

In celebration of the new covers, I’m joining a celebration of book-give-away-icity. (Hey, I’m a writer, so I get to make up words!). There are more than 50 thriller authors in this gala, including Brad Parks, Catherine Coulter, J.T. Ellison and more (SQUEEE! fan-girl moment…).

The contest runs today (Feb. 20) for a week (Feb. 27). If you haven’t yet “adopted” one of my thrillers, now’s your chance–plus the possibility of winning a Kindle Fire.

Oh, and for those who have read this far, stay tuned for some info later today about my Magical-Dawg…the inspiration for my Shadow-pup character in my series. Magic will soon be 11 year’s young, and he’s got a vet appointment this morning. Please send some paws-itive energy for a good check-up.

And now….click the picture, below, to enter. Ready, set….CLICK!

Hide & Seek Give-Away

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE

Valentines Pet Dangers: TOP 5 Pet Safety Tips for Valentines Day

I’m often interviewed by media about various cat behavior and dog training issues, and of course Valentines pet dangers top the list this week. Pet hazards are common when our normal routine goes out the window, so pet parents are vigilant around the holidays. Pet safety issues for Christmas are similar to those for Valentine’s Day but it’s always good to refresh our watch list.

5 VALENTINES DANGERS DANGERS & WHAT TO DO

Valentines for Pets

“Got a hole in your heart? Pets fill it up with furry love!”

CHOCOLATE DANGERS

The top danger at Valentine’s for dogs is chocolate–in particular the dark chocolate and truffles-type candy. Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, and both can speed up the heart rate and in high enough concentrations, cause vomiting, diarrhea or even death. It takes about two pounds of milk chocolate to poison a 7 pound pet.

Baker’s chocolate has 10 times as much theobromine, so that 7 pound pet could get sick from eating only 2 ounces. Dark chocolate has a higher concentration, so is the more dangerous. Dogs are poisoned more often (cats don’t have a sweet tooth like dogs and people!), and if you see a dog lick the frosting off the cake or break into the Valentine’s truffles, induce vomiting immediately and then get vet care.

The best way to make dogs vomit is to first feed a small meal (that dilutes the poison and also makes it easier to induce vomiting). Then give 3% hydrogen peroxide (about 1-2 teaspoons/10 pounds of pet) to make him vomit. Use a turkey baster or squirt gun if you don’t have a syringe applicator. You’ll find more tips on how to make pets vomit at this post.

Valentine's Pet Safety

Make your pet love shine 365 days a year…not just at Valentine’s Day.

RIBBONS & STRING

The top danger for cats is swallowed ribbon/string type decorations associated with Valentine’s gifts. Oh, the packaging looks glorious and it may delight your playful cat just as much as it does you.

Cats play with any moving object, and while supervised play is fine, when swallowed, the string item can cut internal organs and/or create a blockage. Once the cat starts swallowing, she can’t stop…to make the tickle go away, she keeps gulping until it’s all inside. It may take a day or so before you even notice a problem, when the ribbon or string clog up the “plumbing.”

Again, if you see the cat swallow the string, immediately induce vomiting (same as with dogs). However, cats are harder to get to vomit, so after one dose, get the kitty vet help. Also…if you see string/ribbon hanging outside the mouth OR the anus, DO NOT PULL! The other end of the string may be caught on the inside, so tugging could cut the organs. Often, when cats swallow thread, a needle may be on one end, and the thread may wrap around the base of the cat’s tongue. The movement of the intestines (peristalsis, sort of like an inch worm) can make the tissue gather like fabric on the thread. A vet visit is vital. And of course, to prevent, just supervise ribbon play and dispose of dangerous items.

Valentine's doggy love

“You’re sweeter than Valentine’s chocolate!”

TOXIC PLANTS & PETS

Also be VERY careful of the types of Valentine’s flowers and plants are within paw-reach. In particular, lily can kill dogs and especially cats, causing kidney failure. Cats don’t even have to eat them–just drink from water in the container, or claw the plant and lick claws clean. Check out this PAW-some page with a list of 199 poisonous plants and what to do. 

Cat bag safety

Bags are great fun–but cut off the handles for cats!

BAGS, BOXES & PACKAGING

Cats love bags, right? And some cats adore licking plastic, which can be a BIG concern. Oftentimes, the plastic is a petroleum product derivative of some kind, and maybe that’s why cats like the flavor. Ingestion is a problem with both dogs and cats, so be sure to properly dispose of dangerous packing materials.

While bags (not plastic!) can be great fun for cats, be very careful of those bags with handles. A hiding cat that darts out of the bag can get the handle caught around his neck. That’s a potential choking hazard at worst, and also creates terror when the cat runs and the bag “chases” the kitty. That happened one time with Seren-Kitty when she was a kitten (20 years ago!) and was an early lesson for me. Now I throw out plastics, and cut the handles on any bags so they’re safe for kitty hide aways.

STRANGER DANGER

Another issue around Valentine’s Day for both cats and dogs is something I call ‘STRANGER DANGER.’ When a pet isn’t familiar with the new guy or gal you’re dating, that can put the pet’s tail in a twist. For some pets, that simply means they hide. Others, though, can become fearful and turn aggressive toward the new person. And the fear may actually prompt the pet to try and escape–and getting out of the house can mean a lost pet or hit by car or any number of things. The best prevention of course is to slowly introduce pets to strangers to ensure there’s a future love connection. And if you haven’t had time to do the intros, simply confine your dog or cat in a safe room away from the stranger. Click the book covers for my tips guides on the issue.

What about you? Have you “pet proofed” your Valentine’s Day plans? Do tell!

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE

Valentine’s for Texas Pet Lovers: Paw-tographs for Dog & Cat Peeps

Join me and my colleague DUSTY RAINBOLT for a pet book paw-tograph extravaganza!

book signing copy

BOOK SIGNING FOR PET LOVERS

Shopping ops for anyone who loves pets–at the GRAND OPENING of the new Pet Supermarket in Plano, Texas! Dusty and I will be happy to answer pet questions and/or publishing and writing topics, too.

Doesn’t the pet lover in your life want a paw-tograph a book, signed to THEIR furry friend? Or maybe you want one inscribed to the special cat or dog in your life.

Pet Supermarket is at 13420 Preston Road, in Plano, Texas. Call for more information at 469-453-0180.

 

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!