I wasn’t sure whether to post about this but I’ve decided to share it as it may be useful to some other dog owners. So please excuse the long wordy post!
Honey gave me a scare on Tue – I had been out for lunch and came back around 3pm to find her sleeping peacefully in her crate, but at around 5pm I noticed that she was awake and panting very heavily. I was a bit concerned as it was not a hot day but didn’t want to be a paranoid pet owner so I bundled her into the car and took her to one of our local parks. She seemed quite alert & well when we arrived at the park and started the walk in her normal trot, although still panting heavily. She also seemed quite thirsty, wanting to stop at every water fountain for a drink… but otherwise, she was alert & well and even did a nice, normal poo.
About 15mins into our walk, we had wandered into the empty fenced off-leash section and I let her off for a little sniff, thinking I might also do some training. I asked her to Heel and noticed that she seemed a bit unsteady on her feet – it was like she was trying very hard to follow my command but struggling to do so. I stopped immediately and watched her – and was horrified to see her teetering slightly, as if she was struggling to stay on her feet. I panicked, thinking that she might collapse and wondering how I was going to carry her (she weighs more then me) back to the car, which was on the other side of the park. It was about 6pm by this time and getting dark, with very few people in the park. Thankfully, I managed to get her to walk back to the car and I immediately rushed her off to the emergency vet (Pet Emergency - : 263 Appleby Rd, Stafford Heights, Qld 4053, (07) 3359 0777).
The main thing I was worried about was bloat, as heavy panting is one of the signs – although the ‘wobbly spell’ also had me worrying about her heart – sadly, these are both things that are prevalent in this breed, no matter how many precautions you take – it’s a genetic lottery – and much as I hate to admit it, Honey isn’t a young dog anymore…
By the time we got to the emergency vet, she had perked up a bit and by the time the vet examined her, she seemed fine and back to her normal self, although still panting (but this was probably more due to the excitement of being in a new place). The vet assured me it wasn’t bloat after examining her abdomen and that her heart also sounded fine and it was unlikely to be a bowel obstruction (always a consideration when you’re on the raw diet) because Honey had done a nice, normal poo in the park, was taking food & water quite happily and did not have a tender abdomen…but she was concerned enough by my description to keep Honey in for full blood tests & X-rays. I was sent home to wait by the phone…
At around 10pm, they rang to say that results had all come back and they were all fine. Honey had practically “perfect” blood results and her X-rays were completely normal too – so it was a mystery. I went to pick her up and she was full of beans – I really started to feel a bit of a fool! The vet did say that clear results may not be a guarantee that there is no underlying disease – she even mentioned the dreaded ‘cancer’ word - as she said dogs often pant from pain or acidosis, if not from heat – but given Honey’s overall good health, appetite, energy, etc, – it seemed very unlikely.
So I brought Honey home, feeling like a bit like an idiot – maybe I had imagined it all? But something had definitely happened in the park to cause me to panic – and I would have never forgiven myself if I hadn’t done everything I could and regretted it later. Better safe than sorry, I guess. And if it had been bloat, that could have been a fatal emergency. Thank goodness we’ve got pet insurance because that little panic trip & tests, etc, cost us AUD$600! (US$550) – with a giant breed, everything is expensive!
Honey has been fine since then – completely her normal self, with no further “funny episodes” – but I have been thinking and I do wonder now if it was a reaction to the annual heartworm injection which she had 2 weeks ago at that 3rd vet. Here is a list of the possible side-effects, which makes for disturbing reading. “Wobbliness” and “shortness of breath” certainly fit. Of course, these are side-effects to Proheart 6 – NOT Proheart-SR 12 , which is what Honey had – but the fact that they are from the same stable makes me uncomfortable. Anyway, if that is what it was – then let’s just hope that these are the only reactions she suffers, as some of the others on the list are really frightening.
Of course, there is nothing to prove that it was a reaction to the injection and it may simply be a coincidence. I did ask the emergency vet, of course, about the possibility, but like most vets, she brushed it off, saying that most reactions occur immediately after the injection. However, I do know – from my own research for several articles I have written on vaccinosis – that studies show that vaccine reactions usually show up in the 3 months following the vaccine…delayed reactions are quite common…and it is reasonable to assume that reactions to this injection might follow a similar pattern.
Oh, how I regret agreeing to that heartworm injection before doing proper research on it! Especially as we had no problems giving the monthly tablets but were just silly to simply follow what the vets recommended…you would think someone like me, who usually researches everything to death, would know better! I think we were just so overwhelmed with the whole move and everything that when it came to heartworm being a “new” Australian issue that we’d never dealt with before, we just bowed to the Australian vets’ advice without ever questioning them…
Anyway, hopefully this will be the end of things and at least one good thing that’s come from all this is that we have X-rays of Honey’s heart & lungs & stomach & intestines, etc, and detailed blood test results and from those, she seems a completely healthy dog - in fact, very good for her age. So I suppose that is reassurance of some sort!
On a slightly related topic, we have also been a bit concerned with Honey’s weight. I didn’t mention this in the post about the vets previously but we were a bit shocked when Honey got on the scales here and came in at around 60kg! Back in NZ, she had always weighed 68-70kg all her adult life and looked good at that weight – our vets there were happy and nobody commented on her being overweight. So even allowing for a slight difference in scales between countries, 10kg seems a huge difference to account for!
I know the move has been very stressful for her and we may have also been feeding her slightly less as we’re getting used to new raw diet supplies here - and to be honest, I had been looking at her recently and thinking she looked very bony and sinewy. The other Dane owners on our recent beach playdate commented on her hip bones jutting out and I was wondering if she was a bit too thin – you can definitely see her back ribs quite clearly and I’d noticed even her spine was a bit prominent along her back…but what is confusing is that the vets here all kept telling me that she is good at this weight!
Well, if she is good now – that must mean that she was OVERweight all the rest of her life back in NZ! Or if she was good then, that must mean she is UNDERweight now! Which is it? And what weight should we be aiming for?
The problem with Honey, I find, is that she is such a big girl, she tends to put on or lose a few kilos with very few people noticing and most people always say she looks good at whatever weight she is at…
Here are a couple of photos I took of her yesterday morning, at the weight she is now (60kg):
And here are a couple of photos taken last year back in NZ when she was around 70kg:
As you can see, there isn’t a huge difference although in terms of numbers, that’s 10kg. And I certainly don’t think she looked fat or overweight in the pictures from NZ, at 70kg! In fact, I think I prefer her looking more like before – more rounded and fleshed out.
I have asked our lovely breeders as they are so experienced and they know what their type of Dane should look like - and they say that Honey is a big girl (35″ with big bones – of the more solid type of Dane) and takes after her mother, who apparently tipped the scales at around 70kg too- so that should be an acceptable weight for her. They also said that dogs can lose weight in the heat, plus the stress of the move so perhaps she is a bit underweight. Certainly, they don’t think she looked overweight back in NZ and ultimately, they felt that I should go with my own instincts, as I know Honey best, as opposed to vets who may not be necessarily experienced enough to judge for individual breeds.
The vets here talked a lot about Honey being a “geriatric” and muscle wastage from ageing. I’d noticed recently that her ‘bum’ in particular is looking very bony and almost pointy at the end, near the tail. – so perhaps that is not due so much to weight loss as muscle wastage due to age? It does seem a bit dramatic though - those pictures in NZ above were only taken about 6 months ago – how can a dog age that fast?!
I actually wonder if all this “muscle wastage” is not due so much to ageing as lack of decent dog parks here in Brisbane where she can run off-leash! Back in Auckland, there were so many ‘proper’ off-leash dog parks (whole parks, not small fenced enclosures) – and so Honey got off-leash exercise at least twice a week, often without necessarily playing with other dogs – but just exploring by herself. She had a lot more chance to do free running and steady trotting for extended periods – whereas here, we primarily do pavement/leashed park walks and the few times she has had off-leash runs, it’s been in areas with lots of other dogs so she starts playing – but that is a totally different kind of running, with lots of high impact, sudden twisting & turning and braking – it’s no wonder that she injured herself at the last playdate!
There is only really 1 proper, big, unfenced dog park here at Kedron Brook but because it is so unique, it is always crowded with dog owners from all over Brisbane and it is impossible to go there without meeting other dogs constantly. This means that unless I keep stopping her (which seems cruel), Honey would start playing and – aside from the fact that she is not allowed to play at the moment while on her 6 weeks prescribed “rest” by the vets – it is also not really the beneficial kind of steady off-leash exercise that would help to build up her muscle tone, I think.
(sigh) I just wish there were more parks here where she could run off-leash for an extended time, without being crowded by lots of other dogs & owners…we never realised how lucky we were back in Auckland!