Hi everybody! We’ve had so many similar questions from our readers about our Big Move to Perth and other things, that we thought we’d do a post just answering your questions!
“Is Honey OK to travel with her heart condition?”
Yes, I’m fine to go on the Big Flying Machine! When I went back to SASH to have the stitches removed from my glaucoma eye surgery, I also had a follow-up with the special Cardiologist Vet who did another ultra-sound on my heart. She was very pleased with me ‘coz she said my Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) “had not progressed at all” – I’m still in the early, “pre-clinical stage” and my heart was beating nice & slowly and it hadn’t gotten any bigger since when she checked it back in Aug (2012), which was when it was first diagnosed..
* Normal heart rate for a big doggie like me is around 60 beats per min (smaller doggies have faster normal heart rates) – that’s what it is when I’m sleeping or just lazing around; when I exercise, my humans measured it and it only goes up to around 90 bpm, which is very good and shows that I’m very fit, probably because I have always had regular, daily exercise all my life. If my heart rate went up above 150, then that would be the time to worry. When DCM starts to get bad and go into heart failure (“onset of clinical signs”), one of the signs is the heart speeding up and staying at a high heart rate (as well as other signs like coughing & exercise intolerance).
* If your humans want to know how to measure a doggie’s heart rate: get a clock or watch with a 2nd hand, or a stopwatch, count the number of beats in 10 seconds and then multiply this by 6 and you’ll get the beats per minute.
In general, the lower the heart rate, the better ‘coz it means that you’re fitter – your heart doesn’t have to beat so fast to cope with any stress. When I was having my awful head ouchies from the pressure spikes in my glaucoma eye, my heart rate had gone up to 120 bpm which is pretty high for me.
In a way, it was lucky because you can’t detect DCM just from listening to the heart – in the early stages (“pre-clinical heart disease”, which is what I have), you often can’t hear a heart murmur – the only way you can know for sure is if you do a heart ultrasound. So my heart always sounded fine and nobody would have ever known about my DCM – except that the ouchies from the glaucoma was making my heart race and that made the vets suspicious and so they did the heart ultrasound and found out.
This was lucky because it meant that I could start taking some heart medicine early, which will hopefully help me live longer (“delay the progression of DCM to heart failure”). The old thinking was to only give the heart medicine after you started showing symptoms of heart failure but my Cardiologist Vet, Dr Rita Singh, is very clever and has lots & lots of qualifications (she even went to do special extra training in America!) – and she told us about a recent study on Dobermann doggies which showed that if you give doggies with DCM the heart medicine early (BEFORE they show symptoms of heart failure), it can help them live longer.
The doggies in the trial, that were given the heart medicine early, lived for significantly longer than the doggies who didn’t get the medicine early. It doesn’t change anything once you get heart failure – you can’t slow things down or live longer then – but it can delay you getting to heart failure in the first place, so that you remain in the early (pre-clinical) stages of DCM for much longer.
(For anybody who is interested in the details of the study, you can read about it here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23078651)
My humans say that maybe everything happens for a reason – if I hadn’t gotten my glaucoma eye ouchies, they might never have found out about my DCM until it was advanced – and then I wouldn’t have had the chance to get the heart medicine early. The only thing is that my heart medicine (“Vetmedin” aka. ‘pimobendan’ ) costs an awful lot of money paper here in Australia!! I have to have 6 pills every day – 3 in the morning, 3 in the evening and it costs $400 every month, just for these pills! Thank goodness we have pet insurance which pays for 80% of the cost. It is still a lot of money paper for my humans to add in every month but they think it is worth it, if it will help me live longer.
The other risk if you have DCM, even if you don’t go into heart failure, is that you could still get an arrhythmia, which means your heart starts beating in a funny way and then you might just get “sudden death” when it stops…but that’s the worst case scenario. Most doggies with DCM usually just eventually go into heart failure and die that way – but hopefully, Dr Singh says that by starting the medicine early, I will have a better chance of a longer (good-quality) life.
Of course, there are no guarantees – for a Great Dane, 9yrs old is already a pretty senior doggie and it’s natural for our hearts to start to enlarge & fail, because they have to pump so much harder to cope with our giant bodies and besides, you have to die of something, someday, don’t you?
“What about giving Muesli something to help her feel less stressy when travelling?”
Thanks for all the suggestions to help Muesli feel less stressy about travelling and moving. Unfortunately, you can’t sedate animals for travelling on Big Flying Machines – it’s very dangerous as it can affect their breathing & oxygen when up in the air. So Muesli can’t have any chill-out drugs.
Yes, we do have some Bach Flowers Rescue Remedy – Hsin-Yi got a bottle of this when I was a puppy and used to give it to me before certain events (like car rides), even though I wasn’t really acting stressy, because everybody told her to. She said it never had much effect on me…although that might just be because I am such a laid-back, placid doggie that I didn’t really need it in the first place! But we might try that with Muesli…although she is such a difficult kitty to give anything, like worming pills or even flea treatment….it drives Hsin-Yi crazy ‘coz my first kitty sister, Lemon, was always so easy – even though she was a fiesty kitty, she was very good & docile about taking her worming pills. Hsin-Yi could just hold her with one hand, open her mouth and pop the pill in – no problems!
But with Muesli…oh my goodness! She would claw and fight and scratch and bite and Hsin-Yi’s arms would be shredded and there would be blood everywhere. Muesli gets so stressy if you even just try to open her mouth (yes, we have tried those special syringes to put pills in but they don’t work very well). So Hsin-Yi thinks that even GIVING the Rescue Remedy would make Muesli stressy!
But then Hsin-Yi had a great idea! She is going to get a Feliway spray for Muesli. This is a special kind of pheromone therapy which helps stressy kitties feel more relaxed, because it helps to make places smell secure & familiar. We haven’t ever tried it with Muesli but lots of people (including vet clinics) say it works really well. We’re going to spray it not only in her travel crate but also in the temporary accommodation we’re going to be staying in, in Perth, in the first few weeks…so hopefully, it will help Muesli chill out a bit!
“Is it safe for Honey to travel in the hot summer weather? What about the temperature in the airplane cargo hold?”
Lots of you have been worried about how I will travel. Hsin-Yi has double-checked with my “personal pet travel consultants”, Jet Pets – and they have told her that I will be kept cool all the time.
While I am waiting to board my flight, they will be keeping me in their ‘Pet Transit Lounge’ which is air-conditioned (we saw these when we went to visit the Sydney depot – they are sort of like fancy, indoor kennels!) and then they will take me in my crate, in their van machine (also air-conditioned), straight to the Big Flying Machine just before it is about to take off. I won’t be left waiting out on the tarmac or anything like that. Pets are the first things loaded on the flight (before the luggage) and the first things taken off.
I will be travelling in the belly part of the Big Flying Machine, called the cargo hold. There is a section there for live animals and it is pressurised, air-conditioned (between 18 ~ 22 ºC all the time) and sound-proofed, so it will be almost like travelling in the cabin!
The best part is that – unlike when I came over from NZ, which was an international flight – my humans will be allowed to put things inside my crate for me, such as blankets or towels, and even a frozen water bottle that I can lick. I will be arriving in Perth in the late afternoon, so hopefully it won’t be too hot at the other end!
Yes, we had heard of that special airline in America which only takes pets…how cool is that! Unfortunately, there isn’t such a thing in Australia and actually, the company in America, called Pet Airways, had to shut down ‘coz it couldn’t make enough money paper. It was a nice idea but probably not very realistic!
“How is Paul doing?”
My human, Paul is doing OK – his recovery from his Scary Sickie (“transverse myelitis“) was quite good in the beginning but then it slowed down and he doesn’t seem to have improved much in the last few weeks: he still can’t walk very fast, his body is still doing funny twitching sometimes and most of all, his left arm & hand are still really weak and can’t function properly. He can manage OK doing everyday things (he’s learnt to do a lot of things one-handed and just using his right hand) but of course, for his work as a surgeon, you need to have very good “fine motor control” in your hands.
Paul has been trying to do more research on his sickie but since it is so rare, it is hard to find information on how well people have recovered. So far, some people say that what you’re like at 3 – 6 months is sort of the way you’ll remain – which is really depressing, ‘coz Paul is coming up to the 3 month deadline now. But other people say that you can still recover more, up to 2 years, so we are staying hopeful.
Paul is still going to the special rehab clinic to do his occupational therapy & physiotherapy & hydrotherapy exercises. And he will continue with his rehab when we move to Perth. He has been off work since the beginning of Oct, when he got his sickie – so things have been quite tough. The hospital in Perth have been really nice & supportive, though, and said that they’re happy for him to start his job there doing less. He can’t do any surgery, of course, because of his damaged left hand but he can still do the clinics and other basic things. The new job doesn’t start ’till the beginning of Feb so that’s still nearly 1 month away and hopefully, he will recover a bit more by then!
“Is there any special aftercare for Honey’s removed eye? Does she still have tears?”
No, my “removed” eye doesn’t need any special aftercare – the skin of my eyelids have been stitched together and they’ve now grown together, so there is just skin over an empty socket, where my eyeball used to be.
I don’t have eye lashes anymore on that eye but I do still make tears. They are just going inwards now, into my eye socket and sometimes out my nose (through lachrymal ducts). But I don’t make so much tears in that eye now since it isn’t getting irritants going in and I’m not blinking.
I’m not getting any oozing or discharge or anything like that and my humans don’t have to do any special cleaning for me – other than the usual cleaning that they do, like I usually have to have a Bath every 2 weeks, when Hsin-Yi washes my face with the shower. (Pah! Hate that!)
Hsin-Yi also does this thing called “Hot Towel Treatment” every few days, where she wipes my face and especially around my jowls with a hot towel. I don’t like it much (Ugh! Getting my face wet!) but it does keep my face nice & fresh and it means that I don’t get so smelly, coz otherwise all the slobber and the “wetness” in the many folds of skin around my mouth & chin can give bacteria a good chance to grow (this is why many young Danes get pimples! )
“What’s happening with the Big Honey Dog children’s book?”
Remember I told you several months ago that Hsin-Yi had started writing a children’s book starring me? (well, OK, not me exactly but a Great Dane called Honey, who is inspired by me ). It is a mystery story for 8 ~ 12yrs olds (middle grade) and has lots of adventure & cool doggie characters.
She has been working on the first draft and trying to write whenever she could find the free time. It has been really difficult in the last few months, with everything that has been happening with Paul’s Scary Sickie and my Glaucoma Sickie & Eye Surgery and then preparing for our Big Move to Perth…but Hsin-Yi has been plugging on. She said that it helped her to have somewhere to escape to when she was feeling overwhelmed in “real life”.
Anyway, she is almost finished the 1st draft! She has done about 33,000 words so far (most middle grade books are about 30,000 – 40,000 words) and she is getting near the end. She was actually hoping to finish the 1st draft before Christmas and she was very disappointed with herself that she hasn’t managed that but oh well, sometimes life gets in the way… Hopefully, there will be some extra time when we get to Perth, in the first few weeks, when we’re staying in the temporary accommodation and just house-hunting…so Hsin-Yi might be able to finish the story then.
Of course, it’s still a loooooong way from being really finished & ready for submission…after you finish the first draft of a book, you should put it away for a while and then come back and read it from the beginning (and think it’s all rubbish and cross everything out and rewrite it all again! ) – so after we settle in our new house in Perth, Hsin-Yi will still have to revise her 1st draft and polish it up. Then she will start looking for a literary agent and a publisher.
So thank you to those who have been interested and asking – the book is slowly getting there!
Well, I’m off to help with some more packing! Don’t worry – it’s not just been work-work-work…I’ve been having some last-minute adventures too, saying goodbye to people.
Sadly, my friend, Boo the black Dane, has broken his toe and it is in a cast, so he isn’t allowed to do anything and hasn’t even been able to go out for walks, for over a month now – poor thing!
But we did go for a last walk with his human, Sarah, and she very thoughtfully carried some of my goodbye slobbers back to Boo on her shirt.
I also went on a last walk with my great friend, Carmel, and her boyfriend, and my humans.
We went on my favourite walk in Sydney – around the wharves in Pyrmont and along the waterfront – at sunset/twilight. That’s one of the few places we will miss in Sydney – with the wide, clean streets & nice buildings, the cool breezes off the harbour and most of all, the feeling of open space, when you look out across the water to the horizon and the sky around. Hsin-Yi says maybe she got spoilt after living in a beautiful harbour city like Auckland for so long but she desperately misses that feeling of natural space & open sky and views across the water.
That’s why she loves Pyrmont and likes to take me to walk there, even though it takes a bit longer to drive there in the car machine. Being by the open water is very soothing and always makes her feel happier and not all stressy & hemmed in by traffic & graffiti & people & ugly buildings. Who knows, maybe if we had lived in Pyrmont, we might have had a happier year in Sydney (we didn’t look there ‘coz it’s further from the hospital and it’s mostly apartments, although we have since seen lots of doggies – even big ones! – coming out of the apartments)… Anyway, Perth sounds much more like Auckland so hopefully, we should have lots more natural, open space in our new city!
We finished our walk with an impromptu “night picnic” on the grass in front of The Star Casino. It was such fun! Carmel got me an ice-lolly (strawberry flavour…yum!) and then she played some running games with me and also gave me lots of cuddles. I had a wonderful time and I will really miss Carmel…I hope she will come to visit us in Perth!
Oh – and I just wanted to wish you all a belated Happy New Year! I’m afraid we probably won’t be able to come round & visit any blogs for a while now, or answer messages very quickly, until we get settled in Perth but we’ll try our best to catch up soon.
I’ll pop in to say goodbye before I go on my Big Flying Machine later this week!