Tuesday, December 11, 2012

December 11 - Some Results & Another Mild Collapse

Good news first - Gata's Adrenal Glands function fine. The results of her ACTH Stim test were normal. We also tested her Insulin response as part of that and those results aren't back yet. But, I suspect that they will be normal, too. 

Anyway, so while I try to deal with my difficulties in getting blood from them for the blood glucose tests, we are continuing to do our normal stuff, which includes conditioning work. I am also getting them back into a conditioning routine. Changing the way that I am feeding and watering them before, during, and after work has changed the dynamics of their conditioning workouts. So, I'm not quite as clear on what Gata is going to look like when a collapse is approaching.

For example -
1. Now that she is getting sugar water 20-30 minutes before she works as well as in between sets she no longer looks tired before she collapses. Her tongue isn't hanging out, her ears aren't pink on the insides, her lips aren't lifted up exposing her gums, etc. 

2. She may trot back with the ball one time and turn around and run the next few just as fresh as ever. I never continue if she trots back a second time, no matter how fresh or pushy she seems. 

This morning, the temperature wasn't very low, only 45-degrees F, but it felt colder than it has. Stiffer wind, no fog, lower humidity - just colder overall. And the dogs were raring to go! They are a little more that way just because I am making them wait a little bit after I give them the sugar water, too.

They did 3 sets of 5 very easily. As we took a break after the set both dogs seemed fresh and we romping around checking things out. Gata was running ahead and then coming back and playing with Tor, etc. So, I decided to go for a 4th set. 

Gata trotted back after the 3rd throw. So the 4th throw was a short throw for her. She ran it back and I gave her another short throw to finish up the set. She was unable to return it to me. She recovered rapidly. I gave her some more sugar water and we all walked around the field to cool off before heading home. 

I will say that she definitely recovers faster with the sugar water and was trotting around the field as we headed home. But it's still quite scary. I really try to avoid collapses as much as possible. Still so much to learn about all of this. I hope I can start getting blood from them consistently soon. It seems so simple to just stop working her but it's not really all that easy. So again, I'm placing my hope in science and Dr. Gillette. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

December 9 - Collecting Blood & Playing Around

Today, I got a little more serious about developing the techniques to do some blood glucose and biochemistry of anticipation studies with Gata. These are based on some work that Robert Gillette has done and should complement the work that Dr. Eeg is doing as well as what we did during the visit to Auburn.

The problem is, I feel like I'm torturing my dogs to get a drop of blood from them. The recommended lance site is the tip of the ear. I'm not quite sure why, but it barely bleeds on my dogs. Both are being great about it, but I definitely don't like the idea of lancing them several times to get a single drop of blood. Definitely need to get some help from Dr. Eeg on this one. He has the same system and recommended the ear tip. At first I thought the lance just wasn't working. But when I tried it on my finger tip, it is definitely working! That only made me feel worse about torturing my dogs :-(   The only good thing about it was that both dogs got plenty of treats for playing along and being such good sports. So, at least they don't yet hate the process.

Anyway, I was able to get resting levels on both dogs and an "anticipation" level on Gata. Both dogs got 10 ml of 50% dextrose following the resting reading and 30 minutes before the anticipation reading.

Gata - 91 mg/dl (Resting); 139 mg/dl (Anticipation)
Tor - 131 mg/dl (Resting); unable to get an Anticipation sample

After that I worked with them both. It was a relatively cool, gray day. Both dogs were more than happy to play and seemed to be plenty energized with the 10 ml of dextrose in their system. Nothing too programmed today - just some obedience interspersed with modified interval sets. Enough to wear them both out for the rest of the day - more or less the equivalent of 3 sets of 5 with alternating obedience work between the two during the breaks. A good time was had by all :-)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

December 8, 2012 - Exercise & More Experiments

Well today was an interesting day in many ways. The glucometer that I ordered for the dogs arrived yesterday and I started playing around with it. I think the hardest part will be figuring out how/where to collect the blood from. With their coats, it will not be trivial. So, I'll have to spend a little bit of time working on training them to allow me use the lancet either on the 1 - the tip of the ears, 2 - along the side of their dewclaw pad, 3 - on the inside of their upper lip. Ugh, none of those sound very appealing ... :-( Though the vet recommends the inside tip of the ear, probably the easiest of the three options.

Since Gata was scheduled to have an ACTH Stim test at 11:00, I wanted to get her some exercise early and get her fed several hours before the test. So, it was off to the park for a short interval session. Unfortunately, it was shorter than I had expected. She collapsed after 2 sets of 5. It was warmer than usual, but that was still unexpected. Not a bad collapse, but definitely a cool weather collapse.

So, I got them home and gave them a recovery meal, followed by a small regular meal about 40 minutes later. She was done with her meals by about 8:30, so that was good.

We were at the vet a little before 11:00 to start the ACTH Stim test. We elected to modify the protocol a little by adding 2 time points - 30 minutes and 2 hours, and testing glucose and insulin at all time points as well. Anyway, the test was over by about 1:15. She's very popular at the vets. It's really great having a vet that genuinely likes my dogs :-) Hopefully, the results will be back on Monday.

I also picked up some 50% Dextrose solution for the glucose/biochemistry of anticipation protocol. Hopefully, I'll be able to run the first trial tomorrow.

Hoping to get more clues soon :-)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, December 7, 2012

Some New Pix of Tor

I've been meaning to post these for awhile. The boy is growing up. Handsome devil, isn't he?  :-)

December 7 - Conditioning Routine

Temperature: Around 35-degrees F and raining
Hydration: Sugar water before start and during breaks
Program: 4 x 5 - Both dogs got it easily, but were tired at the end. The interesting thing is how much both are now greedily waiting for their sugar water at the end of each set. Tor wasn't so into it originally, but they line up and grudgingly take turns getting water from me. I need to figure out a better way to get it to them that doesn't waste so much but they both prefer to drink out of the bottle than a bowl ...

General observations:
1. The sugar water between sets really does seem to make a huge difference for both dogs, but Gata in particular. After the water break and a walk around the field her tongue is back in her mouth, even more than Tor's, her lips are down (not drawn back from her gums), and the insides of her ears are a more natural color (not pink).
2. Need to get better about giving them some sugar water or dextrose before we leave the house. That is part of the experiment I will be doing with both of them, but I am also curious to see how it affects our conditioning program. Generally speaking, they have been fasting for at least 8 hours by the time they work most mornings.

Yesterday I brought the dogs to work with me. We had a going away gathering planned for one of my colleagues and that gave me a little more flexibility. I stopped at one of our favorite parks on the way end and did some obedience with each of them individually. It can be a busy park and is right off Highway 28 so I don't take them both out together - too risky on many levels. But both did some really lovely obedience and had a good time. Lots of long bumper tosses as rewards and very high intensity work.

Then I took each of them for a little walk before I headed over to Happy Hour. They didn't complain too much - each got a nice big knuckle bone to chew on while I was inside. It worked out fine and I was very glad to be able to stay to the end of the get together. Will be missing Michelle a lot - great colleague.

Gata may end up having an interesting weekend. Hopefully, the glucometer will arrive today. That means that both dogs will be subject to having their blood glucose levels taken numerous times. And when I feel comfortable with it, I will set up a few trials of Gata's metabolism. Poor Tor, he gets to be a pin cushion as a control :-)   And Gata will have an ACTH Stim test on Saturday.

Much to think about over the next few days ...  Fingers crossed that we get more clues.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

December 4 - Workout - Start of New Program

OK, restarting our conditioning program with some timeline goals in mind, based on my conversation with Dr. Gillette yesterday. I summarized that discussion briefly in a post yesterday, I'll add more detail to my thoughts on what we are doing as time permits and as my thoughts evolve on it. Lots swirling around in my head right now.

Anyway, so I went back to my interval conditioning program to see where they are currently. They've had a week mostly off since I've had bronchitis. So they have just been getting a few bumper tosses in the backyard.

Temperature: 50-degrees F (unseasonably warm)
Hydration: Sugar water before start and during breaks
Program: 3 x 5 - Both dogs got it easily, very easily. I considered trying a 4th set but noticed that Gata stayed at my side during the break after the 3rd set as I took my walk around the field. I generally take that as an indication that she is getting tired. Otherwise, she is usually trotting around checking things out, trying to steal the ball out of the bag, etc. So, I stopped with that.

As my lungs recover, I'll get back to the more standard format - walking to the park, etc. and reporting the time spent. But since I am currently driving to the park, I didn't want to confuse the values by reporting things in the same way, when they are quite different.

One thing to note, times spent this year will be different from those a year ago. The routine which now includes time for water after each set is a little bit longer as a result. I probably spend about 2 minutes giving the dogs water immediately after each set BEFORE I start the regular break, which lasts 3 - 5 minutes.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Next Step with Gata

Just had another call with Dr. Gillette. He certainly is generous with his time. At some point I will have to talk to him about compensating him for his time. I really appreciate his generosity but certainly do not want to take advantage of him or insult him either. These things can get so complicated. But, I feel like we have a pretty well established level of comfort about discussing our more personal issues in this situation. We are both being as sensitive as possible to the other, under the somewhat strange constraints of this working partnership. So, I am pretty confident that I can have that discussion with him without damaging our relationship or impacting the outcome of it.

Anyway, he suggested a pretty easy next step, something that I can do on my own. I'll purchase a pet glucose meter, get Gata accustomed to it (probably Tor, too, as a control), and then set up a pretty simple experiment to see if we can get Gata's blood glucose level to increase by providing her with a dextrose solution by mouth.

Our theory on this one is based on the observation around the last collapse being coupled with a lack of sugar water for her on that particular day. Plus, when we tested her blood glucose levels down at Auburn, they were in the normal range, but they did not fluctuate at all during work. Based on his previous work, this is quite unusual in working dogs. If her blood glucose level does not increase, we know that it is one of the metabolic defects surrounding glucose/glycogen and is at a fairly early point in that process. If it does go up, it doesn't mean that her collapses aren't due to a defect in the glucose/glycogen processes. So, it's not a super simple result at that point ...

So, I've ordered the equipment. Though, I'll have to figure out where/how to get the dextrose solution. I'm guessing that my local vet will sell me some. Hopefully, I'll be able to address this theory by Christmas time. Fingers crossed ...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Not Myasthenia ...

So the results of Gata's Myasthenia Gravis test is back - normal. That's pretty much what we expected. So now we get back to metabolic pathways in detail and start chasing zebra ...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Crash ...

So how often do you expect your dogs to literally run into each other, at nearly full speed? I know, you think they would be watching where they are going and not be so inclined to try to destroy themselves. Well, the other day, a couple of weeks ago now, Gata and Tor did just that.

We had just finished up some obedience work in the back yard and I was giving them a few free throws, as I usually do to increase the likelihood that they will relax for the evening. It was just before the sun went down on a Saturday late afternoon.

As usual, I threw the the first bumper from the back of the yard to the right side of the house and threw the second bumper to the left side of the house. Normally, Tor goes for the first bumper I throw and Gata goes for the second. Somehow, Tor missed the first throw and started for the second. Gata started for the first and then both seemed to change their mind at almost the same instant and start for the other bumper, while still looking at the bumper that they were originally headed for. They slammed into each other at roughly 3/4 speed, which doesn't sound that bad but is.

They both yelped. Gata hobbled over to me holding up her right front leg. Tor seemed fine at that point. So, I turned my attention to Gata - checked out her leg gently and gave her a little reassurance. I moved her around a little to see if she would put it back down. Thankfully, she did.

Then I turned and with horror saw that Tor was standing in 1 spot with his back roached as high as it could possibly go and his back legs trembling and fumbling underneath him. He was trying to come to me but could not coordinate his movements. It really looked like a serious spine injury.

I went to him and tried to calm him a little, in the vain hope that he might relax out of it as Gata frequently does. It helped his mental state a little but not his physical state. I had no choice but to carry him inside. Though Tor is quite thin, he is still a big dog and with the trembling in all the muscles supporting his back end this wasn't a particularly easy task. But I got him inside and tried to lay him on his side but he wasn't having any of that. So rather than risk injuring him further, I simply stood him up in the middle of the living room and grabbled my cell phone and iPad.

I quickly looked up the nearest emergency vet - VCA in Gaithersburg, about 25 minutes away. Gave them a call to give them a heads up. By this time, Tor seemed quite a bit better and was able to start moving on his own again. By the time I had loaded Gata into the car, he seemed perfectly normal. I elected to take him anyway, as I was pretty sure that he had suffered a traumatic shock to his spine and I wanted to make sure that they didn't see anything in spinal radiographs.

Got there and registered. Brought him in and got his weight, etc. He was really cool with the vet tech, though all the smells on her scrubs certainly got him aroused, as normal with Tor. She just chatted with me a bit and then got his temp, etc. By that time he was leaning against her legs getting petted.

Unfortunately, the vet was not nearly as comfortable with him as the tech was. There is no question that he is an extremely dominant dog that could be dangerous if handled the wrong way. But he isn't dangerous, just pushy. And honestly, though he may have bumped her hand with his nose when it was near his head, he did nothing more obnoxious than that. But the vet was not having any part of him and wanted him sedated before she would examine him. Since I knew they would have to sedate him to get x-rays anyway I complied with her request.

Anyway, the x-rays turned out fine. And Tor certainly seems fully recovered. But I definitely need to do more with him in terms of socialization. In particular, socializing him with people that smell like other animals. The smells definitely bring him to a higher state of arousal. I guess I'll have to talk to the folks at my friendly local vet clinic and see if I can convince them to help. They actually like my dogs, especially the owner of the clinic :-)  I wish they would have been open that Saturday late afternoon/evening ... 

I decided not to get Gata checked out. After we finished with Tor, I got her out and moved her around in the parking lot. She has one of the most beautiful trots I have ever seen and displayed it for me there. So, I elected not to leave more of my money there. They both got a few days off and seem no worse for wear at this point. 

Update on Gata - Still Collapsing

Oy, there's always so much to write about Gata. I am looking forward to the day when there is nothing of any health issues to note for her, or Tor, or any of my dogs in the future. They do seem to keep me on my toes.

Gata is collapsing again but her latest collapse may have provided a hint. It happened one day about 3 weeks ago when it was very cold during the early morning hours, only 28-degrees F when I took her to the park. Coincidentally, that day the water bottle that I have been taking with everyday, containing sugar water, broke. I decided that since it was so cool, she would probably be fine. She collapsed quite early on, even earlier than I would expect during warm weather.

So, maybe it has something to do with glucose supply for her. I've talked with Dr. Gillette about it. And I have to say getting him on the phone to discuss something like this is exactly like being in the room with him down at Auburn, only without the white board. What an incredibly, unpredictable, mind-bending conversation. All about metabolism and Gata's lab values from the trip to Auburn. I should just mention - metabolism and the energy generating pathways in the mammalian body have never been my favorite topic. I much prefer cellular communication processes (and I don't mean cellular phones!). So I guess I am on now on a collision with the TCA (Krebs) cycle, oxidative phosphorylation, gluconeogenesis, glycolysis, etc.

We will likely pursue something along those lines. First, however, we want to rule out the possibility of Myasthenia Gravis. We don't really think that it is MG, but it is more common than some of the other things that we are thinking about and it would be foolish to head over to him again (now in the Chicago area) without ruling that out first, especially since visiting him at his new practice will be much more expensive than it was to visit him at Auburn. But I have to say, every time I talk to him I feel hopeful again. He has the kind of mind that really thrills at physiological puzzles and his enthusiasm is contagious. And, like me, his focus is on Gata.

Now that he has met Gata he understands how important it is to be able to come up with a solution for her. He knows that giving her a mental job would never be enough, that she requires a physical release of her energies. He also gets that I would never make it easier on myself by giving her to someone else that could provide a "quieter life" for her. It wouldn't change who she is or in any way change my responsibility to her. 

So, we'll wait for the results of the MG test. In the meantime, I'll try to start brushing up on metabolism and all the processes involved in the movement of glucose between cells, cellular compartments, storage, etc. It really was much easier to think about it as a potential nutrition issue, meaning that I was doing something wrong with the raw. Oh well ...  

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Week 6, Day 5

Took the dogs to the park in the morning again. Weather was extremely humid, not too hot, high 60s probably, but STEAMY. Worked on getting water into them between sets again. Gata is very good about it and Tor is getting better, though he wastes a lot.

Start time: 5:50 am; 65-degrees F and HUMID

Program: Walk to park, 1x6, Obedience, 1x4 Recovery water at the end of the set, and after obedience, before the break.
Total time: 42 minutes (Guesstimate, forgot to take my phone)
Status: Both dogs tired; Tor seemed a bit more tired than Gata, perhaps because he doesn't drink as well as she does at the end of each set; Took 500 ml of recovery water - came back with less than 100 ml, Gata drank probably 2/3 of it; Both dogs handled the work well, recovered well. Walk home uneventful. No signs of drunken sailor walking or any other early signs of collapse.

I should mention that Tor had the runs over night and early in the morning. I started giving him a roller ball containing 1/2 cup of Royal Canin 4800 in the morning when I leave for work, too. I probably started too fast with him. I know that his stomach is a little more sensitive than Gata's. So will back off on that a little. I suspect that it impacted his performance this morning - he clearly had some stomach cramping going on.

As long as I'm documenting adjustment to food issues, I should also mention that Gata has had no problem transitioning onto the Royal Canin. Though she would still be happy to eat Tor's food. Her stool is fine, bigger than on raw but not bad. Interestingly, she seems to have made the transition to Royal Canin much easier than the more trendy grain free kibbles that I had tried previously. Corn certainly doesn't seem to bother her.

Our evening work was just in the back yard. Again, STEAMY HOT and the temp was quite a bit higher than in the morning. Played around with several different SchH exercises with the dogs.

1. Couple of quick sets of barking for each dog. Building duration, calm position, and distance awareness with Tor and continuing to build duration with Gata. I really like the whole platform concept and using the deck works great for this. If either dog gets drawn off the deck by my movements we simply stop and they get back up. It is incredibly clear. Have to start practicing off the platform with Tor to see if the concept of space is clear to him.

2. Blinds - Set up 2 mini blinds in the yard and have them do the figure-8 pattern between them. We practice the whole pattern of heeling between the blinds to starting position, salute, pivot right or left to start. The pattern training is really important. Gata, in particular, gets extremely jazzed and will start to vocalize if I don't keep an eye on this. She has responded well to the negative reinforcement/punishment routine and is quiet again these days. But I know her well enough to know that it could creep back in at any point if I become sloppy. Only did 1 send in each direction with each dog due to the heat. They do about 7 or 8 full circuits in each send. Emphasis is on speed (both VERY fast), giving me eye contact as soon as they exit a blind and until I send them on to the next blind. Both dogs were excellent.

3. Launching - Over a 26" jump with an 18" jump set up about 3' in front of it creating a nice layout position. 1 set of 4 (2 presentations of the wedge on each side of my body) with Gata. She's got this and comes with great speed and power. She missed a little on the first launch but it didn't seem to affect her confidence on the next 3. Did 2 sets of 4 (2 presentations of the wedge on each side of my body) with Tor. He showed more confidence with presentations to my left last night in the first set. So I did a second set. He's a funny dog - even using this method he figures out ways to slam your body as well as getting the wedge. He doesn't do it every time and I don't know why he does it. Hopefully it goes away over time. No question that helpers won't like it. It makes it harder to catch him and increases the likelihood of the helper going down. I guess I'll just start doing more of this and see if it goes away. He is a dog that really benefits from repetition on some things more than others. Some things he gets instantly and others not so much ...

I think they both had a good time :-)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Week 5, Day 6

First conditioning routine in about a week. We've been busy doing other things and I wanted to make sure that Gata wasn't working too hard after her mild collapse early last week. So we've been playing around at Schutzhund stuff, some jumping grids, etc. Plus she has been making the change over to the Royal Canin 4800. That process should be complete by about Labor Day.

The only big change that I made today was to make sure that the dogs had recovery water at the end of each set. Gata drank easily and was happy to have it. Tor doesn't really see the point of this yet. I imagine that he will get better about it as he becomes more accustomed to it.

Start time: 5:50 am; 65-degrees F
Program: Walk to park, 3x5, Straight sets. Gave Gata some short throws in set 3; Recovery water at the end of each set, before the break.
Total time: 42 minutes
Status: Both dogs tired; Tor seemed a bit more tired than Gata, perhaps because he doesn't drink as well as she does at the end of each set; Took 500 ml of recovery water - came back with 100 ml, Gata drank probably 2/3 of it; Both dogs handled the work well, recovered well. Walk home uneventful. No signs of drunken sailor walking or any other early signs of collapse.

Really pleased with the session this morning. Nice to see both dogs working that hard and also recovering that well between sets. I admit that I have always loved to watch Gata move and feel the same way about Tor. Interesting how my perspective has changed over time. Prior to Tor, Gata seemed quite large, now she seems sort of small. I still think Gata's movement is more correct but also love the "lightness" of Tor's movement, even if it isn't as ground covering.

I think they will rest well while I am at work today :-)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Lots to Think About ...

and write about tonight ...

I'm not even sure what all I want to write about. Definitely want to write a quick update on weekend activities with the dogs. I also want to write about my thoughts on nutrition before I become deeply entrenched in Monica Segal's books, which arrived yesterday.

I'll start with weekend training activities. Went out to club yesterday to do OB only as Marty was out of town. Since there was a fair number of people there I asked for help with preparing Tor for the BH. From what they have told me in the past, the normal temperament test portion is is quite a bit different than what we have done or seen in California. Judges tend to have the crowd of people circle and crowd the dog in the handler's absence. That's quite different and I wasn't quite sure how Tor would respond to that. He's basically a social dog but he definitely has an edge of aggression. And I want to make sure that I don't forget that as I am training him and preparing him for competition. He's really a very cool dog, but I need to remember who he is and train him accordingly. Anyway, he had no problems with that at all. The only time he even twitched in his down was when I walked around a vehicle in which the dog barked at me. He definitely looked up at that point. But I took it back down a notch and he was great. And as far as he was concerned those people walking circle around him while I wasn't at his side were simply interfering with his view. Other than that, he paid absolutely no attention to them.

He also did very well with a strange dog hanging out very near him, though we did not go any farther with that. Then I took him out and did a bit of OB on the field and a bit of bark and hold on the platform. The OB work was mostly about the jump and wall for the retrieve. He's an interesting dog, because he can generalize some things extremely quickly and easily, and then there are other things that don't generalize so easily. I guess I shouldn't be surprised - it took a little bit of effort to teach him to jump to start with. I'll definitely have to make a little more effort to work on the retrieve and jumps in different locations. The wall is just something that I'll have to figure out a way to work him on it often enough to build the pattern. He's such an athletic freak that getting over it is no problem at all, just need to build the pattern. Goof ball that he is, he could easily go over it in one direction only and put on quite an amusing display with his antics.

Hi bark and hold on the platform at the field is a bit perplexing. He locks up quite badly and his bark is truly pathetic. When I practice the bark & hold on the deck in the back yard, it is really quite nice - very strong barking, for sure, though he doesn't really go into any sort of a seated or crouching position. But his position is very stable, no moving about. At the field he is constantly moving back and forth, and side to side, and even coming off the platform. So, I guess I need to take my little platform around and work the bark and hold in different locations on that, too. I'm not particularly worried about - he has a very strong natural barking behavior. I just don't really want him to be practicing a poor version of it too often.

On other fronts, his launching behavior, jumping for a bite is getting very good. He seems to be a little more confident catching a pillow or sleeve presented to my left rather than to my right. So, I'll have to be sure that I give him plenty of practice on the right side. But he is flying over the jump with great speed and power. I think that Gata may still carry a little more speed and power than him in this exercise, but not by much.

Gata, on the other hand, continues to do pretty much everything just the way you expect her to in training. The use of the platform in barking has increased her intensity and duration, and reduced the stuttering that she had gotten into the habit of doing. I still need to work on her long down and her out of motions. But, none of that is surprising. Thinking about working on her out of motions a different way. There is no question that they have gotten better and faster over time. But it is the one set of exercises that are consistently less than excellent with her.

So, I'm considering using a method that I have seen Frans use for the back transport - essentially pulling them forward and making them work to keep back in position. This is something that I would start with very differently - probably while  practicing position changes. I would have her wearing some sort of harness and put a line on the front ring of it. To make it even clearer for her, I might put her on the platform or back deck.  As I ask for a position, I would pull on the line a little, encouraging her to work harder to stay back.

With all the uncertainties regarding her collapses, I'm not sure that Gata will ever compete in Schutzhund ,or anything else, again. But, she's definitely not a dog ready to retire from training, so we'll keep playing around at various different things. Who knows? Maybe we'll compete in something again someday.

Now on to the nutrition part of things. I am really looking forward to reading Monica Segal's books. I was very impressed with her approach to the issues when I talked to her about what is going on with Gata. She is in no way stuck in a single approach. She simply tries to figure out a solution for the dog, regardless of what it takes.

That is one thing that I find so incredibly tiresome in dogs - people become so entrenched in an ideal that they simply stop thinking. I see this in training as well as nutrition. Well, let's be honest, I see this in just about all facets of life. You don't have to hold an extreme opinion to be an extremist - you just have to hold any opinion extremely. It's just most obvious when you hold an extreme opinion extremely.

Anyway, I digress. There are a few things at this point that I feel pretty strongly about:
1. Feeding raw is more "natural" and therefore better for dogs. This whole idea that feeding dogs the same way that wolves would eat is a farce. Dogs have long since split from wolves and become far more specialized to co-exist with man. Plus, I certainly do hope that my dogs will live a great deal longer than the average wolf. Who's to say that the stress, illnesses, injuries believed to contribute to the relatively short lifespan of wolves aren't in some way linked to nutritional stresses or deficiencies or ???

2. The concept of "Balance over Time" is entirely wrong. If I am going to be asking my dogs to perform various different things on a daily basis then I better be feeding them appropriately. I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in ever again thinking about balance over time. I will do my damnedest to give my dogs a balanced diet on a daily basis.

3. Carbohydrates - The whole mantra that dogs can't digest grains or grain products is wrong. I'm not sure that all dogs need grains, but I am absolutely sure that most dogs can use them (though not necessarily all types of grains). And I am equally sure that there are some dogs, like Tor, who really benefit from a steady supply of grain-based carbohydrates.

4. Fats - These still confuse me. I totally get the concept that Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids are required and that dogs require more Omega 6 fatty acids than Omega 3s (about 5-10 to 1). But I don't really get understand the basis for some of the more current fads in oils - like coconut or borage oils. Everyone is so high on coconut oil and yet it has a VERY low poly-unsaturated fat content. Thus a very low amount of either Omega 3 or Omega 6 fatty acids. Whereas corn oil has much more poly-unsaturated fat than saturated fat and that poly-unsaturated fat is primarily Omega 6 fatty acids (7224 mg) versus Omega 3 fatty acids (157 mg).

So, now I guess I need to pay attention to saturated vs. unsaturated in addition to Omega 3 vs. Omega 6.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Eyes Have It :-)

We're all taking the day off today, mostly because I've had meetings all day, starting early. So not really enough time to play around with the dogs in the park. But, at least I worked from home, so the dogs got to go in and out as they wanted.

So, I'm going to post a couple of pictures instead - fun shots :-)   The top shot is Gata, the bottom one is Tor :-)   It gets a little freaky having those eyes staring at me all the time ...  :-)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Week 4, Day 5

So, I wasn't exactly sure what to do with the dogs this morning. Since I don't know what time the guys did the yardwork yesterday I didn't really want the dogs on it in the early morning dew. Maybe tomorrow, but not today. I normally don't work Gata at all the day after a collapse. But since I was taking them both to the park, I decided to try a little bit of work to see how she handled it.

The temp was about 65-degrees, nice and cool, not overly humid. In addition, I put the ice vests on both of them.

I did a couple of short interval sets - 2 sets of 3 throws, each set followed by a break (about 5 minutes) to check out the park, go to the bathroom, etc. After the 2nd set and break, I did a short session of obedience with each of them, Gata first. Obedience lasted about 5 minutes each. I then did 1 more set of 3 throws. Gata handled it fine, but I sensed that she'd had enough at that point and finished for the morning. 

The morning session lasted 36 minutes.

Once I got them back home, I gave them both a recovery meal. Then I finished up a couple chores and got ready for work. Before leaving I gave them both breakfast - raw for Tor, a roller ball with Royal Canin for Gata. She wanted Tor's food! Hmm, I hadn't counted on that potential complication. Hopefully, she'll start to like the Royal Canin more ...  

Crazy dogs :-) 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Week 4, Day 4 - Mild Collapse

I knew that the schedule was going to be a little topsy turvy for the dogs today. I had a new lawncare service coming in and they intended to use Round Up (or something like it) to get some of the weed overgrowth under control. So, I planned to load the dogs up and take them to a park as soon as I got home to avoid any potential exposure. So our morning work out was just a nice long walk with both of them.

The weather has cooled significantly this week and it was a relatively nice cool 72-degrees when we got to the park. It had just gotten dark. I decided to do a typical interval routine in the dark. It would be a little more difficult than usual because Tor has a tendency to lose his ball in the dark. What can I say he get much more excited about running and forgets to listen for the ball (I use Whistler balls and you can also hear them bounce). So, after she finds her own ball, Gata goes and helps find Tor's ball. He usually loses his ball on the first throw of each set. Then he starts to pay attention again.

Anyway, I threw 1 set of 5 for them. Bot did well. We took a break and walked around the park. Both dogs went to the bathroom and we continued with the break period. Started a second set of 5 and Gata collapsed, very mildly, after the 4th throw. She recovered pretty quickly and walked out around the park and back to the car. I watered both dogs and headed home with them.

Gave them a recovery drink meal with egg, oatmeal, corn oil, salmon oil and meat mix. Both dogs seemed fine once we were home.

Gata also started the transition to Royal Canin 4800. Her meal before I left consisted of a chicken leg and 1/3 cup of Royal Canin in a roller ball. She managed to roll it under a piece of furniture while it still had about half of her ration in it. So, though I am trying to minimize mixing raw and kibble in a single meal, I'm glad I gave her a little raw this morning.

My intention is to continue with a recovery meal after their morning workout. I will feed them a small meal before I leave for work. For Gata, that meal will be Royal Canin in a roller ball. I intend to work her up to about 1 cup in the roller ball in the morning and stabilize her on that over the course of a week or so. Once she seems stable on that and her stool is good, I will start to transition her evening meal over to Royal Canin, as well. I expect it will take about 2 weeks. Hopefully, she will make the transition easily and her stool will stay OK. I expect that the amount of stool that she passes will increase but, hopefully, we can avoid any diarrhea or other signs of GI upset.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Week 4, Day 2 - Exercise & More on Nutrition

Program: Walk to park, 3x5, Straight sets; Short throws for Gata on set 3
Total time: 38 minutes,
Status: Both dogs did well. I made sure that they both drank between sets. Walk home was easy but both dogs were clearly tired. I have to figure out a better way to get water to them between sets. It clearly helps them to both cool down and continue working. But I don't want to give too much. Will work on that.

Checked stools today. Both dogs have been stable on 3T corn oil + 1T salmon oil for about 1.5 weeks. The stools are well formed but a little soft. I may try to reduce the amount of corn oil to 2T and see how that goes.

I also listened to a Jean Dodds webinar today. It was quite interesting though probably too broad brush and on too many topics to be particularly helpful. Still, it was interesting that she is very anti-corn oil (and corn, in general) and pro coconut or borage (??) oil. Particularly ironic given that I have made the decision to try to transition Gata to the Royal Canin product.

I'll have to think about this. Of course, I just bought 2.5 gallons of corn oil at Costco yesterday!

Forgot to mention - I have added 400 IU of Vitamin E to their evening meals.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions ...

I've been wrestling with the impossible for the last few weeks - trying to figure out a way to make a raw diet that is the equivalent of the kibble diets to which the vets at Auburn are most accustomed. It has been cross my eyes and rolling them around backwards in my head and sending steam out of my ears and everything else. It has truly seemed impossible. Yesterday, a friend of mine suggesting spending the money to have a telephone consultation with Monica Segal. THANK YOU, MICHELE!

It was perhaps the smartest thing I have done since taking Gata down to the vets at Auburn. I just bought the basic 1 hr telephone consultation, but it was such a relief to have someone to talk to about the entire situation, not just one aspect of it or another. Her perspective was more or less the same as mine - let's figure out a way to help the vets evaluate what is going on with Gata - regardless of what the outcome is in a couple of months.

Aside from the difficulty of trying to formulate a raw diet that is the equivalent of the high performance kibbles that they are accustomed to using, I have been less than certain that if the change in her diet doesn't get rid of her collapses that we would ever be able to move on from the potential complications of a raw diet. Monica felt the same way, although not as much about creating an equivalent diet.

She strongly encouraged me to at least try to get Gata onto one of the raw diets that they routinely use. If I can't get her transitioned over without issue, then we will try to create a raw diet that is more or less equivalent to those diets.

Then the next question is, what about Tor? Since he looks absolutely fabulous with the addition of some carbohydrates and fat to his diet, I am going to leave him on raw. We'll see how both dogs do and they will, to a certain extent, serve as a basis of comparison. I don't really like experimenting on my dogs, but I think that this one is for the best.

So, what am I going to feed Gata? Royal Canin 4800 - 32% Protein, 30% Fat. The list of ingredients kind of makes me cringe, but that is almost certainly based on what I have been told to think by the media and lots of other folks, not any scientific studies about the nutritional value of different ingredients to dogs. Potatoes somehow seem healthier than corn, but I'm not sure that is true for dogs ...

I also ordered her 2 books on nutrition. So, I guess I'll be learning about nutrition all over again. All I can say for sure right now is that I no longer believe in balance over time, unless I define "over time" as being determined by the individual dog's energy and metabolic needs. And, I don't think very many of us can determine what that is. So, even if we go back to raw in the future (assuming that a change to a complete, balanced kibble fixes Gata) my approach to balance will definitely be very different. It will almost certainly be something very close to daily balance.

Stay tuned ...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Week 3, Day 6 - Negative Reinforcement

Played with the dogs last night and this morning. Did more or less the same thing both times - mini blind work and obedience. Continuing to work on Tor's accuracy in heeling and just having fun with Gata. She's probably crowding my leg a little more than she should, so working on that. We have to deal with that every now and then.

Unfortunately, for Gata, she has gotten into the habit of squeaking at the set up for blinds. Since I don't really like the idea of losing points for stuff like that, if/when she ever trials again, we're working on it. Plus, it is just a really good opportunity for me to try more negative reinforcement. Something I've never used very much but suspect would be good to have more comfort with.

So, I'm working on discouraging her mouth, whenever she decides to use it. I'm sort of fluctuating between 2 different, but similar, responses to noise from her.
1. Tell her "No", put her in a down, step away and let her wait about 30 seconds to a minute before she gets to try again
2. Tell her "No", put her in a down, step away and let her wait while I do a little something with Tor before she gets to try again

Trying to balance the impact on both dogs in this sort of situation. If I give her too many tries using the first approach it becomes pretty punishing for Tor. Alternatively, if I use the second approach it is probably too punishing for her, plus too many of those in a row and Tor starts to get tired. But, I'm not sure that she would understand if I put a number on it, for example, after 3-5 back to back repetitions of #1, then she would have to wait while I worked Tor a little.

This stuff is not easy ...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Week 3, Day 5

Decided to give both dogs a little bit of a break today. Tor seemed raring to go again, but my objective is not to over work them on conditioning work, either. So, we all went for a long walk - 27 minutes. We haven't gone for plain old walks together in awhile, so I took one of the shorter routes to see how long it would take. Will probably take a longer route next time. It was long enough though to get them both walking in a more relaxed, almost flat footed, way by the time we got home.

Tor pulled a good one last night. The bathrooms in this place are pretty small - too small for both dogs to join me. So I have gotten into the habit of having them wait for me outside the bathroom. Tor charged in the bathroom, remembered himself and downed, but still in the bathroom. I told him to back up. So he gave me his most shitty grin and scootched back a little. I smiled at his ingenuity and told him back again. He crawled backwards. I chuckled and told him not far enough and back again. By this time he is doing the military crawl backwards. I told him good boy, probably said goofy boy and laughed at him, which resulted in him jumping forward to come bother me for attention again!

So, he did it all over again. What a goofy dog he is ;-)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Week 3, Day 4

I decided to work the dogs separately today. Gata seemed totally wiped out yesterday and early this morning. And, I think she has been a touch stiff over the last few days, more noticeably yesterday. So, I just gave her a nice long walk this morning. It was sprinkling a little when we got up. But by the time I took the dogs out for their fun, it was just plain old miserably humid. The temp was in the high 60s, but humidity was just shy of rain.

Since I had Tor by himself, poor boy, I decided to test his endurance a little bit more than usual, but consistent with our regular program and our goals.

Program: Walk to park, 1x6, Break then Obedience, 1x4, Break, 1x5 then Obedience
Total time: 48 minutes, though some of that was spent on loose leash walking reminders on the way to the park.
Status: Didn't use an ice vest on him today. I probably should have. It was raining lightly when we started out, but stopped on the way to the park and just seemed to get hotter and more humid as we went. It was kind of funny to watch his reaction to working by himself. On 1 throw of each set, he did a run by past me on the return and checked out the park to see if Gata was joining him from somewhere. At the end of the work out he was TIRED! He seemed fine, though tired, on the way home and seemed to finish recovering well once there. Gave him a nice recovery drink, with an egg in it and he is resting up to get me later :-)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Week 3, Day 3

Decided to mix things up a little more today. We stayed home and worked in the back yard. I did a bit of work on the mini-blinds. Both dogs already know the mini-blinds but I like to reinforce the Figure-8 pattern that I have them run. I do that by just setting up 2 mini blinds and running them, multiple times back and forth, and reward at random places. They are set up far enough apart to allow the dogs to clear the blind, make eye contact with me, and then I send them on to the next blind. They both like these types of games alot and are VERY fast and tight to the blinds.

I know that many people really worry about having their dogs look in every blind. I don't really work on that too much. It's been my experience, and I admit my experience is very limited, that judges are so pleased with fast and tight that they assume the dog looked in. But, I've also found that once the dogs are fast and tight on the blinds that I can get them to look in pretty easily by moving the helper around occasionally.

I like the idea of clipping a ball to the blind and having the dogs snatch it out of each blind before coming to me. But I haven't done it. I'm also not sure that I want to be futzing around in the middle between each blind that much. Partly, that's just because my dogs are pretty ball crazy and I would almost certainly have to stop them to get them to drop the ball between the blinds. And, I just don't like the idea of that.

It was quite interesting - we haven't worked blinds in quite awhile. But we have been doing the Bob Bailey exercise. And though, in some ways, it is the exact opposite of running blinds, it has similar principles and the dogs both ran very fast and for extended rounds right away. Tor made one mistake on entry the first time I sent him to the left. But that was it for both of them. They were both very fast and very sure of themselves - no hesitation at all.

Program: 2 sets of blinds (4 or 5 reps for each dog/set), OB between and after sets
Total time: ?? minutes
Status: Didn't use ice vests today. Interestingly, Gata seemed to have the better endurance of the 2 of them for blind work. I don't know if it was because she gets in the stock tank and lays down (Tor just stands in it), or if it was because I started with her and Tor was already frustrated by the time he got to run, or what, but I'll definitely be keeping an eye on it.

Our obedience work was nothing fancy, just heeling. OK, well sometimes that is pretty fancy with these two ;-)   With Gata I was just working on precision with her left turns a little. With Tor, I have allowed him to start to develop a bad habit that I need to get rid of. If he doesn't see a toy in one of my hands he tries to forge and wrap around my body a little bit. I'm not sure what exactly he thinks he will accomplish with this. But I guess it must have worked once or twice when I carried a toy in my right hand or something. Anyway, it's not very bad ... yet. And I don't want it to get worse. The body position isn't as bad as the head position, the lack of eye contact, and the lack of movement due to the different head position.

A fun morning was had by all. They sure do like running blinds :-)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Week 3, Day 2

It felt cooler to me this morning, but we got to the park a little later than usual. There was someone else walking their dogs on the shady end of the field so we went to the other end, which is in the sun. By the time we finished the first set and some obedience they had left and we moved back to the shady end. But, I think the sun was enough to cost us 1 throw on the first set. And since I am starting to build their obedience session a little, we got 1 less throw on the second set, too.

Program: Walk to park, 2x4, OB between sets - 2 quick sessions for each dog
Total time: 37 minutes
Status: Both dogs tired; Gata continued to heat up a little and showed a little bit of drunken sailor in the park and while on the way home. She also did more rolling in the park, which I interpret to mean that she is trying to cool herself off by rolling in the cool, wet grass. It doesn't help as much when she is wearing her ice vest. Both recovered well and completely once home. Gata recovered quickly enough to convince me to throw a ball for her a few times in the back yard.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Nutrient Guidelines ...

As I'm working to get the vets at Auburn to supply me with some specifics to design the "best" basic diet for Gata, I find that I am at a loss as to what all should be included and at what levels. For the purposes of jump starting the discussion with them, I have decided to use the AAFCO Dog Nutrient Requirements, originally from the Merck Veterinary Manual.

At least, it will give us a starting point. Hopefully, they will be able to point to specific items listed and tell me whether they need to be adjusted for performance dogs. We'll see ...

For those interested, here is a link to the list that I will be sending them:
  AAFCO Dog Nutrient Guidelines

It's quite interesting to note how different their recommendations are just for fat and protein content. I suspect there will be some other significant differences...

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Week 2, Days 4 & 5

Meant to post yesterday, but got too busy.

It has been incredibly hot the last 2 mornings. I check the temp before I go out and gear up me and the dogs, so roughly 5:15 - 5:30. The last 2 mornings the temp at that time has already been 73-degrees F and steamy hot.


Program: Walk to park, 2x5, Straight sets
Total time: 25 minutes
Status: Both dogs tired; Gata continued to heat up a little and showed a little bit of drunken sailor walking on the way home. Both recovered well and completely once home.

Prework: 1 square Pemmikan each, about 40 minutes before we left


Program: Walk to park, 1x7 + 1x3; Straight sets. I wanted to check their endurance a little bit given the heat. It seems improved, but too early to tell. Need more data. Need to take the time to add more sets, documenting recovery and number of reps in each to full evaluate. Will continue this sort of testing of sprint endurance.
Total time: 35 minutes (significant portion spent on loose leash walking on way to park)
Status: Gata tired before Tor today, but not bad; But both dogs clearly tired by the time we got out of the park. Walk home uneventful. Both dogs completed recovery uneventfully once there.

Prework: 1 square Pemmikan each, about 40 minutes before we left

Evening: Obedience work with both dogs.
Gata: 2 sets alternating between heeling and transport. 1 set of the Bailey exercise - totally gets it but would really rather be practicing send outs. Silly girl :

Tor: 2 sets working on intensity without the toy in my hand - had it (frisbee) tucked into the back of my jeans. 1 set of the Bailey exercise - he totally gets it, too.

Thanks goodness I got home early enough tonight to work the dogs again. They are feeling so good these days, that not working them again in the evening is just asking to be annoyed.

Have to say, Tor is looking amazing. I really need to get some good pictures of him. He finally looks like an adult male. And besides the new shine to his coat, it has also grown in very thick. I stripped his coat too much before I realized it. Since his coat is so much shorter than Gata's it is growing back in a little faster. And, I also stripped him down before Gata. But, to be honest, I didn't actually realize what I was doing until I started stripping Gata's coat and it became more obvious. I'm still glad I stripped Gata's coat. I think it has helped to cool her a little in the heat and humidity out here, but it's definitely not pretty!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Week 2, Day 3

OK, it was kind of a crazy weekend - work bled over into my personal time (imagine that!) and it was bloody, damn HOT! So the dogs got a bit of a modified schedule. Rather than doing much conditioning work, we worked primarily on agility types of activities and exercises that required them to use their minds as well as their considerable physical abilities. Good lord, are they feeling good!

It's definitely still to early to draw any conclusions, especially since I didn't do any sort of conditioning work with them in the heat this weekend. But, I am absolutely sure that they are benefiting from the new diet. Whether or not it will eliminate Gata's collapses, I can't really say.

Exercises/Activities we worked on over the weekend:
1. Bob Bailey exercise - Both dogs have it, poles are about 5-feet apart now. Both dogs work for a ball ...
2. Broad jump - working on form and distance for both, also working on going straight to a target upon completion.
3. High jump - OK, Tor has totally freaked me out on this. Freaky boy can jump 1-meter from a stand still! What have I gotten myself into?? But, he still occasionally has trouble when adding movement or a dumbbell into the equation. So, helping him with his form under those circumstances by putting a smaller jump just on either side of the high bar.

Diet Update:
1. Moved up to 3T of Corn Oil per day per dog
2. Recovery drink is 1 scoop Revive + 1 cup Sugar in 1 liter of water. Each dog gets 200 ml mixed with other goodies (meat, egg, oatmeal, pemmikan, corn oil, etc.) after exercise. They usually get this in the morning, since it has been so hot in the evenings. They both clean their bowls with this. It took them a day or two to get used to it, especially when I started adding Sugar to the mix, but it is a big hit. They wait for me with great anticipation. This may sound normal, but it's not unheard of for either of these two to prefer a ball to a meal.
3. Still waiting to get the recommendations from Auburn regarding dietary ingredients. I am starting to compile a list using other references, just in case. It may be easier to get Jay to respond to my list than to provide one of his own or from Dr. Gillette's documents.
4. Overall, the dogs are looking GREAT and acting like they feel GREAT, too. Tor's coat is developing more shine than I have previously seen on it. His coat is quite coarse, so I just thought it was the texture. I was wrong. Gata's coat still looks a little rough from me stripping it too much. But her eyes and personality are even brighter than usual. I can't really explain it, but I feel their energy level and overall vitality increasing.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Feeling Better??

OK, I don't know anything for sure yet, but I am inclined to think that both dogs are showing evidence of more energy, faster recoveries, and I'm pretty sure that Tor's coat is showing more gloss.  Plus, when we went out training last night our helper said that he thought Gata was stronger.

It's hard to draw any real conclusions. I am able to condition her this summer, which I wasn't able to do last summer. It's been hot, but not nearly as hot, and not for days on end. By the time we moved out to Poolesville, she had lost quite a bit of conditioning. And between her collapses, the weather, and my lungs, it was pretty much the holidays before she started getting any sort of consistent work. Then we were doing the biking and all of that, until she wiped me out.

But, I certainly feels like they are stronger. I definitely notice that they really want to work at night when I get home. Previously, if I gave them a solid work out in the morning before work, they would be pretty relaxed when I got home in the evening. But that's definitely not the case now. And I think Tor's coat has more shine to it as well. It's harder to tell with Gata - she's always had plenty of shine and she is getting more charbonne with age.

Jay is supposed to get back to me on Monday with their desired nutrition numbers. Hopefully, he will. In the meantime, I printed out bunches of stuff to read and got a new book from Amazon today. Everything is about conditioning and nutrition for the performance canine. So, I guess I have plenty to keep me busy :-)   Hopefully, in a few more weeks, I'll be able to say without any uncertainty that the dogs are stronger and fitter and that there have been no more collapses or evidence of them.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Week 1, Day 6

Morning workout: 5:45 am
Program: Walk to park, 1x5, BwOB - Finishes (G), Fronts (T), 1x3 (G), 1x4 (T)
Total time: 33 minutes (significant portion spent on loose leash walking on way to park)
Status: Gata tired before Tor today, but not bad; Walk home uneventful

Prework: 1 square Pemmikan each, about 40 minutes before we left
Recovery Meal: Revive + 1/2 c sugar (200 mls each) + 1 T corn oil + 1/3# meat mix + 1/3 cup oatmeal +1 egg given within 30 minutes of end of exercise

Breakfast: Knuckle bone when I left for work, about 30 - 45 minutes later

Temp in the low 70s, high humidity, heavy fog. Dogs recovered well and looked good.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Week 1, Day 5

No conditioning program work today. I have to figure out if/how I am going to bike with them again. But I don't want to do too many days of sprint endurance type of conditioning in a row.

So today is a fun day. Various training activities will include:
1. More work on the exercise from the Bob Bailey seminar
2. More work on proprioception
3. Work on retrieves and hold
4. Basic positions - Tor seems to have forgotten how to hold a position for more than a minute except in very specific scenarios. So, I need to go back to that.

Normal feeding schedule (no recovery meals):
Breakfast: meat mix + equal amount oatmeal +1 T corn oil + RMB
Dinner: meat mix + equal amount oatmeal + 1 T corn oil +1 T salmon oil + Genesis + Kelp

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Not a UTI

Last post for the day. Got the lab results from the latest urinalysis. The lab found no evidence of bacteria or crystals - the same as the lab that evaluated her urine samples when we were at Auburn. Still finding RBCs in it, though. Perplexed by this ...

Our regular vet is out this week, so will wait until he gets back next week to discuss further ...

Details of Lab Results

OK, I'm going to summarize some of the lab results from Auburn. I'm not going to list everything or try to upload everything, just point out what aspects of the results pointed us in this direction. As Dr. Gillette said, most of the tests that we ran could be run by any vet. So, I'll try to go through the lab results according to the basic technology.

ECG - Looked good at all time points

Urinalysis - Was not too unusual:
1. Specific gravity a bit high throughout
2. Red blood cells observed in all her urine samples
Explanation - probable urinary tract infection

CBC and Differential - Mostly normal:
1. Neutrophils dominate the diferential WBC count
2. MCHC (mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration) was low in a few samples
Simple observations, not sure that they mean anything

SuperChem -
1. Triglycerides - consistently low
2. Na+ and K+ - occasionally low
3. Mg2+ and P - occasionally low

Special Blood Tests - Done specifically to rule out possibilities that would change everything:
1. Thyroid - Normal
2. Insulin - Consistently low; Gillette has observed this in performance dogs pretty regularly
3. Cortisol - Consistently low; Gillette has observed this in performance dogs pretty regularly
4. Estrogen - Normal for a spayed female
5. Progesterone - Normal for a spayed female
6. Testosterone - Normal for a spayed female
7. Creatine Phosphokinase - Normal

Blood Gases - Lots of anomalies here (collected venous blood and blood gases)
1. pH - consistently low (less than 2 SDx low)
2. Lactate - very low at rest, increased 10X in 10 minutes with work to be very high
3. HCO3- - consistently low
4. pCO2 - consistently low                

As Drs. Gillette and Barrett hypothesized, we were able to measure metabolic anomalies without collapsing Gata. In fact, we were pretty sure we would see things as soon as we ran the first blood gas reading after the initial resting blood draw.

I'm not trying to interpret these beyond what Drs. Gillette and Barrett explained to me during our phone call. They will not be providing a written report or anything like that, so I don't really expect to get additional information on any individual readings. There are certainly more than 1 possible explanation of these anomalies, taken individually or together. However, we will start with changing her diet, the easiest potential issue to address, before we go any farther.

Update from Auburn

Well, I had a very long call with Drs. Gillette and Barrett this morning. They believe that there may be 2 things going on, 1 easy to address and the other not so easy.

1. Potential urinary tract infection - I'll take Gata in for a cystocentesis tomorrow to get a sterile urine draw. Hopefully, that will be the explanation for red blood cells in her urine. I've been losing some sleep over this one since they did not identify any bacteria or crystals in the free catch samples that I provided for them down there. And the RBCs were consistently seen in every sample.

2. Explanation for collapses - There is no doubt that Gata is showing a variety of strange metabolic responses, as soon as she actually sees that it is time for work. She definitely displays an anticipatory phase. But even at rest her basic metabolic profile suggests that she is under stress without doing anything. What we can't tell from the results is the role of her diet (raw) versus her basic physiological metabolic capabilities. Dr. Gillette has shown in lots of his research that performance dogs require a higher percentage of fat and carbohydrate in their diet. He wants about 27 - 30% of the calories in her diet coming from protein, 23 - 27% from fat, and the rest from carbohydrates. 

I could switch her over to one of the kibbles he has lots of experience with, but we're all concerned about whether her system would be able to make the switch since she's been on raw all her life. I've given her kibble intermittently as treats, etc. over her life. She likes it well enough, but it does tend to give her loose stools/diarrhea. So, luckily enough, one of the folks that I am training with out here has a raw dog food company. He will make up a special batch of food for her, if I work with their veterinarian on staff to put together the recipe. First, I have to make sure I understand everything that Gillette and Barrett want in it. They are supposed to be sending some info on exactly what they want in the diet - everything - vitamins, minerals, all of it. I'm not leaving anything to chance this time.

I think I am headed for a crash course in canine nutrition. My head is spinning.

Anyway, once I get her stabilized on the new diet, we'll see what happens to her heat and exercise tolerance. If it increases significantly, we'll know we got to the heart of the problem. If it doesn't then we'll see about figuring out what is going on with her physiology/biochemistry.

We're expecting that it will take about 12 weeks to get to that point. It seems like a long time, but it will fly by. I've been increasing the fat in their diet since I got home from there. I'll start adding in some carbs in the form of cooked oatmeal or rice in the next couple of days. Now, I just have to figure out all the balance of everything else. Hopefully, by the time the new raw diet is ready they'll already be on a higher fat and carbohydrate diet and will make the transition easily.

In addition, they also want me to maintain and potentially even push her conditioning program a little so that I will be able to clearly identify a change. The 45 minute mark is a big deal to them. And they are interested in what happens around that time point even if I am just walking her for the first 10 - 15 minutes. In all honesty, I don't think that it will be a problem to determine whether or not the dietary change is working. Even if her physiological response doesn't occur during the summer season this year, it's easy enough to observe in the fall and will be clear again no later than next spring. She and Tor will probably end up being some of the best conditioned Belgians out there. As long as they don't keep wiping me out on the bike ...

An additional aspect of the conditioning is to help push her body to "learn" to utilize fat and carbohydrates as an energy source. Since she has gotten less than optimal amounts of fat and carbohydrate, we're not entirely sure that her physiology can utilize them. That's sort of the second part of the hypothesis, but first we have to rule out diet. So, I'll transition her diet relatively slowly, maintaining her exercise program as much as I can without risking collapses. After she is fully transitioned onto the new diet, we'll get more serious about tracking her exercise capacity.

Again, my experience with Drs. Gillette and Barrett was incredible. I know it is very hard to do this sort of stuff over the phone but they managed quite well. I hope that they remember to send me the information and presentations that we talked about. That would definitely help. I have no confidence in my ability to create a well balanced raw diet, even with the help of my friends. I feel like everything I've read and learned to get comfortable with putting her on a raw diet is now in question. 

So, for now, no clear cut answer. But we know that it is metabolic and are going to set about determining what the cause of it is. If it is the diet, it will be a relatively quick and easy fix. Though it will have been a very painful lesson and I will likely feel guilty about it for a very long time. But I'll have my crazy girl back to full speed soon :-)  If it's not the diet, there's really no guarantee that we will be able to get to the cause of it. We would probably try a few things but there are lots of possibilities, not all easily tested for. Either way, Gata and Tor will probably end up being some of the best fed and conditioned dogs around :-) 

Week 1, Day 4

Morning workout: 5:15 am
Program: Walk to park, 2 sets of 4, with break between
Total time: 25 minutes (significant portion spent on loose leash walking on way to park)
Status: Trotted back on final throw of 1st set; Tired, but not bad, did not lay down; Initially seemed fresh as we made our circuit of the park but Gata seemed to continue heating up as we left the park and did a little lagging and drunken sailor walking on the way home. Was she continuing to heat up? Should probably start documenting temp again ...

Recovery Meal: Revive + 1/2 c sugar (200 mls each) + 1 T corn oil + 1/3# meat mix + 1/3 cup oatmeal +1 egg given within 30 minutes of end of exercise

Breakfast: RMB + 1 Pemmikan square when I left for work

Temp in the low 70s, high humidity. Dogs recovered well and looked good.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Week 1, Day 3

Morning workout:

Program: Walk to park, 1 set of 5, break, OB (2-3 minutes each), 1 set of 3
Total time: 32 minutes (significant portion spent on loose leash walking on way to park)
Status: Trotted back on final throw; Tired, both dogs laid down following completion, but no signs of collapse or drunken sailor walking; Gata lagged slightly on the walk home.

Recovery drink: Revive + 1/2 c sugar (200 mls each) + 1 T corn oil + 1/3# meat mix + 1/3 cup oatmeal +1 egg given within 30 minutes of end of exercise

Temp in the high 60s to low 70s, humidity moderate to high. Dogs recovered well and looked good.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Purpose of Pedigree Analysis

In a previous post I basically uploaded some information that I had provided to our vets at Auburn before we went down. This document included a brief pedigree analysis with respect to Gata's pedigree and the health issues in Belgian Shepherds. I made a statement in that analysis about a specific dog that should not have been made public. And, I find myself in the position of having to explain.

First off, I should explain that I am a bit of an information jockey and will spend hours finding answers to obscure questions and developing studies to address those questions. I get paid for this. But that characteristic carries over into many of my hobbies as well.

I personally know Gata's sire, dam, and her dam. All are wonderfully vibrant, healthy dogs that I absolutely adore. I consider them to be the epitome of what I want in a Belgian - beautiful, active, athletic, intense, handler-focused. And I decided that I wanted a puppy from that lineage.

As my journey in Belgians continued, I became interested in pedigree analysis. First, there was very little information about Gata's ancestors since both her granddam and her sire were imported. Secondly, I just find it interesting. And, of course, while researching pedigrees you may also find health information along the way.

While pursuing that hobby, I began accruing information on Gata's direct ancestors and dogs descended from or related to them. Since there is not an abundance of information available, I simply gathered what I could when I found it. It was not something that I was particularly concerned with at the time. Gata is, and always has been, the very picture of a healthy dog. Though she had collapsed twice the summer after she turned 1, I was able to avoid further collapses by modifying our work sessions. I just considered her to be a dog with limited endurance due to the intensity of her work. After all, some of us are sprinters and some of us are endurance runners, why should it be different in dogs??

Following our move to Maryland, that all changed. I simply could not avoid the collapses or symptoms leading up to them given the very different environmental conditions out here. At that time I became quite serious about figuring out what was going on with Gata. As you can tell from reading this blog, I have spent a great deal of time, effort and money on this.

While preparing for the trip to Auburn, I wrote a document to provide a relatively thorough review of Gata's history, not as the final word on that topic, but as a starting off point. Included within that document was a very short segment on her pedigree. I called a particular dog a "red flag dog" because in my analysis I had found descendants of that dog or it's full siblings that were documented as having many of the health issues of concern in Belgian Shepherds.

For my purposes, all I was interested in was whether I needed to draw attention to any of those health concerns, particularly Epilepsy since it is being considered by the folks at U of MN as a potential cause of a collapse syndrome similar to what Gata shows. I do not know, nor can I, if that dog has a higher incidence of these concerns in its descendants than other Belgian Shepherds since, for the most part, that information is hidden away. However, the breeders involved in this particular line of dogs have elected not to hide that information, for which I commend them.

However, that does not mean that I should have published the name of any dogs, other than my own, on my blog and I will not do so in the future. I have humbly offered my sincere apologies to those involved and am writing this post as a means of explaining to anyone that may have read the original post and been in any way alarmed or offended at my mention of that particular dog.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Back to Basics ...

I've had the call with Drs. Gillette and Barrett. I'll post a more detailed write up on that later. Until I get a little more information from them on exactly what they want in a diet for a performance dog I'm making a few modifications on my own. Once I get that information, I'll have a special diet made up for my dogs and the final transition will be completed. For now, I am working on adding more fat and more carbs to their diet and continuing on with our normal conditioning program.

And since I want to be able to report back to them in a few weeks on Gata's progress, I am going to start tracking it again, with a few additional bits of information.

Program: Walk to park, 1 set of 6
Total time: 15 minutes
Status: Completed all 6 at a run; Tired, both dogs laid down following completion, but no signs of collapse or drunken sailor walking; no lagging or any other symptoms on the walk home.

Recovery drink: Revive (200 mls each) + 1 sq. Pemmikan + 1 T Corn Oil + 1/3# meat mix + 1/3 cup Oatmeal given within 30 minutes of end of exercise

Slept in a little and got a little bit of a late start; temp already in the mid 70s, humidity moderate to high, so decided to take it a little easy and just stretch 1 set to see what we could get. Plus, it's Saturday and though we will miss club to get a cystocentesis on Gata, we might still do other things :-)  Tor had a little bit of the runs this morning, probably from the sedation yesterday for his OFAs. So, all in all, I think 1 set of 6 was pretty good.

Dogs looked good.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Nutrition - Current Thoughts on Raw

I'm feeling pretty bad about my decision to feed raw these days. I'm not feeling bad because I think it was a bad decision, but because I dropped the ball. I learned the basics and then stopped worrying about it. When I made the decision to keep Gata on raw it was my responsibility to keep up on the research, to take control. I got lazy. I don't know that I caused her collapses as a result of my laziness but I certainly contributed to them.

There is a perception out there that raw is easy, anybody can do it. You just mix a bit of this and a bit of that together and over time balance is achieved. Now maybe it is that easy for the average pet dog. But Gata is not the average pet dog and I don't train and condition her like the average pet dog. Her life is more like that of a high performance athlete in various stages of preparation for competition. Unfortunately, that's not how I was feeding her.

Now to be fair, it's not like Gata doesn't look to be in perfect health. Until Auburn, no vet had even considered the possibility that she wasn't getting adequate nutrition. Her coat looks splendid - rich, intense color and good shine, her eyes are bright, her toenails are healthy and grow fast. She certainly has not been sick very often. But we've had this issue with collapses since the summer after she turned 1.

Dr. Gillette focused in on the diet pretty early on. Not in an anti-raw way but in a very focused way - are you supplementing her with anything? Is she getting fat from anything else? We talked about the types of meat, the specific cuts of meat, the different fat contents of each, the types of oils that I have been giving her, etc.  Based on our discussion, she has probably been fat deprived since she was weaned. Wow ...   That's not good.

OK, but what exactly does that mean? That was my goal when I left there and is what I am reading up on in my spare time I was pretty motivated after the discussions with Dr. Gillette. I became even more motivated when I got the results of her blood work and urinalysis and saw that her triglycerides are consistently low. She has no fat stores available to her to fuel her incredibly big motor ...  So I guess she really has been running on pure heart and desire. What an incredible dog to do everything she has without the proper nutrition.

I think I'll go beat my head against a wall a few more times before I get back to my reading. I will be taking my responsibility more seriously in the future. I probably won't take her off raw, she's been on it her whole life, but I will supplement it with other things. Hopefully, it will help. I'm not sure that I would put another dog on raw in the future. The big question is what to do about Tor; leave him on raw with the same modifications as Gata or ???

History Sent to Auburn

I am trying to consolidate as much of the information about Gata's collapses in one place so that when I decide to publicize what is going on people can get as much information as possible from a single location. Plus, it may be useful for me in the future. This is a modified version of the history document that I sent to Dr. Gillette and Dr. Barrett at Auburn before going down. I modified it to reflect a couple of details that they inquired about. However, I did not update it to include all the other topics of conversation that we had regarding her family members, metabolic pathways, discussions on diet, etc.


GATA BASICS: Gata is a 5 y.o. spayed female Belgian Tervuren. She has competed successfully in a number of sports (RA, CD, SchH3) and is not a dog that would be happy to retire. Her history is mostly unremarkable aside from a few things. I'm listing everything I can think of here, in case it might help.

She has lived most of her life in the San Francisco bay area until 1 year ago when we moved to Maryland. During the time we lived in California she came almost everywhere with me and stayed in her crate in the car. The weather is very moderate out there and she seemed to tolerate it well. Her vaccinations and preventative care has followed the norms for this part of the country - vaccinations every 3 years following the booster at 1 year, heart worm preventative over the summer. Her puppy vaccines consisted of the 2 in 1 vaccine (distemper and parvo) at approximately 7 and 11 weeks; and the 4 in 1 vaccine after that. Her first rabies vaccine was given at approximately 4 months and the next about a year later. She has not had any reactions to vaccines.

She does, however, show a classic allergic reaction to various different bee/spider/bug stings. I don’t know exactly what stung her each time, but she has had 3 clear incidents. All responded well to a couple of doses of anti-histamine, but the last incident was quite noticeably worse than the previous two. I don’t know if that was because of what stung her or if her allergy is getting worse.

DIET: Gata is on a raw diet - predominantly prey model. However, since moving to MD I have found that it is easier to buy a commercial product than making it myself. So she now gets some veggies in her food. In addition, she gets the following daily supplements:
    Salmon oil
    Genesis - by 10-Squared Racing
    Green Kelp - by 10-Squared Racing
    Revive - 10-Squared Racing (not daily, but as a recovery drink following intense exercise away from home)

TICK EXPOSURE: At approximately 9 months of age I picked her up from an approximately 3 week boarding situation and found an engorged tick behind one ear.

HEAT EXPOSURE: At approximately 1 year of age, I had left the car only slightly vented due to rain. The rain stopped and the sun came out. I came at about 11:00 to take her for some exercise and found that she was quite hot in the car. I got her out and cooled her off. I don't know if this could be the start/cause of her "heat-related collapses" for lack of a better term. Another dog in the car at the time, a young female Cavalier King Charles, was unaffected. She was about 2 months older than Gata.

FIRST 2 COLLAPSES: At approximately 15 months of age she had her only 2 full collapses in California. Both took place during the summer, within a few weeks of each other, during our lunch break exercise/training session. Both instances followed very similar patterns.
    *  Sunny and warm; temp ≤ 85-degrees F
    *  Exercise consisted of 10-20 minutes of obedience training with ball reward, thrown using a Chuck It.
     * Collapse occurred while walking her out after exercise
     * Collapses were a multi-stage process with a pattern like – collapse, get up try to walk, collapse again, repeat
     * Recovery also became a familiar pattern – shade, wet her down as much as possible given the location, complete within 25 minutes.
     * After the 2nd incident, I changed several things. I became far more watchful and instituted a rule of thumb that once she trotted back to me with the ball, she was done. That served us well in California as I never had another full collapse out there.
     * Discussed it with her breeder. She suggested that it might be Exercise-Induced Collapse or something like that.

INJURY: At approximately 2 years of age she had a significant injury during Schutzhund training. It occurred on one of her first real long bites. She is a very fast dog and was unable to hold her grip on the sleeve. She slipped off the sleeve and landed in a position that looked very much like a frog about to jump - her back was hyper-extended and both back legs were tightly flexed.
   * As I took her from the field both back legs seemed affected, and her tail was down
   * Vets exam revealed that she had strained both iliopsoas (right worse than left) and potentially injured her back
   * Identified the TL junction as an area of potential injury
   * She was given time off and restricted activity but not forced crate rest
   * Tail remained down for about 2 weeks
   * Returned to training in about 6 months with intermittent time off after that as symptoms warranted.

SPAY: At approximately 3 years of age I had her spayed.
               * She cycled at about 4.5 month intervals
               * Seemed to go into a false pregnancy with every cycle

Since my goal is simply to have a great pet and a dog to compete with, the breeding potential was not as important to me. And the impact of the false pregnancies on her energy level and training was quite significant. I was also concerned that the false pregnancies put her at an increased risk for pyometra.

SEIZURE: At approximately 3.5 years of age, she had something that looked very much like a seizure. I believe that she was exposed to something through her pads when I had her out tracking earlier that day. We had stopped at one of our favorite tracking locations and I had her out with me while I was walking around to check it out. I smelled something heavy in the air so decided not to track there. To me it had the smell of something like Round Up but there were no signs or anything posted.
   * It was a very muddy day
   * I remember essentially breaking off "mud boots" from all 4 feet and washing them when we got home.
  *  Approximately 4 hours later, while she was sleeping, she appeared to have a seizure. It involved her whole body but seemed to start with her back end. She woke herself up with the movement and the seizure stopped shortly after she woke.

To be totally honest, I was not entirely sure whether it was a VERY active dream or a seizure at the time. I believed it was a seizure but could not be absolutely sure.

Though Belgians are known for epilepsy, there are no animals that I can identify in her pedigree that are known epileptic dogs. However, I should also note that Belgians are also known for false pedigrees. I believe that the pedigree of Gata's dam is correct. I also believe that the pedigree of her sire is incorrect. So, any pedigree analysis should be taken with a grain of salt.

Potentially related to the topic of seizures/epilepsy: Gata has incidents of very active “dreams”. I’ve seen about 8-10 of these “dreams”. This is a relatively recent phenomenon – something that I have only seen since we moved to Maryland. I put dreams in quotes because she isn’t always asleep, though she is always resting. It seems like they occur on the same day or within a couple of days of a particularly demanding training/conditioning session. These pretty much always look the same – She’s curled up resting after work and may be asleep. Her back legs become quite active and may remain active for a very short period of time even after she wakes up. I have seen her wake up and turn to look at her legs, as if wondering what was going on. I have even seen one which happened while she was clearly not asleep. The best way I can characterize them is to say that they look like a female dog having an orgasm.

OTHER HEALTH PROBLEMS IN BELGIANS: Belgians are generally a healthy breed. But there are a few health issues that are more common in the breed. Since Gata is a mix of Malinois, Tervueren, and Groenendael bloodlines I will not try to give specific prevalence numbers for these conditions, but will bracket them as Higher Prevalence/Concern and Lower Prevalence/Concern.

Higher Prevalence/Concern Health Issues:
          Stomach Cancer
          Autoimmune Thyroiditis

Lower Prevalence/Concern Health Issues
         Hip/Elbow Dysplasia
         PRA and/or Cataracts
         Autoimmune Disorders

MOVE: We arrived in Maryland mid-July of 2011. The area was in the midst of a significant heat wave with heat indexes in excess of 100-degrees F for the next 6 weeks. Gata had very little exercise during that period, walks, with limited training activities inside.

RETURN OF COLLAPSES: Late August we moved into a house in Poolesville. I started trying to exercise her in the early mornings before work, during the coolest part of the day.
  *  The collapses were nearly unavoidable;
   * Stopping when she trotted back to me was not soon enough - she would progress to full collapse.
   * I started to recognize other symptoms that I now consider to be part of the collapse process - mainly the "drunken sailor walk". I realize now that although I was able to avoid additional full collapses in California, that I had seen the "drunken sailor walk" on numerous occasions following exercise  out there.
   * It seemed that every incident of collapse, whether it progressed to full collapse or was terminated in the "drunken sailor walk" stage, made another incident more likely.
   * I have a hard time describing what I am seeing/feeling but I am now able to detect a change in her movement as she returns to me so that I can stop her even earlier. This has improved my ability to prevent full collapses but she still progresses to the "drunken sailor" stage far too often
   * I have identified an earlier stage a couple of times. It is unique in that she will lag behind me after exercise, sometimes severely. She may exhibit intermittent “drunken sailor walking” but it is not consistent. Gata is not a dog that lags behind me, ever. I believe that this is the earliest stage that I have been able to interrupt her collapses.

    Total number of full collapses probably 6-8, including the one in the video
    Total number of drunken sailor walking: too many to remember them all, at least 20, probably ess than 100
    Lowest temperature: last fall, time approximately 6:00 am, temperature 54-degrees F
    Body temperature during work rises to at least 106.5, but does not appear to be correlated with collapse
    Collapses have occurred following ball play, obedience, and bite work - all high intensity activities for Gata
    Collapses have never occurred following walks, trotting beside the bike (though limited evidence here - newer activity), tracking, or hiking
    Collapses appear to be environmental temperature related, though it does not have to be very hot. If it has been hot they can occur at relatively cooler temperatures. If it has been cool they can occur at relatively lower temperatures that are higher than what it has been (as in the video).
    Full sun seems to make them more likely, but they can occur at dusk or dawn as well.
    Collapses do not occur when it is raining, though they can occur after it has rained
    Recovery occurs relatively rapidly, within 25 minutes, significantly less if I can get her into water
    Recovery appears to be full - though I do not work her at all for several days following a full collapse or an appearance of drunken sailor walking. And, I suspect, that the more often it happens the more often it will happen, which suggests something other than a "full recovery".

THINGS WE HAVE TESTED: (See accompanying lab work)
    Tick-borne diseases - initially had a false positive for Ehrlichia canis on a SNAP test, but we performed the ELISA and determined that it was a FALSE positive.
    Glucose levels
    Electrolyte levels
    Full CBC and chemistry panel
    Thyroid - Full panel
    Heart - before and after exercise, but she has not worn a Holter monitor during a collapse
    EIC - By U of MN - Negative
    Full set of spinal x-rays (also attached)
    Phenobarbital levels - We put Gata on Phenobarbital to see if it might help prevent collapses, as reported for some dogs with EIC, and as a precaution given the possible seizure I observed and prevalence of epilepsy in Belgians. The collapse that was videotaped was while she was on Phenobarbital. We have since taken her off of Phenobarbital, partly in case you wanted to do an EEG.

THINGS WE HAVE DISCUSSED TESTING: (In order of our priority/resource availability)
    Muscle biopsy before and after collapse, additional other time points (??)
    Creatine and creatine phosphokinase before and after a collapse, additional other time points (??)
    Holter monitor during exercise leading to collapse
    EEG to rule out seizures/epilepsy due to one of the current hypotheses being tested in the U of MN Border Collie Collapse project
    MRI - to ensure that there are no spinal issues not visible by x-ray

But none of these are tests that are easily (or reliably) performed by the typical, small animal, vet practice