Category Archives: Health

Georgie One-Foot

If you’re wondering whether George has joined a Native American tribe and taken on one of those cool names that only they can come up with, the answer is: No, he hasn’t. He’s been named “Georgie One-Foot” by his dad due to an unexpected, unfortunate and rather worrying development that took place about a week ago and we’re still dealing with at present.

What happened was that George came back from one of his morning walks looking moody. His dad, who wasn’t a happy bunny himself, said that all George wanted to do was to stand in one place, sniffing everything for ages. This is atypical for our whippet, who is normally a fast, on-the-go sniffer. After about half an hour of standing, he got told off and brought back home. Hence the moody face…

Two hours later, when George leaped off his dad’s chair (after his mid-morning snooze), he started limping. We rushed to check his leg out, as a potential injury on his long legs is a constant obsession for us. Luckily, the leg and joints proved to be all right, so we turned out attention to his pad. At a quick inspection, we couldn’t see anything, but we knew there had to be something wrong, because George didn’t want us to touch it, which was odd from a dog who loves his handshakes and doesn’t mind being handled.

A quick walk in the shower, followed by another inspection, revealed a sizeable, open, weeping wound on the side of one of his toes, in the worst location possible: between the two middle toes, where most of the pressure is applied during walking. He must have stepped on some glass and managed to scrape off the entire pad. Just great!

This discovery led to a complete change in George’s daily routine: short pavement walks once a day, no play time with his friends, no rough playing in the house, foot washes in salty water, a lot of antiseptic cream and foot bandages to stop him from licking the medicine or biting his toes. Luckily, all these seem to have worked so far and the wound is healing nicely, although it’s still got a way to go. We think it might take another week until he’ll be back to normal, but we’re making progress every day and we managed to avoid going to the vet. Not that we hate the guy or anything like that, but we didn’t fancy seeing George walk around with one of those big plastic cones attached to his neck. I don’t think he would have fancied that, either.

I won’t post a photo of the injury – yes, I have taken some! – because it wouldn’t be very pleasant to look at and might upset those of a more delicate nature. But here are two pictures of George cuddled up against his dad, feeling sorry for himself.

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He looked miserable for most of last week, but has picked up a bit lately as his pad stopped hurting and he was able to hop/move about more. Hopefully, he’ll be back to his old cheeky self soon!

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Worming Day Has Come and Gone

There are a few days in the year that I really DO NOT look forward to, and George’s worming day is one of them. To be fair, George doesn’t like it either. In fact, he hates it,  which is probably what makes me so uncomfortable with it.

I am a bit ambivalent about the whole worming theory anyway. I know people who only worm their dogs when and if it is necessary, i.e. when and if the dogs have actually got worms. I admit I can see some logic in it. We don’t treat our kids or ourselves for all sorts of conditions before we’re actually confronted with them – you know, just in case! – so why should we do that to our pets?

I also know people who worm their dogs as much as 4 times a year, as per their vet’s instructions. The justification for this has to do with the incubation and life cycle of various types of worms and the damage that these can cause to the dogs or, potentially, any humans that they may come in contact with. The aim is to provide the dog with all-year-round protection. That makes sense, too.

Having considered both extremes, I find that I sit somewhere in the middle. Although I’m not a big fan of stuffing my dog with chemicals when he can do without them, I’m not comfortable with the idea of no protection at all, either. We live in a city with a large dog population, so George is exposed to whatever the other dogs are carrying. We also live near a nature reserve, so he’s exposed to whatever the wildlife are carrying, too. On top of this, he is a super sniffer/licker…

If we only had George’s health to consider, the above arguments might not have been enough. After all he’s never ever had any worms (or eggs). And believe me, I always check! But we’ve got Brianna to think about, plus her friends and our little nephews. They all love George and like to share cuddles and kisses with him. And we can’t risk infecting them with nasty worms, can we? So we took all these worries to out vet and asked for his advice. 

This is how we came to the solution of worming George twice a year. Two days of hassle are much better than four days of hassle. But I still don’t look forward to them. I’ll tell you why.

At the vet’s and some whippet breeders’ advice, we give George Drontal Plus worming tablets. There have been reports of whippets developing bad reactions to other types of tablets, so we decided to stick to what seems to be the best choice. For his weight, George is supposed to take 1 1/2 tablets. And this is where the stress begins.

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The tablets are flavoured, therefore supposed to appeal to dogs and tickle their taste buds. Apparently, some dogs would do anything to get their paws on one of these. Well, unsurprisingly, my dog disagrees. He dislikes the tablets so much that he tries to hide as soon as he hears me open the packet.

In the early days, we tried to offer George the tablets as a treat, trying not to make much fuss about it. He didn’t eat them. Then we broke them into small pieces and hid them in his food. He didn’t eat that day. Next, we crushed them into a fine powder, which we sprinkled in his food. Again, he went hungry. Knowing how much he loves his liver cake, we tried these steps once more, replacing his food with the liver treats. The result was the same. A hungry dog, two stressed owners and quite a few wasted tablets.

In the end, there was only one thing left to try…Shoving the tablets down his throat! Luckily, it worked, so we’ve stuck with it ever since. It’s still not a very pleasant experience, but it does the trick. Here’s what happens when it’s worming time.

I take the tablets out of the packet and George tries to make himself invisible in his bed. His dad nudges him out and sits him on his chair (same chair you’ve seen in many of our photos). I break up the tablets in two and stick 3 of the 4 halves on the tip of my finger, using a bit of water. Then I approach George and ask him to open his mouth, which he doesn’t want to do. So I gently open his jaws myself and shove the tablets at the back of his mouth, as far as I can reach. My husband closes George’s mouth tightly and holds his head back, stroking his neck until he swallows the tablets. If I’ve managed to push them far enough, they go down straight away and the whole process is finished within seconds. If I miss the target, then George will try to chew and spit them out, which makes it a messier job.

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Either way, the whippet gets his right dose of medicine and my husband and I can relax for another 6 months. When it’s all done, George is rewarded with a few ‘good boy’ liver treats (which he checks carefully first) and then spends the next few hours sulking. 

Normally, he’d make friends with his dad by the end of the day, but would continue to be upset with me – “the tablet person” – for another day or two. Last week, however, when we wormed him again, he put up less of a fight and decided to forgive me within the hour. I’m happy. Maybe my boy is growing up. Maybe he’s slowly accepting that he has to take those tablets. Maybe worming doesn’t have to be such a chore after all.

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Meet Wendy, the Bully Whippet

This is a post I’ve been aiming to write for a while. It has sat as a draft on my computer since I started the blog, and today I felt it was the right time for it to come out. It’s the emotional story of a sweet whippet girl, Wendy, trapped in an oversized, overmuscular body.

Although whippets are generally a very healthy breed, there is one terrible genetic disease that can affect them – and only them – the “Bully Whippet Syndrome”. Although it does not affect their general state of health, this syndrome leaves the very few whippets who are born with it looking unusually big and muscular. Labels such as ‘monsters’, ‘freaks of nature’, ‘mutants’ and even ‘Arnold Schwarzenegger of the canine world” have been eagerly attached to these poor creatures by inconsiderate people who would undoubtedly call nasty names to humans suffering from any kind of physical disability or disfigurement.

But what is the “Bully Whippet Syndrome”? It is a genetic disease manifested by a mutation in the myostatin gene, which causes double-muscling. The myostatin gene regulates muscle mass and affects muscle composition, which can increase racing speed. Whilst possessing one copy of this mutation seems to be an advantage for racing whippets and does not seem to be regarded as a defect, dogs that possess two copies are severely overmuscled, well beyond the limits of normality. This makes them look like the cattle suffering from the same mutation, hence the name of the syndrome. Since I am not a geneticist, I will not plunge into the scientific details of this syndrome, which I don’t fully understand. However, if you are interested in learning more about this double-muscling syndrome – which can also affect humans – you will find an interesting article here.

With this, we’ve come to the end and most exciting part of my post. It’s time to meet Wendy and the woman who saw beyond physical appearance and loves her for who she is inside.  

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The Only Way is BARF

I believe the best way to start this post is by answering one essential question: “What is BARF?”. This is what I typed in the Google search engine when we first got George and were looking for advice on the best things to feed him, so it is the obvious starting point for a discussion about dog nutrition.

First of all, BARF is not a word, but an acronym. It is essential to remember this when you search the term on the Internet, otherwise you may come to the wrong conclusion that I’m urging you to feed your beloved pets “vomited food”. In actual fact, BARF stands for “biologically appropriate raw food” or, in simpler, less fancy words, “bones and raw food”. Hopefully, the vail is now lifted and you get a hint of what this BARF thing is all about: feeding your dog (or cat) a raw diet in accordance with their physical needs, the way nature intended it.

This is the core concept on which the entire BARF diet is based: give dogs raw food instead of the processed alternatives that are commercially available on supermarket and pet shop shelves. Raw food includes – as you’ve most likely guessed – fresh meat (either minced or in chunks), offal, bones (either whole or ground with the meat) and an array of fresh fruit and vegetables. The idea is to feed your dog a healthy diet which will not only tickle their taste buds but will also improve their health, condition their coat, put a sparkle in their eyes and generally increase their alertness and zest for life.

There is extensive evidence on the Internet regarding the benefits of a natural raw diet. There are people who have dedicated a lot of their time to researching this subject, conducting studies and quantifying the benefits that this diet has had on tens of thousands of pets, and the results of their research are easy to find at a click of a button. Here are two of my favourite online resources on the subject: Barf World and the UK Barf Club , both brimming with information that will quickly set you on the right track. If you prefer the smell of fresh print and the feel of a page, then the two books any raw feeder would recommend are Give Your Dog a Bone and The Barf Diet  by Dr. Ian Billinghurst, who is the promoter of the concept and the owner of the ‘Barf diet’ trademark.

Over the next few weeks, my Friday posts will focus on presenting they way in which we have adapted and use the principles of raw feeding to suit our dog’s needs and tastes and, very importantly, to suit our family. I will provide a detailed guide to George’s diet, in the hope that it will help other dog owners decide that this is the right choice for them.

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Herbal Dietary Supplements

George finally got a present today! The first one after Christmas, that is. The postman rang the front door to deliver a small parcel for the dog of the house. Since George is one of those spoilt creatures who LOVE presents, I’m sure you can imagine the excitement with which he ripped open the envelope to reveal the surprise. He was more than delighted to find this:

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As some of you may know, whippets can be fussy eaters and really appreciate fine dining. There is not point presenting a whippet with over-processed food, because he won’t eat it (unless his life depends on it, I guess). Bland food is a no go, too, and George made this clear to us from day one. Therefore, in an attempt to keep him alive and take the best possible care of him, we started what could almost be described as a crash PhD course in canine nutrition. This is how we came to adopt the BARF diet with a good sprinkle of quality herbal supplements for our dog, and how he ended up being a healthy, energetic and shiny boy.

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However useless the above introduction may seem, it is crucial to understanding why George running out of his food supplements a few weeks ago was such a big deal. Being used to yummy food tickling his taste buds, he has missed his “spices” and has been complaining about it ever since. So, yesterday we finally got our act together and ordered some more. We were very pleasantly surprised that they arrived so quickly, but the one bearing the biggest smile of all times was, of course, George:

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Bon appétit, little whippet!

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