Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tuesday Training 11

The Results
Well, the big news this week is that Marge's blood tests have arrived back from Dr. Jean Dodds' Hemopet lab. Because the Postal Service got it there so much later than it should have, the Complete Blood Count (CBC) results were a little bit wonky so I'm not sure how much stock to put in them. A couple of the levels were a bit high. Everything else, however, was normal, according to the report.

This means thyroid issues are pretty much out at this point. One thyroid level was a low normal, (I believe the Free T4) but Dr. Dodds indicated that it could be due to a "concurrent non-thyroidal issue." She clearly stated in her message that there were no signs of thyroid problems.


I have a call in to my vet and I expect to hear back from him tomorrow. I'm really not too worried about something being very medically wrong since the blood was so old when it finally reached the lab. Dr. Dodds did suggest another round of testing next year, so if nothing else changes, it looks like we'll do this yearly.

Next time, I might use UPS or Fed-Ex though!

Food Woes
I don't like getting into food talk here on the blog since feed choices can be a very touchy subject. But, I recently added in Taste of the Wild to Marge's usual Merrick Grammy's Pot Pie Kibble. (I later found out that TOTW is manufactured by Diamond, which bothered me a little, but I decided to give it a shot anyway - I have spoken to LOTS of people who love this food). Though I think Merrick is a fine quality food, it is about middle of the road in terms of meat content, and, given Marge's up-and-coming agility career, I thought her body would benefit from a grain-free, protein-packed boost.

Initially, I loved how she was doing on the food. Her poop hasn't looked this good in a year! Everything else appeared the same. Coat looked good, eyes looked clear, et cetera.

However.. and a big however..

After about a week, I started to notice some behavioral signs that I did not like. Marge was antsy. She was constantly seeking attention and seemed like she could not be satiated with any amount of anything (food, exercise, attention, etc). And, most importantly, there was a resurgence in reactivity. (Some of this I mentioned in my last Tuesday Training post from agility class.)

I didn't immediately make the connection that the food could be causing the problem, but once I did, I pulled her off of it and put her back on her own food.

My hunch is that TOTW is too much protein for Marge. I don't want to get all psych-nerdy here, but apparently high-protein foods flood the body with amino acids, which may dilute the affects of tryptophan, another amino acid. Tryptophan plays a role in the production of serotonin, a feel-good/calming neurotransmitter.

I have read before that fearful/fear-aggressive/aggressive/anxious/etc. dogs do better on low protein diets. Merrick is about 10% lower in protein than Taste of the Wild is, BUT, TOTW is by no means a very high protein food. Am I sure it was the food that did it? No, not at all. Am I comfortable using the food? I'm not sure yet. The search for a new food may very well continue.

Because the fact that she did well (from a digestive point of view) on 3/4 Merrick and 1/4 TOTW, I feel like Merrick is missing something rather than my initial hunch that the fruits and veggies in it were too rich for her. If Merrick was, indeed, too rich, Marge's poop wouldn't have firmed up so noticeably by just adding in a percentage of a new food. So, I think I might do 1/2 Merrick and 1/2 something else - whatever that something else might be. (No, raw is not an option for me right now.)

Helping Out with HTP
On a related note, I've begun researching the supplementation of 5-hydroxytryptophan, which is over-the-counter. 5-HTP is what comes after tryptophan in the metabolism of tryptophan and ultimately becomes serotonin. Studies indicate that 5-HTP can cross the pivotal blood-brain barrier, which is why it is able to produce behavioral effects. It is slightly more risky than my current go-to, Melatonin, but it has been suggested to me so I am taking a look at it.

Our Walks
Walks haven't been had as of late.

We hit one rough spot yesterday, but I think it had more to do with me than it did with Marge. She was getting all antsy, asking for dinner two hours before she was supposed to get it, and I decided to grab a handful of kibble and take her for a walk. Perhaps the fact that I was being bothered by her incessant begging trickled down the leash to her.. she saw a girl get into a car and drive away and that set the stage. She then saw kids playing across the street in the field, and that made things worse. She got all flighty and shut down Of course, this frustrated me, which probably made her more scared. Eventually, we both chilled out enough to walk around the field clicking and treating.

Nobody's perfect, I guess. Human or canine.

Here are a few more pictures from our nice walk in the field a couple of days ago. I use my red 20' leash a lot, and as you can see, Marge really enjoys running around on it. (I just bought a 50' one last night.. should be a lot of fun in the snow!)

Agility class was canceled for tonight due to Marisa's trip to a competition. But, I went to the field anyway for run-thrus.

The course was EXTREMELY challenging, with VERY hard tunnel entries especially. Unfortunately, the camera battery was dead so there are no videos. I tried really hard just now to draw the course in paint, but, ultimately, I failed at it. Ha!

I'll just recap it as best I can:

  • Led out over first jump, second obstacle was the tire. UGH, Marge hates the tire. I've started saying jump to get her to go through it, because I think "tire" makes her think of "tunnel" so she decides to crawl under it.
  • Next was pull to jump- another back- A-Frame. She was a monster over the A-Frame tonight. Completely haphazard. She did hit her contact once I put her back on to it, but never on the first run over it. Has to do with speed, no doubt.
  • After that, it was jump-tunnel-teeter. She had so many problems with the tunnels tonight, and I'm not sure if it was my handling, the fact that the tunnels were super dark and spooky, or a combination of things. She did NOT want to go in them! Of course, once I got her in she went barreling out at full speed to the teeter. The first time she did it she flew off, but in subsequent runs, she actually operated the pivot point beautifully and stayed on until I released her. WOOHOO! Big progress there.
  • Jump-table. Apparently she likes the table because on more than one run, she totally bypassed the completely obvious jump to go straight to the table. Nice downs on the table, too.
  • After that was another tunnel that she gave me a ton of trouble with. She decided on most runs that when I said "tunnel," it was more fun for her to go barreling across the ring and totally ignore the tunnel.
  • Jump-weave. No problems here, for the most part. She flew by the weaves once or twice but after I made her redo it, she was fine.
  • Jump- HARD backcross to tunnel. She wasn't so bad with this tunnel as long as I was right there to get her in it.
  • HARD turn to chute. Poor girlie got caught up in the chute on one run through no fault of her own, but, thankfully, wasn't spooked afterward.
  • HARD turn to jump. This was fine as long as I screamed her name at the top of my lungs after she came out of the chute.

    Not a very forgiving course, I'll tell you that much. You absolutely had to be in the exact right spot to run it clean (at least for a novice dog and a novice handler). She did pull some of her zoomy crap at the end, but I did a few more obstacles with her before we left and she was under control.

    No reactivity tonight whatsoever. I brought her crate, actually, and although she much preferred to be outside of it with me (and begging for cookies from everyone else), I think it definitely cut down on the snark.

    She saw her old friend, Russ the Viszla, who hasn't been at class lately, and that made her super happy.. in the middle of one run she went running over to him to play bow and jump around. Silly girl.

    Over all, it was a lot of fun for a night I wasn't even supposed to be at the field!

    Late Night Rendezvous
    I returned home to find the family friend over who Marge had a bit of a run-in with in September. Fortunately, this time, it went better. They were on their way out as we were coming in, and I simply had him feed her (but NOT ask her to do anything) a few pieces of cookie, and that was that. It was a bit of a relief to see that Marge didn't fly off the handle and go nuts as soon as she saw him in the house (though I know that the biggest problem is when people enter).

    There you have it.. another very long, very technical Tuesday training post!


    NAK and The Residents of The Khottage Now With KhattleDog! October 13, 2009 at 11:05 PM  


    What a full post!

    It sounds like woo have a plan in mind - and I'm sure The V-E-T will help!

    On the issue of food, Mom khonkhurs on the Diamond issue! I used to get Khanidae BUT when they outsourced their produkhtion to Diamond, we looked fur something else (especially when they also changed the furmulation of the ALS I was eating).

    I get Khalifornia Naturals Lamb and Rice - I like it more than my Khanidae. I furst had the Herring and Sweet Potato but my breath was bit yakhky fur Mom!

    Tank woo fur sharing all woo did - I only wish I khould have some of the training fun!

    BUT I'm a Siberian!


    KB October 13, 2009 at 11:29 PM  

    Hmmm, I see why the thyroid results have you scratching your head. I guess that Dr. Dodds wasn't concerned about free t4 alone being low normal with all other values being fine. And, I bet that your vet can recheck CBC inexpensively.

    One thing that I've definitely learned is that any type of medical issue can manifest as a behavioral issue. K's pancreatitis definitely made her very tentative and unenthusiastic about life (before we knew she had it).

    On the food front, I've learned through my dog's pancreatitis that dogs don't need a ton of protein. I ended up consulting with a canine nutritionist at Angel Memorial Hospital (in Massachusetts), who gave us extremely concrete rules for how much of each kind of nutrient she needs. A consultation like this is something to keep in the back of your mind in case you need it in the future.

    All in all, it sounds like good news and like Marge is doing well!

    PoochesForPeace October 13, 2009 at 11:38 PM  

    I just have to say I loved the psych-nerdy part!!!! :)

    -A Psych nerd

    Kathy Mocharnuk October 13, 2009 at 11:41 PM  

    Humm, I found with Skyler my sheltie that too much protein really had an affect on his behavior....wonder if you could add some veggies to the TOTW and the Merrick-my doggies love the Pot Pie, ummm, although you said that the veggies you thought might have caused some problems. You are pretty in touch with small changes, Marge is lucky to have a person so in tune and aware.

    That is just so unfortunate that they did not get the full blood to the lab in time but I am glad they were able to at least get the thyroid and like it was said earlier a CBC is not that expensive, so you could rerun that at your vet if they feel it is necessary.

    That 5 HTP sounds interesting, hummm, be sure and tell us what you deceide about that once you finish taking a look at it. I will be interested to see what you think of it.

    My Breeze thinks Marge is just being smart avoiding kids, LOL, Breeze knows they are SCARY, LOL, I wish she did not feel that way but ......guess like you said everyone needs their little issues ;-).

    Lorenza October 14, 2009 at 12:10 AM  

    Thanks for sharing your very interesting post!
    There are lots of things we don't know!
    Here where we live you can't find good kibble! You just can't imagine how bad it is!
    The best option we have here is Royal Canine and it is not easy to find it all the time!
    Marge is so lucky to have you!
    Kisses and hugs

    Dexter October 14, 2009 at 6:49 AM  

    Did I tell you already that I mix TOTW half and half with Back to Basics? That works for me to keep my poo looking good.

    Sometimes it is hard to focus. That sounds like a super hard agilities course. I suspect your mom kind of wanted something to show up in the blood work because it would provide a solution. Sigh.

    Good job greeting your visitor. Some people just give off bad vibes, don't they?


    Frankie Furter and Ernie October 14, 2009 at 8:32 AM  

    Hi Marge, you look so healthy and happy in your pictures. I don't do the agility thing myself, butt love to watch. Hope you post some pics of your runs. Good luck

    Cyndi and Stumpy October 14, 2009 at 8:50 AM  

    Argh! Feeding can be such an issue, especially with our special dogs.

    The link below has some great information and is updated regularly.


    From back here (and after reading your blog) I can see marge has and is making progress in leaps and bounds! Yay for you and yay for Marge!

    Martha October 14, 2009 at 8:59 AM  

    What a very informed post. We initially had difficulties with allergies with Martha but found James Wellbeloved was excellent.
    Marge is so lucky to have you looking into everything for her.
    We are glad that she had a better reaction to meeting your family friend.
    She is making great progress and you are becoming an expert in all aspects of dog care.

    Sue October 14, 2009 at 12:59 PM  

    Well, now you've ruled out thyroid, you can move to the next item on the list. It never seems to end, does it?

    When the temperatures dropped here at the end of last week, Tsar started eating three meals a day, something he never does. After a few days of that he's back to his eat three days, fast two days routine that drives me crazy. He eats a high protein food and does well on it.

    RILEY AND STAR MY MALTESEKIDS October 14, 2009 at 1:21 PM  

    Hi Marge,

    All we know is, your the healthiest and most fit looking doggie we ever saw!

    All our Luv,

    Riley and Star.

    Ruby and Penny October 14, 2009 at 3:08 PM  

    We eat Orijen Adult. We had to switch from Innova Evo recently as the only store in town that carried it decided not to carry it.
    We seem to like it.
    Love Ruby & Penny

    Scout and Freyja October 14, 2009 at 8:42 PM  

    You made me tired just reading your blog post! Holey moley, you and Marge are busy! I've gotta go sit in the recliner and close my eyes☺

    Cinnamon and Mint October 14, 2009 at 8:43 PM  

    I give both Cookie and Cinnamon both raw food (K9 Natural) and kibbles (Pro Plan). I know that you shouldn't give any processed food in order to get a maximum benefit of raw food, but adding raw food to kibbles has made a significant change to Cookie. He used to fart a lot but he doesn't any more, and his poo has become much more compact and less smelly. However, I hadn't thought about how food affects the dog's temperament. So, I found your post very interesting. Thanks for sharing it.

    BRUTUS October 14, 2009 at 10:15 PM  

    What a detailed post! I feel like we are right there with you sometimes! I wish I could remember our agility courses half as well when I was running them, let along well enough to write them doen in such detail after the fact!!!

    A note on food (ugh). I have unfortunately had to learn a bit, as Brutus has some issues with urine acidity & I have him on a special diet which makes it easier to control (have to still supplement with sodium bicarbonate to get it the pH in line). You referred to Marge's stool... Most "standard" kibbles have stool hardeners - not for the dogs' benefit, but so it's easier for humans to clean up! Many of the "premium kibbles" (read "hard-to-find and expensive, but worth it) do not have the hardeners - looser stools are actually "normal" for dogs. We humans just think they are messy & would rather have a nice hard "package" to clean up! Thought you might find that interesting (sorry, I do not know what the actual ingredients might be, but it shouldn't be to hard to find if you do some research).

    Have a great day!
    Michelle & Traveling Brutus (off on an Earlventure)

    Life With Dogs October 14, 2009 at 11:24 PM  

    A very interesting look in to the potential for food ingredients to affect behavior. I really learn something every time I visit.

    I love the way your blog is looking these days...

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