09 Sep

September 9, 2016

THIS IS MOFLI, currently my only dog. He's a Spanish Podenco and just turned 15 years old. Although he's still 'all there' so to speak, he is starting to show the typical, inevitable signs of old age - opacity of the eyes, hard of hearing, brown hair rapidly replacing itself with white hair around the muzzle area...

A couple of weeks ago Mofli had to undergo surgery - or more specifically, he had to be neutered. Now, anyone reading this might well be wondering why this standard procedure wasn't carried out at a much younger age. The fact is, throughout his entire life Mofli has never shown the slightest interest in the opposite sex or any kind of 'romantic pursuit' - he has never even attempted to hump a cushion, an armchair or a visitor's leg, for example, as most male dogs do - so nobody really gave it much thought.

However, having diagnosed him with a 'prostate problem', the vet said the only solution was neutering. I was actually very relieved at the news that this simple procedure would solve the problem - as opposed to lengthy and costly lab tests and/or a more sinister diagnosis, which I had been half dreading.  Both the vet and myself were confident; his heart was in good shape and modern anaesthetics are very safe. 

POST-OP DAY 1 - The 'Lampshade' and the Big Fright: Performing surgery on a 15-year-old dog is probably not most vets' idea of 'favourite task of the day'... Neverthless, all went well and we arrived home that same evening armed with pills, instructions and scheduled visits to complete the course of antibiotic shots (standard practice). Oh, and the Elizabethan collar - commonly known as a 'lampshade' because of its shape - around Mofli's neck. This, of course, is designed to prevent the dog from deciding for itself when and by what means its surgical stitches should be removed...

The following day brought one of those workloads that destiny sometimes reserves for our 'special occasions' - like when we've got a newly operated convalescent dog to care for. However, Mofli seemed to spend most of his time sleeping and I trusted the 'lampshade' to do its job... BIG MISTAKE!  No-one had taken into account his greyhound-style long neck and snout, and that night I realised he could reach his stitches with his tongue and teeth in spite of the collar; worse still, that he had probably done so on several occasions throughout the day. Things got worse as I noticed the edge of the plastic collar scraping against his stitches as he tried to reach them... Ok, I can prevent this from happening, as long as I am close by and can see what's going on, so I decided to move him into my bedroom that night. Then, just before bedtime, came the big fright - drops of blood, like from an open wound, dripped on the floor as he walked across it; when he laid down, I gingerly lifted his leg and took a look - all stitches seemed to be intact and the bleeding stopped spontaneously. The next morning we were scheduled to visit the vet, so I calmed down.

Phew...! Vet confirmed no serious damage had been done. Anyway, I had already devised a way to push the collar (lampshade) farther up Mofli's neck in an effort to prevent further attempts at self-mutilation, by placing a couple of bandanas around his neck. This, together with constant vigilance - and distraction if necessary - seemed to do the trick. The one thing I could not have imagined in advance was the total disruption and inconvenience an Elizabethan collar causes to both dog and owner - crashing into everything, knocking things over, finding himself unable to get through spaces he would normally get through...  But dogs are incredibly resourceful and can adapt well to physical impediments, as was the case with Mofli. He learned new things... to walk backwards out of a small space, for example, if the collar prevented him from turning around.

I had held hopes that the stitches (and collar) would be removed by the ninth day (a Friday) but no such luck ; when we went for the third check-up/shot, the vet said it couldn't be done until the following Monday, to be on the safe side. Oh well, just take it one day at a time...

The thing that worried me most was that Mofli could fall into a state of depression - this can be fatal with an elderly dog faced with traumatic circumstances, and absolutely nothing a vet can do about it. So I gave him a lot of massages during the long hours he spent sleeping, to aid blood circulation and provide some stimulation.  It's tricky business, as you have to get just the right balance  - not forcing the dog beyond its possibilities, but not pampering it so much that it feels useless... So I did insist on him getting up to eat dinner and for short, easy walks (dinner had to be encouraged by adding small amounts of harnless things, such as white rice or a boiled potato).

ASMOST 3 WEEKS AFTER SURGERY... Mofli is still not back to his old self, but he's getting there. The 'lampshade' came off eight days ago and stitches removed without problems, but he didn't seem particularly overjoyed by any of this. He still sleeps a lot during the day and is not very enthusiastic about food or walks; however, he has been taking a bit of interest in the evenings, after dark, sticking his head through the railings, sniffing and nosing around a bit. In fact, I'd never been so happy to see him bark at a passing neighbour or an approaching cat - even late at night!

I know I'm stepping on eggs here... It's a delicate balance between allowing him to follow his own healing instincts (all that sleeping) and encouraging and stimulating any kind of activity. Nothing should be forced, I know he needs his own space right now, but he also needs attention without excess pampering. Difficult, and sometimes I feel worried, but I know how important it is to have a positive attitude towards him and not show anxiety.

AFTER 3 WEEKS AND 2 DAYS since his op, Mofli is still not showing his normal interest in food, and I'm running out of ideas... He's eating, yes, but what appears to be strictly sufficient for survival. I've tried everything I can think of to mix with his (good quality) dry food - it seems to tempt him the first time, but not again. Last night I mixed in some of that 'doggie sausage' stuff - he scoffed his dinner with gusto, but today again didn't seem interested and ate the bare minimum.  I'm starting to wonder if this is psychological - is he picking up on my anxiety about wanting him to eat more...? Starting to realise I will produce something different each time he refuses to eat...? Well, it's starting to look like that, as he is showing improvement and more interest in life in every other respect. So it's my call now - tomorrow we (he) shall skip lunch and wait until dinner time, so I can judge if he really is lacking appetite or just 'playing hard to get'. It's the only way, so we shall see...

IT WORKED!! I waited till dinner time, gave him half a portion of dry food to see how he reacted - he scoffed it! So I gave him some more, not too much but enough to keep his interest, and he scoffed that too! So I'm hoping this will revive his normal interest in food - that's the important thing, that the dog should show appetite and enthusiasm for its food.  It's tough going - broke my heart to think he might have been hungry all day - but the important thing is the dog's long-term well being, his motivation and self-esteem; if that means a few hours of hunger, so be it... Mofli was still inspecting the dinner bowl when he finished everything, but that's good - tomorrow he should have a good appetite and there will be plenty of time to add a bit extra each day. 

BIG RELIEF - FOUR DAYS NOW of healthy, normal appetite! Eating his good dry food with nothing added. Phew...! I was worried about his lack of appetite, but what really seemed to do the trick was leaving him 24 hours without food (rather than the bits of inadvisable stuff I was adding to try and tempt him...). I should have known better (and do!) but the bottom line is that all we dog owners can be vulnerable sometimes, even against our own better judgement...


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