Pandemic Pets

My blogging friend David Miller from https://millerswindmill.wordpress.com/ sent me this article from America. He thought that I might be interested in it, and I was.

https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/inflation-hitting-americas-90-million-pet-owners-hard-need-help

That got me thinking about the recent issue of ‘Pandemic Pets’ here in Britain. From the Spring of 2020 until the end of 2021, pet ownership exploded in the UK. People forced to stay at home because of lockdowns, or working from home permanently due to changes in working practices decided that what they needed in their lives was a pet.

But they didn’t think it through.

Pets need a lot of attention.
Dogs need regular exercise.
All pets need food, beds, leads, collars, toys, and some need cages and straw.
They also need to have innoculations, worming, regular health checks, and in some cases, medication or surgery.

The bills start to mount up, and even if you have Pet Insurance, that doesn’t cover everything. The weather puts people off of walking dogs. They make a mess in the house before they are trained, leave fur all over the place, chew things up, and generally impart their odours into the once clean and fragrant house.

Even a non-pedigree animal has to have a lot of money spent on it on a monthly basis. Some need grooming regularly too.

Meanwhile, the once-excited new pet owners are busy on Zoom calls, or have been summoned back to their former office or workplace once the Pandemic restrictions ceased to operate. That cuddly pup, cute cat, or fluffy rabbit has become a money pit that has to be left to its own devices for eight to ten hours a day, and those new owners begin to resent their new pet, wondering why the hell they thought it was a good idea to get one.

Then comes the war in Ukraine, the global financial crisis, increased fuel bills, rampant inflation, and huge hikes in the price of petrol and diesel. Mortgage rates are set to increase, and money is tight even for those with well-paid jobs.

What happens next is that animal shelters and rescue centres are inundated with unwanted dogs, cats, rabbits, and other animals. The Pandemic Pet owners are even resorting to giving away their supposedly beloved pets via Facebook, or selling them cheap to anyone with the cash who will collect them. Some owners are crowdfunding to cover the cost of operations on their pets, or in the worse case scenario having perfectly healthy animals put to sleep because they can’t be bothered with them any longer.

I know this doesn’t apply to everyone who bought a pet during this period, but you only have to look at animal shelter websites to realise there is a huge issue to deal with.

Let’s hope if we have another pandemic, people who didn’t want a pet before don’t go rushing into thinking having one will change their lives.

Because ultimately, it is the poor animals who will suffer.

Private Dogcare

If you have a pet, you will already be aware of the spiralling costs of making sure it is healthy and free of pain.

In the UK, with the benefit of our NHS, we are sometimes reminded of the cost of private healthcare in countries like America. If you have a pet, especially a dog with various ongoing medical conditions, the reality of how much that costs can be sobering indeed.

Ollie has to have a painkiller every day, because of arthritis in his front leg joints. If he doesn't have the tablet, you will soon notice him walking stiff-legged, and reluctant to walk at all on any hard surfaces, like pavements. Then when he wakes up the next morning, it takes some time for him to 'get going'.

So we pay for the tablets. Of course we do.

For some time now, the cost of a 30day supply has been £38. That works out to £456 a year, close to £8.80 a week. I have just been to Swaffham to collect his repeat prescription, only to find that the tablet has now 'increased in dose to make it more effective'. Along with that increase in efficacy has come an increase in price.

A 30-day supply now costs just over £46, an £8 increase in just one month. That's an extra £96 a year we have to find, without warning, and with no viable altenative to a painkiller that we know works well for Ollie, and makes him comfortable in his old age. An annual cost now of £552, or £10.62 a week. That is without the possibility of Ollie needing treatment for ear or skin infections, dental treatment, or anything else that may befall our beloved dog in his twilight years.

Naturally, we will pay. But what about people who cannot afford it? These constantly increasing Vet fees will only have one outcome. More pets will be left in pain, and other pets will be abandoned, or given up to rescue centres.

Ollie: Treatment Complete

Yesterday, Ollie had the last of the medication for the current round of treatment.

He has had a lot of tablets, both antibiotics and steroids, as well as daily ear drops for some time now.

We finally managed to get him to swallow the tablets with no fuss, by concealing them in a small chunk of Brie. He lets me give him the ear drops without resistance, though he flinches every time I insert the tube deep into his ear.

I would flinch too.

His fur is slowly growing back, but some of the bald patches are still clearly visible. The head shaking has stopped, and he has been sleeping and eating well.

Once the steroids are out of his system by the weekend, I can start to give him his Arthritis tablets again. Despite being stiff-legged now, he still manages his walks.

Earlier this week, he even chased a Muntjac deer into some reeds by the river, and the animal escaped Ollie by running through the water and leaping out onto Hoe Rough.

On the 12th of February, Ollie will be 10 years old. Around 80 in human years, for his breed.

You can bet he will get a birthday tribute!

Ollie’s Treatment Review

This afternoon, I had to take Ollie back to the Vet for his review of the recent treatment for the ear and skin infections.

My poor dog had started to shake his head again yesterday morning, and was ‘dropping’ his right ear constantly.

After the Vet had dug around in his ears long and hard enough for Ollie to start growling at him, the Vet concluded that the right ear was still infected, but the left was clear. He was pleased with the re-growth of fur, and declared that the skin was no longer infected.

As the Prednisilone Steroids had finished, he suspected that Ollie could once again feel the itch in that right ear. So he is back on those tablets for another ten days, accompanied by antibiotic ear drops that I will have to administer once a day. If things haven’t improved after those ten days, I have to take him back again.

Ollie was not happy at all, and couldn’t wait to get out of the Vet’s. But he had to wait until I had paid the £81 bill. ($111)

Back at home, he slurped down a whole bowl of water, then accepted a small treat from Julie for being good.

Now he is sleeping soundly beside me.

Some Sunday Musings

Life has finally returned to normal after Christmas and New Year. I couldn’t be more pleased about that, as I find comfort in routine these days.

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What hasn’t returned to normal is the weather. After three days of bright sunshine, we got eighteen hours of torrential rain. With only one day below freezing, the mud hasn’t hardened, and dog-walking with Ollie is still unpleasant. The strange winter weather continues next week apparently, with temperatures climbing back up to over 10C, before falling again.

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After five days on his new tablet medication, Ollie has stopped shaking his head, and is a lot calmer and more relaxed. His fur has yet to grow back, but on the plus side it does seem to have stopped falling out. Becuse he cannot have his arthritis tablets in conjunction with the steroids and antibiotics, his front legs have become stiff again, and he is not even contemplating chasing any deer or rabbits.

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I still haven’t got around to having my car checked out, but I am encouraged by the fact it is running well, and there is no squeaky noise at all.
Now I have typed that, I am sure I have pushed my luck, and anticipate ‘The return of the squeak’ forthwith!

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Not much else has happened worth reporting. I see that as a very good thing.

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Ollie: A Dog On The Spectrum

Ever since Ollie was ‘grown up’ by the age of two, he has been exhibiting behaviours that make us think he is on the Autistic Spectrum. Or at the very least, suffers from chronic Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Despite him being a wonderful well-behaved pet and companion, he lives his life by a rigid routine that he cannot stand to have broken or altered. I wondered if dogs can actually be diagnosed with these human disorders, so looked it up.

Yes, they can.

So why have we come to this conclusion about our beloved pet? Here are some examples of how he behaves every day, seven days a week.

When he comes in from the garden in the morning, he gets a treat of Schmackos. These HAVE to be eaten in the living room on his rug. If the rug is in the wash, or not there for some reason, he cannot eat his treats. After walking around with them for some time, he wil drop them on the floor, and not return to them until his rug is back in place.

At lunchtime before our walk, he gets some slices of cooked meats which contain the tablets he has to take, then four small cubes of cheese followed by a twisty dental stick that helps keep his teeth clean. The cheese and the dental stick HAVE to be eaten on his bed. If his bed has been moved into another room, or a different place, he will take the food to wherever it is, and eat it on the bed.

If Julie is at home, he will then go and sit by her and raise one paw, in the hope that she has something extra to give him. When she raises her hands and says “No more”, he walks over to his rug and lies down, carefully licking his front paws to clean them as if he had been eating with them.

After we have eaten our dinner in the evening and gone into the living room to sit down, Ollie brings each of us a toy. But those toys are not for us to play with him, they are ‘offerings’. He drops them in our laps, then looks expectantly from one of us to the other, in the hope that we will exchange his ‘gift’ of one of his toys for a treat of some kind. When nothing appears, he slumps down on his rug and goes to sleep almost immediately.

Around 10pm every night, he stands up and walks over to me, to indicate that he wants to go out into the garden. On his return thirty minutes later, he gets his final food of the day, a Bonio biscuit. But he CANNOT eat that biscuit unless both of us are in the living room, and both sitting down. If one of us is doing something else, or is in another room, he will parade in circles around the coffee table with the large bone-shaped biscuit in his mouth until he is certain that we are both sitting down and not leaving the room. As soon as we are, he eats the Bonio at great speed, but only on his rug, nowhere else. Once again, if his rug is not there, the biscuit remains uneaten until it is.

If I go to bed, Ollie wants to go to his bed too, and before I go into the bedroom I have to place his bed in its usual spot in the kitchen. I usually go to bed a lot earlier than Julie, but Ollie doesn’t care that she is still up, perhaps watching TV. He runs straight to his bed as soon as I close our bedroom door, and doesn’t move until morning. On occasions when I have been ill or unwell, and have gone to bed during the day or very early in the evening, he seems to sense something is wrong, and sits outside the bedroom door until I appear, however long that takes. He won’t go to his bed if he thinks I might be coming out before morning.

All of these habits have been rigid for almost eight years now, and never change as long as we are at home in Beetley.

When we go to stay with a friend or relative, or take Ollie on our annual holiday, the break in his routine almost shatters his world. Anyone who remembers his glum expression in the holiday photos I posted can see that. It takes him a week to work out we are not going home, and by that time we are usually packing up and leaving. Without his rug to eat treats on he hardly touches them, and as we can only take one or two of his toys and not the whole huge box of them, he ignores those too. Walks on the beach are no substitue for his regular Beetley Meadows, so he will stand on the sand crying or whimpering.

It’s probably not possible for him to have any treatment for this, and I doubt I would bother anyway, as it is all part of his particular canine personality. According to what I read online, dogs like this are born with those disorders, and unlikely to change.

I wouldn’t really want to change Ollie, so that’s okay with me.

Ollie’s Ears and Skin: An Update

As you may remember, Ollie had to return to the Vet this afternoon for the second dose of ear-gel to combat his ear infection, and to get the results of his blood test to see if he has an underactive thyroid.

He had the gel in his ear, and then I was told the results. His thyroid function is completely normal. Usually, that would be good news, but this means he cannot have the tablets that are well-known to almost stop recurrent ear infections. So if he gets one again (or rather when he does) we will have to rely on the gel to cure it.

The vet checked out the bald patches in his skin where the fur is falling out, something that has also happened a lot in the past. He concluded that they are ‘Paintbrush Lesions’, a dermatitis associated with infections, and best treated by being washed with medicated shampoo. They are called ‘Paintbrush’ because when you scrape off one of the small scabs, the result looks like a tiny paintbrush.

So, his last trip to the Vet for now. Until the next time.

It was very busy there today, and also a sad visit. One man brought in a small dog that had to be put to sleep, and he was so upset he couldn’t wait with the dog while it was injected. He rushed out to his car in the car park telling the receptionist he would come back another time to pay the bill.

Then a couple came in, the man telling the receptionist, ” I have come to collect my dog”. He emerged from a treatment room carrying a small box containing his dog’s ashes, and was very tearful.

Ollie had another stressful trip, and is sleeping soundly next to me now.

At least I didn’t have to bring him home in a small white box.

Dog Language

We all know that dogs can’t talk, but instead have their ways to show us how they are feeling. Using posture, tail movements, and occasionally barking. We can often manage to translate a lot of that into understanding their moods or desires.

I found these three graphics on Pinterest, and they all seem to agree on what our best friends are trying to ‘say’. I recognise so much of this from Ollie, and if you have a pet dog, or have ever owned one, I am sure you will find it familiar too.

Ollie’s Holiday: Ice Cream For Dogs

On our recent holiday, we noticed that almost every cafe was selling a new formulation of ice cream for dogs. Ollie has enjoyed ‘human’ ice cream on a few occasions, as well as the residue of a few yoghurt pots. But we are aware that he is older, and less active now.

With that in mind, he was treated to a doggy ice cream on holiday, but just the one. It includes some crumbles of dog-biscuit, and Ollie devoured it, giving it his seal of approval on a warm afternoon.

(These are full-frame 35mm equivalent photos, reduced by 50%. But you can click on them twice to enlarge for detail.)

More to come of Ollie on his holidays!

Ollie And Our Holiday

On Saturday week, we are going on our long-awaited seven-day holiday. Nothing too exciting, exactly the same place we went to last year, during the same week. But it wil be nice to be somewhere different, and in sight of a beach too.

Ollie is coming along of course. Ever since we got him, we have always taken a holiday where dogs are welcome, so he never gets left behind. With Covid-19 still very much on our minds, our accommodation is self-catering, and the small seaside place we are travelling to will be quiet from the Monday, as the kids go back to school.

Less than 100 miles from Beetley, the drive to the Lincolnshire coast is not arduous, and we know the area well enough to find enough things to do for a week. Ollie loved it there last year, as the lodge has a porch at the front. I put his bed there and he sat outside with us, able to watch the world go by. Well, not the ‘world’, but the other residents of the cabins and the hotel they are based behind.

With the holiday imminent, Ollie has begun to shed his fur in spectacular amounts. Everything we have is covered in fur, and we are stuck on a merry-go-round of dusting, vacuuming, and washing clothes. And to put the tin hat on it, he has developed an ear infection, as well as a skin infection on the skin exposed by the loss of fur.

He is due to go to the groomer the day before we leave on the holiday. A good grooming and shampoo should deal with the worst of the moulting and skin problems, but we have to tackle that ear infection before we leave Norfolk. So he is off to the Vet on Thursday, to see what can be done.

The treatments that have worked in the past, steroids and antibiotics, now make him breathless as he seems to have developed an allergic reaction to them. So we are hoping our regular Vet can come up with something to help poor Ollie.

Otherwise, we might all have a miserable holiday.