In bed at last, with the dogs snoozing all about me. I’m still at my parents’ house and just got in from an evening of socializing with some family friends. The afternoon was spent socializing with more friends. I don’t think I’ve spent this much time continuously socializing in years! It was all very enjoyable, but I’m absolutely exhausted. I’ll keep this entry short as I need to get to sleep and prepare for…more socializing tomorrow; this time we entertain at home. My mother is quite the social convener I must say!
The dogs, of course, were completely neglected. They got fed and spent some time off and on in the yard but that was it. Tomorrow will be much the same. I brought my training log book and my clicker and target, with the intention of trying to get warmed up for our pending agility lesson on Wednesday. I was thinking of canceling again because we haven’t done any training AT ALL since I stopped taking lessons a month ago. I simply haven’t had the time. Or really, the energy. I have had time to get the dogs out for good hikes almost five days a week during this busy stretch, but training was just more than I was up to.
It seems silly, but I find agility training somewhat mentally taxing, and when I am burning the candle at both ends, I just don’t have it in me to even do a few hand touches and targets. Hiking the dogs is easy because I walk and they run, chase each other, hunt, sniff and do their own agility courses up and down hills after squirrels, deer and each other. They get worn out, and I get some time to let my mind wander and relax. Hiking the dogs is probably my absolute favourite activity. But their brains do need a good workout and the lack of training time is really starting to show. Good thing I got back in the saddle yesterday at the sheep farm. We’ll go again on Monday, then agility Wednesday, then more sheep work next weekend.
I wrote my homeopath this morning to ask her if she had any suggested protocol for heat exhaustion in dogs. I did some research on-line last night, and came up with some interesting information. For one, there is a clear difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Mira clearly suffered from the former, which is less serious. And what we did with her – i.e. getting her into cool water and running it over her for about 20 minutes – is exactly what we should have done. Specifically, one article I read (which I can’t seem to find again to link to right now) said it’s better to pour water over the dog over and over than to submerse her, as when the dog is lying in the water, there is no circulation. The water next to the skin gets trapped by the fur, stays put and warms up. Then the dog stops cooling down. It’s better to have the dog stand and splash water over and under her.
The symptoms of heat exhaustion in dogs are somewhat different from those in people. In humans, the problem is triggered by a loss of fluids. This apparently is not the case in dogs. I’m not sure what the problem is, other than they obviously get too hot and are unable to cool off quickly enough. The result, at least in Mira, is walking on stiff legs and then staggering about. If not treated appropriately at this point, they can collapse, or worse.
Watching Mira yesterday, the first thing I noticed was this peg legged walking. By this I mean she was walking with very stiff, straight back legs, as if she didn’t have knees. My first thought was “oh, see, she does still have hind end problems!” I called my friend Janet over to take a look. But by this point Mira was staggering, and it was obvious that the issue was heat stress and not some kind of hip or joint problem.
This got me to thinking: how many times have I seen her do this exact thing? Quite a few when she was a puppy. This happened frequently, but I never actually clued into it being a heat problem because I never thought she had done anything to really exhaust herself. Instead, I saw the stiff walk and staggering and thought it was a structural problem. Hmmm…. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with her hind end after all! Maybe all along the problem has been a susceptibility to heat. This would actually make me pretty happy. I’d rather deal with heat exhaustion than hip dysplasia. For one, the former can likely be treated with homeopathy, or at least easily managed with it.
The only way for me to really know for sure would be to have her x-rayed, and unless I was to breed her, there really is no point. But if I had the money to throw away, I’d get them checked out of curiosity. If her hind end issues are really just linked to heat sensitivity, that would explain an awful lot. Like how she can run flat out, leaping and turning over logs for 1.5 hours or longer, and never show any sign of pain, stiffness or disability. Indeed, every time I’ve ever seen hind end problems in her has been when she’s done something mentally intense in heat.
The fact that it comes on within 5-10 minutes is what always caught me off guard. How can such a fit dog suddenly overheat so quickly? Heat exhaustion was just never on my radar. I do feel quite badly that I didn’t put two and two together before, but that’s been my life with Mira: I make incorrect assumptions, and she does her best to put up with me until I finally wake up and smell the coffee. I really wonder if I hadn’t been surrounded by so much negativity when I got her, if perhaps my mind wouldn’t have always jumped to the worst conclusions. I of course only have myself to blame for that. Looking forward, this will be an interesting challenge to hopefully resolve, or at least manage. I’m looking forward to what my homeopath has to say, and will definitely keep you posted.