Did She Say Cush-y or Cush-ings?

Back in October, it was time for my annual trip to see the vet for a blood panel, to have my heart listened to, my limbs given the once over, all that stuff. It happens every year and every year without fail I receive a glowing report card. Well, except for that lump they had to remove a couple of years ago, but even that turned out to be benign. What can I say? I’m a healthy guy.

In October I saw a different vet than the previous year. My regular vet moved away and T hasn’t settled on a new one just yet so was trying a different clinic. The doctor was very thorough and had a laundry list of concerns when she delivered me back to the truck (the pandemic means T can’t come into the clinic with me).

The morning before the vet … not a care in the world.

First on the list was my eyesight which made no sense to me because I can see just fine. She said I’d run into a doorframe in the clinic. Oh, that. I was just distracted by the resident cat sitting on the counter.

My hearing is shot, but we already knew that.

She said I was slipping on their floor and that probably arthritis is the cause and maybe we should consider medication. I slip on the hardwood at home these days too but it all comes down to my pads not being as grippy as they used to be. Sure, I feel a little stiff when I get out of bed these days but I don’t need any pills for that, I have my joint and mobility supplements.

Moving around just fine, thanks.

I have a heart murmur—a small one, but it’s there. Not sure I like that since Logan had a murmur in his latter years and it did ultimately give him trouble.

But, the most concerning of the long list were my liver enzyme numbers which, combined with being a lot more thirsty and hungry than normal in recent months, easily overheated, and restless at night, pointed to a condition called Cushing’s Disease.

A watering hole was becoming a necessity on our walks.

They’d have to run more tests to confirm the diagnosis, but T’s online research revealed that the testing isn’t entirely reliable because it’s prone to false positives. Since the treatment plan from a positive result would have been a medication that T didn’t want to give me, there didn’t seem to be any point. Whew! I’m just as glad to skip the testing since it involved a full day at the clinic, without my peeps.

The most common cause of Cushing’s in dogs is a small tumour on the pituitary gland. This tumour makes the body produce too much of a hormone called cortisol. Too much cortisol in the system stresses out the liver and causes a range of symptoms from thirst to hunger to hair loss to the development of a pot belly (ack!) to excessive panting and the list goes on. So, all in all, not a good thing. The medication is designed to suppress the adrenal glands to keep them from producing the excess cortisol but can result in another serious condition called Addison’s Disease when the adrenals stop working altogether. You can probably see why the peeps weren’t crazy about the medication solution.

My appetite’s even healthier than usual.

So, as she does, T consulted the many online sources of information and expertise and came up with a medicine-free treatment program that is actually recommended by a lot of veterinarians. It involves a regimen of melatonin and something called lignans. The combination of these two things helps the body manage the cortisol production which, in turn, lessens my symptoms. Lignans come from flax seeds, which I had at first, but the lignans I have now are supposed to be better and come from Norwegian Spruce Trees. So, every time I take one of those little white capsules, I’m really just chewing on a stick. ;o)

I’m in good hands.

In addition to the lignans and melatonin, I get a twice-daily dose of CBD oil which has been shown to shrink tumours in dogs. I don’t know if it’s working on my suspected pituitary tumour, but my benign lipomas are shrinking so I think that’s a good sign, and I just generally feel a little bouncier and spry since I started taking it.

Feeling more inclined to run lately.

Lastly, when I still wasn’t sleeping soundly, T started giving me something she had left over from Logan called Calm Shen. Once my water consumption was under control I didn’t have to go outside for a pee at night, but I just felt anxious when I’d wake in the quiet, dark room. I felt the need to check that I wasn’t alone by waking up Nollind or T, or both. I don’t know if it’s my lack of hearing or just that I’m getting older, but I’m not as easygoing as I used to be. I like to know where my people are at all times and I want their location to be no more than a few feet away from mine. Anyway, the Calm Shen, fed in a bedtime snack of chicken or turkey and a little broth, was the ticket. I sleep like a puppy now.

Sleeping like a champ again.

Dogs with Cushing’s Disease are given a two-year life expectancy, but, before you freak out like I did, Cushing’s is typically a disease of older dogs who may not have lived more than two years anyway. I’ll be turning twelve soon, so another two years would be a pretty fair age for a mid-sized dog, but here’s hoping that all the stuff that goes in my food three times a day keeps me trucking along beyond that two-years-down-the-road expiry date. I know it’s sure made me feel better and is keeping the hair loss and dreaded pot belly away!

Still looking svelte and furry, right?

Say What?!

I’m eleven now, long past middle age for a dog, and some parts of me are aging better than others. If anything, my sense of smell has become even more acute than before, which is saying something, but it’s possible my nose is compensating for my ears. They’re cute, they’re floppy, they’re nice to rub, but they don’t work so great anymore.

Floppy but not functional.

I thought it was kinda funny when Logan started to lose his hearing. He stopped noticing when someone drove in the yard, which really bugged his vigilant nature. I’d watch him wake up and see that a strange vehicle was in the yard and he’d start barking frantically with something like, “Where the hell did they come from? Bark! Bark! Who let them in? Bark! Bark!” So funny. And he could easily be sneaked up on or away from by me or the humans. Also a good game.

And then it happened to me.

I now understand Logan’s ability to sleep through anything.

The troublesome thing is, Logan’s hearing loss didn’t start until he was about thirteen or fourteen and mine around nine. Which means I’m no longer hard of hearing but mostly deaf and will likely lose what little hearing I have left. I hear sneezes, which scare the crap out of me, especially when I’m sleeping. I hear loud coughs, which have a similar effect to sneezes. I hear loud, sharp sounds like Nollind’s whistle. And, damn it, I still hear thunder when it’s big.

Nose is still working great.

On the plus side, I don’t hear the run-of-the-mill thunderstorms, that frightening beeping sound the stove makes after a power outage, the popping of a wood campfire, and I can sleep through most any action movie or television show. Life has become rather peaceful for a guy who appreciates a good nap and inherited some of Logan’s noise sensitivity.

Just hanging by the quiet campfire.

But I miss the sound of my people’s voices. I see their mouths moving but no sound comes out unless they speak very low or high, and very loud. Sometimes T will lift up my ear flap and talk right into the ear and I can make out some of the words then, like my name and good dog. Those are the ones I miss the most.

Sleeping in the middle of a busy kitchen.

Other than ears, things are in pretty fine shape for a guy my age. Gravel feels a little lumpier under aging paws, hills a bit steeper, and the couch seems higher than it used to be, but generally I’m still able to do all the stuff I love best: walking, eating, chewing, sleeping, cuddling, and, thank God for my nose, smelling.

It’s Our Anni-fur-sary!

Nothing makes me happier than finding another word to insert fur into. Actually, I like to insert fur just about anywhere—car seats, clothing, furniture.  Did you hear it? Fur-niture? I didn’t even have to mess with that one.

Anyway, this weekend is the 9th anni-fur-sary of me becoming part of T and Nollind’s fur-family. Nine years! Can you believe it? Nine years of snuggles, snacks, and adventures. It was a lucky day when T spotted my photo on the Misty Creek Dog Rescue website and thought it would be fun for Nevada to have a mini-me. I started off as a foster dog, but I think it was more of a try-before-you-buy situation and, after quickly wedging myself into their hearts, I was adopted.

Not sure if it was my good looks or my ability to make them laugh that clinched the deal.

At the time, the rescue said I was two years old. So, January 26 is also the closest thing I have to a known birthday. On Sunday I turn eleven.

Hanging in my “foster” home in 2011.

In the world of dogs, eleven puts me well into my senior years, but I really don’t feel old. I’m more inclined to trot than run full out these days and I can’t jump up on the bed anymore but, other than that, not much has changed. I never was much of a jumper so I’d really rather be lifted anyway.

I can still get on the couch. :o)

Logan was the opposite. In his younger days, he could jump like a deer, and he continued to jump into and onto things far beyond his ability. T or Nollind used to block his way when the truck door opened so that he wouldn’t crash. I make a good senior as I’m happy to have assistance. And, I can still hop up on the couch. All is good.

Logan had slowed down a little by the time this pic was taken in 2012. He was eight.

I’m not sure how we’ll celebrate my combined birthday/anni-fur-sary. Extra treats are always a good option. A walk somewhere new or different would be fun. An afternoon nap maybe (and probably one or two in the morning and another two or three in the evening). And cuddles of course. I do love to cuddle.

A winter afternoon nap and cuddle. (I’m not the only one getting a frosty face.)

When we were out walking yesterday, T and Nollind were talking about the upcoming occasion, and that my arrival in their lives also marked the first year of their RV adventures. I think I can pretty much take credit for five winters of southbound trailer trips and a bunch of Canadian camping. My adventurous spirit inspired them to travel (and in a fashion that suited the inclusion of dogs).

Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah in 2011

If Logan were here, he might try to claim some responsibility but, we all know that his travel anxiety never inspired anyone to hit the road. We just dragged him along because we liked him so much.

So, nine years in my fur-ever home and eleven years on this planet later, life is good for this colourful canine. If it weren’t for my face fading to a lighter shade of pale, nobody would be the wiser when it comes to my age. Maybe I can get a dye job? Then again, I remember the tomato-face experience. I think I’ll stick with my frosty look.

Not quite the right shade of red.