As you know, Sarah is gimpy. We’ve never gotten a true cause for her wobble. We just work around it.
Over the last several months, Sare Bear’s clumsiness has increased, partly due to Hairy Paw (someone remind me to update you on that!), partly due to the probable degeneration of her condition over all. Stepping up or down without assistance often results in face plants and it doesn’t take much of a bump anymore to turn an upright Sarah into a Sarah version of a plastic Breyer horse laying on its side.
Try as we might, we aren’t always able to catch her as she falls and when we do it usually results in a pulled something or a flare up of an already sore body part on either Crabby or me.
Additionally, for reasons we can’t understand, Gertie has decided she absolutely MUST lay right outside the back door. While the other kids have just gotten into the habit of jumping over her when they need to pass, Sarah is stuck, and so are we:
Do we shoo away the uber elderly arthritic dog to make it easier for the younger, gimpy dog to pass?
Pa-lease! This is Run A Muck Ranch, where there are 2 humans serving 14 furry overlords! Rather than disturb Gertie, we assist Sarah in an out the door in such a manner as to be gentle on Sarah while not disturbing Gertie.
In doing so, however, I am oft spending the night sleeping flat on my back on Sarah’s couch mounting platform with my feet on the couch as it is the only way I can get relief from my own pain. Do you realize just how hard and physically straining it is to move a 78 pound Sarah past a 90 pound immovable Gertie?
My back, shoulder and wrists finally gave out. Remember back when Sarah hurt her leg and we had to support her front end for her?
The sports bra worked so well back then, it seems only logical that we make it a permanent fixture. It would be so much easier, and less painful on all of us if we had an easier way to assist Sarah.
I already share outer wear with Crabby. How pathetic would it be if I could honestly say I share underwear with my dog?
Today, you guessed it, I went bra shopping for Sarah. Truth be told, and I don’t know how to take this, but Sarah really needs a larger size than me…
I haven’t shopped for a bra in years. Yup, pretty pathetic. Apparently it’s been too long because in the near or distant past, the purpose of a sports bra went from simply holding the girls firmly in place to holding them firmly in place while simultaneously making them look bigger. Yes sports fans, it is impossible to find an un-padded sports bra. I checked several places and got the same answer. The fact that sports bras now ‘enhance’ breast size for women who, by definition of the purpose of the bra itself, will be sweating profusely is very logical. According to the sales ladies, that I was shopping for a bra for my dog was downright strange. But my back couldn’t take it any more. I had no choice but to buy Sara a padded sports bra.
Now we have a dilemma.
How exactly do we explain this when we take Sarah out in public???
Edit: I posted this less than 12 hours ago and I already have 6 e-mails with photos in my inbox, mostly of the paws of senior dogs. Apparently Hairy Paw isn’t as rare as implied by the vet, but none of us are recognizing it as a cause for lameness in older or lame (for other reasons) dogs. Check your dog’s feet now and see if he or she could be hurting! If you find any new information on this subject, please share!
From the people who brought you Fart Walks, intended to force DASH! to flatulate
and Sunday Evening Butt Shaves to keep Gertie’s nether regions aired out
Something about Sarah overheating in 1/2 hour in less than 80 degrees last weekend kept niggling at the back of my mind, so, you guessed it, to the vet we went.
Turns out, Sarah has Hairy Paws, formally known as Nasodigital Hyperkaratosis. With this condition, the cells on (in Sarah’s case) the paw pads overgrow, causing the appearance of hair growing on the pads.
Imagine walking barefoot on upright needles. That is the effect of Hairy Paw on the sufferer.
Sarah’s evening walks with Gertie are maybe 15 minutes at most and we don’t move very fast. Sunday’s walk was faster and more importantly out on the desert for the first time in months so Sarah, like the others, hit the ground running. It wasn’t that Sarah overheated due to the temperatures, it was because her feet hurt and the stress caused her to overheat. When all 4 feet hurt, it’s hard to limp and when you don’t want to be left behind, you walk despite the pain.
The vet said he had only seen about 4 cases of Nasodigital Hyperkaratosis in his 20 years of practice, so rare he said it was, he couldn’t even remember the name of the condition. He said all we could to was cut the effected parts off the pads with scissors and that it would be necessary for the rest of her life, Hairy Paw being incurable.
I guess the condition has to be rare because Sarah was at a different vet in July because her wobblyness and pain appeared to be increasing. Her feet never came up as a cause and instead we left with a script for Adaquan.
As I always do when I leave a vet with a new diagnosis, I immediately called my hero and guru, Nora, to get her input. If there is a disease, condition or disability out there, Nora has deliberately adopted a dog because of it. As expected, she knew the medical term and was able to give me a brief primer on the subject.
I then got home and got on the Net looking for more information. After I sifted out the snake oils and other scary treatments, and using prior knowledge about certain unrelated biochemistry subjects and personal experiences, and from testing methods on myself, I came up with this Phase 1 Trial of an at home Hairy Paw treatment/maintenance pawdicure:
Note: I had already gotten about as much tissue off with scissors as I could possibly get over 2 prior sessions. Sarah’s feet were washed with a solution of Apple Cider Vinegar and water before cutting the tissue. This makes it SO much easier! What I’m doing now is “maintenance”.
Step 1: Remove a few layers of excess tissue with a Ped Egg ($14 from Bed, Bath & Beyond).
A few people blogged or reported that a dremel works well for this. I tested the dremel on my rough heels and can honestly say NEVER USE A DREMEL ON YOUR DOG’S PADS! It hurts! (Which is probably why the same people reported they needed someone to help hold the dog still.) I took a chance with the Peg Egg and got lucky that it actually worked. Note the buffed margin along Sarah’s heel (photo above). Sarah never flinched.
The instructions that came with the Ped Egg and the reviews I found on the Internet say never use it on wet skin. Heed the warning! I tried using it on a towel dried arm and it burned. Absolutely, completely dry paws only!
Step 2: Foot soaked and cleaned with diluted Apple Cider Vinegar
Rather than make Sarah stand in the tub or a bucket, I made a 50/50 solution of Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) and water, heated it, then used it as a compress. Other people say they soak, standing, in a diluted solution of Propylene Glycol. More about Propylene Glycol later.
The reason I chose ACV is that it removes oily build up from the skin without altering the pH or drying it out. You don’t realize just how gritty and oily a dog’s paw is until you try to scissor cut it! I tried ACV on a hunch and just got lucky it worked.
After holding the warm compress on the foot for a few minutes, I washed the whole pad with the same solution, dipping the cloth several times. All the left over skin scrapings from the Ped Egg came off very easily.
Step 3: After drying the foot, massage vegetable glycerin in and around the pad.
I mentioned Propylene Glycol earlier. This chemical is used as a humuctant, meaning it attracts moisture. Other people swear by soaking in it. This is why I disagree with using it:
Propylene Glycol is a petroleum product, a manufactured chemical. Vegetable glycerin, also a humuctant, is the end product of distilling vegetable oils. Both are used interchangeably. Need I say more? Propylene Glycol is cheaper than vegetable glyerin, probably why it’s more popular.
As far as soaking in a humuctant, a little something I learned from working with horses with bad feet: You can’t get any ‘moister’ than pure water. Using a humuctant while soaking or hosing a horse’s feet is pointless. It gets used after. Using that same the logic, I apply the humuctant to Sarah’s feet last. A bonus with vegetable glycerin is that it is absorbed quickly and there is no slippery residue that would make walking on laminate floors difficult.
The one problem I may encounter is our climate. In extremely how humidities, there is little moisture to absorb from the atmosphere, so the vegetable glycerin may not work as well here as in a more temperate clime. I may have to switch to an oil but I’ll have to experiment to find one that absorbs fast so Sare Bear isn’t left sliding on the floors.
1 foot done, 3 more to go! How’re you doing Sarah?
The whole process took about 1/2 hour.
I’m going to do this every week, or until I’m down to 100% unadulterated pad, and then watch the paws to see how often it needs to be done.
I’m also going to try papaya “masks” to see if it helps. Fun Fact: The excess tissue is Keratin, which is a protein. The predominant amino acid in Keratin is Cysteine. The protein digesting enzyme in Papaya, Papain, specifically digests Cysteine. Theoretically, the use of papaya as a preemptive strike should break down the excess Keratin before it becomes a problem. I’ll let you know if the theory holds true. I’ve used papaya myself many times over the years without discomfort so I feel safe using it on Sarah.
This is all still new to me and, therefore subject to change without notice if I learn something new or something I’m already doing proves not to work. So far at least, all systems appear to be Go.
And with that, I leave you with a photo of Sarah, long after her Pawdicure was finished, just to show you the trauma she suffered.
Anyone who’s had the honor of sharing their lives with a member of the pit bull tribe will agree; you can take away a pitty’s eyes, ears, legs, relatively non-essential organs and/or any other body part, and the dog can still live a happy life. But take away the couch and a pit bull has no reason to live.
Our Sarah is no different. Long are the hours she spends snuggled up to the north arm of her Beloved.
Run A Muck Ranch recently euthanized it’s ancient couch and replaced it with a new one. Sarah didn’t spend long grieving the loss of her old Love, and seemed quite excited to bond with a newer version. But there was a problem: The new couch had all its stuffing, making it higher than the old one. Sarah couldn’t get on it by herself.
With her new Beloved so near and yet so far, all Sarah could do was stand there, staring at it, crying until Crabby or I picked her up and put her on her preferred north arm. The knowledge that once she got off, she could not get back on unless assistance was close at hand made Sarah reluctant to part with her Beloved under any circumstances. It didn’t help that those extra few inches in height were enough that Sarah lost control on the dismount and went crashing to the floor.
We considered dog stairs, but determined they would not be strong enough to handle Sarah’s weight and instability. I looked at horse mounting blocks, but thought they were too narrow and too easy for Sarah to fall off of. We considered building a ramp but in the end decided it would have all the negatives of both dog stairs and mounting blocks, so that idea was discarded as well.
Crabby put on his thinking cap, and came up with this:
Crabby showed Sarah how to use it once and she became an immediate expert.
Extreme kudos goes out to Crabby for building not just ‘a’ Sarah Booster, but the PERFECT Sarah Booster!
In January, 2012, after a lengthy, year-long diagnostic process which started almost immediately after I scooped her up from the Westgate Mall parking lot and brought her home, Sarah was declared a hospice dog.
At that vet visit, we discussed a treatment plan to keep Sarah as comfortable as possible for as long as we could. The medications prescribed had multiple side effects. If Sarah’s condition didn’t take her from us, those side effects would.
In that treatment plan discussion, the point of when to say when was brought up. In order to keep her comfortable, the dosages of her medications would have to be incrementally increased from their already high starting point. Once we passed a certain dosage threshold, it would be time to say good-bye. By that time, Sarah would be suffering from multiple health problems, none curable. In January 2012, the vet said it would be 2 years or less.
It is now February 2015. 1 year past Sarah’s life expectancy, and she’s better than she ever was! Sarah has been off all of her meds since January 2014. I can remember only 2 times in the last year when she’s needed Tramadol. She still has her gimp, but she is able to walk longer, and over rougher terrain without pain, though we still stick to mainly level, non-rocky surfaces. In the last 6 or so months, she has even taken to playing with Slugger.
Getting Sarah off processed food, and designing her diet to her specific nutritional needs has been the key to making her new and improved, but it hasn’t cured her. It’s only bought us more time by making Sarah healthier and better able to combat her physiological problems without pharmacological assistance. There will come a day when Sarah will have to go back on her meds – of that there is no doubt – and the thresholds discussed 3 years ago will apply, but that’s a long way off now. That she is currently off of, and her system is healing, or has healed from the side effects of the drugs, says that we have reset the clock in a big way.
Every day with Sarah is a treasure and we are the luckiest people in the world to call her family.
I sincerely feel bad for all of you who will never get to meet her in person. Just know, though she has never met you, she loves you! She’s that kind of girl.
Geminis are a mix of the yin and the yang, they are represented perfectly by the Twins. The Gemini-born can easily see both sides of an issue, a wonderfully practical quality. Less practical is the fact that you're not sure which Twin will show up half the time. Geminis may not know who's showing up either, which can prompt others to consider them fickle and restless.