We all love our dogs, that goes without saying!
So, our dogs health and wellbeing is paramount.
But do we really know and do what’s best for them?
I’m sure that both you and I would say, “Of course we do”, but do we really?
In our experience from our travels over the last 18 months, we have found ourselves in places which have made us stop and think.
Wondering whether what we are doing, or where we are, is in the best interests of our dog health and wellbeing.
Now, I’m not saying that the dog should always come first.
But being a member of the family, shouldn’t our dogs health and wellbeing at least be considered?
Our Dogs Health and Wellbeing Challenges:
I say ‘Our Challenges’ because, if you’re anything like us, then your dog is truly part of the family.
So, seeing them our dogs in pain or distress is extremely emotional for us ‘Hoomans’ also.
We all have health and wellbeing challenges at some point or another, but generally we can vocalise what the issues are.
Unfortunately, dogs are less able to do this. Or are they?
Well, actually they can communicate very well.
Unfortunately, it’s just us humans who haven’t the ability to comprehend what we are being told sometimes.
Unless your name is ‘Doolittle’ that is .
Dogs also have an extremely high pain threshold, which can mask severe aches and pains to the unaware.
We have shared with you below some of the challenges we’ve faced with Ash and the approach we have taken.
By no means do we think we have it right, we’re still learning every day.
However, we thought that by sharing our experience here it could maybe help others as well.
Ash - The Beginning
The 14th September 2010 was definitely a red letter day for us.
At about 5 am, our small bundle of fur entered the world , as puppy number 5 out of a total of 7.
Unfortunately, she wasn’t breathing at the time and we thought that she was still-born.
I even found an empty cardboard box that we could bury her in.
But, we worked on her for about half an hour until she eventually started breathing on her own, and we first heard those gorgeous puppy squeaks.
She came into the world as the runt of the litter, but of all the puppies, she was the most vocal.
So much so, that she was named ‘Squeaks’.
She was definitely a fighter and very feisty and went from strength to strength over the next few weeks.
So that was our puppy’s 1st challenge. Her fight for life.
Tarryn and I loved the name “Squeaks’ as it really suited her puppy nature, but we later changed her name to ‘Ash’.
This was helped by the fact that her Mum was called ‘Beech’ and her Aunt ‘Willow’, so the tree theme seemed appropriate.
Even though her brothers and sisters came out with a bit of colour in the their coat, looking more like the traditional yellow Labrador, Ash was born with a very white coat and it has stayed that way even as she matured.
Ash’s 2nd challenge was of our own making.
We’d decided to emigrate to Australia and she was definitely coming with us!
By making this decision Ash was now on the Inoculation/Quarantine conveyor belt – not great for a dogs health and wellbeing hey!
To ask whether we questioned ourselves about ‘doing the right thing for Ash’ was an understatement!
We questioned our decision every single day for the next 10 months or so.
It was a difficult time watching her go through all the injections, inoculations, blood testing and titre testing.
The main aspect about dogs entering Australia is the concern of Rabies.
So yes, she had to go through this protocol too.
Then the requisite 30 days, (now 10 days), quarantine on reaching Australian shores.
Did Ash's demeanour change during this period?
We think so, yes.
She definitely became more ‘stressy’ and anxious.
The quarantine period also adding separation anxiety to her woes.
Physically she appeared ok … well almost, as she now suffers from ‘hot head’ which a number of vets, both conventional and holistic, have said can be attributed to the rabies vaccine.
This tends to be particularly worse in the evenings where you can noticeably feel the heat radiating from her head.
Vaccines are another very contentious issue to a lot of people and one which we have strong feelings about too.
If you’d like to read more about this topic in relation to dogs health and wellbeing you can by clicking here.
After arriving in Australia from the UK, we settled for the first 2 years on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria.
But then we upped sticks again and moved across to Perth, Western Australia.
8 months into our life in Perth, Ash started to become incredibly itchy.
Her 3rd and on-going challenge.
She wasn’t just itchy in any particular spot, but all over her body, and she wouldn’t just have a quick scratch or nibble.
Oh no, it was a full on ‘raking’ at her skin, or really biting and gnawing at her legs and body.
At times this caused her to actually break her skin and bleed.
She also ending up with dark bruised areas over her tummy and legs from biting herself to try and ease her itching.
So, what could we do.
Research, Research, Research!
The internet is a wonderful source of information, but you do have to be careful and not take everything you read as absolute fact.
Many articles contradict each other as well.
So we try to read as much as we can and then it really just boils down to trying different approaches until we stumble on to the thing that really helps.
Conventional Vs Holistic approach to dogs health and wellbeing:
We did take her to our local vet, who diagnosed Pruritus.
She suggested a few ‘conventional’ remedies, such as cortisone injections, steroid injections and the use of anti-histamine.
None of these remedies appealed to us without trying to get to the root cause of her symptoms.
So more research was done and a holistic Vets advice was sought.
This particular Vet recommended Chinese herbs and powders which at the outset did seem to slightly help, albeit briefly.
Ash’s condition however wasn’t constant.
Some days were definitely better than others for our dogs overall health and wellbeing.
We would get our confidence up that she was on the mend, and then feel frustrated when she would all of a sudden experience severe flare-ups.
Some Solutions We Tried
We tried literally everything we could think of to help her, and to try to identify the cause.
We also tried CBD Oil.
This initially worked but didn’t sustain the initial success unfortunately.
We are still trialling CBD Oil, as the manufacturing process of some oils seems to be a key contributor as to whether it helps her or not.
We think that we have finally identified the cause of her itchiness as being from grass pollen.
Her symptoms definitely correlate with changes in the seasons, as well as the type of weather we’re experiencing.
Relief At Last
In the past we’ve been able to help her when she has severe flare-ups by giving her Apoquel.
Now, this doesn’t cure the itch, as you would hope.
But actually blocks the ‘itchy signal’ to the dog’s brain, in effect telling the dog that the itch has gone.
So, no actual cure, but immense relief for our girl when she needed it, for which we were extremely grateful.
We’re not giving up on trying to find a better, and more natural way to help Ash though.
Having done more research, we have stopped using Apoquel.
This is due to the potential side effects this can have on her immune system and that it has been known to contribute to causing tumours.
So we embarked on a course of quality dairy free Probiotics, which has made a significant difference in reducing her itching.
We are also trying other supplements and herbs to support her Liver function and help to heal her Gut, which does appear to be helping her a great deal of late.
Life on the Road:
Tarryn, Ash and I have been on the road now for about 18 fantastic months.
Each area we visit brings its own wonders and challenges.
Northern Territory for example is a fantastically cultural and beautiful state, but all those salty crocs don’t make for a fun fishing trip, or walk by the river.
Plus, they just love dogs to snack on.
So, guess what? We didn’t stay in NT for long. It just wasn’t for us.
Now that we are on the eastern side of the country in New South Wales, it’s not crocs you have to worry about, unless you are up in Queensland that is.
It’s those horrible parasites… ticks!
In particular the Australian Paralysis Tick.
One of the worst challenges for our dogs health and wellbeing.
This little horror is not something that we have come across before, so we did a bit of research on it.
As you do….
What a nasty little so and so, and potentially deadly if not dealt with quickly.
Everyone will have their own opinion as to how to combat this issue.
Whether conventionally with chemical treatments, or using natural preventative.
Our preference with this was to lean towards the natural preventative method and use Rose Geranium oil and to date, fingers crossed, no problems so far.
Please don’t think that our opinion regarding preventative measures is one that everyone should follow.
However, due to being aware that Ash’s current health and wellbeing challenges may be attributed to a build up of toxins in her system.
Which is possibly due to vaccinations and other treatments used in the past, we are trying to reduce the toxic load on her system as much as we can.
We are only trying to look after Ash how we think is best, which obviously will not always fit with everyone else’s views.
We have a dedicated post to the Australian Paralysis Tick which you can access here.
Being on the road really has focused our minds with regard to Ash’s health and wellbeing.
Every new place we visit can be a potential challenge.
No more so than being close to National Parks where, throughout Australia, 1080 Bait is laid as a pesticide by the governing authorities.
Authority can also be granted for it to be laid by appropriately trained personal at other locations as well, such as farms and stations.
The pre-requisite for the laying of this horrific poison is that appropriate signage must be erected with the relevant information.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but the last time I looked … dogs still couldn’t read!!!!!
One thing that could help...
Unfortunately, if ingested, there is very little you or I can do about it, other that getting to a vet asap.
What a vet will do if a dog has eaten 1080 bait, is to try to induce vomiting.
Then pump the stomach and administer activated charcoal into the dog. Then put in some IV lines.
This charcoal, in theory, binds itself to the poison stopping absorption into the dog’s system.
You just mix a tablespoon or two of charcoal with some water.
Then you suck the mixture up with the syringe and squirt it as far as you can down your dogs throat to try and get them to swallow the mixture.
Tarryn and I carry a container of Zeb Health Activated Charcoal, a bottle of water, syringe and a bowl with us in the car.
We do this just in case we were to suspect Ash has eaten a poison, we can at least try and do something to help whilst rushing her to a vet.
We also bought a basket muzzle for Ash to wear if we are worried that 1080 bait may be present in the area.
She aptly gained the nickname ‘our little Hannibal’ wearing this muzzle!
We were actually pleasantly surprised that she didn’t really mind wearing it at all.
Being a Labrador, she will not hesitate to eat things off the ground without even thinking.
So anything we can do to prevent this in high risk areas is a bonus.
We particularly liked this Kruuse Buster muzzle.
She can freely open her mouth to breath and pant, which is so important, especially in hot weather.
Out of all the countries in the world, only 6 allow 1080 bait to be used.
Australia being one of those 6.
We’re still trying to research this topic to really understand why there isn’t a better solution.
Why the farmers and National Parks can’t find a way that doesn’t put our domestic pets as such a high risk of a horrific death?
Whilst Ash can’t enter most National Parks, birds (particularly Crows) are known to pick up the 1080 Baits.
They can then drop them outside of the National Parks, sometimes on the beach to soften up the bait at the waters edge.
So you should even be wary of baits in the surrounding areas bordering on the National Parks and even some Nature Reserves and Conservation areas.
Will these challenges stop our travels?
Definitely not yet!
This is a wonderful country where the benefits by far out-way any negatives.
We love travelling and exploring new areas, made even more special having Ash with us.
Tarryn and I learnt early on in our adventures around Australia that if you focus on the negatives, you’re going to have a negative experience of travelling Australia.
Just like travelling with children, which has its own set of challenges, take the time to focus in on what you CAN do together and forget the rest.
You will find there is an abundance of fun to be had with your fur-buddies.
Hopefully you are having as much fun with your dog as we are with Ash, and long may it continue.
Woofs and wags from all of us at ‘Follow Your Nose’.