Nelson is tolerating crate rest very well, and hasn’t had any complications from heartworm treatment. Since he isn’t super into food or chewing, and therefore hasn’t touched a stuffed kong or any type of chew, I’ve had to find an alternative way to get him some mental exercise that keeps his heart rate nice and relaxed. Enter K9 Nose Work.
I started doing nose work with our family’s miniature schnauzers when I was home from college for the summer. I took a class with Addison (who is ridiculous at everything we’ve done with her and always top of the class), and fell in love with the sport. I love that any dog can do it, and that the job of the handler is to stay of the way and read the dog. It has a benefit for every type of dog: it’s great for nervous dogs to get back to smelling the world before they look at how scary it is, it gives active high-drive dogs an appropriate outlet for their desire to hunt, and for dogs on crate rest it doesn’t have to be physically strenuous.
Addison (right) and her protege Emmy
At the beginning, a q-tip (or three) is soaked with scent and placed in a tin with some holes in it. Then the tin is placed in a box (it helps to always use the some box for scent to avoid contamination) with a bait bag containing really stinky treats (a lot of people use salmon or tuna fudge, but I opt for hot dog) and a few treats out of the bag. I am lazy and just put some treats on the tin. Eventually, the scent is separated from the food and is hidden in locations other than boxes (namely inside a building, outside a building, and on a vehicle). Nelson caught on to the game very quickly and is ready to move out of boxes (called a container search) and onto the living room (interior search). Check out the National Association of Canine Scent Work website for more info on nose work (scents used, competition, etc.).
Nelson came home from the doc yesterday morning pretty sore from his last injection. He was a little subdued for most of the day, but after about 36 hours he’s basically back to normal. And in typical dog fashion, not understanding the gravity of the situation, wanted to play with Galen this morning and has no idea why he doesn’t get to go on walks. One of the things I’m bummed about with the crate rest is that we don’t get much of a chance to practice passing people and dogs calmly. He’s up to over a week now of seeing people and not barking at them! Dogs get a whine sometimes, but it’s much less of an event than three weeks ago. For the next 28-ish days (but who’s counting?) he’ll be getting lots of hand-to-fur time and low-key mental games (more on that next time).
This morning has been looming for about a week in my mind; it’s time for Nelson’s heartworm treatment. For those of you who have never had a pet with heartworm, a.) thank you for using preventative (or lucky you for living a place with no mosquitoes), and b.) I’d like to give a bit of insight into the disease and treatment. I’ll try to keep the “sciency” terms to a minimum.
Heartworm disease in dogs is spread when a mosquito bites a dog (or relative thereof) with adult female worms in its system, it sucks up the baby worms, called microfilaria, which mature into larvae (a.k.a. infectious buggers) over the next 10-14 days. When our mortal enemy the mosquito then bites another animal, say your dog, it deposits the larvae and they enter the bloodstream through the bite wound. Without the protection of that monthly treat, the larvae mature into adult worms over the next 6 months or so, and begin to reproduce and clog up the works in the process. Heartworms can live in dogs for 5-7 years and in cats for 2-3 years, and each mosquito season can bring in new larvae. Left untreated, the worms cause lung disease, heart failure, and associated maladies including death. Even after treatment damage to the heart and lungs can remain.
I hope you’re all sufficiently educated on the disease basics (and maybe a little scared?). If you’d like more information, check out the American Heartworm Society’s website. Treatment for heartworms consists of a month of doxycycline, an antibiotic that kills a bacteria-like organism called Wolbachia living in heartworms, which plays roles in worm fertility and larvae development.¹ To kill the adult worms, dogs are given injections of melarsomine dihydrochloride (trade name immiticide) deep into the muscles in the lower back, after which the adult worms begin to break down. For 4 weeks after injection, exercise has to be strictly limited, because bits of worm block vessels and can lead to death or other severe heart complications.
So today we walked through campus and enjoyed the sunrise for a bit. Nelson will be back with us tomorrow, but Galen and I will miss him in the meantime.
(1) Frank, K.; Heald, R. D. Compend Contin Educ Vet 2010, 32 (4), E4.
Saturday is dog park day around here, and Nelson has joined Galen for the last 2 weeks at the H.O.T. Dog Park. Last week there weren’t any other early risers there, but Nelson enjoyed sniffing around and peeing on all of the bushes and trees. This week he met a couple of giants: a mastiff and a great Dane mix. Nelson accepted the role of fun police while Galen played chase-and-tackle with the mastiff. Fortunately, neither dog was concerned about Nelson trying to stop the play. Aside from his fun-policing, Nelson successfully begged pets from the other dogs’ owners and hung out pretty close to me. He’d probably be a great camping and hiking dog- he always checks in once he gets a certain distance away.
Head over to the MARCPets website or Facebook page to view all of our available pets and learn how to adopt Nelson or one of his friends.
Nicknames: Nelsaroni, Nellow Yellow, Willie Nelson, Nelson Mandela
Age: 3-4 years
Breed: Maybe Australian Shepherd x Lab, but really who knows
Nelson in Two Words: happy-go-lucky, calm
The Awesome Things: Nelson is basically the perfect dog. He’s on the higher side of medium in terms of energy- he’s the kind of guy you can go hiking with in the morning and hang out with on the couch the rest of the day. He is super social (sometimes to a fault- see “Works in Progress”), and has gotten along with every dog he’s met. He’s a great big brother: the only times he’s given a warning to another dog has been for puppy energy that started to get rude, and when another dog used him as a step stool to get to a person. He’s also been wonderful with all of the kids he’s met at adoption events and the Waco Downtown Farmer’s Market.
Works in Progress: There are only 2 things I’m working on to make Nelson as perfect as can be: 1) he prefers to poo on upright objects (maybe to get his scent higher?). My solution to this has been to keep him from marking in general. I do this with all of my dogs because a) marking bugs me, and b) it encourages territorial behavior. He now usually uses the grass, and sometimes small bushes.
2) Nelson gets a little excited about seeing people and dogs on walks and in public. He just sincerely wants to meet the world, but unfortunately that’s not practical. The extent of his frustration about not being able to meet was barking and/or crying and pulling on the leash. The first time he cried, I thought his neck might actually hurt, but then I touched him in multiple places all over his body and he cried at all of those too, and the only time he has ever cried is when he’s excited.
This is really a pretty mild “issue.” My personal dog, Galen, used to jump, spin, scream, and bite the leash when he saw another living being or moving gate on a walk. I’m using the strategy with Nelson that got Galen to the point where he looks at people, but maintains a calm mindset. Each time he sees someone he wants to meet I: don’t make a big deal about it, adjust the leash to the very top of his neck if needed, and give a gentle pull straight up if needed to keep him beside me. Once I figured out what worked for him, he immediately started making progress. We haven’t had any crying for 4 or 5 days, and the level of excitement is decreasing steadily.
If you’d like more information on how to adopt Nelson, or any MARC pet, visit our website or Facebook Page.
Photo cred: Danielle D Hale, check out her handmade jewelery benefiting MARC
Welcome to my first ever blog, Fostering Grreatness. I’m starting this as a way to record the details of my dog fostering experiences and to give potential adopters a complete picture of the dog they are interested in adopting. I may occasionally share some of my philosophy about life and dogs, but the focus will be my day-to-day happenings with the dogs.
Stop over to the “About” page to learn a little about me and how I got into fostering.