Monday, 30 June 2008

Todays topic... Atopic.

More specifically Atopic Dermatitis which, it’s now been confirmed, is the condition affecting Bingley.

Bing hasn’t been having a great time recently. For the past couple of months we’ve been regularly giving him prescribed steroids in an attempt keep his allergy under control. Neither of us felt happy about having to use steroids but they seemed to be the only thing which would stop Bing from licking the fur off of his paws or constantly rubbing his head along the carpet. However, three weeks ago we had to withdraw all his medication in order to prepare him for his visit to his dermatologist, Julie Henfrey

That visit took place last Wednesday and what a marvellous person Julie turned out to be! Enthusiastic, energetic, and determined to get results. She also owns a Labrador herself and was very taken with Bingley. I've already noticed a definite camaraderie between Labrador owners (it seems to be based on an 'I know what you're going through' attitude!) but it was nice to have that experience added to Wednesday’s visit. She was clearly going to do everything she could in order to get Bingley’s condition sorted out

After asking us a slew of questions in order to help her build up a detailed picture of Bingley’s background and lifestyle, she went on to give Bing a thorough physical examination. The condition wasn’t difficult to identify but trying to discover the cause of his allergy would take a bit more effort. After discussing the options available to us, we left him with her for a couple of hours whilst she sedated him before going on to inject 50 common allergies into the patch she’d shaved on his side. How he reacted would determine what happened next.

Two hours later we were back in the consulting room with a very stoned looking dog: he really did look like he’d overdone it with the Guinness! In fact his eyes didn't start to focus until late evening and for much of the time he just stood there gazing at nothing - goodness knows what he was seeing. But we had to laugh when she told us that his wagging tail had woken up from the anaesthetic before the rest of him.

The result: 50 injections with 6 positives. Frustratingly the positives were in two different columns: outside he's allergic to a variety of grass pollens, inside the house he's allergic to dust mites. A lose, lose situation: in the summer the pollens will get him, in the winter (with the windows closed and the house nice and warm) there'll be lots more house mites to contend with.

Next: Julie has ordered a years supply of vaccine which will be specially prepared to target Bingley's allergies. This will be ready in two weeks when we'll return to see her and she'll administer his first inoculation. She'll then send the vaccine to our normal vet who we'll visit once a week and where Bing will get gradually increasing amounts of the medication until he reaches the optimum dosage. Our vet will also coach me on how to do this myself because after a month it'll be up to me to inject him.

But before the first inoculation he's on a course of steroids produced especially for dogs: after a few days these should alleviate his problems with none of the side effects usually associated with steroids. The downside is that they're ferociously expensive and Bingley doesn't like them - for the first time I've had to make him eat something.

Nevertheless the medication should (though it's not guaranteed) make a difference, and there's a remote chance that we might be able to wean him off of the vaccine at some point.

It’s been a difficult few weeks and we’re going to have to rethink some of our routines; but there’s no reason why Bingley’s lifestyle should be adversely affected. In fact we’ve continued to have fun in spite of the trauma of allergies. During the hot spell Bing has enjoyed playing in his new backyard paddling pool which we bought in order to help keep his paws cool. He was a little apprehensive at first, but then took to the water like any true Labrador and somehow instinctively knew that he had to breathe out when he was retrieving his ball!

I’m sure that once we have these allergies under control Bingley will feel fit enough to take on the world. No doubt we’ll then have a whole new set of adventures to distract us!

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Bay watch

Some of you might be wondering where Bingley has gone to. Certainly that’s something which I wondered a couple of weeks ago when I went downstairs one evening and found that he’d disappeared!

Most evenings Jane and I are usually upstairs working at our computers. Bing hasn’t got a computer yet, so he stays downstairs and sleeps. Sometimes I feel like joining him but most times I just pop down to put the kettle on and check that he’s ok.

On the evening in question however, I went downstairs and couldn’t see Bingley anywhere. Normally he sleeps close to the bottom of the staircase and is ready for action when one of us goes down. If he isn’t there he’ll be on the kitchen sofa, sleepily stretching himself awake as we pad down. Yes, yes, I know – dogs on furniture! But the kitchen sofa is the only concession we make and yes, again, I know that it’s going to be difficult for him to distinguish between one piece of furniture which he’s allowed to sleep on and another which he isn’t…but, we’re doing it anyway!

Bingley, I’m sorry to say, isn’t an overly lovey-dovey dog. He simply doesn’t come over and ask for a cuddle; and if we try to give him a hug (which we want to do all the time) he squirms around with a ‘gerroff me’ shrug, and walks away.

Sleeping on my slippers is the closest he’s ever come to showing that kind of affection. Imagine my surprise then when one morning whilst I’m sitting on the kitchen sofa quietly sipping my coffee and listening to the news, he decides to climb up and join me. Not only that, he then presses close against my side, curls up in a ball with his chin on my knee and goes to sleep.

Maybe I was just being used as a pillow, but I was a happy pillow. And yes, he was on the furniture but if that’s what it takes then so be it! Since that time he’s started to regularly join both of us and he often provides us with a very comforting start to our day.

But on the evening when he seemed to have vanished I checked the kitchen sofa and he wasn’t there. He wasn’t under the kitchen table either which is his second favourite Bing spot. Not only that, it was also very quiet. Unnaturally quiet, with no snoring or sounds of stretching awake.

I padded through to the dog house. It was empty. I looked around the kitchen again: no, I hadn’t missed him. Back to the lounge: no Bing. I checked that the back door was closed, and it was; but I still went into the back yard anyway just in case we’d shut him out. We hadn’t, though.

Back in the house I began to imagine dog abduction scenarios: the world famous Mighty Bing stealthily taken whilst we were clicking away at our keyboards upstairs.

Check again. Dog house: empty. Kitchen: vacant. Lounge: Bingless.

Then, walking over to the fireplace (the chimney was about the only place which I hadn’t checked) I noticed the tip of a brown tail sticking out from the far side of the sofa and invisible from anywhere else in the room. When I peeked over the arm of the sofa there’s the Bing squeezed into the curve between the end of the settee and the bay window, stretched out on his side fast asleep.

Many of the local cats sleep on window sills or lie there watching the world go past. Bing’s seen them and obviously thought it was a grand idea, but being too big for the sill he’d chosen the next best thing.

As I stood there looking at him, my heart still racing, his eyes opened and he noisily stretched himself awake with a very feline ‘oh, you’re back are you?' look on his face.

Since then the bay window has become his favourite place to sleep: his own little den, hidden from view. Unless of course one of us is sitting in the kitchen, in which case there’s a much cosier pillow to take advantage of.