Conrad: Licking and Swallowing Fits

 Posted by on 24 December 2009 at 7:00 pm  Animals, Personal, The Beasts
Dec 242009

Since we adopted our dog Conrad last spring, he has suffered from a strange kind of fit that we’re pretty desperate to see somehow resolved. The set of symptoms are very distinctive: he’ll compulsively lick and rapidly swallow, and sometimes give a sharp cough. If the fit is particularly bad, he’ll attempt to eat anything in sight — grass or snow if he’s outside, but otherwise clothing, dog toys, carpet, his dog bed, etc. (That seems to be a desperate attempt to settle his stomach.) Basically, the symptoms develop based on the severity of the fit: the core symptom is the rapid swallowing — and to that might be added licking, then the cough, and then, only in the worst cases, eating anything and everything in sight. The more severe the fit, the more upset and agitated Conrad becomes. A fit might last five minutes — or two hours. They come in waves. So he’ll be fine for a few weeks, then he’ll suddenly have many of them each day for a few days.

We have not been able to discern any kind of pattern to them, nor any kind of cause. Nothing seems to ease his symptoms at the time. As for prevention, we’ve varied his food in all kinds of ways, to no effect. My vet recommended putting him on a daily dose of pepcid, but that didn’t work. I’ve even tried Dr. Eades’ Protexid, but that hasn’t worked.

Conrad isn’t unique in these fits. On rare occasion, they’re referred to in forums as “the gulps” or “licky fits.” They seem common to certain breeds, albeit not German Shepherds. Apparently, the fits don’t lead to bloat, and they aren’t due to any anatomical abnormality. However, they’re said to be a mystery. I’ve not seen any definitive account of their cause, nor of treatment.

Conrad has been fine for the last few weeks, but then in the wee hours of the morning, he developed a severe bout. It has recurred many times today. He’s pretty unhappy — and I’m miserable that I can’t help him. (I also have to watch him like a hawk, lest he eat something he shouldn’t. Worst case, I can put him in his crate without any bedding, as they he can only lick the plastic tray. I hate to do that unless absolutely necessary, however.)

Tonight, I finally captured a portion of a bad fit on video, using my iPhone. Here it is.

Do any of you have any experience with these fits? If so, do you know what the cause might be — or how to treat it? If so, please comment! Or e-mail me at [email protected].

Notably, my vet has never seen or heard of these kinds of fits in any dog. She’s never seen Conrad with them either; I’ve only just described them to her. Given their transient nature, I think that trying to get the dog to the vet during a fit would be difficult, if not impossible. Also, I imagine that the anxiety of being at the vet would suppress all but the worst fit. (Oh, and I’m pretty grossed out by the thought of poor Conrad compulsively licking the floor of an examination room, even if just cleaned.) Now that I’ve got a video of a fit, I could show that to her. And I could take it to one of the specialists at VRCC.

In the meantime, if you have any familiarity with these kinds of fits, Conrad and I would welcome any information or advice.

Update: From what I’ve read, these fits don’t seem to be dangerous in and of themselves. However, I worry about him eating something harmful, as he has shown himself perfectly willing to eat quite a bit of fabric, not to mention foam stuffing from his dog bed, when desperate. For example, last night, he managed to chew off the end of my brand-new coveralls in less than five minutes:

I had to buy those new coveralls because he ate about 1/3 of each leg from my last pair in a prior fit. So I’m deeply worried that Conrad will cause himself serious harm in one of these fits by eating something he ought not.

That exerts a toll on me: whenever he shows any signs of compulsive swallowing, I have to watch him like a hawk. That’s a huge drain on my attention and energy. For example, he kept me mostly awake with a fit from 2:00 am to about 3:40 am last night. He was safe in his crate, but I hated to hear him so obviously miserable.

That’s why I’m quite desperate for some kind of solution.

Taking It Easy

 Posted by on 6 November 2009 at 2:00 pm  NoodleFood, Personal, The Beasts
Nov 062009

I’ve decided to take it somewhat easy for the rest of the week, so I won’t post another podcast until Monday.

I’d hoped to post my next episode of Rationally Selfish Radio yesterday. However, the topic — of the proper response to offers of government welfare — is somewhat tricky, so I want to work out my views carefully. Plus, I have other pressing work. Tomorrow, I’m giving a short talk to Front Range Objectivism on Luck and Liberty, so I need to finish preparing for that. Also, I really want to finish up all the web updates that I started last week. Oh, and I’m trying to get to the bottom of some health problems too — hypothyroidism, I think. That’s taking some time, and I’m just not feeling as zesty for life as usual. So a break seems in order!

From what I hear, some of you could use some time to catch up. So get to it!

In the meantime, enjoy this picture of Conrad playing with a Boxer at the dog park this morning. They were doing more vertical jumping than I’ve ever seen Conrad do; the Boxer has all four paws off the ground in the picture. (Click for the full-sized version.)

Snow, Snow, and More Snow in Colorado

 Posted by on 29 October 2009 at 9:00 am  Personal, The Beasts
Oct 292009

We’re in a bit of a snowstorm right now in Denver. It began snowing on Tuesday night, and it’s expected to snow until this evening. The result? About a foot so far. Yikes! Paul and I have lived in Colorado since 2001, and we’ve never experienced a snowy fall like this one. It’s our fifth snow so far! (I blame global warming.)

Here’s the view from our front door as of yesterday afternoon around 2:30 pm. That’s a fence, a gate, and a clematis vine loaded with snow.

Here’s the same view as of this morning. We’ve got a bit more snow, eh?

Then we have Conrad, who had tons of fun running around in the snow this morning. After being cooped up all day yesterday, he had lots of energy to burn off!

And here’s the front of our house. Yes, that is a glacier forming on our roof.

Thankfully, Paul is off work today. We’ll have to dig out in time for him to go to work tomorrow though.

The News

 Posted by on 18 June 2009 at 10:15 pm  Dissertation, The Beasts
Jun 182009

It’s official: Diana Hsieh is now Dr. Diana Hsieh.

I woke up at 5:30 this morning to finish reading my dissertation, as well as to prepare the opening remarks for my defense. I did that, and then, in a bit of a rush, I drove the 55-mile / 65-minute trek to Boulder. As the last of its kind after seven long years of exhausting commutes, that drive was remarkably satisfying in itself.

The defense — from noon to two — went well. My committee was pretty easygoing, but fielding major questions about my work for more than an hour and a half does take its toll. My brain felt pretty well-frozen by the end. And then I had the emotional shock of being really done. So to recover myself, I drank some champagne in the department with my committee. Then Conrad and I enjoyed a beautiful ninety minute hike from Flatirons Vista, just south of Boulder. By the end, I felt like myself again.

After that, I headed to northwest Denver to conduct the second meeting of Front Range Objectivism’s summer Atlas Shrugged Reading Group. I’m very pleased with that group, but I’ll save the details for another post.

I got home about 10 pm, and now I’m definitely headed for bed. It has been a long, exhausting, and most excellent day. I appreciate — far more than expected — all of the well-wishes posted to these comments, as well as the congratulations posted to Twitter and FaceBook. I felt like I had my own personal cheering section on the last home stretch of a race. (My favorite line was via e-mail: “Break a premise!”)

I should mention that my Ph.D isn’t entirely finished yet: I have some minor changes to make to the dissertation this upcoming week before I submit the uber-final version to the university. However, as I’ve learned the hard way of late, even minor changes to a 320-page manuscript will require much time and effort. (I’m not required to make changes, but I noticed some fixable problems when I re-read the dissertation these past few days, mostly just bits of unclear verbiage.) Once that is done, I’ll release it for public consumption.

Again, thank you, everyone!

Current Weather Conditions Chez Hsieh

 Posted by on 18 April 2009 at 8:08 am  Personal, The Beasts
Apr 182009

Here in Sedalia, it has been snowing since Thursday night. It’s not expected to stop for a few more hours. At this point, we have a bit more than a foot of super-heavy, super-dense snow.

See for yourself:

And here’s Paul — before we ventured out.

After feeding Tara, we ran around with Conrad in the snow for about 20 minutes. (He needed to blow off some steam after being stuck inside most of yesterday.) We did a set of “sprints” up one of the hills in our pasture. It was seriously hard work.

Although a bit of an inconvenience, this snow is very much welcome. Until recently, we’ve been alarmingly dry all winter. It was particularly hot and dry in late February and early March. As a result, everything was brown. If you didn’t know the time of year, you would have thought it was fall. I was worried not only about wildfires this summer, but also about my pastures and gardens. I was feeling much better after some snows we’ve had in recent weeks, but this storm puts my mind at ease!

Denver Tea Party

 Posted by on 16 April 2009 at 11:26 am  Activism, Politics, The Beasts
Apr 162009

Yesterday, I was able to stop by the Denver Tea Party for about 45 minutes on my way to Boulder. I was surprised and pleased by the large turnout. A Denver Post article estimates a crowd of “more than 5,000 people” in attendance. Ari Armstrong has more details, including a slew of great pictures. From what I saw, he’s right to call the event “a limited success,” I think.

I was frazzled and overwhelmed, so I didn’t spend much time passing out the fliers I brought with me. (Next time, I’d like to make that my primary purpose.) Instead, new doggie Conrad and I walked about, being petted by and chatting with people on occasion. (I’ll leave you to figure out who was petted and who was chatting!) Although one of many dogs at the event, Conrad attracted quite a bit of attention because he was the only dog smart enough to wear his own sign:

Here’s a close-up:

And here’s the other side:

As you can tell, I didn’t prepare these signs carefully in advance. The idea only really occurred to me as I was driving to Denver. I was able to buy the requisite paper at Kinko’s, then make them hurriedly in the car with some markers I brought with me.

Despite that lack of good preparation, I was happy with the results. Many people noticed my signs: we got lots of friendly comments. Conrad definitely attracted far more attention than I would have carrying my own sign. Next time, I’ll make better signs and attach them more securely to him. It helps to have a gimmick for these kinds of events, I think.

Oh, and in light of Flibby’s well-justified scolding about the use of “tea bag” as a verb, I couldn’t help but take a picture of this unfortunate sign:

Um, wow. And, uh, no thanks…

The New Dog

 Posted by on 22 March 2009 at 11:01 pm  Animals, The Beasts
Mar 222009

Hooray! I’m so insanely happy to report that Paul and I adopted a dog yesterday afternoon from the Front Range German Shepherd Rescue. He’s a one-year-old, 70-pound German Shepherd male. He’s low-key, attentive, and affectionate, but inexperienced in the ways of the world. Right now, he’s a bit agitated by his unexpected change in residence. Over the next few weeks, he needs regular exercise to build muscle, training in walking gently on a leash, and instruction on playing nice with the cats and horses.

We haven’t decided on a name definitively, but we’re thinking “Conrad.”

As any cat owner might imagine, our cats are not so pleased by the introduction of this interloper to their domain. They’re in hiding.

A New Dog

 Posted by on 29 December 2008 at 1:17 am  Animals, The Beasts
Dec 292008

I am utterly desperate for a dog. I miss Kate terribly, and I miss Abby now more than ever. Mostly, however, I miss the presence of a good farm dog in our lives. I miss being a pack leader. I miss being welcomed home by a wagging tail. I miss my faithful companion for feeding the horses. I miss the security of the sharp alarm bark. I miss the diligent licking of plates. I miss the silly games and antics. I miss talking to the best of listeners. I miss having my doggie friend at my side.

Paul and I adopted Kate and Abby as adults from a shelter. This time, I’ve said that I want puppy. I’ve also said that I wanted to buy a dog from a breeder, so as to avoid (as much as possible) the kind of genetic problems suffered by both Kate and Abby. (Kate had very bad hip dysplasia; Abby developed degenerative myelopathy. Both diseases are common in German Shepherds, thanks to the AKC’s focus on form rather than function.)

However, after reading this Sports Illustrated article (with pictures) on what happened to Michael Vick’s dogs — and perusing the web site of the Front Range German Shepherd Rescue — I’m rethinking that decision. We might get a rescue dog instead.

In addition to their inherent excellent qualities as dogs, Paul and I found great pleasure in knowing that we had rescued Kate and Abby. Kate was obviously pampered in her previous home, but her orthopedic problems were quite serious. Another family might not have been able to afford the hip replacement surgery and pain management that enabled her to live so well for so long. Abby was not well-treated by her prior owner: she had been pretty seriously neglected by a [something unprintable] only interested in breeding her. She was 20 pounds underweight when we adopted her, and her behavior clearly indicated that she’d only been sporadically fed and watered. So by the kind of life we offered Kate and Abby, we helped them reach their full doggie potential. We saved them. And in turn, they rewarded us with their utmost loyalty. They were truly excellent dogs.

Undoubtedly, I want a young dog. And we’re set on another German Shepherd: we like the steady temperament and strong loyalty that characterizes the breed. So perhaps we should aim for a German Shepherd between six months to a year, so that we can test for hip dysplasia before adopting him/her.

The terrible part is that I can’t possibly spare the time for a new dog until the dissertation is done. So Paul and I will have to endure life without a dog for a few more months. That won’t be fun. However, the prospect of rescuing another dog feels like the right course. It feels like we’ll be honoring all that Kate and Abby were to us and all we were to them — and I like that thought very much.

Heartbreak, Part 2

 Posted by on 21 May 2007 at 3:51 pm  The Beasts
May 212007

Last week, Paul and I enjoyed a fantastically difficult five days of single and double track mountain biking around the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. (That’s our second trip with Escape Adventures. Paul and I highly recommend them.) We biked over 100 miles, with almost 8000 feet of ascent total. Happily, we were in fine physical shape for the trip. We never wimped out on rides, nor suffered from sore muscles — although with altitude of 7,000 to 9,000 feet, we were often short of breath on the bigger hills. We didn’t suffer any serious injuries, but I took a rather hard spill on the first day due to too-tight clips. After that, I abandoned my clips entirely, as they were simply too difficult to manage on single track for a beginner rider like me.

I do really enjoy these painfully strenuous vacations. Particularly with mountain biking, it’s all-too-easy to serious injure yourself if you lose focus for just a few seconds. So these trips really force me to leave all my work behind: whatever I’m not doing doesn’t prey on me, as it would if I were trying to do nothing on the beach. (I can’t even pack thoughts of work in my brain! No room!) However, I did read the book How to Complete and Survive Your Doctoral Dissertation by David Sternberg while lounging about camp. That was very helpful, since I came back from vacation ready to start my dissertation prospectus. (It’s already underway!)

Unfortunately, our otherwise excellent trip was marred by the death of our dog Abby. On Tuesday, she suffered a massive trauma that shattered her femur. We’re not sure how it happened, but she might have been trampled by my mare Tara or hit by a car coming up the driveway. She was taken to the Douglas County Animal Hospital by our housesitter Melissa right away, put on IV morphine and other drugs, and evaluated by three vets. (One of those vets was Dr. McVicker, the vet that Abby and I have been seeing every ten days or so for acupuncture for the last seven months. She’s grown very attached to Abby.) The vets determined that surgery and recovery would be very difficult even if Abby were fully healthy. However, she was sure not to recover with her degenerative myelopathy. Given her rate of decline from that neurological disease, Abby probably would have been unable to walk in six months, if not sooner. So recovery from such a massive hind-end trauma was just not a realistic option, nor remotely fair to ask of her.

Paul and I got the message about Abby on Wednesday morning. After a painful series of phone calls to determine the facts and make arrangements, I told Dr. McVicker that she should put Abby down that day. Sadly, it would have taken us at least 24 hours to return home. As much as I wanted to see Abby one last time, that was just not humanely possible. She was well-loved by friends at her end though. Dr. McVicker brought her outside on a stretcher for a few last good moments in the sun. Melissa, our long-time housesitter, was able to be with her, and she even brought our other dog Kate.

It has been strange to be home again without her. Paul and I were so far away when she was injured and put down, but we now feel her absence from home constantly. Kate seems to be doing reasonably well, although she’s a bit more stuck to me than usual. (Abby was always far more dependent on Kate than vice versa.)

Despite her various doggie flaws, Abby was an excellent dog. She was attentive, loyal, and protective. She was a very happy farm dog. She was a dog of rare quality for trailing riding: even in face of alluring distractions like wiggly wildlife and barking dogs, she remained 100% devoted to quietly following Tara and me on the trail. Most of all though, she was my dog. And I miss her.

2006 Blizzard

 Posted by on 21 December 2006 at 9:24 am  The Beasts
Dec 212006

Denver is presently in the midst of a small blizzard. It has snowed about two feet at our house so far. It is still snowing. It is expected to snow another few inches. Here’s what it looks like so far:

Today is quite lovely and peaceful, but that was not the case yesterday. It was blowing like hell, often forming rather large drifts, like this one right in front of our front door:

As a result of yesterday’s wind, the barn is full of snow. The horses, although blanketed in their high-tech winter gear, were completely miserable yesterday. I was so concerned about them that I trudged down to the barn last night at 11 p.m. to feed them some hot grain soup. (I just add hot water to their grain to make a hot mush. If they’re chilly, it helps warm them up quickly.) By then, however, the wind had calmed down. Still, they’re always happy to be fed. Here they are this morning, looking not-so-miserable:

Abby and Kate have been enjoying the snow — except when they get caught in a snow drift!

The cats, although not permitted outside, have enjoyed the snow the most, I think. When it snows, the birds are far more active than usual at the bird feeders. Moreover, their fluttery dark colors really pop against the white snow. So the cats are glued to the windows, swishing their tails and chattering, just like Elliot is here:

I’m feeling a bit stir crazy, particularly since Paul is gone. He slept at work last night; I’m pretty sure he’ll do the same tonight. Ah well, I have plenty of work to keep my busy!

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