Monday, December 29, 2014

Changing Heidi's Treatment

Before we get into the reasons why Heidi's treatment is changing direction, I thought I'd post a picture of Winston and Sadie outside on Christmas day with very unusual weather ... like high 40's.

Since they know the weather should be colder, all three hounds have done their annual migration to the leather couch. Luckily when I want to sit there to watch a game, a movie, or read a book ... one of them will move to another chair or spot on the floor.

Like I was saying, Christmas Day did not feel like the typical Midwestern winter day. It was just a few years ago we had over 24" of snow and I was clearing driveways a couple of different times due to the non-stop snowing. Not this year.



I think you will agree this next picture looks like a cool November day in the Midwest.

Christmas Day 2014

Sadie doesn't like the iPhone camera but loves posing in front of the Nikon D3200


I made a mistake in my last post when I wrote about Heidi's Atopica dose. I had put 500mg per day but it was 100mg per day, I've corrected the previous post. Huge difference. That comes in a very large capsule. Since it has to be given 1 hour before her meal or 2 hours after her meal, hiding the capsule in cheese or peanut butter was not an option.

I am not even sure if that would have worked, since she is very good at separating what she doesn't like to eat. Luckily she is a very good dog when I open her mouth and I can slide the large capsule down the back of her throat without her trying to bite me or fighting it.

With the daily dose of Atopica I was seeing improvement like I wrote about the last post. Our goal was a gradual decrease in dosage from daily to hopefully 1 per week or 2 per month.

December 12, as per the vet's instructions I decreased the dosage to every other day. Within a few days I started seeing her itch more, and she was back to chewing her feet. Her spots were not nearly as bad as they were October 28 when we took the initial trip to the vet but her rear hocks were still hairless and red as well as her armpits. 

I had mentioned the armpit issue in my last vet visit November 29 but was told due to the excess skin a basset hound has it was having a hard time drying out and healing after the medicated shampoos. That seemed strange to me because her armpits have never been a problem until October. I can't say I was thrilled with that answer at the time but nodded my head and moved on.

When she recently started itching again, chewing herself again after 8 weeks of treatment ... I decided to read more about Atopica. Back in October I had read about any possible side effects Heidi might have taking Atopica plus what the long term effects were. All the information I read in October seemed to show it was the drug to use for allergies without using steroids. It had been used in people for years but not dogs and cats until 2003.

Someway in that initial research I missed the long term effect  that Atopica had.

Last week I did an internet search for "Is Atopica safe for dogs".  A lot of links showed up, some dog forums where dog owners were discussing their results and of course places to buy it online. The majority of people on the forums and customer reviews said Atopica was great, they had used it for years and they had given their dog a better quality of life by controlling their allergies. All said their dogs lived to be 9 years or older.

Like any medication for dogs, unless it's something out of the ordinary, if a dog lives a healthy life while on the medication and dies at the age or 9 or older, who can say the medication had anything to do with failing kidneys, or a bad heart?

These are the two articles that made me ask myself if I was giving her the right medication. They made me reconsider different options for treating her allergies. I decided a different direction in her treatment might be best:

Atopica: A Dangerous Path - click here 

Is Atopica Safe? - click here

Also the websites you find in searches, I'm using DuckDuckGo instead of Google now, how many of those sites discussing the reasons why you should not use that specific drug are really trying to steer you to buy their recommended dog food or products? As an example when I bought Dinovite last summer, a food supplement that did not work ... all of their email replies were telling me to stop all dog food and use their raw food formula along with their other supplements.

It's like a Catch-22. Which should you believe?

I decided the plan I chose at the vet October 28 was not working as well as I expected. Yes, she did give me 3 choices  to TRY to treat the allergies and I chose the Atopica plan. She also wrote in her notes to call her if Heidi's condition worsened or failed to improve.

"failed to improve" ... While on a daily dose, it did improve but not everything I expected. If Atopica was to help stop the itching and chewing, why was I having to continue Benadryl to stop the itching and chewing?  Like I said, her rear hocks were red and hairless and her armpits were hairless and at times red. 

So I decided that after 8 weeks of treatment, $300 worth of Atopica, plus Benadryl every 8-12 hours to prevent itching ... the current plan was not working.

The Benadryl was suppose to be used up until the time there was improvement yet the itching never stopped after 8 weeks.

I told my problem to a friend of mine that rescues dogs and cats. Some of her dogs have had medical problems and with her medical background she is very informed about different medications. She replied later with a long detailed email describing what Heidi was doing or really what her weak immune system was doing ... along with what Atopica was doing.

She agreed with my idea of changing treatment plans. Instead of just putting a "band aid" on the problem, try and strengthen Heidi's immune system through a diet change and possibly adding pro-biotics to her food. As I said in a different blog post, Heidi had these allergies when I bought her from the Basset Rescue. She was under regular medication, which was later changed by my vet to a different pill, then finally steroid shots after the pills were no longer working more than a week or two.

I spent days reading all I could about Atopica, visited forums that were linked in these articles and also looked again at the dog foods I had fed her over the past three years. I found some interesting things on a forum of Scottish Terrier owners where Atopica was discussed. That is where I read where many owners were happy giving their dogs Atopica, with good results.

There were 3 other owners that stood out. 

They stopped Atopica due to the same problems Heidi was still having. They changed their dog food with some great results. None of them worked for the dog food company, nor were affiliates. All three thought it would take months before they might see improvement but they were shocked how fast they saw change. One of the three said she even saw improvement after two weeks of feeding Merrick's Pork and Sweet Potato blend.

Pork is one ingredient I have never considered in a dog food. I've always fed good quality dog food to my hounds, or at least those that are highly rated by Dog Food Adviser. I've gone back and forth between grain free and regular food as long as it did not include wheat, corn or by-products. Most of those dog foods were Chicken and Rice or Lamb and Rice blend. Most had fruits and vegetables added to the ingredients.

After years of researching dog food ingredients, even filling out a spreadsheet of their first 5 ingredients so I could compare foods at a glance ... there was one thing I didn't consider with Heidi ... maybe she has a chicken allergy.

Was she allergic to Chicken or chicken products? Or was the Canola Oil I found in the Taste of the Wild no grain food causing problems. I normally feed the Diamond Naturals Large Breed with Chicken and Rice or Fromm Chicken and Rice. When I decided at different times to go to a grain free food, thinking that might be Heidi's problem I buy Taste of the Wild .. not paying any attention to Canola Oil that was in the Salmon blend.

Last week I didn't like what I read in either of these two articles about Canola Oil now being added to dog food. Taste of the Wild has added Canola Oil to a lot of their different blends of dog food.

Canola article No.1 - click here

Canola article No.2 - click here

So the search for a new dog food was on. I hate the thought on how much dog food costs now, as they raise prices while reducing the size of the bag but I decided I would go with grain free, no chicken an no lamb. Since three of those people had results with a specific kind of dog food I decided to go with Merrick's Grain Free Real Pork and Sweet Potato. This blend also has Salmon Meal and Salmon Oil.

Yes, all of her allergies could be environmental and probably are but the issue is what I am doing now isn't working. When I combine what my friend told me about allergies and immune systems with the three people that got results using this specific food, I have to try it.

So to finally end this longer than planned post, I started the new treatment this past Saturday by giving her the medicated shampoo bath. I am mixing the old and new food 50/50 while gradually changing to 100% new food over 3-4 days. As far as ingredients such as Canola Oil, or Rice, etc...you might think those are small amounts and may or may not have an effect. I asked my vet the first visit if the Wheat in the Milk Bone brand bone would have an effect on her, the vet replied that even if the dog licked the bone, it was enough to be absorbed and be a potential problem. So, that is the way I look at individual dog food ingredients.

After 8 weeks and 60 Atopica Capsules, this is what Heidi looked like on Saturday:

Rear Hock

Armpit

Atopica did improve her paws and neck area. So that improvement that made me consider that still being an option. Yet, treating her without harsh drugs is my first choice. I do not expect instant results and not even the two week results where those forum owners spoke about. All dogs are different as well as treatments. I plan do this food combination for months before I decide if any changes are needed.

I have started the Merrick grain free pork and sweat potato dog food and for relief of any skin rashes I will be using Baby Spa Shea Butter Diaper Cream based on my friends recommendation for dog skin care.

Below are the before and after pictures.

October 28
December 27




October 28


December 27


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Checking In - Not a Lot to Write About

Since it has been a few days since my last post, I thought I'd stop by and write a post. Nothing has really gone one since my last post and as you see I've not posted any photos here like I have promised. Sorry about that.

I have found it very hard to take a lot of pictures when the temperatures are in the 30's. That's just me. I've never been a fan of really cold weather to hangout out outside, unless it was skiing in Colorado and Washington. Even though this winter in the 'tropics' of southern Indiana has been pretty mild so far. The weather experts are predicting a little snow this week, but weather is always changing here, so who knows.

Heidi is looking the best she has in a while. I know, I need to take some new photos and post them here with a before and after shot. By the vets direction last visit, I am now giving her 100mg of Atopica every other day instead of daily with plans of reducing her doses as much as possible.

Her recommended dog bath with medicated shampoo every 3-4 days ... I have failed miserably. It's such a hassle giving hounds a bath, even when they don't mind it. She is getting one this morning though.

I am still in my book reading mode, can't seem to stop. It must be the cooler temps outside that keep me reading books inside. Maybe I have traded my yard work in the good weather for book reading in bad weather.

A lot of college basketball on the television and I must say that I am thrilled with Indiana beating Butler yesterday. The college football bowl games are just starting, but I only watch the ones where I like the team match-ups. There are really too many football bowl games but as usual in sports it's all influenced by money. Even though many of the games are not attended well, I guess those few that do attend do bring enough income to the host city to make it worth it. Cities still want to host some kind of college football bowl game. You would think they are about to run out of sponsor names for those bowls.

Some colleges that are selected to play in those bowl games end up losing money for the trip. Yet at the same time a bowl for a college team gives them extra practices, a boost to their recruiting and an increase in alumni donations to their college.

For those following my house heating experiment, I have had to turn on the electric heat since the outside temperatures dropped to the 20's and 30's. A few times it was cold enough inside the house that I didn't see any need to be cold just to save a few dollars. Since I can see my kilowatt usage every day on the utility company website, I can tell from the usage, how to use my 1975 baseboard electric heat in an economical way. I am still spending below my budgeted amount.

This past week I was asked by a different people what kind of dog food I feed the hounds. It was kind of funny because these questions came from people that didn't know each other, were from different parts of the country, was asked via different ways of communication and all about the same time ... within a couple of days of each other.

Looking back at my list of dog food purchases, it looks like I have changed the food a lot, but it's all been good dog food. Some was 'no grain', some wasn't. The reason for the changes were the allergies that Heidi had ... I wanted to see if it was the food or was environmental.

A few years ago you might remember me taking photos of the cart full of eight 40# bags of Nature's Domain bought at Costco. That food is made by Diamond dog food, with the ingredients very very similar to Taste of the Wild, which is also made by Diamond dog.

With a 200 mile round trip to get to my closest Costco, last year I stopped making that trip and started buying dog food locally. At that time it was Diamond Naturals 60+, now called Diamond Naturals for Large Breeds. Recently they changed not only their packaging but also the list of ingredients. They have more fruit and vegetables added but still had 'grain' but has never had corn, wheat or soy. I can buy that at the local farm feed store, 40# bag costs me $33 including tax, cash or check, no credit or debit cards....yes, it's an old fashion feed store.

With Heidi's skin allergies, which she had when I bought her from Guardian Angel Basset Rescue in July 2011, she had those same allergies, and they were noted on my paperwork along with all of her medical records. In trying to find a possible source, I tried different dog foods, some of them were 'grain free'. A raw diet was never tried and 90 days of a Dinovite supplement did nothing for improvement.

Hoping I could solve her allergies with 'no grain' dog food, I tried Taste of the Wild and Fromm dog foods. Fromm is a family owned business in Wisconsin that deals in only manufacturing dog food. They are one of three dog food manufacturers in the USA, that only deal with dog foods. It's really a great dog food.

Well over a couple of years of trying the no grain food, then switching back and forth to the Diamond Natural for Large Breeds ... I didn't find that Heidi's allergies were dog food related. Her skin rashes did not improve by feeding her 'grain free' food. All three hounds have the softest coats and vets have told me multiple times they have never felt a basset hound coat feel so soft.

So the food I am feeding them is good, since the hair would be the last part of a dog using the ingredients of the dog food that is used.

Yes, for people that laugh (in a good way) about all of my Excel spreadsheets, I do have one that lists the top five ingredients of each dog food I have either bought or were interested in, along with the percentages for calories, fat, water etc. I can look at them side by side and compare them.

I have a different Excel spreadsheet I did a few years ago tracking the "true cost" of a bag of different dog foods, by adding using the miles driven to buy the food, fuel cost estimate and frequency of trips to come up with a cost per pound.

Even though it is a 200 mile round trip to my local Costco, that was the cheapest dog food per pound. Although it would increase the amount of fuel used for the month.

Am I crazy with all the analysis I do?  LOL ... at times I think I am slightly insane ... or maybe it's nothing more than curiosity.

Some have said you have to be a little crazy to keep from going insane.

I have deactivated my Facebook account, again. 

In case I don't make it back to blog until after the holidays ... Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday's to all that read this blog .. A Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

My Electric Heat Experiment Continues

I'm sitting here with my North Face jacket on, hands are cold and I can feel cool air throughout the house. Both new and regular readers might be saying "turn your heat on" or asking why don't I turn the heat on.

Well remember in one of my recent posts I had talked about reducing my electric usage this winter. One, I was curious with different temperatures and reducing my planet footprint, I really didn't want to pay to keep the house hot because 65° is the maximum setting I have liked over the years during the winters. Also a factor is my utilities raised not only their rates this past September for the first time in three years but they have a schedule where the highest rates per year are during the peak usages per year.

Smart people aren't they? Getting the biggest bang for the buck? So let's charge 'em more during air conditioning and when they use their heaters.

With the new EPA laws on the horizon, and the future of Indiana's coal based power plants, no one really knows how much the cost of electricity will increase ... but most everyone that writes about it or reports it on television agree there could be large increases after the new laws are implemented.

So with that lingering in the back of my mind, I was somewhat concerned yesterday when my local utility company emailed me a survey to complete from a 3rd party organization. They asked all the questions you would expect and it took about ten minutes to complete. While I went through the questions all I could see was, "how will the radical changes to coal based power plants affect you as a consumer".

I am seriously considering having solar panels installed on my roof that faces due east with a clear sky above it. When I have estimated that cost in past years and compared to my low monthly utility bill, the cost to install solar never was justified. It may soon be justified in a year or so.

That also brings up the thought it might be time to go completely mobile, with solar already installed, and hit the road, dogs and all.

Yes, I am concerned that much about future increases to my local utilities since Indiana's power plants in my area and Indianapolis are coal based.

So, where was I? Ah yes, cold hands and a cool 'breeze' throughout the house. Soup for meals never tasted so good as recently.

This past weekend outside was high 40's and some low 50's ... I know not exciting to read about but it ties in with my inside house temps. My house stayed at 60°. It wasn't a sunny weekend but a warmer weekend. Prior to that when the temps had highs in the 30's with lows in the lower 20's, the inside of my house stayed between 56° - 60°. Cold to most people and Heidi but ok for me, Winston and Sadie.

Some will call this an act of boredom but I call it my analytical curiosity by nature. I tried different experiments.
  • Baseboard electric heat on until inside temps got to 65°
  • Only space heaters on until inside temps got to 65°
  • How long did each take?
  • How many kilowatts were used during each time.
No, unlike most things I did not start a new Excel Spreadsheet like I do for everything else, just written notes to compare.

If you have not made it this far, clicked a different site link on the left, I completely understand. Still there are some interesting findings.
  • It took approximately 2 hours to increase the inside temps from 60° to 65°.
  • Baseboard electric heater used 3 kw per hour.
  • Space heaters used 2 kw per hour.
  • If I used the heat late afternoon, it lasted most of the time I was awake.
Adding in my cost of electricity per kilowatt, it proved to me it was much more money than I wanted to spend just to have a warm house 16 hours per day. MY cost included kw used, what they call a PCA tracker fee, sales tax (7%) and a facility charge ($34). With those additional fees that brings my kilowatt cost from around 11.5 cents to 22 cents per kw.

My bill also shows a cost per day just on kw usage. One year ago they said my daily cost was $4.33 per kw and that has increased this year to $4.70 before adding in the fees I listed above. That is an 8.5% increase in cost.

See how much time I have on my hands??  (laughing)

I think by this time in this blog post I am probably talking to myself right now ... but I'll keep going.

Temps are due to drop back into the 30's for the next 10 days with a couple of days of snow predicted. Based on past years, even though I was gone most of the time during the day working ... the house will stay close to 60° no matter what.

Overall I will say my experiment is working out well, at times better than expected.

My new sports blog is staring off well with a LOT of traffic so far after a week of existence. I write there every day but basically am writing the posts a day in advance of posting.

I need to pick up a new tripod to use with my Nikon D3200 I bought last fall. I have a smaller, lighter tripod I bought years ago for the small Nikon  Coolpix 3100. I want to take some night sky shots and need a tripod to take those types of pictures. I have enough Best Buy credits that I can get the tripod for free.

From reading my blog list, it sounds like overnight lows in the SW are about my highs in the "tropics" of southern Indiana. That is still cold no matter where you are. I am glad to see Al and Kelly got their inverter fixed and are planning on more traveling, some revisiting of old favorites.

That's about it from here. I haven't got out much to take photos, after all the hounds and I stay inside most of the time under sleeping bags trying to keep warm ... lol

BTW ... getting a lot of blog visitors from the Ukraine ... you think they are trying to hack me? Do you get them in large numbers on your blog?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

I'm In Total Hibernation

It looks like it has been a while since my last post, that talked about being a nester or an explorer. In the past 18 days since my last post I have turned into a serious hibernator more than anything. It's not even snowing yet, temperatures are fantastic for this time of year but that hasn't got me outside a lot. It's like I am almost house bound and I'll tell the reasons further down the page.

The hounds and I are fine and still get in the daily dog walk unless the ground is so saturated where it is just too muddy, soft or wet to walk through the field. With Winston's belly so close to the ground when he walks, it doesn't take much to get his whole underside wet if the hay is damp when walking. Sadie will walk in snow, rain, wind or fire ... she just doesn't care what the weather is doing when she hears the word "walk". Heidi on the other had is strictly a good weather walker. If she finds herself having to 'tip toe' through the yard or field, she does a 180 and sprints for the house and refuses to go.

Heidi and I went for a vet followup visit on November 28 to check on her treatment for erythema and alopocia. There was improvement but not as much as I thought would happen after a month of daily doses of 100mg of Atopica, medicated shampoo baths every 4 days and diphenhydramine (benadryl 50mg) every 8-12 hours to prevent itching. Yet, the vet was very happy with the progress. We walked out with a $16 bill or a 'check-up' visit and a month supply of Atopica worth $150 for free because he had started the treatment process. She wanted me to continue the daily doses for 2 more weeks than move to giving the Atopica every other day.

I will say in the past week Heidi has looked the best she has in a long time, skin-wise. All 4 of her paws have a thick growth of hair, along with under her neck and her rear hocks are starting to show a layer of hair coming back. Of course whenever there is some kind of allergy involved, the question lingers in back of the mind asking, is t the medication working or is it the season change where allergies are not as prevalent?

Anyway, either way she is looking much better and it's nice to know that steroid shots were not needed for the improvement. We go back January 9 for a followup. After that I am hopeful the skin problem will be under control with doses of Atopica maybe every 3-4 days from then on. The vet says that is the plan and it should work out to less dosage year round for her allergy control.

One thing I like about blogging is the function of record keeping. When I glanced back through 2011-2013 in the month of December I saw that last year I only posted one time in December. It was on December 9th, a picture of the Coachman was sitting in the back covered with 12" of snow. I had forgot that it snowed that early in the month. After seeing that I was pretty happy with the current daytime temperatures in the low 40's most of the time. Also it also showed me that I rarely posted during the month of December, 3 times in 2012 and 5 times in 2011 only a couple of months after starting the blog.

So I guess for me it's just normal not to post much in the month of December.

I do write on two other blogs that I have now. One is a personal journal that I write in every morning. I started that journal in late August. I like doing that because it kind of clears my mind. Plus I wanted a way to record my mood swings and health conditions. It will also give me a record for any computer issues and solutions, and a history of what the hounds have done. That blog is in the private status and I decided to use that format because it was much more convenient using Blogger rather than Microsoft Word.

The other blog was just started this week. As you know I am a sports junkie. Over the years I would send out an email before every game IU played in football or basketball, to a group of friends I went to college with, back 40 years ago. These emails would cover stories, statistics or previews. This year the 'roar' seemed to get louder from the small group of friends saying "you need to start a blog and write about all of this".  I thought about it off and on but thought 3 blogs were too much.

Then I decided why not? The purpose would be a little different than the private journal and this blog about my rv research, retirement life and future travels. Unlike this blog, I also wanted to add some Google Adsense and some sports affiliate links for some possible income. So this week I decided to take the plunge and started a new sports only blog, talking about no specific team or sports, just sports in general.

That small group of friends liked the first post so much they passed the blog link out to their sports friends and family scattered all over the USA and it is showing me through google states I am getting some pretty good traffic after just a couple of posts. One friend even said that I might have to go into hiding after writing in such a controversial tone about our favorite team....lol. I even signed up for a Google + account, put all the settings to public to get the blog spread out as much as possible.

No matter what time of the year or where I am, my interest in sports is always there and I am always reading about it or watching it, so the sports blog should be pretty fun. I'll not have any problem finding something to write about.

Speaking of those Google stats that are provided to bloggers using Blogger as their blog platform, behind the scenes on your blog traffic, it showing this past month that the Ukraine not only passed Canada in number of visitors but also moved to the #1 spot above the blog visitors in the USA. How strange is that? Are they trying to hack me or do they just like the hounds? I don't know.

So I have added a couple of new blogs to the list of blogs for those that are interested in security news, online or shopping. One is the LastPass blog. It is the free service I use for all of my passwords to my banks, and any other sites, all encrypted passwords. The other blog is about security not only on your computer but also credit cards. That blogger usually has a new post every day M-F with some great information. Like today I found out that my browser updates did not run and install automatically along with the Microsoft Office for Mac. His blog will always be near the top of the list because he blogs frequently.

Since I am hibernating there might be some readers wondering if I am sitting in front of my computer 15 hours per day or am I still using that Nikon D3200 camera I bought a few months back and if I am why not any pictures?

I am spending very little time on the computer. Just enough to write, read blog updates and sports news. The rest of my day is including a lot of book reading, more than I had planned on but I can't stop reading and am finding books that I have bought but never read until now. I am still downsizing plus some normal indoor maintenance/updates that comes with home ownership. I pop in an occasional movie. I finally sorted all of my DVDs alphabetical. That will prevent this older brain from buying duplicate movies which I found about 7 different shows where I did that after I sorted them.

I use the camera almost every day but those photos are not much different than what you have already seen of the back field, sunsets to the west taken from my yard or the hounds. The hounds are not really doing much besides winter sleeping. Sadie won the war on changing the dinner time for her and the bassets. When we "fell back" in the fall for the time change, she would come and sit by the desk at 3pm not 4pm if she had not been fed yet. Then as Heidi started feeling better she started barking at 3pm wanting to be fed and Winston walks toward his bowl but just sits and stares as if to say "what are their problems". So we eat by 3pm based on the bloodhound's demands. So much for the time change.

I will say there have been a couple of close calls but I have NOT dropped the camera or lens, I haven't dropped the new iPhone or iPad Mini. I love the Mini iPad even more than the larger, heavier 1st generation iPad that I used previously. The retina display is fantastic and I can tell the difference with my eyes. My glasses are not needed to read the smaller fonts.

Well it looks like I have rambled on enough here. I'll try to load some photos on my next post and will try to start blogging her more. It's hard to decide sometimes what is boring and what is interesting to readers since my current lifestyle is pretty mundane.

I do enjoying reading my blog list to keep track of everybody. Weather-wise it sounds like the best place to be most of the time is in Gulf Shores, Alabama.