Friday, May 11, 2007


Warning - serious unpleasantness ahead.

There's a bit of a problem in the family at the moment, and one I fear that is only going to get worse. Chiswick, the oldest of our dogs, has been trying to die for about the last seven of his fourteen years. But now he seems determined to succeed.

Actually, even as a puppy he had problems. He was definitely the runt of the litter, and never really grew up after that. At about six months he lost all the hair on his head, though it grew back again after a long, drawn-out course of medicated shampoo and lotion.

1993 - a little under 3 pounds

Later, there was the episode with Ed the Labrador, who suffered from violent fits. Chiswick was unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of one of these, and lost an eye for it.

Then there was the problem with glands I won't go into in any more detail than is necessary. Suffice it to say he had to have his knackers off, and the vet refused to give him neuticles, leaving him nothing to lick and polish.

2002 - at the beach, working on a tan

And there was the time his hair all started falling out, which we never really got to the bottom of despite spending an enormous sum on blood and skin tests.

A couple of years back he developed a hard knob on the underside of his tail near the base. Towards the end of last year, this burst into an open sore which only now, after repeated applications of Sudafed, is beginning to heal properly.

He's always been a fussy eater, to the point of near starving himself to death when the Horse Doctor and I went to Australia for six weeks and left him in the tender care of my parents. There's something not right about a dog that won't eat expensive tinned dog food on the off chance that he might get some cheese instead. He's had steroid injections, vitamin pills, antibiotics and probiotics. For a dog that cost nothing to buy, he's surely made up for it in vet bills.

But now I fear he is finally on the way out. When we returned from the Great Canadian Skiing Adventure, it was to find a dog looking like something from a Hieronymous Bosch painting - all skin and bones. But according to Mum, who'd been looking after the tribe whilst we were away, he'd been eating everything put in front of him, and begging for more all the while.

Back home, this proved to be the case. Where once he was a fussy eater, now he would polish off his dinner and then try to steal from the others. Keen to put some weight back on him, I indulged his gluttony to the point where he was eating a whole standard tin of dogfood a day - which for a dog weighing about two kilos is a lot of Butcher's Tripe. And yet he doesn't seem to be getting any fatter.

One other problem that often hits older dogs is incontinence, and Chiswick is no different in this respect. His main problem is that he is too weak in the back legs to make the leap through the dog-flap in the back door. Fortunately, the floor is tile and lino - easy to clean. But over the months I've become very bored of mopping up dog piss every morning before breakfast.

It struck me that I was never having to clean up dog shit, but only in a 'thank the lord for that' kind of way. Then I noticed that whilst Chiswick was remaining defiantly skeletal, the other two showed distinct signs of tubbiness- this despite my cutting their food right back. The DevilDog I could understand. He's old too, and so arthritic that he doesn't get any meaningful exercise anymore. But the dachshund and I go for an hour's walk every day, and whilst he has twice as many legs as me they are very, very short. How could he be getting fat on the meagre handful of dried mix he gets for his breakfast and tea?

I worked it out finally when I caught the two of them chomping away at something on the lawn. At first I thought it was a
votive offering of baby rabbit from Buddug the cat, but closer inspection revealed a slightly less wholesome truth. What they were eating was Chiswick poo.

2007 - eating his own bodyweight in butcher's tripe - and
yes, he finished the bowl.

It's called coprophagia, and is usually a sign of extreme dietary restriction and mineral deficiency. It is known in dachshunds, particularly when they are puppies, but usually only those raised by unscrupulous dealers, who keep them in small cages with little exercise and even less food. Baby rabbits do it, too, when lacking vital minerals in their diets. In Chiswick's case, it's a sign that his digestive system has all but packed up. His appetite is all screwed up as well and it's only a matter of time before he starts to fall apart completely. It's always hard when a pet comes to the end of his life, not least judging when is the right time for the one-way trip to the vet. Chiswick's not in pain, though his brain is a little addled. But I'm steeling myself for the day, and in the meantime keeping the lawn scrupulously clean of tiddly-pooh. As far as Mort and Mac are concerned, they're just eating Butcher's Tripe that doesn't need chewing.

Like I said, Ewww.

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Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

Dogs do have some disgusting habits.

Apparently you can re-eat feces seven times before it loses all nutritional value. Someone told me that once, an alleged wilderness survival tip.

I have never tried to confirm it one way or the other.

May 11, 2007 6:29 pm  
Blogger angie said...

Poor puppy (and his sick puppy friends). Sounds like the little guy has sure been through a lot. And so have his humans.

May 12, 2007 5:30 am  
Blogger Stuart MacBride said...

Poor Chibbly. He's always been the nicest terrier I've ever known.

But as you say: at least he's not in pain, even if his mind is almost as addled as yours.

May 12, 2007 8:40 am  
Blogger Gabriele C. said...

Could it be he has diabetes? Eating a lot and losing weight is a symptom for it. And if so, his poo probably has a slight taste of honey added to the mix, maybe the other dogs like that,

May 13, 2007 11:30 pm  
Blogger Chaser said...

I'm sorry to read this, James. I hope he has it as easy as possible.

May 14, 2007 10:24 am  

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