Monday, December 29, 2008

Tooth Trouble

About a month ago I noticed a swelling on Savage's gum above his teeth. I originally guessed it was from a sliver of bone that got stuck between tooth and gum, or a chunk of wood from the sticks he's always chewing on. In any case, I assumed it was a foreign object that would work it's way out in time. Only a week ago did I realize it was infected and leaking pus, and I took him to the local vet. She confirmed what I was dreading: the swelling was from an abscessed tooth.
Savvy chipped his right upper canine tooth a long time ago (possibly on a raw pork hock, or one of those beef "pet bones" sold in grocery stores, neither of which I give him anymore), and I didn't realize the importance of having it treated right away. Apparently, though, the fracture exposed the pulp of the tooth, and eventually bacteria found it's way up the root canal. Right now my poor doggie is on what seems to me to be a very high dose of antibiotics; three 375mg tablets of Clavamox (amoxicillin trihydrate/clavulanate potassium) twice a day for a week.
I have an appointment next week with the local vet to discuss further options - root canal surgery or extraction. At this point I'm considering root canal first, since I feel it's important to keep his tooth, and because it's supposed to be less painless for the dog than taking it out. Also, extraction of the canine (fang) tooth is a not a simple surgery, due to the size of the tooth - the root of a canine is almost twice as long as the visible crown. "Pulling" the tooth can have some complications, and I've heard it may even weaken the bone where the root was. On the other hand, getting rid of that tooth altogether will effectively get rid of the problem once and for all. I'm disappointed in myself for not taking the gum swelling seriously because I'm sure Savage is in some pain. Both surgeries can be very expensive but it I feel something should be done as soon as possible. I know that some infections, left untreated, can spread into the bloodstream and lead to heart and kidney problems and beyond.
Making the decision to have him undergo oral surgery is tough, considering possible complications, different anesthesia and sedative medications he's not used to, pain during aftercare, etc. One positive thing is that the oral surgeon may also clean all Savage's teeth at that time, which is fortunate because he seems to have collected a bit of plaque in his 3 years, as evidenced in the first picture of this post. The raw diet generally keeps his teeth looking pretty good, but it would be nice to have them cleaned professionally. Hopefully the Clavamox is destroying the infection right now and easing his pain. I will be posting updates on his dental dilemma along the way.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Season's Greetings

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Regarding Wolves

The last few days have been bitterly cold, and my dane can't stand to be outside for more than a few minutes. His paws get cold so quickly that even eliminating outside in the snow is uncomfortable. Regular readers of my blog will remember my previous attempts to find Savage sufficient exercise in the really cold months, namely the treadmill I bought that he refuses to walk on, and the booties I bought that are impossible for him to walk IN. Today the temperature climbed all the way up to 14 degrees, so Savage and I could finally spend a good amount of time outside. He enjoyed bouncing through the deep snow and burying his whole head into snowbanks to sniff out rabbit tracks, and I enjoyed watching, knowing he was getting a little exercise.
What surprised me today was the number of wolf tracks on our driveway and the gravel road that runs perdendicular to it. There have been a couple incidents involving the native wildlife since we've moved to our new house, but none so close as this. A few months ago Savage and I were on a walk about 1 1/2 miles from our home when I started hearing wolves howling on the ridge above us. Another time Savage woke in the middle of the night, let out a long, loud howl and went back to sleep. The next morning I found where a wolf had gone to the bathroom next to the corner of the house. As we walked today, it was kind of an eerie feeling to realize that wolves had been on the same trail only last night. Timberwolf (gray wolf) attacks on dogs are rare(though much more common than attacks on humans), but they do happen. The general theory is that wolves will seek out dogs as prey when the moose/deer population in the area is very low, and/or lack of, or insufficient snow cover, makes it easier for wolves' normal prey animals to move around, and therefore harder for wolves to kill them. In addition, wolves that have become habituated to humans get less shy and are more likely to approach a domestic dog, even on a leash and accompanied by his owner. Living on the edge of the wilderness, as I have all my life, people get used to the wild animals that live in the woods, but in my opinion, the tracks we saw today were a bit too close for comfort. All I can do is watch Savvy carefully when he's out in the yard, and I plan to start carrying my handgun again when we are out roaming around: better safe than sorry. The majority of people I've talked to about this don't seem to understand that Savage's size is no deterrent to a determined pack, or even a single wolf. Regarding wolf attacks on dogs, Alaska state wildlife biologist Bob Stephenson said, in a 2007 Anchorage Daily News article, "Newfies, Great Danes, it doesn't matter. Wolves know how to kill like nobody's business".
While not treating these situations lightly, I would still like to stress that they are indeed wild animals that try to avoid humans and our habitats as much as possible. As I said before, attacks are rare, and vary from year to year. I think that with well-thought-out population management the relationship between wolves and humans (and their dogs!) could be controlled in a way that is beneficial to all.
Note: In some states, and in Minnesota specifically, wolves and wolf management continue to be controversial because of the importance of wolves as a supposed symbol of wilderness and a protected species, and on the other side the threats (real or perceived) to deer populations and pets and livestock. I have tried to temper this post so as to not offend any readers while still expressing my personal beliefs. As always, if you have any thoughts or comments, feel free to post them!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Quote III

"DOG, n. A subsidiary Deity designed to catch the overflow and surplus of the world's worship . . . . [H]is master works for the means wherewith to purchase the idle wag of the Solomonic tail, seasoned with a look of tolerant recognition." - Ambrose Bierce The Devil's Dictionary, 1911