Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Quality of Life

It's been over one month since we put Maya in an e-collar, and she only gets very limited cone-free time, usually during walks or at the beach. Even then, we still need to keep a close eye on her, as she would just start scratching anytime, and it can turn bloody in a just a few seconds. She also kind of figured out how to reach her back legs into the big cone but would only do so when she's super itchy. That's when the thundershirt comes in handy.

Over the past few days, we've been talking about putting her back on Atopica. Yes, there may be some side effects, but given how depressed she is now, we might be causing more mental illness. I know I would rather have a shorter but happier life, than a long but miserable one. I am just afraid that it may lose it's effectiveness over time, and we'll end up having to deal with the same trouble plus other damages the medicine have caused. We'll probably still wait till the summer is over to make the decision. If the conditions get better during winter, it'll buy us some time to prepare for the next spring. If it remains the same, we'll just have to do whatever it takes to get her out of the cone.

On the bright note, with some diet changes and more exercise, Maya's weight is back to 20.2 pounds. It's a big relief as we definitely don't want to deal with weight issues on top of what we already have in our plates.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Some Improvements

There seems to be some improvements to Maya's itchiness after starting her on valerian root lately. At least we were able to go out for walks without the cone. 

For a few days, I tried "wrapping her up" as it's proven to help with anxieties. I started with her life jacket since it's already available. Well, it did stop her from scratching, but it also stopped her from doing anything. Poor girl woke me up in the middle of the night crying, because she wasn't able to get up on her own when she laid down. I tried ignoring her and let her learn how to get up, but it went on for quite a while, so I guess the life jacket really is too bulky.

We ended up getting a real Thundershirt to try on. For the first few hours, she sat there frozen again, but as she got more confortable, she started to chew on her feet and eventually scratch her face. She also seemed more anxious in the Thundershirt, as she would just stand there and start panting excessively. Oh well, at least it has a money-back guarantee. 

Frozen in her life jacket
Frozen in the thundershirt

I've switched back to feeding her THK Verve in the past week or so, because the valerian root tastes really bad and she would pick out all the meat pieces when I mix it with her meals. THK's powdery form makes it easier to mix together with the supplements. I also started to add in beef liver and will work up to the amount suggested by the doctor (2 oz. per day), if there's no bad poop reactions. 

It's a bit alarming that she's been gaining weight. She put on a whole pound in the past two months, which is equivalent to about 5 to 8 pounds for humans. It's not that surprising because we've been cutting her walks short due to the "cone attacks" and she's been spending most of the day sleeping. Since she's doing better outdoors now, we started to lengthen her walks and take her out on late night jogs. She seems a lot more active in the late night breeze, and even better, the humans dropped some weight as well!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

New Game Plan

We went visiting Dr. A again on Tuesday. He was surprised that Maya's conditions worsened and showed up in an e-collar. Maya got super excited as soon as he stepped into the room, and just like flipping a switch, she started to itch like crazy, rubbing her face against our legs and on the cone. Her skin around the areas with missing fur kind of flared up as well. It's kind of "nice" to let the doctor see first hand how she's been reacting.

I went through the ups and downs in the past few weeks, showed him the hot spots on Maya's feet, and gave him an update on her diet/supplement changes. I told him I was trying out a some new Chinese Medicine, and before I pulled out the bottle of Xiao Feng San, he told me he was going to suggest some "wind eliminating formula", so I guess I was on the right track.

Dr. A still believes that Maya's conditions are caused by blood deficiency, especially after seeing her being so itchy when she's excited. (I think it's kind of like how my thighs itch after exercising, due to bad blood circulation.) He thinks that Maya could be extra sensitive to itchiness, so that given the same conditions as other dogs, it's more severe to her. He also had this theory that smarter dogs tends to hurt themselves more, as they are better at "solving problems" on their own.

He explained to me that Maya's non-stop scratching could be some sort of anxiety, and a mild sedative  drug may help "take the edge off". Valerian root, Alprazolam, and Diazepam are the ones he suggested. Since valerian root is a natural herb while the others are actual drugs, we decided to start with that first. It is often used to help with sleep and anxiety issues.

As for Maya's diet, he suggested a few changes: increasing raw liver to about 1/4 of her diet, and adding some avocado to her meals. Both ingredients should help "tonify" her blood. I asked the doctor about a few supplements I read online, specifically Quercetin and Colostrum. He agreed that those could be beneficial, and wanted me to try them out.

If nothings improves in the next few weeks, he would like us to try acupuncture and vitamin B12 injections on our next visit. Because of his suggestion, I asked whether supplementing vitamin B12 will help, and it got added to the plan as well. He also showed me the acupuncture points, so I can try massaging her at home.

An hour (though I was only charged for 30 minutes) and $90 later, I walked out with another long list of things to try and a mixed feeling towards the visit. The anxiety theory is definitely new, but other suggestions were more like my idea than his. Well, at least they didn't try to sell me anything this time. I guess he realized if I was able to purchase those Chinese medicine on my own, there's nothing I couldn't find.

I don't want to start all the new stuff at once, so I'll probably introduce them one by one in the next  2 to 3 weeks. I'll start with the valerian root first, as it has more potential to have some immediate effects. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Vitamin E

As I was shopping for some vitamin E for Maya few nights ago, I came across a product review talking about the difference between "d-alpha" and "dl-alpha". It drew my attention and got me curious, so I ended up reading a lot more about vitamin E than I ever thought I would. I was surprised to learn that the vitamin E I've been giving myself, my parents, and my dog were of the most crappy ones.

Basically, there are two types of vitamin E: natural and synthetic. Synthetic vitamin E, labeled dl-alpha-tocopherol, is made from chemicals and is much less effective. To identify the natural form, which comes from plant oils, it should be labeled d-alpha-tocopherol. With no doubt, we want to stay away from the artificial ones and get the natural ones.

Furthermore, even though most vitamin E on the market contains only alpha-tocopherol, it's actually a complex of eight compounds, including alpha, beta, gamma, delta of tocopherols and tocotrienols. Because alpha-tocopherol is the most absorbable and the most active in human body, it has been assumed to be the most important. However, recent studies showed that gamma-tocopherols and tocotrienols may be more essential, and high dosage of alpha-tocopherol may actually decrease the effectiveness of others.

I remember reading about vitamin E causing cancers a while ago, which caused a bit panic within the household. I dug into this subject a bit more this time, and found out the study was actually based on using synthetic dl-alpha-tocopherol. Vitamin E in its natural from should still be beneficial and could help prevent cancer. Somehow very few news reports mentioned the details, while most of them went with very scary and dramatic titles.

In short, the quality of vitamin E, from bad to good, goes like this:
  • dl-alpha-tocopherol
  • d-alpha-tocopherol 
  • mixed tocopherols (d-alpha-, d-beta-, d-gamma-, d-delta-tocopherols)
  • full spectrum (d-alpha-, d-beta-, d-gamma-, d-delta- tocopherols and tocotrienols)


Most brands have dl-alpha products, especially the cheaper ones on the market. Bigger and/or better brands will also have d-alpha types. Just make sure to read the labels. For those who are sensitive to soy, do note that many natural vitamin E may come from soybean oil.

As for the other two types, it's a bit harder to find, and the price may also be few times more. Here are some I found with reasonable price and positive reviews. I am still not sure which one to purchase yet, but for sure I will stay away from the dl-alpha.

Mixed tocopherols (d-alpha-, d-beta-, d-gamma-, d-delta-tocopherols):

Full spectrum (d-alpha-, d-beta-, d-gamma-, d-delta- tocopherols and tocotrienols):


Here are some links I found informative. As always, there will be some conflicting information.
For further reading, google with key words like: "d-alpha dl-alpha", "tocopherol tocotrienol", "vitamin E cause cancer", etc.


I am no expert in nutrition. This is just a summary of the limited things I read online as well as products that interested me but yet to try. Please do your own research before supplementing your dog, your family, or yourself.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Maya on Tumblr

I created an account for some market research. Anyways, Maya is now officially on Tumblr.

It took me a while to figure out a nice way to show my Tumblr photos on the sidebar of this blog. I started with the script from JI Apps, and made some modifications so it'll show up nicely in two rows. Worked much better than other fancy "widget creator" or "rss importer".

Friday, August 3, 2012

Life in a Cone

It's been a few weeks since my last update on Maya's conditions. There were some good days, but sadly, more bad ones. About three weeks ago, things started to get really bad. She's been scratching herself much more frequently and started to chew on her feet. It's pretty much in line of what we saw last year, with things being the worst around min-July to August. 

Hot spots on the feet

I've been reading up a lot on Traditional Chinese Medicine and Atopic Dermatitis (異位性皮膚炎) during my free time. It really saddens me to find out that most articles I read are from mothers dealing with their babies' conditions. Given how devastated I am, I can't imagine what those parents are going through. (Which kind of makes me afraid of having a child.)

Favorite "chilling" food: watermelon

Throughout the research, a Chinese Medicine called "Xiao Feng San (消風散)" came up several times. Xiao Feng San means "Eliminate Wind Powder" in English, and is used to "disperse wind, eliminate dampness, clear heat, cool blood and stop itch", which sounds exactly what Maya needs. I was planning to start it after consulting the vet, but he was out of town and Maya's conditions got really bad, so I went ahead and add it to her daily supplements. It's been two weeks since she's on it, and as usually, no magical effects.

Another thing I've been trying is an ointment called "Zi Yun Gao (紫雲膏)". Zi Yun Gao means "Purple Cloud Cream",  and is used to "reduce inflammation, prevent bleeding, eliminate bacteria, relieve pain, promote tissue regeneration, and clear heat and toxins". I like it because it's made of edible ingredients, as Maya pretty much licks off whatever we put on her face. At one point I almost decided to follow some instructions I found online and make my own Zi Yun Gao, but got lazy and ordered a tube instead. The cream has a pinkish color and could stain clothes or carpet if not careful.

Rosy cheeks from the Zi Yun Gao

We started to keep her in a cone about two weeks ago. It actually happened on one of the "good days". She spent most of the day itch free and for the few time she tried to scratch, I was near by to stop her. However, in the evening, I stepped into the bathroom for a brief few minutes, and when I came back out, I saw her whole face covered with blood. I realized then and there I have to keep her from scratching or the wounds will never heal up.

We have to use two different e-collars: a smaller one for walks and eating raw bones, and a bigger one for other times, especially when we are not around. She figured how to poke her back legs into the smaller one and scratch herself in some really weird poses, so we can't trust her alone in it. Her energy has been low and was spending most the time sleeping. The super big cone pretty much stops her from doing anything, which is kind of worrisome.

When will this be over?

So far, she's been a good girl. She would keep turning her head when we try to put the e-collar on or try to "walk" away when we approach her with one in our hands, but she never really resisted in an unpleasant mater, like growling, biting, screaming, or running away, which is a big relief. The most annoying thing is her "attacks" when we go out on a walk. She would bump her head against our legs in order to rub her face on our pants. It usually happens on the second half of our walks, after her body heated up. I know I can't really blame her, as she must be itching badly, but it really hurts! It also looks really silly on the streets, being attacked by a dog's cone.

We have another appointment with the vet next week. Let's see what else he can offer. I really want to get her out of the cone as soon as posible. It's just not how a dog should live, even though she's rocking it with style.


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Monthly Expenses: July 2012

July 2012
  • Food: $32
  • Vet & Medical: $25
  • Treats & Chews: $23
  • Supplements: $61
TOTAL: $141
YTD TOTAL: $5,522


Got some green tripe, duck feet and pork kidney from the Fremont BARF Co-op. Also got some carrots, green beans and pearl barley from the supermarket.

Vet & Medical

Got a 45 tablets bottle of Claritin. 


We ran short of the "Si Wu Tang (四物湯)" prescribed by the vet, so I ordered some more online, which only cost about 1/3 of what the vet office charged me. With the same order, I also got some "Xiao Feng San (消風散)" and "Zi Yun Gao (紫雲膏)". (Will write more about those in a different post.) We also got some Apple Cider Vinegar and a super big bottle of Aloe Vera Juice.


I've been running out of training treats since I stopped giving Maya ZiwiPeak's Air-dried Cuisine (because lamb and venison are both very hot food, so we'll save it for the winter). I ordered some Max & Ruffy's Sweet Potato & Alfalfa Mini Bites, Natural Balance Duck & Potato, Zuke's Turkey n' Taters, and Zuke's Berry Blast. Somehow they messed up my order and misread my complaints, so we actually ended up with almost two bags of each... These should last quite a while.