Friday, September 28, 2012

Happy 3rd Birthday Sidney!

Three Years and counting is a lot longer than the One Month he was given to live.  Here's to a lot more birthdays with my best buddy!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Megaesophagus Dogs Can Have Fun Too

I know a lot of people worry that when their dogs are diagnosed with megaesophagus, that they will have to lead a completely sheltered life.  I know that's what I thought in the beginning (aside from thinking he only had a month left to live).  However, I can't think of anything we don't do with Sidney that we wouldn't do if he didn't have this stupid condition (outside of the obvious feeding routine and diet).  Of course we're very careful that he doesn't eat or drink anything without being vertical, but that's it really.  He's still a happy dog that does things happy dogs like to do.  Lots of walks, hikes and trips to the dog park.  So what if he doesn't get treats like most dogs.  I'm fairly certain that he isn't getting teased about it from the other dogs.  The other day we took him to the ballpark for a baseball game. We brought along Knox Blox in a Ziploc bag and just held him up in his seat vertical when we let him get his hydration - yes he had his own seat. 

The day at the baseball game was a lot of fun and everyone had a great time, including Sidney!!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


This summer has been hotter than most - so we have tried to limit the amount of time Sidney spends out in the heat.  Especially since we can't just throw down a bowl of water.  We took him on a hike the other day and even though we gave him a bunch of Knox Blox before and after, he still seemed really tired the rest of the day.  I'm not sure if he was exhausted from the hike or what.  But I know we have been feeding him more Knox Blox than in the winter, which is fine.  He also gets a bit more water in his food as well since we switched over to Adult Dog Food.   That seems to need more water to fully soak up enough to blend into a milkshake consistency.  Lately we've been concerned that his belly seemed like it was betting a bit fat, so we changed the food portions to 1 cup of food in the morning and evening meal, but just 1/2 cup of food for the lunch meal.  So now he gets 2.5 cups of food as opposed to the 3 cups he has always had recently.  That seems to be working fine.

Overall, Sidney has been doing well.  We have had a few regurgitation episodes as usual, but not too many like in the beginning when we received the MegaE diagnosis.  What we get more is Sidney just seeming to feel uncomfortable.  Either his tummy or his esophagus.  We can't tell.  But he still sits up horizontally on his own when that happens.  If you look at the photo - that's kind of how he sits.  Sometimes you can just tell if he isn't feeling too good.  We have no idea why.  Our routine is very consistent.  It just happens.  Plus, I've never had a Lab aside from Sidney.  I assume they get sick sometimes too like all dogs.  So it could just be a dog or Lab thing.  But we always pay special attention to Sidney when he isn't feeling too good to make sure it isn't anything serious.  So far, he's doing just fine!  And he's always happy, even when he's feeling uncomfortable.  He's always demanding belly rubs!!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Transitioning from Puppy Food to Adult Dog Food

Sidney will be 3 years old in September and we are still feeding him the same Eukanuba Large Breed Puppy Food.  It is 1 cup of dry dog food soaked in about 2 cups of water and blended (3 times a day).  We do add a squirt of Salmon Oil to the first two meals as well.  He still sits in his Bailey Chair for 30 minutes after eating.  That amount of time works, so I do not anticipate that changing.

I know you are supposed to change over to Adult Dog Food at around age 1 or 2 (depending on the dog etc.).  However, we have been hesitant to change anything in his diet because we don't want to tempt fate.  As we all know - with Megaesophagus, once you find the right food, routine and consistency - you tend to stick with it.  But I know for Sidney's overall long-term health, I should probably transition him to the Adult Dog Food.  We really don't want to just feed him Puppy Food forever because he has Megaesophagus and ignore the needs of the rest of his needs.  At least that's how we see it.  I assume there is Puppy Formula and Adult Formula for a pretty good reason.  Plus, we thought a breed specific formula would make sense.

So the plan is to start mixing Eukanuba Labrador Retriever Formula with his Eukanuba Large Breed Puppy Formula.  I'm hoping since they are both the same brand, that this will make it easier on his digestion.   The Eukanuba brand has worked great for us - so I will always stick with that.  The Adult Formula Dog Food looks and smells the same (no I didn't taste it).  So we are slowly mixing the food together.  I figure, because we are always cautious with Sid, we will probably keep the mixing transition for a month or more.  We are starting with 90% Puppy Food and 10% Adult Food and will slowly adjust the percentage over time, with the ultimate goal to phase out the Puppy Food and be 100% Adult Dog Food.  So far we have been doing it for a week and it hasn't had any adverse affects or increased regurgitation or anything.

So far so good!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Our "Frosty Paws" Treat Recipe

Since obviously Sidney's diet is about as boring as any dog could have due to his Megaesophagus, we like to try and give him some additional treat options while he is in his Bailey Chair.  There is a product called Frosty Paws, which are frozen dog treats.  Sid loves them, our wallet does not.  So we make our own.  After he eats his meal and his Knox Blox in his Bailey Chair, we let him have some licks of the Frosty Paws treat - especially in the summer.

32 oz. plain yogurt
1 mashed banana
2 Tablespoons peanut butter
2 Tablespoons honey 

1. Mix all these ingredients in your blender, then dump into ice cube trays, paper cups, or whatever to freeze and serve.

Fairly simple - he likes to lick it and get the taste.  

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

FINALLY - A Megaesophagus Training Treat for Sidney

Since the day Sidney was diagnosed with MegaE, we knew it would be difficult to find treats for Sidney.  Since he can't eat anything horizontally, what were we going to give him?  We ended up using little licks of honey on our finger.  This has worked well (for Sidney).  For us, especially when we were traveling, we tried carrying little mini-honey bottles around or putting honey in a syringe, etc.  This, as you can imagine, can get pretty sticky and messy.

Well we finally found something called Lickety Stik.  It comes in a container that resembles a roll-on anti-perspirant bottle (with the roller ball on the top).  It has a lid that screws on and off and comes in flavors of Chicken, Liver and Bacon.  So basically, Sidney licks the roller ball on the top and gets the taste of the flavor - but doesn't actually eat or ingest anything - he just gets the taste.  I kind of equate it to the same as when he swallows saliva at any point in the day.  It's not messy for us and is easily portable without getting our hands all sticky too.  It's been almost 3 years until we found this solution.  I cannot explain how much this makes us happy!!  I'm sure it may not work for all dogs - since there are varying degrees of ME - but for us it seems to be a success!

Here is a link if you were curious:

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Regurgitation and Megaesophagus Life

So I got home for lunch to feed Sidney his afternoon meal and was greeted by a few piles of regurgitation. This isn't typical. Usually this doesn't happen while I'm not home for whatever reason. But I think that he may have got himself a little too excited when UPS delivered a package at the front door and they probably rang the doorbell. Lately when he has been regurgitating, it's not really been a whole meal of food, just a partial meal with gross stomach acid type of stuff.

I cleaned up after him and then fed him his afternoon meal with his Knox Blox and everything seemed like it was back to normal. I know we will never eliminate this from happening. But thinking back to when we first received the diagnosis, he regurgitated A LOT (multiple times a day for weeks at a time). So much that we thought it was never going to stop. But we worked out our routine, stayed diligent with his vertical feeding, and made sure to get a medicine that we felt worked for him (Bethanechol). With that, the regurgitation episodes decreased. We had gone through times where he didn't do it for over a month and you forget that it even was an issue. But it's going to happen and I always appreciate when he makes it to the tile instead of the carpet.

It isn't like regurgitation makes him suffer or anything. It happens fast and then that's it. DONE. Sure our floors suffer and paper towel budget is larger than normal, etc. But Sidney is just as good as any normal dog. I'm pretty sure normal dogs eat stuff and throw up too. All part of having a pet. We're lucky to have him!!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Late-Night Regurgitation

This photo is from when Sidney and I attended the Lake Erie Monsters hockey game together. They have a day where they allow dogs in the arena. He behaved very well and it was fun.

So last night Sidney woke me up at about 4am. He was having some regurgitation episodes. He threw up on the couch, the carpet, the kitchen and by the front door. It's been a while since we have had one of these. But it happens. But this morning he wasn't too into having his Knox Blox or his food. Hopefully he just has an irritated esophagus, but if he is still a bit "off" at lunch I'm going to take him in to get checked out in case he has Aspiration Pneumonia just to be safe.

UPDATE: 3/16/12:
Sid started eating again the next day. I gave him Sucralfate and maybe that helped. But he has been regurgitating a bunch this week - sometimes in the middle of the night and sometimes in the afternoon/morning etc. But overall he seems OK. We hit these patches every so often. My carpet is getting dirty, but when this rough patch is over we'll steam clean it. No worries. Just keeping a closer eye on him so we know he doesn't aspirate during this patch.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Evolution of Sidney's Bailey Chair

Since we got Sidney's Megaesophagus diagnosis when he was 10 weeks old, we knew he would hopefully be growing and his Bailey Chair would need to grow with him. So what we did was make the Bailey Chair able to be very large, but adjustable to start out small.
The above photo is the first version. You can see it is kind of a "Bailey Chair made within a Bailey Chair." We left room so that the sides could get wider. We also made the holder for the Paw Bar (on the sides) able to be raised higher as he grew. We would just unscrew it and re-screw it at the proper height. We also made a back spacer that we inserted into the chair. We would make it smaller as he grew and then re-insert it into the chair.

Here is his first test after we made it. You can see how small he is in the chair - but the way we made the spacing and adjustable parts, he fits in there pretty well. We obviously over estimated the pillow he sat on - which we changed, eventually to a folded up towel. We did pad the chair with Gym Flooring from Dick's Sporting Goods that has held up very well.

Above is his first meal in the chair when he was just a little 14 pound baby. It took him a while to get used to the chair - but we sat with him the whole time and started out in small time blocks, building up to the 30 minutes we now do. It took a few months if I remember correctly.

So as Sidney grew, we made several small adjustments - making the paw bar higher and making the back spacer smaller and smaller. It was always a special day when we made adjustments. It meant we were having success in Sidney's health. He was gaining weight, getting nutrients and growing into a big boy. You can see from this above photo that it has been adjusted compared to the earlier pictures. Ultimately, once Sidney was full grown, we took the Bailey Chair and made the final measurements. Using the same chair and materials from the original version, we made the final version of the Bailey Chair, complete with a new paint job. The final photo is below. Sidney usually sits with his paws both up on the paw bar, but he is so comfortable in there now, he sometimes just relaxes with one paw on the bar. Whatever works.

So ultimately, we were able to make the most out of our situation. We were worried about the cost of building multiple chairs, but out of necessity, we figured out how to make this work. We even have his Portable Bailey Chair set at the final height and size as well (see below). So now both of his Bailey Chairs are working our well and so is Sidney.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Our General Megaesophagus Routine

We spend a lot of time with Sidney, he even grabs his Penguins Stuffed Animal while we watch the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey games on TV. He is the #1 priority in our life :)
Of course Sidney regurgitated yesterday morning in a bunch of piles. But my little buddy worked hard to make sure he went onto the tile instead of the carpet. Like he knew it was easier for us to clean. It was mainly stomach acid. Recently he seems to be getting uncomfortable late at night and I see him sitting up vertical for a bit until he feels better. These are just minor occurrences and he hasn't regurgitated before that in over a month I think. But it did make me think just about our life with Sidney in general.
I do realize how much we base our schedule and life around Sidney. We just can't drop a bowl of water on the ground and some food and then go about our business. Everything is on a timed plan. He gets his 5mg of Bethanechol in some Knox Blox before Tiff leaves for work around 6:30am and sits in his Bailey Chair about 7-10 minutes - then she soaks his food. I get him in his Bailey Chair and get him fed at 7am until 7:30 when he's done. I soak his food for the next meal at lunch.
At lunch - I come home from work, put another cup of water into his food and take him outside. Then get him in his chair and feed him the food and Knox Blox again for 30 minutes.
For his dinner meal - we need to make sure we get it completed at a decent time. He needs his 5mg of Bethanechol in some Knox Blox and then we need to soak his food - wait 30 minuted then feed him with his Prilosec OTC in the food, while letting him chill in the Bailey Chair for another 30 minutes.
While it sounds like a lot of work, it's not something I mind doing. We do have to make sure we arrange our personal life around this schedule because it's so important to us to keep this routine and Sidney healthy. I like spending time with Sidney and even though it takes up a lot of our time - I am happy to live like this for the next 15 years (hopefully).

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Megaesophagus and Water

So I took my buddy Sidney to the dog park today because it was really nice out for a January day. As always, he had so much fun and as always, there is water in bowls out at the park. Since Sidney has MegaE and cannot drink water like non-MegaE dogs or risk Aspration Pneumonia, it is always a concern. This is the case for us anyways, not necessarily the horizontal drinking of water which is a No-NO for all MegaE dogs, but for us it doesn't even work well in his Bailey Chair (so we give him water in the form of Knox Blox - recipe is in a below post). I always make sure to give Sid extra Knox Blox before we go and I just feel lucky that he really has no interest in drinking water from a bowl. I assume since he was born with MegaE, that it is so much easier for us to manage this because he has only known how not to drink water from a bowl. I say this because he ignores the water bowls - see the above photo.

Anyways, what I love is that Sidney is allowed to be a normal dog. He can have fun playing with other dogs and it really makes me happy to let him be normal and happy. YES, I watch him closely, but we really have our system down and we have a happy and normal dog. Does he have MegaE? Yup. Does he care? Nope!! That's all that matters to me. So if you get the diagnosis and wonder what your fur kid's life will be like. It will be great. Just get your system down and let your dog be a dog and enjoy having fun. It has worked for us. And I am so much happier, living though Sidney's happiness.

FOLLOW UP: I was curious about Prilosec OTC longtime use in my previous post. From what I have found, it isn't an issue and for us, we will continue with this every night for Sidney!!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Shedding, Prilosec OTC and Regurgitation

Sidney is wore out from partying on New Year's Eve!!
So, Sidney has been shedding A LOT lately. He is a Lab, that's the deal, I get it. And also lately, he has had some late-night regurgitation issues or late-night issues where he woke up at 3am and just looked uncomfortable. Some afternoon episodes too, but those are rare. His recent regurgitation looked basically like it was from him ingesting his shedding hair. He licks his paws a ton and somehow ate a bunch of his shedded hair. I am hoping that his recent episodes are just that. EPISODES. I feel like they were isolated because he seems super fine outside of this. He played with my friend's Black Lab Cisco on New Year's Eve for the ENTIRE night and could not have been more energetic or more happy. I cannot stress how HAPPY he was. He loves playing with other dogs so much. Once his favorite dog park Bow Wow Beach opens back up next year, we will be there every week!! So basically, Sidney is doing great, I just always worry about him when he has a bad day. Way over protective I know. But I have to be. It's my obligation to my favorite buddy in the world.
On another note, I have been curious about long-term Prilosec OTC usage and the effects. Only because I have seen commercials that state to only use for 14 days at a time and a cycle of 14 days every 4 months (in the fine print). Sidney has been on it for 2 years straight. I will do some research online. However, since it has helped with significantly decreasing regurgitation and the potential for Aspiration Pneumonia (which can KILL him fast), the risks are most likely worth the reward of his life being extended for around 13 more years. I'm no expert, but want to make sure what we do for Sidney is always the best for him. So I am going to ask the vet and my actual people doctor about it to be sure. I just do not want to potentially create a new health problem for Sidney since he obviously already has a stupid MegaE problem.
Happy New Year. Sidney has already had more than he was predicted to and will have many more. Megaesophagus is NOT A DEATH SENTENCE!!!!!!!!!