Dogs of our Lives

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Royal Canin to produce pet food in Shanghai

Filed in Dogs of our Lives, GeneralTags: , , ,

I was at the vet today. One of our kids (i.e., our dogs) needed to have his bad teeth cleaned/removed. He now has considerably fewer teeth than he had this morning :(

While at the vet, I was informed that Royal Canin is moving its pet food production to Shanghai for local supply.

Most pet foods require meat as a vital ingredient.

In populous China where human life is not valued (eg, injured children are murdered by the culprit because compensation for a young life taken is cheaper than medical costs) and the concept of humanitarian treatment of animals is almost non-existent (eg, ripping fur off foxes while they are still alive and then dumping their bodies to one side to die of shock in the Winter cold; the online videos are too horrific to link to), the cost of feeding your pets with pet food produced in China would almost certainly be the inhumane, cruel and painful factory-style rearing and execution of other animals.

I won't be feeding pet food manufactured in China to our kids.


  • Inhumane animal rearing and slaughtering absolutely occurs in most countries around the world. It could only be worse in China where financial wealth is important above all else.
  • Big pet food manufacturers around the world source a lot of the necessary protein from animals including road-kill, slaughter-house left-overs and dead/euthanised pets. The combination of these 'meat' sources in pet food is usually listed under the general term "meal"; eg "meat-and-bone-meal". Pets eating the pet food therefore unknowingly become cannibals. Here at home, we feed our kids Three Dog Bakery pet food because it's wholesome, natural and doesn't use any "meal" protein. The source of the protein is very specific for each kind of pet food; eg, chicken, fish, lamb or even sweet potato.
  • While most of our kids eat Three Dog Bakery food, some of them are now on prescription diets; renal protection, moderated blood sugar, etc. These are only available from the big companies such as Science Diet and Royal Canin although we'd like to investigate preparing our own food for them.
  • Royal Canin might claim that the quality of the pet food produced in China will not differ to the food produced in France. They might claim that production has moved to China to provide 'fresher' pet food for their customers. Will they report that moving production to Shanghai will reduce their costs (which unfortunately is necessary if you want to sell to the domestic China market)? I wonder. Can they guarantee that the animals slaughtered to provide the meat for their products are reared and slaughtered humanely? Can they guarantee that euthanised pets (or pets battered to a bloody death by the police) will not become an ingredient of their pet food?
  • In China, corruption allowed milk farmers and milk powder manufacturers to produce milk powder that poisoned and killed many human babies; without remorse. How much consideration would these same people give to animals that they rear and slaughter for profit?

Batty update (2013-02-09)

Filed in Dogs of our Lives, GeneralTags:

Batty returned home on Wednesday. He hadn't eaten in the three days that he was at the hospital but we expected that.

Arriving back at home, I had to get him out of the car. He was too weak to climb down from the car on his own, and it was very difficult to pick him up from inside the back seat of the car. Fortunately, we had hung a 帆布 sheet in the back that we use whenever the kids get in the car with us. I was able to detach the sheet from the front and back seats, grab the edges and lift it up with Batty in the middle. Back inside the house area, I gently put the sheet with Batty inside down on the ground. Batty got up and walked inside.

Eating has been a problem. Even back home, Batty hasn't really wanted to eat. We tried all kinds of foods including dog food, raw meat, cooked Chinese food, and milk. He did drink some milk but not a lot. On Thursday however, my wife discovered that if we fed the food to him by hand one mouthful at a time, he would actually eat it. So, 3 or 4 small hand-fed meals a day, Batty is slowly regaining his strength.

Blood sugar is not yet a problem, thankfully. We'll deal with that when it returns, if it returns :-)

Cheers all.

Batty’s second pancreas operation

Filed in Dogs of our Lives, GeneralTags: , , ,

Our dog Batty had a second operation yesterday to try to identify and remove an insulinoma from his pancreas. Unfortunately, removal was not possible. We will now have to try various medications to keep his insulin in check and maintain healthier blood glucose levels.

我們的狗狗 Batty, 昨天再次開刀希望能夠把他胰腺裡的胰島素癌割除。可惜割除不了。現在要試試服特別藥物來控制他的胰島素。


Batty on a sofa

Hypoglycaemia is no fun!

Filed in Dogs of our Lives, GeneralTags: , , , ,

Batty is our 4th dog. 12 years ago, we rescued him from the R.S.P.C.A. (as it was known at the time). He was too young for them to look after. He needed to be hand fed milk and they didn't have enough staff to handle it. But I was there when a Caucasian lady brought him in, and I took him home rather than let them put him down. He was only as big as my hand!

Batty on a sofa

He's had a good life, but not a great life. Several years ago, he was diagnosed with Cauda Equina Syndrome (Horse Tail Syndrome) where the spinal canal narrows over time, pressing down on the spinal cord causing damage and chronic pain. He's been on pain killers for most of those years and has been quite well.

But (and I'm leaving out a lot of details...) in August, Batty began coming to us at night as we slept, waking me up by panting heavily into my face. I'd get up, give him a small dose of pain killer (vet's advice) and go back to sleep. That worked fairly well, but the condition worsened. Within a few weeks, the pain killers were not helping him. The condition continued to get worse until I spent whole nights; from 1am till the sun came up; calming him down and trying to make him comfortable. We thought it was all related to the Cauda Equina. We were wrong.

I despise it when a pre-existing illness/disease makes it difficult to realise that there's a separate serious problem going on.

We talked a few times to our vets and after x-raying his heart and lungs (possible causes of excessive panting...), we arranged an ultrasound to get a closer look at the inner workings of his heart. It was by chance during the ultrasound session that one of the vets noted that Batty had low blood sugar which raised suspicions about a separate illness completely unrelated to the heart. A few days later, we starved Batty for almost a day and measured as his blood sugar dropped. At the time of lowest blood sugar in the day, we took blood for an insulin test. The results came back a few days later. Sugar was low but his insulin was extremely high. Batty had Hyperinsulinism, probably Insulinoma.

In mid-September, the day after we moved house, Batty had an operation to explore his pancreas and remove any nodules found. The vet couldn't with absolute certainty observe or distinguish any nodule/s in the pancreas, so they took out half his pancreas; standard procedure. Slowly, he recovered from the major surgery (although he hated being in hospital, especially when we weren't there) and he seemed fine. Unfortunately, you can't be sure if the surgery was a success until at least 60 days after the surgery, and a couple of weeks ago, we noted that Batty's symptoms were coming back though not nearly as bad as prior to the operation.

So, after a lot of personal research and many conversations, another operation has been organised for Batty (the day after I return from Taipei). With any luck, any nodules present in the pancreas will have grown since the last operation, allowing the vets to see them. Our research also came across a blue compound (not available in Hong Kong) that will very likely allow the vets to visually identify concentrations of insulin within the pancreas. If they can't see anything, they'll just take out as much pancreas as they can, leaving enough for his normal day-to-day digestion requirements.

In the meantime, we're trying to keep Batty as comfortable as possible. One of the challenges of diagnosing and helping pets is the lack of communication. During my research, I was fortunate to come across a web forum of people suffering from chronic hypoglycaemia. It was revealing and extremely helpful to read their posts, describing the physical and emotional symptoms of acute hypoglycaemia, and the methods they used to get by. Especially revealing was the fact that many of these people suffered severe hypoglycaemia at night; the same as Batty; with some pretty depressing symptoms.

One thing vital to dealing with chronic hypoglycaemia is eating the right food at the right time, producing a constant gradualstream of glucose to the body. Gradual means no carbohydrates, especially simple carbohydrates. Here's where dogs and humans differ. Where people need a lot of carbohydrate to survive, dogs need very little and don't need grains at all! Dogs thrive better on a diet of high protein, high fat and none of the grains/carbohydrates that humans generally eat except for leafy vegetables.

So, more research later... Batty now gets multiple meals of B.A.R.F. raw meat product each day. We need to experiment to see how to interval the meals, and how much to feed him each time, but we're making progress. Especially important is a big meal before we sleep at night; another big NO in the human world of healthy eating; but the big protein meal before sleeping means that Batty doesn't experience severe hypoglycaemia at night, and that's good for all of us.

Reference note. The B.A.R.F. food is expensive. All of our kids want to eat it, but we'd have to be really wealthy people to afford B.A.R.F. for all of them; at least HK$20,000 per month! Ouch!!!

Batty in all likelihood has had Hyperinsulinism/Hypoglycaemia for a few years. Again, the pre-existing Cauda Equina influenced us to not look for another problem, but he has several physical symptoms related to long term hypoglycaemia including muscle wasting and twitching.

The next operation probably won't totally eradicate the Hyperinsulinism/Hypoglycaemia, but both should be much easier to manage, allowing him to live much more comfortably. The days that Batty spends in hospital will be hard for both Batty and myself, because I'll spend most of my time being with him in the hospital to keep him calm until he's well enough to come home; with any luck 3 days, but if the operation is successful, 3 or 4 days of suffering will absolutely be worthwhile.

This very minute, Batty is lying on the floor next to my desk, sleeping comfortably and breathing steadily without stress in his eyes. It's very good to see.

Cheers all.

Merry Christmas (2010)

Filed in Dogs of our Lives, General, The Empress of China 中國皇后號 (2011), WorkTags: ,

Merry Christmas everyone. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, spending time with family and friends.

For us, it wasn't a merry Christmas, having lost Beethoven only less than three weeks ago. Having just lost someone special, the joyfulness of the season only accentuates the sorrow. Between Beethoven and a busy rehearsal schedule for the new The Empress of China play, there were no decorations at home, no Christmas tree, and strangely no gifts either. (Sadly, my sister in Australia is mourning the recent loss of two of their 'kids'; one to kidney failure, the other to insect sting complications. I feel for her.)

But it wasn't a total loss. For the first time in a month, I had two and a half days free to spend with my family and we made the most of it. Today, we even took nine of our kids up the (smallish) mountain beside our village here in Clear Water Bay which we haven't done in three or four years. One or two of the kids will be in arthritic discomfort tomorrow, but with pain relief and exercise management, they'll be fine. They loved the walk and that's what counts.

Beethoven's departure reminded us that the kids' time with us is a limited luxury, something that needs to be treasured. His departure also reminded us that we need to take more photos and movies, and that's what we did today; at least until the camera battery ran out of juice!

For most people here in Hong Kong, tomorrow is a public holiday. For me however, it's back to work. With only three weeks until our play goes live at City Hall in Central, we have to make the most of the time we have, to be the best we can.

Once again, Merry Christmas everyone.

Goodbye dear friend

Filed in Dogs of our Lives, GeneralTags: ,

My best friend has left us.

Yesterday while working in China, my wife called from the hospital to say that Beethoven was in a very bad way, and that he might not last much longer. Fortunately, our work in China had to stop earlier than planned, and I rushed back to Hong Kong to the hospital in Mong Kok.

Beethoven looked restful and relatively calm when I saw him. The hospital had increased his pain relief and he was feeling better. My wife had stayed with him all day and was extremely exhausted. I suggested that she return home while I stayed with Beethoven through the night. At the time, I felt he still had a chance of recovery.

For almost two hours, I lied on the floor next to him, looking into his eyes and reassuring him. His breathing was calm and relatively normal. It was a companionship, an experience that I'll treasure. But then at around 2:30 in the morning, he became restless and began complaining about pain again. The pain became so intolerable that without regard for his weak state, he stood up and vocalised his fear and distress, understanding that his condition was very very dire. I held him and tried to calm him while asking the doctor to increase his pain relief, but while the doctor was injecting more pain relief and a sedative to relax him, he suddenly had a heart attack and was no longer with us. The pain had simply been too much for him. He died at 3am.

I now know a lot about pancreatitis. I wish I didn't, but I do. Reflecting in the early hours this morning after saying our goodbyes, my wife and I came to realise that Beethoven may have been suffering from mild chronic pancreatitis for several months. But if vets find it difficult to spot and diagnose acute pancreatitis, how could normal people like ourselves diagnose mild chronic pancreatitis? It's an unfortunate calamity and I keep wishing that I could roll back time and make things right.

When Beethoven was a pup, he belonged to a neighbour. For whatever reason though, he chose to visit us daily and be with us. He chose us, and for that, I'll be eternally grateful. He was a wonderful friend and I'll never forget him.

R.I.P. 貝多芬.


(A very big 'thank you' to the doctors and staff at the Pets Central clinic in Mong Kok. You people were absolutely wonderful.)

Babysitting Beethoven

Filed in Dogs of our Lives, GeneralTags:

I'm feeling very tired.

Monday night, I took Beethoven to the 24-hour vet clinic in Mong Kok at one in the morning. I didn't get much sleep that night.

Yesterday before lunch, I was able to bring Beethoven home. He hadn't recovered fully but he seemed chirpier than the night before. The saline drip had definitely helped him. Unfortunately, he was still weak and refused to eat or drink. Last night, I watched him carefully, considering every minute whether to take him back to the hospital. His breathing was heavy and a little quick. I didn't get much sleep last night either.

Around midday today, I recorded Beethoven's breathing at home and showed the video to our friendly vet in Sai Kung. He indicated that the laboured breathing was not a good sign, and we rushed home to take Beethoven back to the hospital.

He's there now. We spent a few hours with him there after the drip had been reattached, and watched him perk up quite a bit as his breathing slowly improved. Unfortunately, he's not out of the woods yet. We need to find out why he's sick before it kills him. Tonight, the hospital will be doing an ultrasound on his lower body to check his organs. They'll call me to tell me whether they find anything. I'm hoping that they find something that can be fixed. That'd be nice, but we have to wait and see.

To complicate things, I begin full-day rehearsals tomorrow morning for the upcoming bi-lingual play 「中國皇后號」 performed by the H.K.R.E.P. Since my wife and I won't be home during the day for the rest of the week, we've decided that Beethoven is going to stay on a drip in the hospital to keep him stable until we know more about his condition, or until he begins to eat again.

But his condition worries me a lot. When dogs get sick, they can leave us very very quickly. I'll be visiting Beethoven at the hospital tomorrow morning before I head off to rehearsals in Sheung Wan. Hopefully, he'll look better. We can only hope...

Beethoven Hospitalised

Filed in Dogs of our Lives, GeneralTags:

One of our 'kids' is in hospital.

Beethoven follows me everywhere when I'm at home. At night before I go to bed, if I get up from my computer desk and move toward the bathroom, he notices and gets up to follow me within seconds. Except for last night.

Last night, I moved toward the bathroom and Beethoven didn't move. It wasn't until I came out of the bathroom that I noticed he hadn't followed me. I snapped by fingers which is usually enough to indicate to him that I'm going to bed, and he still didn't budge, so I examined him closer.

His body was colder than normal. His eyes were a little dull and drooping. His body posture was unusual, and his breathing was rapid. His tail wagged very slowly. If I asked more demandingly that he get up and come over to me, he would but it was a difficult and slow walk. Everything indicated a severe decrease in energy. One of the kids had thrown up their dinner moments before, but I couldn't be sure if it was Beethoven or someone else.

Our kids are normally very resilient. They get bodily injuries and they recover. They get the occasional sneeze but it never lasts long. They eat something that doesn't agree with them and they'll either throw it up, or eat some of the vegetation around the yard to force themselves to throw up. But I've almost never seen them in the state that I now saw Beethoven, and it worried me.

So at 1am this morning, Beethoven and I were in the car heading to the Pets Central 24-hr clinic in Mong Kok. The vet examined him and agreed that he didn't look well. They took xrays to see if something had lodged in his digestive tract but it was clear. They then took blood samples and found that his red blood cell count was way above the normal range; i.e., his blood volume was low. He was subsequently put on a drip and placed in a cage to rest. His condition worried me considerably. If any of our eleven kids were to leave us, it would hurt me greatly. I am not looking forward to the coming years.

My wife and I visited him this morning just before lunch. Fortunately, Beethoven looked much better and I was very relieved.

I suspect that they won't find a cause for the problem, but that doesn't worry me much because I have actually seen this condition once before. Before we adopted our first kid Dallas, he was a free ranging pup in our village who would come up to the car park to greet us every evening when we returned from work. We became great friends. And then one night, he disappeared. We scoured around looking for him and eventually found him in a store room lying on the floor, wagging his tail but unable to get up or move. We took him to the RSPCA (there was an 'R' in the name at the time), and he was placed on a drip for 3 days with a condition very similar to Beethoven's. Dallas recovered and never suffered from the same condition again. I hope the same is true for Beethoven.

In some ways, the condition is actually the reason we have pets today. If not for the condition, we would not have taken Dallas to the RSPCA. If we hadn't have taken him there, the young people in the village who casually looked after him wouldn't have given him to us, and we wouldn't have started to adopt.

Beethoven is still in the hospital. Hopefully, I'll be able to bring him home tomorrow.