Thursday, 20 September 2018

A positive and a worry

Thank you all so much for your experiences, advice and links on my last post about Betty's ear infections and itching, I'm reading all the links with great interest.

Betty's had no wheat/gluten and very few carbs for the past 3 days now, we've also been giving her a dose of Piriton with her evening meal.  I know it's early days yet, but already she's been scratching less, both her skin and ears, and her ears don't look anywhere near as red or waxy, nor has she been shaking her head (which is always a sign that her ears are bothering her).  So it looks like we *might* be on the right track.  

We're taking her to have her claws clipped today.  We normally take her to a large pet store which has a grooming parlour attached, but recently discovered that the local agricultural college also does dog grooming (why did we not know this before?!).  Anyway, they only charge £5 for nail clipping, a lot cheaper than the pet store.  It's done by students, closely supervised by experienced instructors.  If Betty and they get on fine with each other, then we'll always go there in future, for a bath and brush up too.  Cheaper and much nearer to us - win/win!

My mother's got more potentially serious health problems.  She may have a blood clot in her leg, the DVT clinic tried scanning her legs yesterday, but as they're extremely swollen they had trouble finding all her veins.  They couldn't find a clot near the surface, but there may be one where the machine couldn't see, she's been given medication to try to reduce the swelling and has to go back in a week.  She's also got a very irregular heartbeat, but the hospital don't seem to be too bothered about that - oddly, as she's not had heart problems before.  

What's even more worrying though is that apparently she's been vomiting every few days for the last month or so (not that she's told us this, she only mentioned one episode once, so sis and I assumed she just had a mild stomach upset).  She's also lost weight, which sis has only just noticed - as she sees mum every day and mum tends to wear layers of baggy clothes, it wasn't very apparent before.  She also says she's lost her appetite, and the hospital blood tests revealed she's quite anaemic.  They said she needs an endoscopy as a matter of urgency, it'll be arranged within the next fortnight.  

We're doubting the wisdom of going on holiday now....we're just playing things by ear at the moment.  As I think I mentioned, sis is coming with us, and she's mum's carer, however, mum will have a couple of sis's friends looking after her whilst (if) we're away.  We'll just have to wait and see what, if anything, happens in the next couple of weeks.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

For (friendly!) dog people re special diets

This is about diet for dogs - now I know what we feed our pets can be a very emotive subject, so if anyone has very strong views on what we should/should not be feeding them, please look away now.  I have no wish to get into any arguments, and won't be publishing any comments that TELL me what I must or must not do.  I am, however, looking for (polite) advice and any experiences you yourselves may have had with feeding a special diet for your dog's health.

Betty has ongoing ear infections, they seem to be getting more frequent.  We now know they're caused by an overgrowth of yeast - the vet took a swab to be tested in the lab.  It's also been suggested that she may suffer with allergies - she does scratch a lot, she doesn't have fleas but seems to suffer with itchy skin.  Her skin isn't red or flaky, she's been checked by the vet and I examine her every day.  As I've mentioned before, we live on farmland so she gets walked in fields that have previously had crops in - and the farmers here do spray their crops - so that may possibly have an effect on her allergies (if indeed she does have them).  The vet suggested we try giving her a Piriton tablet daily - plain generic ones, not any brand name manufactured hayfever ones, so we're going to try that.

I've done a lot of googling and reading and it seems that Betty's ear overgrowth of yeast might be caused by too much yeast/candida in her gut.  And this can be exacerbated by too much sugar, wheat or carbs in her diet.  Makes perfect sense to me, I have similar problems myself!

We currently feed Betty half good quality commercial food, half homemade food - she gets commercial food one day, homemade the next.  I give her homemade food, not for cost purposes (as I use around 50% quantity of minced chicken or fish, it's not really cheap), but because I know what's in it, nothing artificial or chemical or nasty, and she loves it.  I also give her good quality commercial food because it contains all the vitamins and minerals she needs and means I don't have to think about giving her supplements.

The homemade food is chicken or fish (fresh, frozen or canned in oil), mixed with eggs, vegetables (she likes sweet potato, broccoli, cauliflower and carrots, I cook them as she's not keen on them raw and cooked are easier for her to digest) and grated apple, and a carb like brown rice or pasta.  She also has scrambled eggs with some cottage cheese or grated cheese a couple of times a week.  Commercial food is good quality 60% protein kibble, which I order online, or wet food trays, again good quality with a high protein content.  We also give her small amounts of daily treats, meat ones (bought 100% natural dried chicken fillets, or homecooked liver dried out in the oven), or biscuits, commercial or homemade.

I'm thinking about cutting down drastically on the carb/wheat content of the food we give her, for a couple of weeks as an experiment, to see if it has any positive effects on her ears and itchy skin.  So I won't be putting rice or pasta in her food and will cut down on the sweet potato/carrots, but up the broccoli, cauli and courgette, e.g.  I'll also be studying the labels of the commercial food so she doesn't get ones with too many carbs or wheat, and she won't be having biscuit treats for the fortnight either.  I've also read that putting small amounts of garlic and oregano in her food may help with the excessive yeast problem.

So have any of you dog owners had a similar problem with your animals, and did you find changing their diets helped?  As you know, we haven't got tons of money following our car troubles last week, and don't have the funds for repeated vet visits or expensive things like allergy testing.  We do have pet insurance, but it has an excess of £100 before they pay out, and her ear trouble wouldn't be covered anyway, as it's a pre-existing condition before we took out the current insurance.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Getting organised

Thank you again for comments, I'm so relieved the car's done, we obviously would have had a major problem if it wasn't.

I've just done all the banking and worked out our severely depleted finances.  Things are going to be very tight for the next month, particularly since we have a holiday during that time, but it's doable.  There's money to pay all the direct debits, and I've had savings for holiday fuel and spending (a bit of fresh food shopping and some money for trips out) put away for ages, so everything important is covered.  We have plenty of food stores and we stocked up on milk and eggs at the weekend, nothing else is needed - oh, except for a couple of bags of value plain flour.  I'm going to do a freezer inventory today, the big upright one needs things sorting and moving around, it's so full up I can't easily see what's in it.  There are worse problems to have!

We have our National Trust membership (it expires at the end of next month and we won't be renewing it) so can visit a couple of NT properties on holiday, and sister and I like a browse round the charity shops.  One of the things we really like to do on holiday is to sit and people watch/beach watch at a cafĂ© with a nice outside terrace - I know we could take a flask, but having a latte, and possibly cake!, is a simple pleasure that I've allowed for.  Hopefully the weather will still be good enough for us to do that.

Most of our holiday dinners are now cooked and frozen, I'll make some savoury snacks and cakes to take as well.  

Better go, Betty has decided she's not getting enough attention and keeps trying to rest her chin on my laptop!

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Great news

The car's been fixed....and it cost £160 less than the garage quoted yesterday.  I don't pretend to understand why - something to do with parts - but we're so relieved.  It's brilliant that the garage owner is honourable, decent and trustworthy - after all, he could have said nothing and just gone ahead with the quoted price, we'd have been none the wiser.  I don't suppose there are many garages you could have such trust in.

It's still cost us a lot of money, but not as much as feared.

And, what's more, the garage owner is actually on holiday as from today - he came in specially this morning to ensure the car was done for us.  How's that for service?  There are some nice people in this world.

So thankful

Firstly, for all your lovely supportive comments, thank you so much.  

The car is being done today, I just hope that everything goes well with no more nasty surprises, we simply can't afford for anything else to go wrong.  It's funny, we don't need to go anywhere, but it's odd how isolated it feels when we have no car outside!  However, we do have lovely neighbours who are more than happy to take us anywhere if needed (one of them will be taking husband to the garage to (hopefully) pick the car up later).

I am so thankful that we'd built up our stores of food, cleaning stuff and toiletries over the past few weeks, and have tons of homegrown veg and fruit in the freezers, and still in the garden.  We won't need much at all in the way of shopping for the next few weeks, so that's one worry off my mind.  I have plenty of frozen veg and (pet food) minced chicken, around a dozen frozen meals I'd already made for the dog, 2 bags of kibble and several tins of fish (which Betty loves), plus lots of her dried meat treats and dental chews, so nothing needed to buy for her either.

We're going on holiday soon, a caravan holiday in Devon (the next county along to us), I'm happy to say that it's paid for and I have fuel money and a bit of spending money stashed away already.  My sister is coming with us, which will be fantastic - we don't get to spend much time together at all now, as she lives over 3 hours drive away and until we've seen husband's cardiologist, we're not doing any long drives (it only takes an hour to where we're going on hol).  Sis really needs a holiday, she has the stress of looking after our mother - our younger brother and a couple of sister's friends will be caring for her whilst we're away.  Sis is due to have a knee replacement op next month, she has severe arthritis in her knee and wears a heavy duty knee support and uses a walking stick, she can't walk far but will enjoy us taking her out in the car, or sitting outside the caravan in the sun (which I hope will still be around!).  I shall be taking food with us, yesterday I had a mammoth cooking session and made chicken korma, chilli and a sausage casserole to freeze.  I bulked them all out with extra veggies and tinned beans, which meant I was able to freeze extra portions for husband and I to have in future weeks.  I'll also make a fish pie and some soups to take with us, we have a very large coolbox.

So I'm feeling a bit better about things now - we'll be skint for some time to come but the bills will be paid as normal and the food is all sorted, we just won't have anything spare so will have to hope nothing else goes wrong.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Another dip in our roller coaster life - UPDATED

The car has broken down - something (don't ask me what) to do with the clutch.  Apparently it's going to cost around £500 to repair.  That's our savings completely wiped out - and then some.  Good job we have a full freezer, plenty of tins in the pantry and lots of homegrown veggies, as we won't be going shopping for quite a while!

I'm not going to panic (she says, sitting in the corner rocking backwards and forwards and mumbling).

If it's not one thing it's another, and I'm bloody well fed up with it.


The garage have rung and said actually it'll cost £720

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

What we've been doing this week

Thank you for comments.  Welcome to Nawm D Gerr, new reader.  Jeannie, I hope your husband feels better with lactose free milk.  I am feeling so much better this week, now I've cut down drastically on carbs and gluten.  I'm going to make a cheese soda bread on Saturday morning, using wholemeal spelt, along with a big pan of soup.  Pam of A New Life in Wales has today put on a recipe for a butternut squash, carrot and sweet potato soup which sounds absolutely delish, I'll be trying that.

For a few weeks now we've been looking for a 3-door antique pine wardrobe for our twin spare bedroom, to replace the small (child size) 2 door one that's been in there for a few years.  It's quite a big room, bigger than our bedroom in fact, and we could do with more space to store our out-of-season clothes, which we currently keep in plastic boxes under the bed.  Well, do you think we can find one?  We want a good quality second hand one, we haven't bought brand new furniture for a few years now.  Most second hand furniture shops we've been to or rung say they rarely get them in, people mostly want smaller furniture.  However, 2 shops recently said they had one, one in Minehead (a 40 minute drive away), the other in Weston (nearly an hour away with traffic that seems to get worse all the time).  Well, what a waste of time - the Minehead one, which we were assured on the phone was pine, wasn't pine at all - it wasn't any sort of solid wood actually, it was that cheap nasty chipboard stuff, badly painted white, with a very flimsy hardboard back which had a very large hole in it.  And they wanted £90 for it.  I wouldn't have had it if they were giving it away.  The one in Weston was actually pine, very old and badly in need of restoration, the back of it had been replaced with what looked like old floorboards, badly nailed together and with huge gaps in between that you could fit your hand in.  We didn't want to pay £110 for something that looked like it wouldn't survive the journey to our house.

We've decided now to just stop looking - quite a lot of our present old furniture we've come across simply by chance when we weren't even specifically looking.  I reckon we'll get one sooner or later, a really nice one will turn up eventually.  The other alternative we've considered is a 2-door wardrobe and wide chest of drawers, which may well prove easier to acquire.

Our 2 spare bedrooms had become dumping grounds over the past few months, so as we're having visitors to stay in the next few weeks, it was about time we did something about them.  Yesterday and today we spent hours taking out all the stuff which didn't belong in there (random stuff left over from the last car boot sale husband did, mainly) and either chucking it or bagging it up for the charity shops.  I also dragged out all the boxes of bed linen and towels from under the beds and went through them all - wow, we had enough bedding to furnish a dormitory, all stuff we've collected over the years.  There were also a dozen bath towels and loads of hand sister suggested we could start up a B&B! (erm, NO).  I've kept a couple of spare sets for each of the beds, and the nicest of the towels, the rest are also going to the charity shop.  I've also got rid of a couple of pictures which have faded dramatically - both front bedrooms are south-facing and the sun streams in all day - replacing them with some new cheap and cheerful ones from The Range (love that shop).  Along with some new throws for the beds, both rooms look really fresh and tidy.  Feels so good to have decluttered and freshened everything up.