Updated: Feb 26
Ian is a stunning, shiny black purebred Great Dane, he had been in care since 7 weeks of age and was adopted at 6 months of age by his loving Melbourne family after one hell of a journey of recovery.
Ian - The Original Mini Dane It all started here, an advertisement I stumbled upon on Gumtree. As the past President of Great Dane Rescue & Rehoming NSW, I tend to keep an eye on Gumtree for Danes that would be considered 'at risk', these may be undesexed females, non-standard coloured entire Danes and then compromised/sick Danes like this one. I messaged the owner who was an unregistered Breeder and asked what he was crossed with given he was being advertised as a 'Mini Dane'. They said he was pure and sent me photos of the parents and siblings and it did appear that everyone was pure, but what was wrong with this little one?! I asked if he was sick and they said no, that he was just the runt.
Normally, at this point, I'd introduce myself and offer to take the dog. I don't pay for dogs in such situations but in this situation, I just went ahead and purchased him for $300.00 which was a discounted rate from his siblings who were being advertised for $1,000.00. My initial thoughts were that there was something wrong with him such as Megaesophagus or a Liver Shunt and if he was going to die, I would prefer that I put him to sleep versus a family who fell in love with him, that would be incredibly unfair to them, especially if there were children involved.
My friend Shirley whose always been an angel to Great Dane Rescue offered to pick him up for me on the 2nd of November, 2017 as he was a couple of hours away, she sent me a photo to show me she had him onboard and it was at this moment that I had a little eeek moment. I had predicted he looked around 4 kilos but this puppy looked much smaller. He was 7 weeks old and by Great Dane standards he should be around 7-9 kilos and this puppy looked more like a Chihuahua x than anything else. Shirley pulled up and I met her at the car and the eeek moment I mentioned earlier turned into an "Ah Sh$t" moment, my heart truely believed this puppy was not going to make it, he was tiny. I weighed him in and he was 1.9 kilos. He was scrawny, and had a terribly dull harsh reddish coat. We took him to the backyard to let him toilet and his lack of strength became quite evident, he took 2 steps and then flopped down. He had a massive tummy, I was hoping it was a worm burden otherwise a Liver Shunt could be a real possiblity. He didn't poo that day so I wasn't able to check his poos. For some silly reason, I didn't have Capstar in the house which I usually always do, it's a flea product that kills all the fleas on their body within an hour so I washed him and we used a mixed of Apple Cider Vinegar and Water to stun the Fleas whilst we picked them off by hand.
Normally with puppies I would have them sleep in crates and never before had I brought a puppy into my bed, but this little one wasn't ready to be alone and I wasn't comfortable leaving him alone so he slept in the bed and that night he asked to go to the toilet 3 times, I was a tad tired that next day when he went to the Vets for a check over and some bloods.
Our Vet team weren't sure if he was pure, he was so small, he didn't have any of those typical Dane features such as the wrist knuckle and the big feet and his head certainly didn't look like a Dane or even a Dane x. When we look back on that first appointment with our Vet Team, they weren't sure the outcome was going to be that positive either but of course they kept that to themselves at the time. The Vet visit was on the Friday and the results came in on the Monday and they weren't great. Whilst they didn't lead to a diagnosis they showed us that there were alot of things that had to improve if this little guy was going to make it. At this point I was fairly confident that he didn't have Megaesophagus as he was eating well. His stool was looked at for parasite eggs and none were seen but he was wormed anyway so that big tummy was very unlikely to be a worm burden. The following days of poo watch, the favourite activity of many a dog owner showed no visable dead worms.
We made the presumption that his big tummy was simply malnutrition. We would go on to make a few presumptions with this puppy as that's all we had to go on. His blood work showed that he was Anemic, although he arrived with a Flea burden, I hadn't thought they would have been bad enough to cause Anemia if that is what was the cause however, given how small he was, it was possible. I hoped that Fleas were the main cause because if it wasn't, we were in trouble and would have to find an alernative reason he was bleeding.
Knowing he wasn't normal but thinking he was just the runt, his Breeder had been giving him Roast Lamb and Crumpets trying to help him along. What this little one needed was species appropriate nutrition that was bio-available to him so he could obtain the vital nutrients he needed to be healthy or at least have a fighting chance. I had to assume as did his new Vet team that good nutrition would be best thing we could do with this little one and see if he improved - we would do bloods again in 2 weeks. Our starting ground was that out of 47 tested profiles, he was outside of the normal range on 23 of them (48.9%). I am very thankful to Pennant Hills Vet Clinic who provide discounted rates to our rescues so we can at least try to get them to the point that one day they may find their own forever home and as Giant breed owners themselves, we know they get us and our dogs.
Being a rescue puppy, any help you can get to help them along is appreciated when they're going to cost more than the average one, although I don't ask for financial donations, that makes me feel awkward. I contacted Prime100 and Wellbeing for Dogs who were happy to supply Ians Nutrition which covered his meals and supplements and I am very greatful that they have joined us on this journey, it really has been awesome to see him physically develop on species appropriate nutrition (raw balanced diet).
Allow me to back track for a moment in time....
Ian arrived on a Thursday and on the Tuesday of that week, he had been at his local Breeder's Vets to have a vaccination and have his puppy health check which is standard practice before puppies go to their new homes. The concerning thing was, that the Vet Clinic ticked all the boxes to say he was healthy. It really is beyond me how anyone whether it be a Vet or a Vet Nurse or even a clinic Receptionist who could have marked the paperwork, could have thought this puppy was healthy. His Abdomen was huge, he was tiny, much smaller than what would be considered a runt of his breed and he had very little energy. I have debated whether I should contact this Vet clinic and let them know about his test results with the hope they don't let another sick puppy fly under the radar and potentially break the hearts of their new family who would have just assumed he was the runt, so, the Breeder, relying on their Vet, probably thought that the puppy was fine and that he was just a runt.
Where did his name come from? Well....we had been considering names such as Walter, Norman & Kevin but he seemed to just fit Ian and Ian is the name of our Vet so he couldn't possibly let his namesake die right? hehehe Are you sure he's a Great Dane lady?! My Facebook friends just couldn't seem to come to terms with him being a purebred Great Dane and I guess I don't really blame them given how small he was and how he looked. It was even theorised that he came from a dual sire litter which means that there were 2 Dad's and he was sired by a smaller breed dog. So, it was time to put this to bed, I ordered a DNA test, it was meant to be back in 12 days.....1 month later and lot's of grrrrring from me it showed that Ian is infact a purebred Great Dane.
Knowing for sure he was a Great Dane helped us understand what are reasonable mile stones to make when it came to his weight and height even though he was going to be well behind. Ian appeared to be around 4 weeks behind physically and mentally, it was like we were dealing with a baby puppy who should still be with his mother.
The first week - 7 weeks
It was a nerve wracking, you're just hoping and willing him to put on weight, have more energy and just give you the impression he was going to pull through. He lacked so much energy that he joined me in the clinic with clients because all he could do was sleep. His stools weren't great, quite inconsistent and sloppy and they weren't getting better so we adjusted his diet by adding raw green tripe and raw goats milk, he lived on this alone for 3 days to rebalance his gut flora, he loved every bit of it and his gut was able to stablise thank heavens otherwise he would have to go on anti-biotics that would have wiped out his gut flora. Tripe and Goats milk has been a part of his meal everyday since. I noticed his movement was a bit odd, he really threw his elbows around when he moved and had a sway to his rear end, he looked like he was in discomfort to just move around. I was hoping this was just due to a lack of strength and would continue to watch how he went, we would later book into see a Physiotherapist who gave us a time frame of 1-2 months to get him going well enough to be rehomed.
Ian had only been home 5 days when I saw his Mum being listed for sale on Gumtree. The family were moving and they didn't need to take her with them. She had already produced 12 puppies in her first litter as just a young dog herself and she could better serve someone else. Her sale price of $400.00 was reflective of how quickly they needed her gone. Although I wanted to help, I had to be realistic, I had more than enough on my plate. Her ad disspeared within a week and I presume she found a new home, I can only hope it was with someone who wouldn't ask her to have any more puppies.
At the conclusion of week 1, Ian had put on 900 grams and I became more hopeful. Here's how the first week looked...
Week 2 - 8 weeks We had a massive gain here, weighing in at 4.4 kilos. Our Labrador x 'Little Man' has taken on being Ian's buddy after ignoring him since he arrived. Gavin the Dane refuses to have anything to do with him which is really strange, Gavin freaks out if pup comes too close - we wonder if puppy smells different to our dogs with him being sickly. Ian continued to sleep in the bed with my partner and I and he was needing to go out to the toilet 1-2 times a night. He was eating well and enjoying some chicken necks as an introduction to bones. Ian started learning what the clicker was and got to have his first play date this week with a young terrier type dog, he didn't have a lot of energy and got cranky at him but did have some nice moments of being a puppy. Ian also had a mud bath today to try and help him with his itchyness from his very dry coat, he has also had his dose of Zinc increased to help with this and within 2 days the dry coat dandruff was gone and he will remain on this for the time being.
Week 3 - 9 weeks This is the week that we got to see how good nutrition and good living has been paying off in relation to his bloods. We had a big sigh of relief to see there had been lots of positive improvements but we still had a bit to go which is fair, it had only been 2 weeks but he no longer looked like we were going to have to put him to sleep that week. I was pleasantly suprised when I went to pay for his blood test that someone had already covered it, thank you, whoever you are.
This week, Ian transitioned from the human bed to a puppy pen next to the bed, although he wasn't hugely impressed by it, he coped minus 1 night of explosive poos which of course is always fun to clean up at 2am. Hit hit 5.6 kilos this week.
Week 4 - 10 weeks
Ian had another playdate with the puppy from week 2, he did better this time and didn't get cranky as early on and they had a good rumble. He hit 7.2 kilos this week, we're feeling more and more confident each week that this little guy is going to make it! His coat is really starting to sparkle! Ian starts to look like he's getting some Dane features this week!
Gavin even somewhat tolerated him being close:
Week 5 - 11 weeks Ian hit 8.6 kilos this week and went to a Baby Shower which he started off not liking and being scared of everything to enjoying it and finding a doggy friend to chase around.
Ian is growing fast and laying down bone at a crazy rate and it's caught up with him, he's had a little growth challenge with his front legs turning out slighting and knuckling a little bit. Whilst we never recommend calcium supplementation for giant breed pups without guidence, Ian started on 1/4 of teaspoon of Natural Animal Solutions Calcium to help him through this and it was rectified within a couple of weeks.
Week 6 - 12 weeks There was a little error in this photo comparison, at 12 weeks, Ian was actually 9.5 kilos, not bad from starting at 1.9 kilos on arrival at 7 weeks right! Now I was positive Ian wasn't going to die on me (oh so dramatic hehe) I started his training with Sit and Drop and watch out folk, this Dane decided to be untypical in other regards and is actually switched on! This week also marked a special time in a little puppies life where he took himself out to the toilet all by himself WOOT!
This week, Ian had his 3rd set of blood tests which you can download here, lot's of good improvements and some things that went a bit weird but we're still heading in the right direction. We haven't decided when the next bloods will be but I'm thinking in about a months time.
Week 7 - 13 Weeks
Ian hit 10.6 kilos this week, hitting those double digits felt bloody good! Gav has started to let Ian be on the same bed as him but will still freak out if he touches him.
We love a comparison photo and we know you do too! So, here's my friend Rebecca with Ian a month apart:
Week 8 - 14 Weeks Ian hit 12.4 kilos, nice! He had his 2nd Physiotherapy session today and has made some good improvements since his last session 2 weeks ago but we still have a bit of work to go to get him nice and strong and ready for rehoming as he's still very weak in his rear end.
We have now reached a different milestone and that is $1,500.00 in expenses for this little guy. He's worth it though right?!!! Well mmmm ask me again as he sinks his puppy teeth into my feet! Week 13 - 19 weeks Well look whose 23 kilos!
His sit position is much stronger now and we're feeling more and more hopeful that he will develop into a pretty standard giant breed dog. He will be having Pennhip xrays on the 8th of Feb that are sent to America to be scored and compared to other Great Danes, this will help us understand where his hip scores compare to the breed and whether he has a higher change of development hip dysplasia. The reason I'm going to this extent is because we had him xrayed initially because he showed weakness going from a sit to a stand, a drop to a stand and was more clumsy than normal, we didn't know if this was to be expected with his compromised start. The xrays showed a bone spur on his left hip however there were no other signs of instability i.e. Hip Dysplasia. His Vet put him on anti-biotics to treat for a potential bone infection that may have created the bone spur and bugs may be still hanging around and since then he's been moving alot better, he now gets up and down like a regular puppy. So back to the reason I'm doing these Pennhip xrays, when I offer him for adoption, I want his potential family to know what there is to know about him to make an informed decision. The xrays will set me back $795.00 but I don't feel that I can't not do them. Inbetween the last update and this one, Ian chucked us another curve ball and that is that he has flipped the cartlidge in both his eyes, although I haven't seen this before in my own Danes or foster Danes, it's not uncommon in giant breed dogs. Right now it's just cosmetic and doesn't cause him any trouble.
08.02.18 Nearly 5 months of age Today Ian visited a different clinic where he was booked in for a specilised Hip X-ray called a Pennhip, this set of x-rays takes different views that standard xrays and measurements are compared to a database and you can learn if your dog is likely to develop Hip Dysplasia. I took the step to do this as on an earlier x-ray it looked like Ian has a Bone Spur on his left hip but no other signs of issues. Part-way through the xrays, I asked them to stop because it was clear to me that his hips were not an issue and what looked like a bone spur previously wasn't there anymore, it was likely just a growth plate flare. We left still not knowing what was wrong with Ian, it was frustrating. 09.02.18 The next day, Ian's wrist joints were swollen, he was really sore and he was very lame in his front *sigh*. So the position they put him in for xrays where they pull on the limbs really upset him - but why? I choose to rest him for 3 days and see how he pulls up... A week later He's still lame, I ask my Vet to do a joint tap to check for poly-arthritis, however when we arrive at the clinic and he sees the swelling, he wants to instead check for a condition known as Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy (HOD). HOD is a bone disease that occurs in fast-growing large and giant breed dogs. The disorder is sometimes referred to as metaphyseal osteopathy, and typically first presents between the ages of 2 and 7 months. Now, hindsight is a wonderful thing, when we look back there were plenty of signs of HOD but we put them down to him bing sick and also a fast growing giant breed puppy who can get growing pains. HOD is characterised by decreased blood flow to the metaphysis (the part of the bone adjacent to the joint) leading to a failure of ossification (bone formation) and necrosis and inflammation of cancellous bone. The disease is usually bilateral in the limb bones, especially the distal radius, ulna, and tibia. The Weimaraner, Irish Setter, Boxer, German Shepherd, and Great Dane breeds are heavily represented in case reports of HOD in the veterinary literature, but the severity of symptoms and possible etiology may be different across the breeds. For example, familial clustering of the disease has been documented in the Weimaraner, but not in other breeds. The disease in the Weimaraner and Irish Setter can be particularly severe, with significant mortality observed in untreated dogs. The classical age of onset is typically 8 to 16 weeks of age, with males and females equally affected. So, xrays were done and a HOD diagnosis was confirmed and it looks like he was at the tail end of it but for whatever reason, the positioning of the x-rays done that last week had really aggrivated it so I guess it was a blessing in terms of being able to get a diagnosis. What I personally learned was that HOD didn't need to be obvious like the photos you see on the internet, it can be discrete and look like other things. So, the great news is, Ian will make a full recovery and anti-inflams had the limp stop within 24 hours.
5.5 Months of age Guess who hit his next Milestone of reaching 30 kilos!
Ian is recovery well from HOD and has his last anti-inflammatory today and has not been lame since starting. His movement is so much better and he's running around a lot more at the park like a normal 5 month old puppy. One great thing we have noticed is that his frustration levels have really reduced and inturn so has his mouthing plus that's also had a little help of some yucky tasting spray! I feel very hopeful now that with his health & behaviour both falling into place that he will be ready to find his own forever home in the next couple of months when I feel happy with his progress in both areas. We're now $3,000 in expenses in but now we are no longer chasing a diagnosis and trying to everything we can to help him thrive so his expenses should now be that of a normal puppy...you know...balls...food etc.
08.03.18 5th round of blood tests have been done now and we're so happy to see improvements all round! You can see them here - Ian is now only outside of the normal range on 3 profiles - that's outstanding! He is now medically ready to be adopted!!!
14.03.18 - 6 months old today! On reflection...what a bloody journey! Today I have decided to list Ian as available for adoption. A short time later, Ian moved to Melbourne with his new family.
Update: 27.02.20 Ian is a happy & healthy full sized Great Dane who is still raw fed and still has his super shiny coat.