Sunday, February 28, 2016

How to prevent your dog from back injury and surgery (IVDD) --- based on experience with my own dog

My dog Beethoven injured his spine and had to go through surgery. I made this video to tell what happened and warn dog parents about preventable accidents like the one he suffered.

Since our dog Beethoven was a puppy big enough to be able to jump on and off furniture, we always encouraged him to do so. He was so agile and confident that we'd open the car door and he'd immediately hop on without hesitation.

That all has been fine for the past 5 years until about 2 weeks ago he suffered an accident doing exactly that. He injured his spine when he jumped off the car seat --- the vertebral disk ruptured and started compressing his spinal cord, causing a lot of pain and temporarily loss of sensitivity in the rear paws. It was scary.

We took him to a regular vet who found he had a neurological deficit (proprioceptive) via the knuckle test. She immediately referred him to a neurologist. After a more comprehensive examination and MRI, surgery was recommended.

Beethoven underwent a laminectomy surgery in which the disk material was removed. It took about 2 hours and he had to stay that night at the hospital. Thankfully all went well and he was discharged the very next day. Although he has a 6-inch incision on his back with 16 staples, he's been recovering very well.

I'm writing this as a warning for folks to avoid letting their dogs jump on and off furniture. In more severe cases, it's not uncommon for the dog to become paralyzed. As I read about it, I learned that , "the impact of such a leap on a little dog is equivalent to that a human would face when jumping from the roof of a one-story house". In particular, dog breeds known as chondrodystrophic (those with long backs and short legs) have a much higher risk of suffering spine problems. Beethoven is a lhasa apso, which is one of those breeds. Some others are  Dachshunds, Shih Tzus, Pugs, Boston Terriers, Yorkies, Poodles and Bassets.

After he's fully recovered (2 weeks of crate confinement + few more weeks of limited activity + maybe physical therapy) we'll be very happy to have him back for long walks, hiking, running and playing but no jumping on furniture allowed anymore!

One may think that it's difficult or harsh to prohibit dogs on the couch or bed. Well, you don't need to block it, just workaround it. Beethoven loves the couch. Since he's small, that's his "watch tower" where he works monitoring passerbys, squirrel, fox, etc. The plan is to use ramps or small stairs to make it easier to access the furniture without jumping. Of course, if the dogs must not go somewhere, then a gate or pet pen would be a good solution. There're plenty of products you can buy online or even make yourself.


Beethoven has fully recovered and is back to normal routine -- except now he can only go to his favorite place in the sofa using a ramp and we carry him up/down the stairs. Although we're very happy with his recovery, we worry the problem may recur eventually in a different disc (dogs have 27 discs!!!). Thus, we decided to buy pet insurance only to find that a recurring incident would likely be considered pre-existing and not covered. For those interested, here are the answers from a few insurers I inquired specifically about my dog's situation (these are email exchanges and not official/legal statements):

"Petplan is set up to cover signs or symptoms of any accident, illness, or injury as long as it is not preexisting to the policy.  Any condition related to this particular disk would be excluded from coverage.  Also, if it turns out that the previous disk injury is related to degenerative disk disease, anything related to this would not be coverable.  If a completely unrelated injury occurs to a different disk, we may be set up to cover it."

Healthy Paws
"Conditions which show propensity to recur would not be eligible for coverage if there were signs or symptoms of the condition present prior to enrollment.  Ruptured spinal discs are typically considered pre-existing, as IVDD can often predispose the pet to future spinal injuries.  It is safe to assume that future ruptured discs would not be eligible for coverage. All of our claims decisions are based on the medical records and written opinion of your veterinarian, however, so an unrelated, acute spinal issue could be eligible for coverage if your veterinarian believes it to be new and separate from previous issues.  Without the medical records, we cannot guarantee coverage for any particular condition.  Medical records are reviewed at the time of your pet's first claim with us."


"Trupanion would be unable to cover future health costs if a different disc is involved.  This holds true if there was any sign or evidence of the potential manifestation of it in any part of the spine prior to the Policy Enrollment Date or during any applicable waiting periods."

Friday, March 21, 2014

Dog food dispensing toys: comparing a few options and showing how they make your dog healthier

I’ve been looking and trying dog toys – in particular food dispensers – for my Lhasa Apso as a way to challenge and make him more active while indoors. So far, the Mushroom Toy was the best, surpassing all expectations, and improving his meal time greatly in many ways. I made a video to demonstrate exactly that, and to compare with the Kong Wobbler which is also a great option.

Other toys we've tried were not that satisfactory. KONG Extreme Dog Toy, for example, only fits certain threats and the dog only needs to move his tongue to use it -- not to mention it gets quite dirty. The Treat Ball Dog Toy is somewhat similar to the mushroom but my dog does not like it much -- I guess the round shape makes it monotonous and not challenging. The mushroom shape allows for more leverage to push it hard and eject the food.

Basically, as I show on the video, when my dog eats the usual way – in a bowl – he devours his dog food all at once very quickly (about 2:30 min). With the Kong Wobbler he takes more than 7 minutes until he eats all the food. One minor drawback is that it usually releases too much food at once and there's no way to adjust that.

Now, with the Mushroom Toy, he takes more than 12 minutes to eat and does it one kibble at a time.  And that’s on the easiest level – yes, you can adjust it to release kibbles even more slowly if you want.

I think that both toys provide a calmer, healthier experience while eating, even more given that the dog is exercising the entire period, patting the toy all over the place. It’s indeed a therapy for the dog and the owner – I personally love to watch him playing. 

The Mushroom Toy is very easy to use, resistant, and stays clean – dogs don’t seem to get interested in licking or chewing it. I’ve recommended it to a few friends and they all approved it. My brother gave it to his puppy (a Shitzu), and although it was the small size (it also comes on large), it was still slightly too big for her. Anyway, she plays a lot with it and as she grows it’ll get better.

Toys we've tried:

Monday, February 10, 2014

Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Nexus: Upgrade or not?

The Samsung Galaxy S3 is already considered old. When thinking about a new phone, the Nexus 5 comes to mind. This video reviews the two devices, focusing on design, physical format and screen. Also, Vellamo Benchmarks are run to compare their performance on different tasks --- all trying to figure out if the upgrade is worth or not.

My conclusion is that there's no doubt the Nexus 5 is better -- in particular in terms or processing and display quality. That makes an upgrade really worth if you do a lot of gaming, heavy apps or reading. For internet browsing however, the difference is almost non-existent -- in which case keeping the Samsung Galaxy S3 for some more time would not be a bad idea.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Repairing my Samsung Galaxy S3 Front Glass Screen


Project details:

My phone's screen was very shattered, full of cracks and had no protective film. I replaced just the front glass with a new one, keeping the original digitizer and AMOLED screen. It was a long (2 to 3 hours) and tricky process but totally worth it. Samsung quoted the repair at $180. For less than $30 my phone is reborn and in perfect shape. 

Since then, I've learned some tips from other folks. For example, you can use a special adhesive tape to help holding the glass in place. I also have been using the OtterBox Case as I don't want to have a broken screen again (it actually already saved me a few times).

I have to thank my wife for providing me with this unique opportunity  (she was the one who actually dropped the phone) and helping me repair it -- and the folks from Xda-Developers for sharing the details and giving confidence to try it out.

DISCLAIMER: The videos shows my own experience. If anyone tries to do the same, it'll be at their own risk and responsibility. Besides, this may void your warranty and render your phone unusable.


Tools & Materials:

Easy steps to build a DIY Home Theater Projector Screen


Project details:

The video shows how I made my 132” (114x66)  projector screen for less than $80 (assuming you have all the tools) in just a few hours. Once you have all the materials, it’s quite simple and easy to get it done.

I have an Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3010 projector which is set up on a 21’ x 13’ basement. The wall used to be our screen but I decided to get a real one. As I wanted something cheaper and fun to do, I chose to build it on my own. As the video shows, the results couldn't be more amazing!

The main piece is the cloth which is of excellent quality. One concern I hear very often is about the wrinkles. I got it folded (you have the choice to have it rolled for a few extra bucks) which causes a lot of wrinkles. That's not a problem though as by just stretching and stapling it on the frame -- without really doing anything special -- all wrinkles disappear.

One difference from most other examples I've seen is the fact that I utilized the entire cloth as-is to make my screen without leaving a buffer, cutting pieces or wrapping around the frame. I put staples in the very edge of the cloth to maximize the viewable area and it worked perfectly. I then covered the staples and surrounded the edges with black artist tape. I know Carl's Place recommends felt tape but I had a really hard time finding that locally and decided to go with the artist tape.

It turned out that the artist tape was not a good choice. It started falling after a year or so and I had to replace it with the black felt tape. In this video I demonstrate how easy it was to remove the old tape and put the new one -- which BTW looks much more polished and professional.

I'm very happy with the result. Not only the images are eye-popping -- so much better than projecting on the wall -- but also my home theater room looks so much nicer and elegant (my wife loved it).

  • Figure out your screen size, projection range, dimensions, lighting conditions on Projector Central 
  • Other screen options and instructions from Carl’s place

Reviewing High Definition Projector Optoma HD23 - movie, sports and games in a 170" screen


I installed the Optoma HD23 in my basement and after a few days trying it out I decided to return it. It's not because the projector is bad -- overall it's quite good. However there were a couple of issues which made it the wrong choice for me. 

My main observations:
1. Excellent image definition, vivid colors
2. Very bright -- sometimes too much (see movie and clip)
3. Blurry on fast game actions
4. Not very flexible for placement (limited zoom range)
5. Quite disturbing rainbow effect

In brief, the image is amazingly bright and vivid. Colors are beautiful. But the blurriness on fast moving frames and the rainbow effect were killer issues for me. Since then I got a LCD projector (Epson PowerListe Home Cinema 3010) whose image is not as colorful but does not have the latter problems. I'm very happy with the Epson 3010 now :)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Applying K9 Advantix II for dogs - Tick & flea prevention and control

If you're interested in buying Bayer's K9 Advantix II just click the link which will take you to Amazon. Every 6 month I order it from there and so far haven't found a better deal. By the way, if you set up recurrent orders, you can even get some discount.

In this video we show step-by-step how we apply Bayer's K9 Advantix II to our Lhasa Apso dog (23 lbs). We had been using Pfizer's Revolution before but after outdoor walks our dog would eventually come back with ticks which could take 2-3 days to die off. We switched to K9 Advantix II because not only it kills but more importantly repels ticks and fleas. The two products have many differences and a veterinarian should be the best person to help choosing. 

Disclaimer: Always follow the instructions that come with the product there different versions, dog weights, etc. And remember, NEVER use K9 Advantix II in cats.