So-called “sleep” is a small accumulation of secretions and debris that sometimes gathers in the corner of the eye when an animal has been sleeping. When they are awake, the normal blinking of the eye stops this from gathering. Usually “sleep” is a dark brown or black colour, and it varies in consistency from watery to hard and crusty. Ideally, there should be no “sleep” present at all. If the tear ducts (which carry tears from the corner of the eye to the tip of the nose) are blocked, tears tend to gather in the eye, and as they dry they can leave traces of “sleep”.
Also, if there is any inflammation of the eyes, or the lining of the eyes (the “conjunctiva”: inflammation is called “conjunctivitis”), this can cause extra secretions that can appear as “sleep”. Minor inflammation is a common cause (e.g. caused by allergies to pollens, sensitivities to environmental irritants). Try simply cleaning the eyes twice daily using slightly salty water (a teaspoonful of salt in a pint of boiled water, cooled down). If the issue continues, even if it’s only minor, it’d be best to go to your vet to have a diagnosis made. The vet will check his tear production (if a dog has “dry eye”, with reduced tear production, this can exacerbate sleep), tear flow (ruling out blocked tear ducts) as well as other possible issues (such as ingrown tiny hairs on the eyelids) that could be causing ongoing irritation.
As with humans, moderation is the key when it comes to eating butter. A small amount of butter (perhaps a tablespoonful a day for a medium-sized dog) will do no harm at all, but more than this may cause problems. Butter is high in fat (80%) and calorie-dense (so it will contribute to a dog becoming overweight or obese), and second, it places specific stresses on a dog’s metabolism (high-fat meals can provoke illnesses such as pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas). It’s far easier to get a dog to stop eating butter than a human: you just need to stop giving it to him. Dogs can’t open fridge doors or lift butter dishes down from cupboards. But owners do need to learn the importance of setting firm boundaries for their pets, not giving in to “big eyes” or other needy behaviour, for the sake of better health for their animals.
There are no early signs of epilepsy: a dog can suddenly start to have seizures at any stage. The first sign of epilepsy is usually a generalised seizure (or fit), lasting from one to five minutes, when they fall on their sides, paddling their legs, twitching in a state of unconsciousness. A fit can happen as a one-off, but usually, with epilepsy, they start to happen regularly, and treatment is needed when they occur more often than every month or so, or if they occur in clusters (several fits, one after another).
Epilepsy tends to start in young dogs (six months to four years) and is often a lifelong issue that needs to be managed. Daily anti-seizure medication is needed for most dogs, and it’s usually (but not always) effective. Close veterinary supervision is important, but you can help your vet by keeping an accurate seizure diary (when, precisely do fits happen, how long do they last, and are there any possible predisposing factors such as flashing lights, exercise etc). It also helps to take a video when your dog is having a seizure, to show the vet.
Dog agility is a wonderful sport, keeping active dogs like Minnie fit both physically and mentally, and it’s a social, enjoyable activity too. She’s in her prime, and she’s likely to be a rapid learner. There’s plenty you can do in your own back garden: equipment is easily available online, and there are many Youtube videos that introduce beginners to the sport. However, it’s best to work with others who have gathered skills and experience. In Ireland, there are many enthusiasts, but no single dog agility organisation that connects everybody together across the country. There are two useful Facebook Pages (“The Official Irish Agility Group” and “IKC Competitive Agility”) while the Working Trials Club of Ireland (wtci.ie/) and the Irish Kennel Club (ikc.ie/competitions/agility) have helped to promote the sport.
However, local enthusiasts (such as Eva at agilitywestcork.com) are most likely to be the key to getting you started with Minnie. Make contact with one of the above, and enquire about what’s going on in your area. You’ll be given helpful guidance along the path to success in this exciting activity.