Monday, July 27, 2009

Louie's story, part 2: A long six months

Louie's pancreatitis came on just after the vet had prescribed some medication for what we assumed were allergies, and we all then naturally assumed that the steroid in the medication had triggered the episode. We put him on a low fat diet (Hills i/D), weaning him slowly back to normal meals after an overnight stay in the hospital on iv fluids. This after three days of vomiting at home.

He seemed okay, more or less, for a few days, but he never really seemed to fully recover. He would vomit on occasion, sometimes a lot, sometimes a little. His stool seemed normal but he has a habit of going back into the brush to do his thing, so I didn't always get a good look at what he produced. Sometimes it seemed like he had a bit of diarrhea.

It is hard to remember everything that went on during this time. He started to lose weight-- a lot of weight, rapidly. He stopped drinking water and I had to add water to his food. He had a hard time holding his food down, and he began to have loose stools in his crate. I would often come home to a crate full of diarrhea and vomit. After meals, he would shake uncontrollably. Our vet, believing him to be in pain from smoldering pancreatitis, prescribed strong pain medications, but nothing made the shaking go away. He became increasingly weak, no longer following me around the house and eventually retreating to the bed in his crate full time. I had to pull him from his crate and carry him outside to do his business or to eat his meals.

His ear leather continued to discolor, and then began to crust and scab at the edges, and the dermatologist we took him to see then suspected his rabies vaccination was the cause. He also had swelling at his shoulder, at the vaccination site, which several months earlier we had biopsied, fearing cancer. There was no cancer, but the wound at his shoulder continued to worsen, until he had a large, open, oozing area there. There was another wound on his left hind leg which would not heal, and this wound looked like some sort of insect bite.

The pads on his feet cracked open and also would not heal; it became so painful for him to walk outside to do his business that I went out and found little vinyl booties to put on his feet to protect them, and he wore those booties for months. The skin at the end of his nose also became discolored.

Our vet began to suspect some sort of autoimmune disease and mentioned lupus. I did a lot of reading about lupus, and became convinced that this was his problem.

His test results were consistent with pancreatitis, and he also had high liver values, which was worrisome. At around this time we also started to see anemia and low albumin levels, which our vet believed was due to the blood loss from all the weeping wounds he had.

As if that weren't bad enough, the skin on the back of his front legs began to slough off.

Our dilemma was serious. The treatment for an autoimmune disease like lupus would normally be prednisone, a powerful immunosuppresant and anti-inflammatory drug, but we dared not give him that because it also is known to aggravate pancreatitis, and another severe flare-up of that could quickly take his life. We were stuck. He was very sick, rapidly getting sicker, but his vets were reluctant to treat him for fear of making him sicker still.

At this point I began to read up on immune-mediated diseases and immunosuppressant drugs. Louie's condition was bad; he was just skin and bones. Then one night he shook so hard all night long that I was certain he would not make it through to morning. I held him, I cried for him, and I cried in frustration and wept bitter tears at not being able to do a single thing to help him. My husband stroked him gently on the head and whispered to him that it was okay to go, if this was his time. Yet, he held on.

He made it through that night, and the next day I went in to see the vet and told her through my tears that I knew in my heart that he was dying, and that he was certainly going to die if we didn't at least try something. I felt that we had little to lose, that if we tried something that ultimately took his life perhaps that would be the more merciful outcome, but we would have at least tried, and she agreed. She asked me if I wanted her to prescribe some prednisone and I said no, I wanted to start him on cyclosporine. I'd been reading a lot about this particular drug, and it seemed logical to try it. She did, and I left with a two-week's supply of cyclosporine.

That marked the very beginning of our long road back, but we still had no idea what was wrong, and there was a long way left to go. Within a day of beginning the cyclosporine, the shaking stopped. He rallied for a time, and started to do much better, but this would only be a temporary respite. After a month of remarkable recovery, he began to decline again as the disease processes tightened their grip on him. We had helped him a little, for a time, but he needed much more help than this. It had been six months, and now we were out of answers.


  1. What can i do to help?He is just so adorable and I'm sure you are going to do everything you can to help him, so what can we do? god Bless you all

  2. Just spread the word so that more people learn about this disease. I believe many dogs never get a chance because they go undiagnosed. Raising awareness helps-- a LOT! Thank you!

  3. My dog Chaya is suffering with this condition as well. She is on liquid steroid and liquid chemo...with minimal results. She has lost so much weight and is not her normal self but she is a fighter and is eating well and still enjoying her loving but know this disease will take her. She is only 7. Heart breaks