Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Louie’s story, Part 3: At last, an answer

Because I live in Sacramento, I am not too far from the veterinary teaching hospital at UC Davis. During the time we were struggling with Louie’s problems, I began talking with a co-worker whose dog had, years before, had similar symptoms. Her dog had been worked up at UC Davis and diagnosed with lupus.

Through her, I was able to connect with one of the faculty there and get a recommendation for a vet in their Internal Medicine department. As she is also faculty, I had to wait a month to get an appointment with her, but in June of last year (2008) I bundled Louie up and took him to UC Davis for the first of many visits there.

She examined him, sent him to their dermatology department for additional examination, and then spoke with me about her recommendations. They could take some educated guesses and do minimal testing to try to pinpoint what was wrong, or they could do what she called the “gold standard” with a full blood panel and comprehensive testing. Tired of wasting money on guessing, I chose the more expensive gold standard. I left him there for tests and went back home for a few hours.

After a full day of testing, the vet called me back to the hospital to report on her findings. She said that his intestines were abnormally swollen and “rope-like.” Ultrasound revealed what appeared to be a diffuse mass in the intestines, and there were other anomalies with his internal organs on ultrasound as well. His bloodwork indicated anemia and other abnormalities that could be associated with cancer. She recommended either exploratory abdominal surgery (which she preferred), or an endoscopy.

I asked her, should they find cancer during the surgery, if they would be able to remove it at that time. She said that, if that were the case, they would close him back up and concentrate on palliative care. She did not think this was any sort of mass that could be removed.

Because of the condition of his skin and some prior, inconclusive test results, she also wanted to test him more thoroughly for Cushing’s disease before deciding which option would be best, but that test would take another full day. If he had Cushing’s, the surgery would be out and endoscopy would be preferred. We made an appointment for the Cushing’s test, which was weakly positive, and erring on the side of caution we made the decision to go for the endoscopy.

After the endoscopy, I spoke again with the vet, who said that the examination had revealed some granular-type tissue and inflammation in the small intestine. She had taken a biopsy and sent it off to the lab, and did not want to speculate about the likelihood of cancer until the pathology report came back. The week which followed that test was one of the longest of my life. However, at the end of that road we finally had a name for his digestive troubles. It was not cancer. Louie had a disease I’d never heard of, called “lymphangiectasia.”


  1. I'm so glad that I found your blog! Our Yorkie, Bella, was just diagnosed with lymphangiectasia. Her story is similar to Louie's in that it was discovered during a bout of pancreatitis. Right now we're trying to learn as much as possible about the disease. Thank you so much for sharing Louie's story.

  2. Thanks, Marissa! I'm glad you found us, too. I hope that you'll get Bella on track and that your vet is helping you look into treatment options. I'm finding that a lot of vets don't know much about this disease and think it is an automatic death sentence, which it is not. I hope you'll come back and let me know how Bella is doing.

  3. I just found out my 4 year old terrier has this disease. I am currently in the process of debating whether of not I can afford to keep her alive/ is it worth it? Will she live a happy healthy life again? Wondering if I can somehow get into contact with you ASAP. Can we speak on the phone possibly? I currently live in Colorado but I grew up in Walnut Creek. Let me know I would really appreciate it feeling as though I am very lost and alone.Haley

  4. Haley, it's definitely worth it. If your terrier is going to recover based on the treatments now available, recovery should be fairly quick and remission can be long lasting. I'm not an expert, but most of the money we spent on Louie was spent running down rabbit holes before we knew what was wrong with him, and getting him firmly and finally diagnosed correctly. Once we had a diagnosis, treatments have been minimally expensive.

    Of course, this depends on how sick your dog is right now. She may require some initial treatment to get her more stable. What have your vets said about her condition?

  5. Go to this link for more information on this disease. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lymphangiectasia

  6. My Yorkie was just diagnosed with this disease after months of the telling us she was going to die of liver cancer. We are on steroids but her little belly keeps filling with fluid and now without fail, we carry her across state line to the vet that saved her, to get her belly drained. Is there anything holistically we can do to help with maybe ensuring her of remission?