Monday, October 25, 2010

Back to the subject at hand-- sort of.

It's been a while since I wrote something here about Lymphangiectasia, but something happened this weekend which has given me pause and a reason to bring it up here once again.

A while back (a long while back) I wrote a post here entitled Lymphangiectasia is not a death sentence.  I wrote this post because I was seeing so many people coming to the canine lymphangiectasia support group in utter despair, having been all over the internet to read the gloom and doom predictions that are posted on various websites mentioning the disease.  I went through all of that myself, when we first got our diagnosis, and because there was no such thing then as a lymphangiectasia support group, I had to navigate those waters on my own.  And we were lucky.  Not all dogs will make it, but so far, we've done well.

My own experience tells me that, if you can figure out HOW to get these dogs stable, and if you don't get cocky and start feeding treats and fatty foods again, you're likely going to have a very good remission, perhaps one that will last the rest of the dog's expected life span.   I know this, not only because Louie has been in a prolonged remission, but because I'm aware of other dogs who lived many, many years and died of old age AFTER being diagnosed with lymphangiectasia.  This is what gave me the hope to soldier on, in spite of the gloom and doom I was reading everywhere.

Yesterday, one of our support group members wrote to the group to let us know she's looking for another vet.  The reason?  Her vet told her that, by keeping her dog alive, she was consigning the dog to years of misery with a painful disease.

This just broke my heart to read.  If I thought that my own dog with this disease has been miserable and in pain in the years since his remission began, I couldn't live with myself.  It's just not true; he's a happy, energetic, playful little imp who utterly owns my heart, and I fully intend to keep him around as long as I possibly can--provided he remains happy and energetic.  If and when he gets to a point at which there isn't hope, I think we'll both know it.

So it's quite sad, to me, that a veterinary professional came out and all but accused our group member of selfishly keeping her dog alive against its better interest.

Fortunately, she had us to turn to.  From my reading, I know that there's older literature out there which paints a disturbing picture, but that's not the whole story.  There's also newer research and newer ideas about treatment and prognosis but, unfortunately, this disease is so rarely considered and diagnosed that many vets don't ever have a reason to research what's new in the treatment of this disease.  Many, if not most, have never seen a case.

I don't know what I would have done if the doctors at UC Davis had given up on us.  We did get to a point at which they didn't know where to turn or what to do, but that was because they missed his protein allergies.  No one ever accused me of keeping him going just because I couldn't bear to part with him, and he was awfully, awfully sick.  Most of our friends who saw him had a hard time believing that he could recover, but recover he did.

I know he will never be cured.  He will always have to be carefully fed, and watched, and kept away from all things fatty and that long list of proteins he just can't eat.  But that's okay.

I wonder sometimes if vets don't just get so jaded by owners who don't want to spend the money to really diagnose and treat a disease like this.  Is that it?  If so, I hope some of them might take pause at our story, and our friend's story, and realize that some of us will take the time, make the effort, spend the money, and do what is needed to give these dogs the chance they need.

For us, these dogs are family.  It might just be that the owners are looking for that one glimmer of hope to know what to do.  None of us wants to create or prolong misery.  This is not about being selfish, it's about being loved by a creature that trusts you completely.  It's about giving what you can in order to be the person who deserves that trust.

I would urge anyone out there who's receiving a gloom and doom message from their vet to seek another opinion.  And, for the vets, I would urge you to recognize that some of these dogs DO have a chance, despite what you might have read in veterinary school.


  1. Thank you so much for commenting on the article I wrote about my dog and her medical conditions. Your info on intestinal lymphangiectasta is actually how we determined BoDee may have it.

    Feel free to link to my article on Associated if you would like. Best wishes for Louie and YOu!

  2. Hi Donna! You're quite welcome! I hope BoDee is doing well these days.

    I did put a link to your article on the support forum and will post another link here. The more information we get out about this disease, the better for those dogs who have it.

    Thanks again for your article!

  3. Was it hard for Louie to gain weight again?


  4. It was quite hard, and in fact he will probably always be thin, because the disease makes it difficult to digest everything that is eaten. To combat that, I feed him a lot. He does best when I give him four decent-sized meals a day, and actually gains weight well when I keep him on that schedule. If I go back to twice a day feeding, the weight falls off of him again.

  5. Did the doctor prescribed prednisone?

    Did Louie's stool ever become normal again?


  6. I'm sure they would have prescribed prednisone or another steroid, except that they believed he also may have Cushing's disease, which would mean he couldn't take them. His stool is normal now and has been for quite some time.

  7. I'll suggest those medicines to the vet when I see him tomorrow. Because right now, I can't bet totally sure that my dog has the exact disease of lymphangiectasia, but all the symptoms seem to be pointing towards it (Diarrhea for over a year, significant weight loss, chest is bloated, malnourished no matter how much she eats, these progressively worsen and bounces back)

    The last blood test indicated a low number in CHOL and AMYL and high in EOS, are those familiar to you?

    Also, the vet mentioned that there are problems with her liver and pancreas, are those tied with lymphangiectasia?

    You're help has been great. I truly appreciate it

  8. I am trying to join your forum but in my nervousness over this I exceeded the number of tries ... I'll wait a while, I guess. Thank you for getting this information out there. The vet suspects my 2-1/2 yr. old Maltese has this disease but she has no symptoms. She has low (80% of normal) albumin and slightly low cholesterol. All liver tests came out normal. So I'm taking her in for a blood test today. I am a nervous wreck to say the least. Thank you for putting all this info out there.

  9. I'll make a change so that you can try again.