April 25, 2016
I've tried to write this post for months, but am always stopped by a wave of sadness, or a dislike of sharing bad news, or all of the above plus the last time I tried, a ghastly black spider speeded across my desk. (A poisonous hobo spider, I think!) But with so many animal lovers out there, and so many people knowledgeable about animal health, maybe someone can offer advice — or sympathy.
Callie is our beloved little rescue dog whom we adopted three-and-a-half years ago when she was about two. We connected on petfinder.com. She's the sweetest, gentlest dog we've ever had. Her mission when we go for a walk, besides peeing and pooping as much as possible, is to befriend every dog and person she sees. Although she's willing to calmly walk on by if friendship isn't in the cards, she's so cute that strangers are often drawn to her and want to share her affection.
About seven months ago, she stopped eating, started throwing up, lost weight and was lethargic. After a series of tests, we were referred to a specialty clinic, with a diagnoses of liver disease.The new vet said Callie had liver failure. She had an ultrasound, a liver biopsy and blood tests, but it wasn't certain if she was suffering from a congenital condition, a chronic disease or a liver insult — a toxic event triggering a liver failure response. Other diseases were also ruled out. A toxic insult could be something like eating a poisonous mushroom or insect she found outside. She prefers to stay near us when outside, and rarely goes out by herself, so it seemed unlikely she ate something toxic at our house, but it's possible she could have gotten into something at the house where we occasionally board her. We don't know.
She was put on a great number of medications because her health was so precarious, and I had to make myself a chart to keep track of her drugs and dosages. She was on steroids for a time, which made her a little crazy. She had to wear diapers. Her fur got very thin and started to fall out in clumps. I had to get food into her because she had lost so much weight, and our pantry looked like a specialty pet food store, with so many choices with which to tempt her. She rejected everything, even home-cooked offerings. I became a human feeding tube, sticking food down her throat. Finally, she started to eat small amounts on her own, and slowly started to gain back the weight she had lost. Her blood work gradually started improving, and we were so happy. She was put on a liver-specific prescription diet, and many of her medications were discontinued until only the liver support meds were left. Her hair grew back and she looked healthy and happy again.
Her March blood work results were so good, her veterinarian was surprised but happy, and scheduled more blood tests for the end of April to further check her progress. Unfortunately, the most recent results indicate severe liver issues and the vet wants to do a new ultrasound to see how extensive Callie's liver damage is. I won't go into all the medical details, but we are heartbroken and confused. She looks and acts perfectly fine, but her blood tests indicate her liver is failing.
If we do another ultrasound, which we probably will, we may know more about her chances for survival, but at this point it doesn't look especially great. The other piece of this depressing scenario is the unbelievable, shocking cost of veterinary care. If I could go back in time, I would definitely sign up for pet insurance.
I'm giving Callie all the love, kisses, pets and walks I can, for as long as I can, and trying to remain optimistic.