April 25, 2016

Our dog has liver failure



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.


30 comments:

  1. Oh no, I'm so sorry to hear about Callie. She looks so sweet, especially in that first picture. I don't know enough about doggie care to offer any meaningful advice but I am sending good thoughts and hugs to you all. :-)

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    1. Thank you! Callie is the sweetest dog and I'm so sad this is happening to her.

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  2. I'm so sorry, Andrea. I know the stress and worry that comes with an ailing companion animal. It's hard to be in a position where your friend is counting on you, and yet, so much is out of your control. It's a horrible helpless feeling, especially when you want more than anything to help. I'm thinking of you and Callie. xoxo

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    1. You've got it exactly right. Add to the mix that she seems perfectly healthy but we know she isn't but don't have any idea what lies ahead.

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  3. So sorry to hear this Andrea and Ken. What a sweet dog. So sad.

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    1. Thank you, A.G. We keep hoping her liver will somehow recover.

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  4. such a loving family...I've no advice other than to suggest you think about the quality of life Callie is having. Is she in pain? Is she happy? Are you keeping her alive for you of her?

    Before y'all start hating on me, I've had several furry loved ones and over the years some have died and one was helped to die....Wendy just wasn't enjoying life any longer. but I have my memories of her

    I hope you have many, many happy times with Callie, but if she is suffering, let her go

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    1. We've lost many furry babies over the years, and I agree with you that it's important to know when to let go. Callie seems fine now, but her future is uncertain. We live her too much to let her suffer when her time comes.

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  5. Oh, Andrea, I am so sorry! You must be devastated. Callie is lucky to have such amazing people caring for her during this difficult time. You are doing a great job.

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    1. Thank you Becky, we are doing our best to help Callie. We really thought she was recovering when we got the last jolt of bad news. So sad.

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  6. I am really sorry to hear about Callie, Andrea. My mother's last dog died because of this condition and I remember how hard it was on my mother. And to be honest, there's probably not much you can do for her except making her as comfortable as possible. I'll keep you guys in my thoughts.

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    1. Thank you, Mihl. So far she happy and seems so normal. It's hard to believe she's as sick as the vet tells us she is.

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  7. Oh Andrea, I'm so sorry to hear this difficult news about your sweet Callie. She seems like such a special and gentle dog. I know how hard (and expensive) it is to have an ailing pet, and to have to make decisions about their care and treatment on their behalf -- without being able to consult with them. I'm sorry for the pain and heartache this brings. I hope that you can still have some sweet love-filled snuggles and dog walks together. <3

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    1. Thanks, Amey. I really wish she could talk and tell me how she feels. She's happy and eating and doing all the things I would expect from her if she were 100% healthy. Sometimes I just don't know what to do.

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  8. Ohhh Andrea I am so sorry to hear this struggle, I wish I had advice but everything you are doing sounds right. I feel your regrets on not getting pet insurance too, with Luka being 12 and rapidly aging (I'm pretty sure she's fully deaf now) we we're called 'Frequent fliers' at the vet clinic just the other day. She's booked for surgery for a growth on her back and at her age anesthesia is always a concern. Even if the time with Callie is shorter than one could wish, know you are giving her the best love and care possible, there is no doubt she doesn't love you 100% best <3

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    1. My thoughts go out to you for Luka and her upcoming surgery — hope all goes well. Our last dogs lived to 16 and 14, so I do know what it's like to love an older pup. We haven't been called 'frequent fliers' to our faces, but that's what we are too. Callie is quite popular at the vet and her appointments are often extended because everyone working in the back wants a turn playing with her.

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  9. I am so sorry Andrea. With every passing year I end up cuddling more and more with chewie. I hope Callie feels like herself and stays happy. Sending you all lots of hugs.

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    1. Thanks, Richa. I know you've had medical challenges with Chewie, and really understand how it feels to see the dog you love go through serious problems.

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  10. So sorry to hear about Callie's situation. We live with one of our beloved adopted Cambodian cat's kidney failure. Thanks to special diet and regular administration of subcutaneous hydration fluids-- which I do pretty much daily--she has a good quality of life, eats, is playful, affectionate, happy. I base my feelings about the situation on that, from one day to the next, and remember to appreciate every day I have with her. I don't think about her condition, just conduct our routine with her and cherish her cheerful presence with us. Similar to your situation, she suddenly was diagnosed 4 1/2 years ago with kidney failure, after a healthy lifestyle in our care for 9 years. No reason for it could be determined. So the only advice I have is just take it day by day and appreciate every moment you have with her, all of which you are doing from the sound of it. And try not to let the gravity of her situation overshadow your days with her while she is feeling good (of which I hope there are many more).

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    1. Thanks so much. I really appreciated everything you said. We are doing our best to keep Callie happy and 'healthy.' The thing that makes this all so hard to accept is the fact that she's only five. BTW, We've been through the injected fluids routine with one of our cats, and I even administered IV fluids to a neighbor's cat while she was on vacation. It's amazing what we do for our beloved pets.

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  11. I don't have any medical tips or advice to offer, sadly, but just wanted to offer condolences, and hope that Callie remains as happy and well as can be for as long as possible.

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    1. Thanks, Joey. She's pretty happy — maybe because she doesn't know about her blood test results.

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  12. I'm so sorry to hear this!!!! HUGS!!!!! http://MyBlissfulJourney.com

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    1. Thank you Jennifer. Callie and I both appreciate hugs. :)

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  13. I'm so sorry, Andrea. I've been lucky with my one cat's health but I know every animal's time comes eventually.
    Glad she isn't acting differently. maybe she will make a turn around; otherwise you know to cherish the time you have with her. She looks like a sweetie.

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    1. Thanks, Maude. I love her so much and I hope she can be with us a while longer.

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  14. Our dog suffered from Cushings for the last few years of his life. The best advice I found was ask yourself to list the 10-15 things your dog loved to do. How many of them does your dog still love to do? We had a list of at least 15, and he was down to basically 2 or 3. As pet owners that care, we sometimes hold on too long, rarely euthanizing early, but often waiting too long.

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    1. It's hard to let go, isn't it? I wouldn't want Callie to be in pain or unhappy. She still enjoys her favorite activities, though I know the day is coming when it will be obvious that she is no longer living an enjoyable life.

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  15. I am so sorry for you and your sweet doggie!
    I definitely feel your pain and am so sorry for your situation. I hope you the best for your doggie!
    However, I did feel a bit offended at your statement: "unbelievable, shocking cost of veterinary care".
    As a vet, we undergo the same schooling as an MD, but an associate veterinary paid on average 65-75k per year, which seems tolerable until you consider the school debt of somewhere between 150-300k . Veterinary nurses are paid even less (25-30k per year).
    We deal with people on a daily basis who complain about cost while expecting us to have the cutting edge equipment and training, expensive life-saving drugs, and treat their animals for free.
    When you compare the cost of procedures for humans (prior to insurance), and the salaries, I think veterinary medicine is a steal.
    I don't mean to get on a soapbox but perpetuating the idea that vet med is overpriced is troublesome. Everyone I know in the field does it because we love your pets, and the fact that we have to discuss and euthanize base on lack of money is so stressful to us. There is an extremely high rate of compassion fatigue and suicide in the field.
    Trust me, we'd love to do what we do for free but we can't.
    I am certain you didn't make that statement with bad intentions but I definitely feel it ruins a heartfelt post about your sweet companion.
    Again, I am so sorry about your sweet doggie and my thoughts are with you.

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    1. I hear what you're saying, and just so you know, I never complained to any of the vets who have treated my animals. Being a vet has got to be a very stressful job requiring great caring and compassion. I personally believe that no one should be carrying the burden of huge school debt — not vets, not doctors, not teachers, etc. Big pharmaceutical companies shouldn't be charging exorbitant prices for drugs. I could go on and on. Obviously it's not the fault of veterinarians that costs are high. I just took my poor pup in for an ear infection, and it cost more than $100, including $50 for 10 days of ear drops. I'm sorry you felt insulted, but I think anyone dealing with a sick pet would probably understand how I'm feeling about the money we've spent. We've decided to keep treating her with meds but forego any more testing beyond blood tests. With two ultrasounds, a liver biopsy, multiple blood tests, office visits, etc., we've spent more than $10,000 over the course of eight months. That seems a little crazy to me. I also feel embarrassed by it. It happened chunk by chunk, and it just seemed to add up surreptitiously. If anything, I hope people will be inspired to buy pet insurance so they don't find themselves in this position.

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