Buddy is 8 and 1/2 years old. He was almost four when he came to live with us. He must have been pretty confused about the big change in his life and definitely missed his earlier family because there always was a sad look in his eyes except when he was waiting for his meals!! The fact that he was always in his best behaviour always made me feel he was being such a good boy because he felt alien in his new environment.
He was brought up well (I’ll give his earlier family that, because Buddy is a very well adjusted boy) though not very well taken care of (his fur was a fertile home for a variety of ticks and fleas when he came to us!!). But love is all that matters to a dog, not grooming and the fact that he had known love definitely made it harder for him to let go. There were so many instances those days that made me cry because I could so clearly see how he missed his family.
He has come a long way since then. Completely at home now and though a ‘thorough gentleman’ still, he bullies me for table treats from under the table, snaps while taking a handfed treat, wants me to fetch his ball, wanders away to the far corners of the park and DOES NOT come when called. And I am so grateful for this!!
He is such a happy, playful, loving boy it has been tremendously distressing for me to see him depressed, irritable and extremely uncharacteristically snappy of late.
I guess I’ll just tell the full story after all.
Buddy was unaltered when he came to us. Ginger is intact too which posed a problem. She couldn’t go through the procedure because of a congenital heart problem and the associated risks with anaesthesia.
We didn’t want to get Buddy operated immediately as we wanted him to adjust to the new life before putting him through another stressful event. Then came Shadow. You know his homecoming story and how it was totally unplanned.
Then of course was the BIG shift to Delhi.
Finally, once we were all settled, Shadow and then Buddy went through the surgeries.
Shadow was up on his feet almost two hours after the procedure and recovered without a hitch.
But with Buddy it was another story. What should have been a very regular procedure turned out to be a very stressful experience for him.
It was in the March of 2012. Buddy reacted to the anaesthesia and had seizures on the table and also after the procedure was over. Immediately in the days that followed, he had severe generalised muscle wasting and weight loss with hair fall.
I had done my usual extensive research and back ground check on the vet. I always do that when it comes to my kids. The sad and very dangerous fact is veterinary practice in India is still not under the purview of the legalities that are applicable in human medical practice. In case of a casualty, the only compensation is the cost of the dog determined by the court. The vet in question cannot be persecuted!! What a defunct system in place! The rules that needed amendment decades ago still stand in place. How do you put a price on your dog, I can’t imagine!
Anyway, this vet I zeroed in on was a reputed surgeon, regularly made media appearances and ran a fancy clinic. He was attached to a shelter that took care of street dogs. Also he was expensive.
But as it is true in our field, so also it is true in veterinary practice – a fancy surgeon isn’t necessarily a good and humane healer. We were totally disappointed, especially with the post operative care that he meted out while Buddy suffered.
Dr. X simply tried to wash his hands off while my boy went on to develop a scrotal haematoma that simply refused to heal. Within a week Buddy, who was in the pink of health just till the morning of his very routine surgery, looked like a sick senior dog. What was infuriating was that Dr. X refused to entertain my queries suggesting in so many words that I was extra worried because I was a doctor and that human and veterinary practice weren’t the same! Like the basics of surgery and healing and nutrition are not applicable to a dog! Like it is acceptable for a dog to have a painful recovery!!
When , in spite of my persistent requests for further tests Dr.X kept on insisting Buddy didn't need any and sometimes this delayed healing happens in ‘bigger and older dogs’, I decided it was time to look for another vet. Older dog? Why, Buddy was just 28+ in human years! That’s youth!
May be it was the guilt or may be it was the anger, but I just made up my mind to get back Buddy into top shape as quickly as I could. I am a practicing surgeon after all. My boy certainly wasn’t going to suffer because his vet was callous enough to ignore his basic post operative needs. But naturally I needed to find out the subtle differences in between a dog and human physiology.
Those were the days, I started reading and researching extensively – starting from basic dog anatomy, physiology to complex nutritional problems, skin, hormones and post operative issues. Also I started hunting around for a new vet. Most importantly, I decided to put all my three kids on a completely Home-cooked diet.
You might not believe it but I couldn’t find one vet at that time that could help me determine a balanced fortified diet regime.
But I am not one who gives up easily once I’ve set my mind to something. Especially when it involves Ginger, Buddy and Shadow.
I read and read, the net, books, journals, publications, research papers and hearsay blog sites…just about everything I could lay my hands on. It felt like my medical exam days, the stress I was under.
But slowly, the effort paid off. The diet plan that I had in place seemed to do wonders for not only Buddy but Ginger and Shadow too. They were suddenly more alert, unwilling to sleep the entire day like they used to while on packaged food but insisted on playing till mid day! Their fur miraculously stayed stuck to their skin and actually glowed! Their bowels were softer and more regular, their ears and teeth probably didn’t need detoxing for they were far cleaner than they ever were. But the best part of all - their plates were squeaky clean within seconds!!
Buddy of course rapidly regained his strength. By the end of June, I could see my super athletic, happy, handsome boy in place.
A new vet saw him and asked me to continue the fortified diet he was now on. It was a lot of effort – packaged food is ever so easy to serve- but I decided to continue. Here my kids were eating all that they require without the preservatives and processing additives, and the results were so evident I simply didn’t have the heart to compromise.
They have been on an entirely home cooked diet ever since.
But even as Buddy regained his health and all seemed well at last, he still kept losing lots of fur.
Dr. Y, the new vet suggested a thyroid profile and his blood sugar tests.
Yes, his thyroid hormones were low and thankfully he didn’t have diabetes.
Buddy was put on thyroid hormone supplement (Eltroxin 150 micrograms on May 13th, 2013) Within two weeks his weight normalized, his shedding reduced and he seemed well on the way to recovery. Till Nov this year he was the epitome of health and fitness - great appetite, highly energetic, playful and alert. On our holiday last summer he even climbed the steep Himalayan mountains without a hitch !!
Then suddenly, this November I noticed he was beginning to get restless alternating with lethargy. Shedding wasn't that bad, in fact Shadow shed much more than him this season but there was something definitely bothering him. Initially I thought it must be the long hours indoors because of the cold that was making him depressed. But then he got up a number of times in the middle of the night (around 3 am!)panting and insisted on going for a walk. This was in January. He also seemed a little irritable at times, which was extremely uncharacteristic of him. His thyroxine was reduced to 125micrograms. He seemed mildly better.
By the end of February, he developed severe itching. No skin lesions, just itching. Oil message, brushing, diet fortification with salmon oil only helped as much. The itching though less continued. The allergy medications only made things worse because they dried up his skin further.
He developed a hematoma in both his ears that needed draining and bandaging. But like with his earlier scrotal hematoma, it re-bled and his ears soon swelled up. An aural hematoma needs repeated dranage and pressure bandage. It was heartbreaking the way he so completely trusted us to make him all right. Though obviously scared and in pain, he would let me and P drain his ears without much fuss and most times left the bandage alone. We were terribly worried. If the hematoma didn’t heal with drainage, medications and pressure bandaging, the next step was surgery under anesthesia which brought up the old fears of another allergic reaction. Thankfully, his ears slowly dried up.
They are thicker now which wouldn’t have probably happened had he been operated upon. But he is no longer in pain and I would any day chose a mild cosmetic deformity to putting him through another risk.
Then beginning of March he suddenly developed polyuria and polydipsia. Over just 10 days he lost a lot of weight and seemed lethargic in spite of a very healthy appetite and digestion. Also he started limping on his left front paw.
Suddenly, it was all like the past revisiting. What had gone wrong? Is he deficient in something? May be it was something I missed or over fed. Were the supplements wrong for him, is liver or kidney damage setting on? Or may be diabetes? What if he had developed some nerve weakness, brachial plexus injuries are very common in dogs with weak muscles. Though all the symptoms could very easily be explained by drug induced hyperthyroidism ( high thyroxine levels in blood than required) only the tests could tell.
That day, as I read through his tests I began freaking out. Everything was wrong – his liver, his kidneys, his thyroid, his uric acid, platelet counts.
P was out with the kids for their evening walk and when he came home, he found me in a state of nervous breakdown.
Panicky, he glanced through the tests and at me and started laughing. I thought he had gone mad!
That was when I realized how fragile I could be when it comes to my kids. Always so used to looking at blood values for humans, I had entirely and totally forgotten that this was Buddy’s test report. Veterinary values are far outside the human range!
How utterly silly of me!!
As I compared Buddy’s values afresh, relief set in. Almost everything that was slightly out of place could be explained by a raised thyroid hormone level.Stopping/adjusting the thyroxine would settle it. The biggest relief however was that his kidneys and liver are in the pink of health! And certainly no diabetes.
It meant I could continue with the home-cooked diet. Any kidney or liver problem and it would have been extremely difficult to put a correct diet in place.
Dr.Y put him on Cephalexin for his skin in addition to a few medicated washes and shampoos I’m to continue at home. His thyroxine is on hold since 9th.
Physical examination of his paw didn’t suggest any fracture, dislocation or nerve injury, so it is just hot fomentation, rest, joint supplements, a few pain meds SOS and WAIT & WATCH for a week.
I like Dr.Y that way. He and his colleague Dr.Z (they’re in joint practice) believe in minimizing stress for their patients. I am grateful they have been very kind to Buddy and perfectly understand what he means to me. Buddy seems to know. He loves the vet’s office. Of course, there’s also the fact that he is handfed treats by Dr.Y!!
His itching is 80 % reduced. Polydipsia and polyuria has miraculously resolved as soon as the thyroid meds were discontinued. He seems eager once again to jump, run and play true to his character only we are trying hard to stop him till that paw gets back to normal. Dr.Y has asked to see him next week which is when we will know if he needs any imaging.
Last few days have been exhausting for me, more mentally I guess, than physically. For the first time, I understand what one means when one says ‘I’m going out of my mind’!! I actually found myself forgetting all little routine things, confusing names and numbers and sugar for salt!! I went back to work on Monday and actually found myself wandering off my usual route while getting back home!!
One thing I’m grateful for is YOU. Your and your words of kindness means a lot, because I know you understand exactly how I feel. Thank you so much for being there. I know I should have written this earlier but somehow I couldn’t. Hope you’ll understand.
(Tired, in the middle of his walk. See how he leans on his right paw)
(Stopping him from running is a difficult task!!)
( Asking to be carried back to the car. P carried him a number of times those initial days to the car, a good distance away outside the park!)
Even as Buddy is recovering very well, I am a tad worried. It remains to be seen how he will adjust when his thyroxine is started. Also Ginger has been a little off. She is an extremely sensitive girl and takes to heart every change in emotion in any of us. The recent events must be proving rather taxing for her. She has been very quiet, preferring to lie somewhere on her own which is very uncharacteristic.
Even with her very favorite boiled chicken liver evening treat, she needed some coaxing. Shadow has been almost his usual self, a little mellow but still providing us all with much needed laughs. Amazingly, he isn’t bothering Buddy to play tug-o-war like he usually does every morning after breakfast! How they just KNOW, our fur-kids!
( Slowly letting him walk on his own now, still need to keep close watch in case he bounds off after a squirrel )
Please keep my kids in your thoughts and prayers. I am so hoping all will be well soon.
Thank you so much, once again.