Saturday, February 20, 2010

Skin deep

In the last month or so, we've had a bit of a scare with our Darby-girl. Shortly after Christmas, I noticed that she was drinking enormous amounts of water--so much that she couldn't hold it and would have accidents in the house multiple times a day. It took awhile for me to figure out what was going on, because I never saw an accident "in progress" -- only found these strange puddles of clear liquid on the floor in several places. Then, one day, I noticed a puddle with a trail of drops leading to it and away from it and it was right in the hallway that Darby had used just moments before. If you're squeamish, don't read that I grabbed Darby and Bonnie and did bottom checks, and sure enough--Darby's was wet! So, I started watching her and found that she was indeed the culprit. She was drinking so much water, so often that the urine was colorless and odorless--and there was lots of it!

I started doing Google searches to see what might be causing the problem: could it be the new food I was gradually switching her over to? could it be a nervous reaction to sharing her house with Bonnie? My search turned up nothing good--and many warnings to take the dog to the vet right away, which I did.

The next day the vet called to say that her urine test indicated no infection and that her kidney and liver function were fine as well. But the level of calcium in her blood was way too high--higher even than the higher-than-adults level that is sometimes normal for a growing puppy, high enough to have a name: "hypercalcemia" and high enough to indicate something very serious like Addison's disease, or potentially fatal like lymphoma.

As you can imagine, I was crushed! My sweet (most of the time) puppy might not make it to her first birthday! Emails flew between Darby's breeder and me who assured me that the things we were looking for simply didn't exist in the lines she and her partner had been breeding all these years. I never for a moment thought this was a breeding problem, but was desperate to find some explanation and hoped that Leda, who had been around Cardigans for so long, might have one. But, all she could offer was good thoughts for us and she offered a lot of those.

To make a long story short, we did more blood tests to confirm the first results and to help diagnose possible causes, x-rays and ultrasound to rule out tumors, and follow up blood tests. While all this was going on and we were waiting for results to come back from blood sent to Michigan State for analysis, it seemed to me that Darby was gradually cutting back on the excessive drinking and was having fewer and fewer accidents in the house.  I pointed this out to our vet and to the internist specialist who was also taking care of Darby.  I know they thought it was just wishful thinking on my part, but they indulged me by doing another blood test--which was perfectly NORMAL! Of course, we had to do another test to make sure THAT one was accurate and it was!  And then we followed it up two weeks later with another test, the results of which came back just yesterday. NORMAL. COMPLETELY NORMAL!


A few years ago, three less-than-a-year-old puppies were treated for hypercalcemia by veterinarians in Florida. The cause was never found and the puppies went on to live normal lives.  Both of Darby's doctors suggest we may never know what Darby had, but everything points to it being gone!  And I hope it stays that way!

All of this was going on with the backdrop of the misery caused by the earthquake in Haiti.   I learned how sad, helpless and guilty a person can feel when thinking about the excellent care a dog was getting when human beings, babies, even, went without even the most basic care.

I learned a lot about blood chemistry, what happens when a chemical or mineral in a dog's--or a human being's--blood gets out of whack.

I learned how much this rotten little dog has twisted herself around my heart in the last several months and how hard it was to think about my life without her.

I also learned, as a result of her belly being shaved prior to the ultrasound, that Darby's brindle pattern is skin deep--not just in her hair.

1 comment:

That corgi :) said...

wow that would have been scary! never heard of dogs having hypercalcemia but was familiar with it in my work (medical transcription). I guess its logical to think their bodies could get out of whack like ours sometimes do

glad it all worked out in the end, but I'm sure you were on pins and needles waiting for test results

and they really do worm their way into our lives, don't they?