Let me start by saying this is not a sad story. It is an educational story about what can happen to our pets as they age, and the options we have to make a difference. In December of last year (2014), my 14-year-old silky terrier mix, Jasper, was diagnosed with stage 3 kidney disease. We discovered this when we did blood work and a urinalysis. It was a part of a pre-surgical workup, as he was in need of yet another dental treatment. Small dogs and their stinky breath and bad teeth, that’s a whole other story!
We still went ahead with Jasper’s dental work and he did very well! Given his stage of kidney disease, it was recommended to switch him to a kidney-support prescription diet. I mixed this food with his mobility-support diet and he did very well for months. The only change in Jasper was that he did drink more water and urinate more, which lead to the introduction of pee pads at the age of 14! I must say, Jasper is remarkable, and started using the pee pads in my home versus the floor/carpet right away. Old dogs can learn new tricks. We also checked his blood pressure as hypertension can happen with later stage kidney disease. We would treat his hypertension with medication. His blood pressure was normal, which was great news.
Recently in late April, I noticed Jasper had lost some weight and was not eating as much as usual. He also, on occasion, would vomit up some bile. Knowing he has kidney disease, even though overall he was in very good spirits, I thought a recheck exam with one of our lovely Mclean Vets was in order. We noticed he had lost weight, about 2 pounds since Dec 2014 and he was only 11 pounds then, so that is a lot. Both Dr Sean Colyer and Dr Eva Chung, have kindly taken care of my boy. Upon exam, we also found him quite dehydrated. At a certain stage of kidney disease, even though Jasper was drinking really well, he does not absorb this fluid, he pees it out. We decided it was a good idea to repeat his full blood work and urinalysis and see if there have been changes to explain what we were seeing. His lab results came back and his kidney disease was even worse. This was somewhat expected. We did get to delay it several months with changing his diet back in December, when he was first diagnosed. Now, he will need more support to his kidneys than just the diet alone. First step, to give him a nice boost in hydration, which would make him feel much better, was IV fluid therapy. We did this for 3 full days and Jasper was feeling much better; eating better, no vomiting, more energy and much more hydrated. We rechecked his kidney values after, through another blood test, and they were improved. Great news! Now, we just need to maintain his hydration and appetite. His kidneys will get worse again eventually, but we will do everything we can to maintain them as long as we can. These treatments being fluids under the skin for a few minutes each day and a medication to stimulate his appetite.
We checked his blood pressure again for hypertension as his kidney disease had progressed, it was still normal, which was good. In addition, we checked his urine for a bladder infection by running a culture test. Sometimes, a urinary tract infection can explain why the kidney values worsened. If we have an infection, we can treat it, and in fact the kidney values will then improve. Unfortunately in Jasper’s case, there was no infection, meaning his kidney values were a true picture of their function.
So, here we are a month later. Jasper gets fluids once to twice daily under the skin and he gets his appetite stimulant once a day. As needed, he will get anti nausea medication to settle his tummy. He is my very brave, happy, energetic and loving boy! He does not mind our great RVTs giving him his fluid therapy; in fact, he gives them kisses as they do it! I am so lucky to be surrounded and supported by such an awesome medical team at Mclean Animal Hospital. Every day is a blessing that Jasper is with us, especially when he feels his best. His sister, Buffy, (who is also 14 years old and healthy) is very happy that her brother is doing well!
Routine annual exams, blood work and urine tests become even more important as our dogs age. We can trend values if they change, intervene with a change in diet, or in Jasper’s case, a little more. I feel lucky that I know exactly what is wrong with Jasper. This means that I can keep a close eye on his symptoms, his quality of life, and adjust treatment as needed for his well being.
Next up…..routine exam and blood/urine tests on my other doggy Buffy (she is a little older than Jasper). She shows no signs of illness, but at her age, I still check everything every year, just in case there is more I can do for her. Wish us luck! Thanks so much for reading. If you have any questions about your pet’s health, please contact us at Mclean Animal Hospital at 416-752-5114. Chances are, we have been where you are.