If you’re not a dog/doberman owner and only want to know the updates on the house, you should probably skip this post. This, this is for Brontë and any doberman owners looking for suggestions for odd symptoms in their doby. I hope our experience will help someone by way of prevention or saving.
In the course of one very volatile week we lost our very deeply loved pup. I say pup because she had not yet hit her 5th birthday. Let me start from the beginning. Though we are huge advocates of adopting pets that are in need of a home (two of our fur-family are rescues), we had a specific desire to find a reputable breeder of dobermans to ensure the disposition was one that would be great for families, social, yet solid enough to be one heck of a guard dog.
We found such a line. Beautiful dobermans with equally beautiful personalities and temperaments. We had to choose between the classic black and tan or red/rust. Two female puppies were waiting for their homes. We flipped a coin and the red/rust won. She was named Brontë (after the Brontë sisters and their literary creations).
We fell in love, hard. This wrinkly little pup was a terror at times, and the sweetest addition to our family all in the same go.
Fast forward to late last year. We noticed, compared to our other doby, Brontë’s fur seemed oddly thin and not nearly as dark. We took her in to the vet and she was diagnosed with “pattern baldness.” Not terribly uncommon in reds. Okay, I can handle that. She likes blankets, I had no doubts she would take to sweaters just fine.
Moving into February of this year, she began scratching incessantly, she would chomp the air in an anxious fit due to the itchy skin. Again, we took her to the vet and she was diagnosed with allergies. No specific allergies, just “seasonal allergies.” Okay, alright. I suppose that goes along with the pattern baldness. It seemed odd that she would get allergies this late (typically you’ll see their allergies in their first three years…I thought, perhaps she’s a late bloomer). We adjusted her food to be heaver on certain proteins, gave her fish pills, began using medicated shampoo and conditioner, had doggie lotion for a particularly bad spot.
Late February she started inhaling her food so quickly she would immediately vomit it back up. Odd. Vet says, it happens. Slow her down. We research and find a “green feeder.” It slows her down and she can eat again and keep it down. Now any vomiting is rare and generally bile. I guess it had been happening slowly enough, that the occasional vomiting never dawned on us as overly strange…
March/April, she kept on with the scratching. I kept thinking this had to be more than just allergies. Josh took her to the vet again, explaining the chomping and anxious fit that went with the scratching. The vet suggested anxiety meds. I said absolutely not. That’s not treating the issue. They recommended Benedryl. We added Benedryl to our regimen.
Next she began eating rolls of toilet paper, boxes of tissue, books, magazines, tupperware, paper or plastic bags. . . This on top of everything else was worrying us… but we took her in to the vet for regular tests and all seemed normal… I, of course, turned to Google and would search for any signs of “doberman, eating rolls of toilet paper, itchy skin.” Nothing much turned up for an adult dog. Pica, that was one thought… but it seemed odd for it to have just appeared all of a sudden.
Somewhere mid-late summer of this year her ears became irritated, visibly purple-tinted. We immediately took her to the vet. She was diagnosed with a little vasculitis on her ears. They prescribed an ointment to take care of it. WIthin one week the irritation had diminished. She had slight scaring on the inside of her ears, but overall, gone.
The final symptom showed up two weeks ago. Her dog bed would be saturated in the mornings. No active urination on her part (She would never!). It was just from a constant drip…And she started drinking water like a camel that had run dry. We took her to the vet for what we suspected to be a UTI. Our vet confirmed that yes, she had a UTI but she also had a kidney infection. Not to worry just yet, however, they were pretty sure we brought her in early enough to flush her system out. She stayed the day at the vet receiving a kidney fluid treatment. At the end of that day, we were told we needed to take her to the advance medical center as her numbers hadn’t really moved as they would have liked and she hadn’t urinated at all since they had given her the fluids. Well of course not, we thought, she hates an audience… We walked her to the back lot, grassy area behind some bushes. She urinated a very, very, very large amount…. clearly her kidneys were still functioning.
The VCA in Fishers was wonderful with her. They did their best and were good to keep us updated. We visited her every evening after work, walked her and spent as much time as we could with her. Every visit she would still be bright-eyed and perky. We were so, so hopeful.
There was no obvious diagnosis. When they did the ultrasound, then the x-ray it showed the wall of her stomach was very, very thick. Oddly thick. Generally one area will be a thick wall if it’s cancer, so that didn’t seem the most likely option. They thought an infection, perhaps, but that was ruled out after some blood tests. They continued with three days of fluid treatments, only to have her numbers for her kidneys not respond much at all. This led them to believe she had had the kidneys at that level for quite some time since she didn’t outwardly appear ill or sluggish. However, they weren’t going to be able to function at the levels they were at for very much longer.
She kept her chin up. She also still covered herself with her own blanket – much to the staff’s amusement. She was still our Bronte.
They gave us the option of an exploratory surgery that would tell them what was happening with the stomach. By this point, the thought was it’s either a kidney problem causing the stomach wall issue or it’s something in the stomach/GI track that’s causing the kidney problems. The only way to find out was to do some biopsies. The apparent risk was her kidneys – they could fail if the surgery was too taxing. The risk weighed out to be about 25% of kidney failure. We were in a rock and a hard spot – do the surgery and potentially find out what treatment could save our dog, the other potential for surgery was her kidneys could fail. OR we could chose to not do the surgery and watch our dog die of kidney failure. Ugh.
We chose the surgery. Her kidneys made it. Didn’t really look like cancer. Oddly enough, it was just fluid in the stomach wall, edema. The downside was, now she was very, very swollen in the face and feet. Her pep was faded, and she was nauseated. She didn’t want to eat either. It could have been the painkillers causing that, so they were working to ween her off of them.
4 a.m. we were woken by a phone call from the vet. Never, never a good sign for any medical facility to call at that hour. Her blood count had dropped to 14%. She needed a blood transfusion to even have a shot at making it. Well duh. Do it. We cried that night.
The next day, the final day, we were informed that yes, she was losing blood from somewhere but there were no cuts, there was a little fluid in her stomach, some older blood. Many conversations later, many tears later and her only at an 18% blood count, it was time to say goodbye. The internal medicine vet suspected the vasculitis had actually moved in her body and had given her a systematic vasculitis infection. This meant the fluid did nothing but swell up her stomach lining which then was slowly seeping into her system and her immune system began fighting her body for lack of a better description.
For non-dog people, non-animal people I know it seems questionable that a human would fight so hard for a dog’s life, and for those perspectives, I have to describe it like this – We were given a life to be responsible for, to be stewards of. We don’t take that lightly. To you who understand, we lost our baby. Again, the only reason I’m putting us through writing this out is for anyone who is like how I was – frantically searching google for signs, for answers to symptoms, a direction to aim the vet… Here. I really, really hope this helps you.
“I try to avoid looking forward or backward, and try to keep looking upward.” – Charlotte Brontë