Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Spry old dog

The vet called a week or so ago to say Ehrlichiosis was unlikely based on the results of the second titre. So Spackle's mysterious illness is back to being fully mysterious. However, you wouldn't know that he'd been sick at all from the way he's been slowly applying an extra daily meal and lots of treats to both building back the lost weight and romping about in the autumn weather.

Monday, October 19, 2009


It turns out that, in addition to all the tests that came up negative, the good folks at WSU tested Spackle for Ehrlichiosis, a tick-borne bacterial disease which is also known by such serious names as canine rickettsiosis, canine hemorrhagic fever, and canine typhus. The test has just come back with a weak indication of infection. Greenlake is doing a follow-up titre (results expected by Friday) which, in combination with the first, will be more definitive. This disease could potentially explain the various symptoms that Spackle has had, and would be treated by continuing one of the antibiotics that he's been on and tapering the steroids. Other than the fact that his weight is down below Hoover's, Spackle is doing great, and seems to just need some fattening up. Luckily, his Grandma has been visiting from Doggie Heaven and is indulging him with scraps from the delicious chicken soup she cooked for dinner.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Two brief videos

First, there's Hoover and Sadie wrestling in Jerome Creek a couple weeks ago. Music is "Air on the G String", by J.S. Bach, played by the US Air Force Band (link). Chocolate Lab passing through background in Tessa, not Spackle.

Second, here's my attempt to capture Spackle's fine motor skills. Even if ageing hips may not be his leading health concern right now, we all enjoy the ritual of Spackle catching his bedtime joint-strengthening treats. His neck may not have the reach of a pro baseball player's mitt, but I think he easily competes in speed.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A brief visit to the doc

Hoover had a routine checkup scheduled for Monday with the wonderful Dr. Jeb Mortimer at Greenlake Animal Hospital. So we snuck Spackle in as well (Dr. M said he was hoping we would do so). He agreed that Spackle was looking good and said that if the massive swelling came back in a few months, it was likely to be lymphoma, and if it didn't, then it's probably an auto-immune disorder. In the first case, he said that lymphoma is the most treatable cancer a dog could have, but we'd have to explore those options when we came to it. In the latter case, he said it would be advisable to switch from the prednisone to a drug specifically designed for auto-immune problems, but that he could potentially last on that for the indefinite future.

He's been feeling well four days in a row, and while we're not reducing the doses of love and affection, it's now easier to relax and not wonder if he'll last through each day.

As for Hoover, he continues to be in fine physical health, but we did agree to have him innoculated against leptospirosis, the disease that Spackle turns out not to have had, on the grounds that any disease that could be suspected of putting a dog through this stuff was worth trying to avoid.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Doggie Heaven on Earth

Spackle was feeling good again today and it was bright and sunny, so we figured he deserved a visit to what is surely be his favorite place on the planet, the land of woodland pond and swimming pool, fields to roam, tennis balls, his buddy Loper, and loving people who have a generous hand with the table scraps.

If it turns out that this is just a brief window of health brought on by the steroid prednisone, then at least he got a chance to experience his favorite things in life. And in spite of the loss of weight and sick time without much exercise, he saw no need to slow down. Indeed, he seemed so fit that it was easy for us to not worry about the future and join Spackle where he lives, in the present:

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Home again

Spackle is home again from the emergency care vet (ACCES in Lake City). The good news is that they were able to get the swelling around the eyes back down and he's doesn't seem to be in pain any more. Here he is, eagerly awaiting a handout of his share of Calin's and my roasted chicken lunch.

The hard part is that the method they used to reduce the swelling was a sort of last resort. The steroid prednisone reduced the inflammation by suppressing his immune response. This means that it's unlikely that he'll be able to fight whatever is ailing him on his own and it's unlikely that any further diagnoses are possible.

It's not at all clear how long he'll continue to feel as good as he does now. He just enjoyed an 8-block stroll with Calin to revisit the neighborhood smells and is now sleeping peacefully. When he no longer feels well, there's nothing else to do for him, except help him peacefully pass on to the true Doggie Heaven. That is, not his grandparents' place in Maple Valley which we refer to by the same name. Well, actually, he'll still go to Maple Valley, but it would be in a doggie body bag.

This may not have been directly related to Spackle's illness, but the sunset last night was truly something to behold. If Calin and I needed any further proof that the ways of nature are mysterious and multi-splendored, I think we got it.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Playing His Cards Close to His Chest

So . . . we found out yesterday that Spackle does not have Leptospirosis, which is good news for me and my upcoming surgery--since there's really no chance I was out eating wild animal scat on my own, and now there's no chance I picked up the bacteria from Spackle.

Unfortunately, that diagnosis only slightly narrows the gap of what could, possibly, be wrong with our dog, and also unfortunately, something still really is.

Yesterday afternoon his eyes went all buggy and painful again, even with the increased frequency of both steroidal and non-steroidal anti-inflamatory eyedrops, which meant that by midnight he was panting with distress and I poked Ian awake and we rushed Spackle off to yet another vet, in yet another emergency room.

This new clinic has a dog internist instead of just the general practitioners we have been seeing in Seattle, which should help us figure out what is going on. Everyone who looks at Spackle's tests and bloodwork and whatnot says "Wow--this is crazy stuff! I have no idea what this means!", which is not unlike everyone looking at my tests last year and wondering why I was still alive, let alone functional.

Current possibilities for what's really wrong include: reaction to Atropine, an eye ointment that causes dilation and reduces the pain of uveitis; lymphoma or some other cancerous condition; a fungal infection; or some type of autoimmune disorder--or any previously unknown combination of the above.

Exhausted and hungry from the roller-coaster of care, we stopped at Dick's at 1:45am, on our way home, for much-appreciated burgers and fries. While we were waiting for new fries to be fried, we watched some guy in a little white coupe try to start his car. The engine turned over and over and over, without catching, and the guy stopped trying for a bit. As we drove away, we saw him start his engine successfully and drive away, too.

"He just needed to eat more Dick's," said Ian reflectively.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Hoockle? Not so fast . . .

My brother Deane failed in his attempt to post a comment on our dog blog, but essentially he wanted to root for Spackle's return to health and his top dog status, although Hoover would probably think Deane's suggestion for a new blog name appropriate. In fact, if Hoover were to line us all up in one name, he would probably come up with something like "Hoockalian" (no offense, Ian--I'm just supposing).

But, Spackle seems to have turned a corner today, and so Spoover they remain. His white count (blood tests, with which those readers of another of my blogs will be familiar) is still very high, indicating that he's still attacking a massive infection, but he's piddling and eating and drinking and he had a MASSIVE poop on our walk just now. He ran into the exam room when we picked him up, and leapt out of the car at home. Dr. Mortimer says he's not out of the woods completely yet, but he is doing very well.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Healthier dog

Maybe the antibiotics are doing their work because Spackle was doing much better this morning than yesterday. He's still got elephant-man-swelling around his eyes, but the appetite is back and he's got more spring in his step.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sick dog

Mr. Spackle (pictured above using his chocolate lab camouflage to blend into a couch)  is fighting some kind of major infection that has him feeling rotten. Instead of the expected fun roaming the hills of Jerome Creek, Idaho, he spent the past weekend at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University, where he was treated very kindly. The leading theory for the cause of his woes is leptospirosis, a bad bacteria, but definitive diagnosis may not be available for a week for bloodwork to be completed. If he can tolerate severe swelling around the eyes and nausiating antibiotics on top of the pain of the illness, he'll hopefully pull through. But he could certainly use the help of happy Spackle-healing messages sent through the ether.