My Dog is Really Sick.
May 19, 2016 12:37 AM   Subscribe

My dog has been sick for about 6 months and things are getting critical. I need advice, please. My heart is breaking here.

My dog, Frank is a four year old Yorkshire terrier. He's up-to-date on all of his shots, and was, up until about 6 months ago, a very lively 6 pound package of attitude. We love him a lot.

Around Christmas, Frank started to lose hair. At first minorly, on his face, then his tail. His demeanor remained good and the vet recommended an antiseptic/antifungal shampoo for him. But the hair loss got worse and we tried to be patient and let the shampoo work, but he just kept losing hair and he developed sore hot spots under his arms (front legs). He also was losing weight. So, we took him to the vet (a thing we cannot really afford) and were told it was likely a food allergy. I asked about parasites but was told that it was probably a food allergy and definitely not mites, fleas or worms. The dog got an antibiotic injection and a antihistamine injection and a 10 day course of antibiotics. (I kind of believed the food allergy because I'd worked at a dog expo and allowed him to sample a lot of different foods from free sample packs). After the ten days, I took him to the follow up and he got another 7 days of antibiotics. I switched him to the vet's brand of allegy-sensitive food (wet and dry) but he really didn't want to eat it (the crunchies were huge) upon examination, I found the primary ingredient was chicken, and that was a suspected allergen. So, I consulted a friend who runs an animal rescue and she recommended freeze-dried raw meat, so I bought some. I fed him this for about a month, initially with good result, no diarrhea, dog enjoyed it. Then I took him back to the vet again, because there was no improvement in his skin and coat condition. They gave him another antihistamine shot and again (same office,different vet) the vet said it was not parasite related. He kept getting worse, so last week I took him to a different office (had his records faxed over) and...he'd lost even more weight. He'd stopped eating the food much. I told the vet that my priority now was getting calories into the dog (he continued to drink a lot and pass urine normally) and she agreed. He is piteously thin and devoid of hair in a broad strip down his back. The vet again said it did not appear to be parasitic. She prescribed prednisone for 14 days. I've been giving it to him for four days. He won't eat. I've given him his old favorites, and he won't touch them. He won't eat his probiotic yoghurt (recommended by the vet) and now he's not drinking either. Yes, I'm going to take him back to the vet tomorrow, because he's fading. My little bundle of energy is now a sad, cold bony boy. Like I said, it's breaking our hearts. I have run our credit card to the limit on vet bills already. I can't afford to have him kept there on an IV, or to have surgery or the 600 dollar blood panel workup. I'm prepared to have to say goodbye to him. This is a total last-ditch plea for help: Do you have any idea at all what might be wrong? Anything I can try to help him? What to tell the vet to look for tomorrow?
posted by alltomorrowsparties to Pets & Animals (30 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm wondering if Frank is having a bad reaction to prednisone. It normally increases appetite but sometimes the opposite happens. Could the vet try a different appetite stimulant just to try to get him to eat?
I would also suggest offering the dog turkey baby food (ingredients should be just turkey and water, nothing else).

I'm so sorry.
posted by Violet Hour at 1:13 AM on May 19, 2016

What makes them all say that it isn't a parasite?? Have they examined his poop? And what is the harm in treating him as if it IS a parasite? I'm not a vet, so perhaps there is harm; but if not, it seems like it might be worth giving him an anti-parasitic.

And basic blood tests (red and white blood cell counts, etc) should not be that expensive. Have these NOT been done at all yet? If not, ask the vets why the hell not!

I'm am SO sorry you and your little guy are going through this. I truly hope you can find a solution with the help of at least one of your vets. My fingers are crossed for you.

[Ask your vet if they know of any charitable organizations that can help with costs or low-cost vet clinics.]
posted by Halo in reverse at 1:40 AM on May 19, 2016

Ulcers can cause dogs not to eat and are relatively simple to treat (omeperazole). And did you have a thyroid panel run? Typically hypothyroid dogs gain weight but not always.
posted by fshgrl at 1:53 AM on May 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

A couple more ideas:

Has the wee one been given a vitamin B12 shot? This can often make animals (and people) feel better and stimulate appetite.

As for an alternate diagnosis, perhaps ask your vet(s) to consider Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (see 1, 2), which can lead to both skin/hair loss AND digestive problems.
posted by Halo in reverse at 1:58 AM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Seconding fshgirl re: ulcers.

One thing to consider is that corticosteroids such as prednisone may cause ulcers or make existing ones worse, and ulcers may cause total anorexia – it’s a vicious circle that’s hard to break without medication. Whatever the original cause of the illness, I’d ask the vet(s) about adding an anti-ulcer medicine. Weakness and weight loss are some of the most common symptoms of an existing stomach ulcer, and IMHO a vet prescribing corticosteroids should know there’s a risk of even more ulceration.

I hate weight loss and anorexia in pets with a vengeance. It’s horrible for the poor animals and devastating for us owners. Keeping my fingers crossed for you here.
posted by kaarne at 3:00 AM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Poor Frank! I read this question and now can't stop thinking about him.

Has he had basic blood work (not the $600 kind)?

You need a competent vet that you are confident in to go over his symptoms with, the food he's been eating, and the medications he's received, from the beginning.

My no-medical-qualifications personal thought... it could be that Frank started with a food allergy/digestive issue, but then all those antibiotics and switching up of food could have aggravated exactly what you were trying to treat.

Good luck to you and Frank.
posted by fourpotatoes at 3:08 AM on May 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

Is getting a second opinion from a different vet and office an option? Our pupper lost some hair on his face and it turned out to be mange mites. I hope Frank gets better soon.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 3:13 AM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Do you have a veterinary college near you where you could bring him? By allowing students to participate in his care, you can often get low-cost or free services. Care would be supervised by the professors.
posted by Mchelly at 3:22 AM on May 19, 2016 [8 favorites]

I'm so sorry! I hope you get better help than mine, but I'll mention things that occurred to me (and I'm sure many or most have already been discussed – but just in case!). I'm seeing that Yorkies are at risk for Lymphangiectasia, and with the mention of treatment including prednisone and antibiotics, it seems that maybe the vet is considering this. Did they discuss that possibility with you?

Other thoughts, randomly: a) did Frank have a flea treatment around that time in december, especially a spot-on type? I realize that at this point the original treatment would be out of his system, but there could be organ / other damage that continues. (Flea and tick poison and small dogs). Or might he have been in an environment where there was insecticide?

Likewise, if the problem is related to any treat or food he might have had then, as you mention you let him try a few things, it might not be allergy but food contamination or ingredient poisoning with chronic effects. You might check lists of recalls to see if anything rings a bell, but of course not everything will show up. Pet jerky treats have been an ongoing source of illness and death in pets, especially dogs, for example.

Can you think of any new household items that might have been installed around that time. New carpet, new furniture or other furnishings, new plants or other lawn or garden changes, anything that might have been treated with chemicals? Or did you move or have an extended visit at a new location around that time that might have changed environmental conditions? Or even regular walks in a different area? Both organic poisoning from plants or an area treated with insecticides might be a possibility. No contact with essential oils? (This doesn't have to be direct application, it could be from inhalation or ingestion by licking or chewing on something.)

You could also try Yorkietalk forums if you haven't already, in case other owners have ideas.

Much love to you and Frank.
posted by taz at 5:25 AM on May 19, 2016 [5 favorites]

IANAV but it sounds to me like his intestines aren't absorbing certain nutrients like sometimes happens to people with Crohns. Did his bloodwork include testing for nutritional deficiencies? Maybe he needs vitamin shots.

If he won't eat but you still have hope of fixing the underlying problem, you could have a feeding port installed in his esophagus so you can keep him from starving. It's a relatively minor surgery and far more humane than long-term force feeding.

Do his teeth and/or gums hurt?

Is there anything poisonous in your yard that he might be getting into?
posted by Jacqueline at 5:28 AM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Check into CareCredit for interest-free credit for veterinary care. Not all vets take it though.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:53 AM on May 19, 2016 [4 favorites]

I know money is tight, but would you be able to take Frank to a veterinary specialist? It sounds like your vet might be a little out of their depth. An internal medicine specialist might have seen a case like this before.

Where I am, an internal medicine vet consult costs about 3 times more than a regular vet consult (about $225 vs $75), but they often can recommend affordable, appropriate lab work or other tests.

Good luck to you and Frank. I know how hard it is.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 6:09 AM on May 19, 2016

There can be so many other things besides allergies and parasites. Really stress to the vet that he's not drinking. That's important. Maybe go in with a list of everything that you have tried/has been done, so that the vet really gets the severity of it. And, yes ask for a specialist and a basic blood panel of one hasn't been done at this point (and if your vet hasn't done a basic blood panel, please get a new vet). I know it is expensive, but tell them directly that you are out of money and what your options are.

I am so very sorry.

BTW, my dog had allergies that we think are chicken related, we tried all the prescription diets and they all made it worse. She is now on apoquel, and I hand cook her food, adding in U-Stew. Ask your vet about a simple maintenance diet for awhile. Mine was cooked ground turkey and veggies.
posted by Vaike at 7:26 AM on May 19, 2016

Dehydration can lead to a loss of appetite and a tiny dog dehydrated super quickly. A pinch test is the easiest way to check for dehydration, on my tablet and don't know how to link, but Google will bring up some good links on how to check. In a dog that small any sign of dehydration should mean a trip to the vets asap,
posted by wwax at 7:57 AM on May 19, 2016

We have a tiny Minpin that suffered many of the same symptoms. Blood work showed she was severely hypothyroid. Thyroid meds given twice a day have alleviated the symptoms very successfully. It seems you need to concentrate on getting the blood work to pinpoint Frank's problem. How about one of the crowdfunding sites?
posted by txmon at 8:24 AM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

where do you live? what do his toenails look like? and has he been tested for leishmaniasis.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:45 AM on May 19, 2016

I imagine how overwhelming it is to now have an even longer list of things that might be the underlying issue, on top of being already scared/worried.

My best advice is to be up front and direct with the vet that they need more resources. Our vet will reach out to colleagues for help or will recommend a second/third opinion.

I think it would be helpful to go in with a list -- "I'm terrified and confused and have this long list of things friends told me might be wrong, what do you think?"
posted by archimago at 9:26 AM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

I don't know your financial situation, but for me this is one of those times where I'd spend the money now and worry about the bills later. Can you apply for care credit? Tell the vet you're worried you're going to have to have him put down and see what they say - maybe they'll have options for you that you aren't aware of.

Not drinking is an emergency. In the immediate meantime, he should get subcutaneous fluids to stop the dehydration and help him feel better. This is fairly inexpensive and it's something you can do yourself at home (with supplies from the vet). The prednisone obviously isn't working, so time to stop that as well.
posted by zug at 12:24 PM on May 19, 2016

I use two Facebook groups for advice and support when my dog has issues that my Vet for whatever reason cannot figure out. They are K9nutrition and onibusa. They are filled with wonderful knowledgeable people. They can get a little woo at times but there is a great middle ground.
Take care.
posted by cairnoflore at 12:27 PM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is one of the worst questions I've ever read on this site, please let us know what ends up happening with him.
posted by cakelite at 12:58 PM on May 19, 2016

Here's the update. He's been drinking water today as usual, so that's good. I've managed to get him to eat a little bit, so that's good, too. I called the vet's office and spoke to her, she says to continue the medication for the time being. I spent hours on the internet looking up dog diseases and I have my own suspicions. In answer to questions, yes his feces has been analyzed for parasites, and a skin scraping says no mites. As for money being 'tight' well, it's beyond tight. I'm fighting a disease myself and I'm in the process of being declared disabled. I haven't worked in a while now, although I'm constantly looking for work I can do from home. I've literally gone without buying groceries to pay for the vet care I've had so far, seven visits in six months, special food, drugs, and shampoos. I'm doing absolutely the best I can. I slept on the floor with Frank last night. His demeanour is slightly better today (he managed to bark at the mailman and rush the door when a neighbor knocked) and I'm just trying to get through the day. As for my amateur analysis of his condition, I'm leaning toward Cushing's disease and I will be asking the vet about it when I go again on Monday. I appreciate the good thoughts, but I'm still not optimistic about the outcome.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 1:46 PM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

I used Carecredit when I was very broke and my cat was very sick and needed tests. I had a lousy credit rating but they signed me up right away and my cat got the tests that same day. My cat ended up dying and I spent months paying off the tests for my sorely-missed cat, so that was no fun. But Carecredit is something to look at if you are desperate to get a pet treated and just can't afford it right now.

The suggestion to look for veterinary schools is a good one. Also asking your vet for any charities that may be able to help.

ATM, it sounds like you've been through hell and you have my sympathies. Really hoping your pet (and you!) feel much better soon. If he's drinking, eating and barking at the mailman, that's all very encouraging!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:05 PM on May 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm so sorry to hear about Frank's troubles - I hope you get to the bottom of it and that he gets well soon. There are a decent number of resources for people having trouble affording vet care, and perhaps you would qualify for free vet care or another form of pet assistance?

Here's a list of resources from the Humane Society.
posted by snaw at 2:46 PM on May 19, 2016

Yes, I looked into possible help ages ago and there was none to be had. My friend with the rescue operation is not in my city, but had offered to hook me up with someone she knew here to help out (because really, he needs rescuing, but not a home) but that never happened. It was like she just forgot about it. I had updated her about the food changes and such and I have messaged her a couple of times since, but no response. (I'm kind of angry about this but that does no good). Honestly, I've tried all the avenues open to me as far as financial aid goes, I did that when he first started to lose weight and hair. Sorry for the threadsit, mods.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 3:15 PM on May 19, 2016

I'd really try to get a second opinion. It sounds like this vet hasn't been the most proactive in figuring out the root of the problems so far :-(
posted by barnone at 5:33 PM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Final update. With the help of a kind internet stranger (thank you again kind internet stranger) I was able to have Frank's blood work done. The results showed multiple issues in several areas and were inconclusive. The vet recommended another set of tests to follow up, but that night Frank began to pass considerable amounts of blood in his stool. Because he was so frail and had so many problems, we felt the time had come to allow him to be released from his pain. We said goodbye to Frank this past Thursday morning. We are beyond sad and still feeling his absence in every part of our lives. He was the best little dog.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 1:25 AM on May 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry for your loss. It sounds like he was a very well-loved dog.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:48 AM on May 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

I am so sorry for your loss, he was clearly a special little guy. My thought are with you.
posted by msali at 9:24 PM on May 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

Oh, I'm so, so sorry. He was well loved, I know. And thank you, internet stranger.
posted by Vaike at 11:59 AM on May 30, 2016 [4 favorites]

Oh no, I just saw your last update. :(

Please accept my condolences on the loss of your beloved pup. You did everything you could. And he was loved.
posted by Halo in reverse at 3:30 PM on June 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

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