This is a story about a girl dog named Ch. Charkara's  Cover Girl "Candy". I purchased her from a show breeder in Arizona at age 12 weeks specifically for show and breeding purposes. Candy's initial diagnosis at just 20 mos. of age read, "it is very likely that Candy has a portosystemic shunt. This shunt could be an extraheptic shunt an intrahepatic shunt or hepatic microvascular dysplasia."  At only 22mos. of age, a biopsy was performed and the histology report confirmed the first diagnosis. Candy was born with an un-curable genetic disease she inherited called Hepatic Microvascular Dysplasia (MVD/HMD). 

 Bile Acid Results Surgeon Letter Biopsy Report Med Record

   CANDY IS TOO Beautiful 

In the beginning, her symptoms were vague and very sporadic.  Starting around four months of age, she had intermittent vomiting of yellow, foamy bile several times a month.  I asked the breeder about this, and she recommended giving her an antibiotic called metronidazole.  I talked to my vet about the vomiting as well.  I decided to try the breeder’s suggestion and she did stop vomiting after the use of that antibiotic.  I chose to use the metronidazole on several more occasions whenever Candy exhibited signs of anorexia and vomiting.  Little did I know that the metronidazole was masking her silent illness. As Candy grew older, the vomiting became more regular, and she then began to pace the kitchen floor and tremble in obvious distress after some of her meals.

With every passing month, her symptoms of vomiting and trembling increased in severity and duration. When Candy was about 14 months old, I contacted a friend in Arizona who suggested I have a bile acid test performed.  I took Candy to my vet for the test, and the results came back abnormal (pre 52.3, post 46.3).  Candy became very ill in the days following, and she ended up in ICU due to the buildup of ammonia in her system from the toxins in her blood.  My veterinarians tentatively assessed Candy as having some sort of portosystemic shunt (PSS) or Microvascular Dysplasia (MVD). I cannot fully describe how I felt when it finally sank in.   Thoughts tumbled through my mind like a Minnesota snow storm—my incredibly beautiful show dog and wonderful loving pet I had spent the past year training and raising for show; the hours spent bonding, falling in love and becoming a team; all the traveling and time spent just the two of us.

I called the breeder when I arrived home and informed her of Candy’s tentative diagnosis. One of the first things she said to me was, “Candy is too beautiful to have liver shunt.”  I told her I would send her the reports and asked her to share the reports with her veterinarian to get his opinion.  The breeder began to telling me it was my fault citing various and unfounded reasons.  She then wrote to me insisting on proof. 

I started a medical management program for Candy immediately while she recovered from her ICU visit.  Dr. Fran Smith suggested we perform another bile acid test about one month later once Candy was stable.  After being on Royal Canin Hepatic food, Lactulose and antibiotics for approximately 30 days, her bile acid numbers came back even higher (pre 176, post 175).  Dr. Smith recommended I take Candy to the University of Minnesota for further diagnostic testing.  Questions swirled through my head, “How could I pay for such expensive tests and surgery?  Maybe I should just put her to sleep if this means her life would be one of suffering?  Maybe I should just medically manage her as long as she’ll live?  But what if…just what if the surgery could fix her and give her a new life?”

Once Candy was stable, I brought her to see surgeon, Dr. Liz LaFond, at the University of Minnesota Veterinary Center.  Dr. LaFond also concluded that Candy was suffering from either an external portosystemic shunt or MVD. She recommended a portogram which was her preferred method for diagnosing and locating an external shunt.  This would require invasive surgery. After much research, I became confident of the expert care Dr. LaFond would provide.  On the day of the procedure my friend   Marlene, who was my first mentor in yorkies and a friend of 25 years, came with me for support.  My experience working with Dr. LaFond and the University of Minnesota was successful and positive.  The portogram revealed no external or internal shunt.  However, Candy’s liver was observed to be abnormally small and somewhat misshapen.  A biopsy was performed and the pathology report came back conclusive for Microvacular Dysplasia. 

After being asked by the breeder to provide her with proof, I promptly mailed the pathology report to the her. To date, I have not received any compensation and the breeder has sent me in writing a final letter that states she bares ‘no’ responsibility in this. 

In conclusion, I have found that Candy is still beautiful even with her disease, but she is not too beautiful to be sick.  I am sad for Candy’s sake that there is no way to cure this genetic illness.  However, we will be able to manage her symptoms with special food, lifelong antibiotics, supplements and Lactulose.  Candy still suffers from episodes of vomiting and displays neurological symptoms, but thankfully, these are now the exception rather than the rule.  I am cautiously optimistic Candy will live a long life in spite of her illness.  Candy and I have shared a special bond together in and out of the show ring and that will always be cherished.  Candy now has a much bigger purpose than just a bitch that could have produced nice puppies. “Candy’s Story,” along with the many other success stories here, is a blessing in disguise.  I believe this is yet the real ‘beginning’ of “Candy’s Story.” 

Things I have learned since I purchased Candy:

1. Always get a health guarantee of no less then 24 months. Many genetic illnesses do not show up before 12 months.

2. Always have a contract that also protects you as well as the breeder.

3. Do not self diagnose. Always go to your vet and do the proper testing so as not to miss the signs of a more serious illness or worse, mask them by using certain medications.

4. Research breeders thoroughly and get multiple references not just one.

5. If possible choose a breeder that is in your breed national club.

6. Bile acid test every dog you own. And bile acid test your puppies as early as 14 weeks.