Eve is a black 5lb toy poodle that lives with my husband, and me. She’s been our fearless companion, since she was 6 weeks old. Eve’s gone cross country throughout my husband’s career, fishing in the ocean, camping in the wilderness of Valdez Alaska just to name a few adventures.
For that I nicknamed her “The Davy Crockett”! Just about nothing fazes her! She now has a 12lb “lil sister” named Fergie, our black miniature poodle, but we got her after our liver girl started to have issues. When Eve was almost 4- 4.5 years old, she got up and started to walk over to her father. Her gait was stiff, and then she started to tremble and stare into the air. I called her name, and she responded by jerking her head into the air in the apparent directions of where she thought my voice came from. My poor baby was having her first seizure.
Alarmed, her father scooped her into his arms to attempt to “soothe” her out of her seizure, which lasted about 2 minutes, and really drained her. Immediately I call the nearest vet and describe what had just occurred. I was told to rush her in if she had another seizure. Thankfully she did not, and we thought that perhaps it may have been a one-time occurrence.
Months later, I took her in to the Military vet we normally saw, and he ran some routine blood work and a thyroid panel as I had concerns about her thyroid. He discovered that she had elevated liver enzymes, but he did not seem too concerned by this. He recommended Ursodiol and Denamarin. He said he had to have the Ursodiol compounded for her size but he never did. By this time I started searching the web and speaking with other poodle parents for advice. Dr. Dodds also is very well respected and highly recommended vet, so I sent her all of Eve’s blood work and thyroid panel for a consultation. She emailed me and told me that Eve has a liver injury, and that I should avoid Soy, Corn, and Wheat and I should feed a grain free diet such as Wellness Core to cleanse her liver. However grain free almost always turns out to be high protein formula. Dr. Dodd also said she should be on Marin, Denosyl, or Denamarin. She questioned if perhaps she had been in contact with chemicals, flea preventatives, or vaccinations just in case it was something like that that affected her. There was no culprit in that area. She told me that she should not be on Ursodiol, as she didn’t need it. I was very content at that point, and did as I was instructed.
Months went by when I decided to switch both girls to the cheaper grain free kibble Wetlands Taste of the Wild.. I did the switch very slowly over a 3 week period from a good quality grain free reputable kibble. Normally a food switch takes a week, but I feel this way they have even longer to adjust, and had ALWAYS worked for them until this food. I became concerned when both started to throw up and have diarrhea that same day I did the full switch over. Eve almost never has an upset stomach; even during food changes which she has had many. The last time she threw up or had diarrhea was when she got into a friend’s litter box when she was less than a year old. So I put them both on rice and continued with their food supplements. I later found out that Taste of the Wild is a Diamond product and returned the bag.
Not long after the TOTW incident it happened again during a weekday. As I remember my husband had to go to work that morning. It started as any other day; the girls went out to potty. Eve was peeing, and in midstream, she had another seizure with the same signs as before. So I called the vet again and was told if she has another one, bring her in. Before we got off the phone she started to have another, and we rush her to the vet, that was 15 minutes away. When we got there they rushed her to the back, while we waited anxiously. They drew blood for a round of blood work, such as full CBC, Superchem, and this time a Bile Acids Test.
We left her there because the serum Bile Acids test involves drawing blood, then feeding her, and finally drawing blood again two hours later which gives them Pre and Post Prandial results. Her liver enzymes were still elevated, and her Bile Acid results were Pre 15.6 and Post 59.7. We discussed that the seizures are possibly idiopathic, and/or possibly related to the liver dysfunction. The vet prescribed Denamarin to help the liver and Lactulose to help flush the toxins out, as a starting point for treatment. She also said she should be on Science Diet LD prescription diet (low protein) to minimize the strain on the liver.
By this time I’m pretty much at my wits end, with different opinions, from different vets, on how I should go about treating her and I have no idea how to approach this. So I searched the Internet!! Of course I followed the doctor's advice and gave her Lactulose and Denamarin, but the jury was still out on feeding Science Diet. However since she was having tummy trouble from the TOTW, I just kept her on the rice and supplements until I could get my head straight. Again I contacted my poodle list and discovered that one member was part of the Liver Shunt and MVD Support Yahoo list. I joined and found a world of information and a very easy to follow basic protocol. To my relief it was the same as my new vet prescribed. I also decided to cook for Eve since I’m sure the Rice diet was getting old. She’s a good girl and always licked the bowl clean, even if it was just rice!
To my dismay I also learned the grain free Wellness Core and similar products all are high protein, and only added to my girls seizure activities by adding toxins for her liver to strain on. I found a kibble to feed that I was comfortable with by the name of Canine Caviar Special Needs. Believe me I would have fed RX if I could not find a compatible alternative, and I personally would lean towards Royal Canin.
My Eve still had the occasional seizure, and I would up her Lactulose dose to help "flush" out the toxins from her body. My new vet felt that it would be best to consult with an internal specialist ( at a very pricey amount) for an ultrasound, and possibly a liver biopsy. Many on the Liver Shunt and MVD Support Group recommended that I take her to the University of Tennessee (UT) for testing and possible surgery/biopsy as that was the best place for such a small girl and had a more reasonable price. My husband was to PCS soon to the "lower 48", and I knew it was the perfect oppurtunity to go to UT, and held off on further testing or visiting the internal specialist in Alaska.
Eve had been on a low protein diet, Lactulose, and the Denamarin regime for about a year before we got to UT. I dropped her off thinking the worst. They injected her with a fluid that had to run its course to be able to do the Scintigraphy and they allowed us to take her back to the hotel that night. When we took her back the next day they finished up all the testing, typed up a report, and we were able to see her attending Vet, Dr. Greene, and his intern. We were relieved to find that Eve no longer had liver dysfunction. ALL Eve’s blood work and testing came back perfectly normal. The only issue they found was that she had hydrometra, which is fluid in the uterus and they recommended that she be spayed as soon as possible. I don’t know what happened, or why she had liver issues to begin with, but out of both dogs she was the only one affected.
I was ecstatic to say the least and if we wished we could take her off all supplements, lactulose, and low protein food. I did just that, but I still try to avoid red meat, avoid high protein foods, and she still receives Denamarin during vaccinations. Plus she only receives three-year vaccinations. What was also nice was that for $150 more than I would have paid for just an ultrasound and office visit to the internist, UT’s experts did a full Blood panel, Superchem, Bile Acids test, x-ray, ultrasound, and Scintigraphy. I was very happy to have my baby back, my wallet not so empty, and the group of caring unselfish individuals that had been there during that time to help us along the way! I feel that the advice and encouragement from the Liver Shunt & MVD Support group kept us going and had a wealth of information that many Vets just don’t.
Today, perhaps two and a half years later, Eve’s blood work is perfectly normal. She had one seizure over two years ago, and has been seizure free since. Her allergies are acting up now that we are back in the south, which is fine since she is on hypo shots. Unfortunately she has now acquired food allergies most likely due to her liver issues, and acquired during the year of treatment. She will be 9 years old and counting on Christmas Day 2012. Her “bad” knees don’t slow her down either so long as she is on Cosequin. You wouldn’t be able to tell the way she acts, the little happy go lucky girl!! She is back to her old self and ready to go on her next adventure!
Here is my wisdom for you: never despair, and never give up on your four legged loved ones, for they will not give up on you. Take things one day at a time, because it’s not over till it’s over. Most important of all, you never will really know if something will help, or the outcome, unless you try!
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