Andy's Story
(warning:  bring tissues - photos are graphic)

 
Left: Andy in late February 2004.  Right: Andy mid-May 2004. (shaved patch on hip)
Andy actually appears better in right photo than he actually is - you can see thigh bones.

In February of 2004 I noticed that Andy's left eye had a little yellow goo coming out. Not much and it didn't seem to bother him too much. Since I was having teeth cleaned at this time, I thought perhaps he had a tooth infection and would send him in for a teeth cleaning. At 10 1/2, he was in terrific shape. In December he had been out lure coursing.

The teeth cleaning was uneventful. The only thing I noticed was that he would holler and actually growl at me when I tried to give him his antibiotics. (very unusual, Andy has NEVER in all his years growled at me). But I wrote it off as an old man, sore mouth.

Two weeks after the teeth cleaning and off all the medications, I noticed puffiness around his joints. At this time I also noticed an overall lack of enthusiasm and energy, but wrote it off as old age. The puffiness around his joints wasn't a big concern given his age. But I made an appointment at the vet for him just in case.

Andy had had blood work done, nothing to be really too concerned about. He did have a slightly elevated white cell count, but nothing to be concerned with as it was insignificant. His body temperature was 103.0 not that high and indicated a low grade infection most likely, possibly attributing to arthritis, old age or any number of things. He was placed on Baytril for 14 days and Rimadyl. No improvement.

At this point, he had gone down slightly again, blood panel showed no changes to the previous numbers. The only difference was that Andy was a big more decrepit in his movements and gave off an "ouchy" look. Even his feet were starting to swell. At this point, it was thought that he may have had a tick borne infection. 21 days of Doxicyline and Pred. There was a nice improvement to Andy, but nothing dramatic. I was concerned about his weight as he steadily dropped weight.

21 + days later we wean him off Pred. Symptoms came ROARING back and he could barely stand up. At this time, we put him back on Pred and then about a week later started to alternate Pred with Imaran. No improvement at this point.

Meanwhile, his annual eye CERF exam was scheduled so we took him in. At the END of the exam, I casually mentioned to the eye vet about how this all started with a very slight discharge from his left eye. She turned the lights back out, put a stain in his eye and started to look around. Lodge deep under/behind/somewhere in his eye was a piece of what looked like wood. How it got there no one knows. But according to the eye vet, it had to be extremely painful for him. She was puzzled that he never once pawed at his eye.

After this, I never really gave the eye thing a thought again.

Meanwhile, he kept going downhill -- steadily. Nothing was working.

At this point, the vet pulled him off all immune suppressants. The WBC (white blood cells) were steadily climbing, his weight kept slipping. While he wasn't swollen in the joints anymore, his energy wasn't returning and he wasn't eating well. I could barely get him to eat anything. Various antibiotics were tried, all without success.

Little things kept popping up. He had a massive infestation of hooks. Those were no sooner solved when he had Tapes show up. His immune system was shot.

This normal, healthy 15 lbs dog was down to around 10 lbs and dying right in front of my eyes. There was an infection somewhere, but no one knew where. I suspected sinus area. He had had a snuffling, almost head cold sound. Behind his eyes had shrunken in and his eyes themselves seems larger, almost as if pressure were behind his eyes.

Finally, IV antibiotics were used in a last ditch effort to save this dog. He spent several days at the vet office. He at first seem to rally, but then rapidly declined again. This week, he was back in for more IV antibiotics. Good news, it seemed on Monday was that after all this time, a slight decrease in WBC was seen. Something different! On Wednesday, the vet had pulled another blood panel and this time the results were much different. His WBC had INCREASED, up to 41,000. Discouraging news.

The vet wanted to do a test for leukemia as we were out of options as to what was happening. This test was schedule (will know results on Wednesday).

By this time, I'm around $1,000.00 to $1,500.00 into his treatment (I haven't gotten his final bill yet). I asked his breeder (and my best friend) if she could take him this weekend as I had previously planned on a  trip to go visit Anne Marie Shute and my friend Kim Bott. He was at least stable and we thought it would be okay for a few days for me to leave.

Paula picked him up on Friday and called me. She said she was very worried. No one had seen him have a bowel movement in the past 4 days, he had thrown up at the vet office and he was down to around 8 lbs. Skin over bones. Not even muscle left. He wobbled, could barely stand and had no interest in eating.

By Saturday morning, she called me to tell me to come home. Andy was dying. He had thrown up all over the night before. He was laying in his own vomit. Crying, panic and upset, of course I immediately headed home. Along the way, placing calls to the people who needed to know. Andy was dying.

I started to remember all the wonderful things about Andy. He's a very special dog. As a show dog,  he had been one of my fastest finishes - 9 shows. At the age of 10, we took him to the IGCA 2003 St. Louis Nationals, where he made me cry ... winning his class and then going on to Best Opposite in VETERAN Sweeps. The old man was so proud of himself, he strutted with pride. That same day, he went lure coursing for the first time and won the first leg of his JC! He is one of the oldest IG to ever accomplish this. Some of his children and grandchildren live here and grace my life. His son, Azure, is almost a carbon copy of him in looks and personality.


Andy coursing in 2003!

I even called the vet to schedule euthanasia. My heart was breaking.

When I arrived at Paula's house, she warned me to be prepared, Andy didn't look good. Much to her surprise and mine, Andy saw me and got up. More surprising, he began to wag his tail, happy to see me. Walking him out to potty I got another surprise. He sneezed and slung this white stuff all over me. He wagged the tail, did his business, walked over to me to be picked up and sighed. Ready to go home.

One of the first things I noticed was that his body wasn't its usual furnace. He was cool to the touch. I also noticed how alert he was. I took him home and he trotted out, pooped; peed and ate an entire bowl of dog food.

The next day, for the first time in months, he went to check out the goats! He walked down to see them, stood there with his ears perked forward watching them. He's eaten several times and has slept a lot, but is much more aware than he's been in a long long time.

Dr. Anne Marie Shute tells me that she believes he's had an encapsulated infection (most likely in his sinus cavities is my guess); and for what ever reason it's broken loose and is draining now (hence the dramatic improvement). Paula tells me that she believes it's the power of prayer and asking the Lord for help. I believe it's a little bit of both - any way you look at it, a miracle that I'm eternally grateful for.

I hope this means we are on the road to recovery. The photos are pretty graphic to give everyone an idea of just how far down poor Andy went. Please understand - those that have seen him this will be a SHOCK. You may not want to look any further. But what I do hope is that his story will give someone else a little hope should you find yourself in similar situations. Sometimes a little faith, a little prayer, good friends and a good vet can make all the difference in the world.

Many thanks to Andy's breeder, Paula Carroll for her faith, prayers and taking time to nurse him when I had to be away.   Thanks to Kim Bott of Infiniti IG's for her caring and emotional support.  Special thanks to Connie Dominy, Debby Grogan, Debbie Pupo, Yvonne Morgan and a host of other I may have forgotten to mention by name.  A big thank you to Dr. Anne Marie Shute for providing information to help me make sound medical decisions and to Andy's Vet, Dr. Borden for hanging in there with us.

UPDATE ON ANDY  5/19/04
 
I took Andy into the eye vet today.   His fever has returned...  103.7
I highly encourage everyone to have a working relationship with an eye vet.   I took Andy to the eye vet because I was concerned with the problems I was seeing with his eyes and how much pain he seem to be having.   I believe my regular vet is beyond spectacular, but when in doubt, see a specialist.
 
He definitely has pressure behind his eyes.   So much pressure that his eye lids cannot completely close over his eyes and has resulted in some cornea abrasions.   The good news is that his retina's are fine and there is no glaucoma.  But, the pressure is great enough that it is interfering with his ability of his retina to contract.  
 
They did an ultrasound, but other than seeing inflammation behind his eyes, nothing else out of the ordinary.  
 
Several options were given; from x-rays to head CT's.   I've opted to do a more aggressive approach.  The vet will be putting Andy under tomorrow morning and drilling two holes behind his upper back teeth to create a drain.  If there is an infection, these holes will give the infection a place to leave.
 
The concern is that he is so far down that even though the procedure is quick, he may not make it through the surgery.    Given that he's been steadily getting worse, I'd rather this risk than allow him to continue to deteriorate.
 
I am 100% convinced that this will cure him.   Ever just have that feeling?  Everything they were telling me jives with the conversations that Anne Marie Shute and I have had.     The eye vet said that sometimes infections sets up behind the eyes and has no where to go, so they drill these holes to allow it to drain away.   This jives with Anne Marie's theory of an encapsulated abscess (or very close).    The eye vet also said that the amount of pressure building there would explain why it hurts for him to open his mouth and why he's not very hungry.  It would also explain to me why after his giant sneeze and snot slinging he felt better but then has steadily gotten worse again since there is no where for this stuff to drain.
 
Meanwhile, the eye vet says she is not sure this will do anything, but I am.    The eye vet is as stumped as my regular vet on his condition, symptoms and responses he's had to the IV antibiotics.   Not knowing where the infection is (which I do really think it's behind the eyes), she has suggested septicemia as an alternative problem.
 
No word back on the leukemia test.   I remain convinced that it's going to come back negative.
 
Anyway, thanks to everyone for all your continued prayers.   I will let everyone know how surgery goes tomorrow and if we will (finally) have success.

Andy's surgery on 5/20/04

Andy made it through the surgery.    The vet tells me that no puss came out, but the procedure should help the inflammation and if there, infection to drain from behind the eyes.
 
This condition is called retrobulbar cellulitis.   This condition is related to his other problems.     The test results for the bone marrow test have returned.   No Leukemia, but there is a concern as he is not regenerating red blood cells and is anemic.    Both vets concur that this could be related to what is going on OR infection somewhere (we all know where I think it is) OR an Autoimmune problem OR cancer (still haven't ruled out this pesky critter).   If this procedure does not do the trick, it's recommended more aggressive treatment options are taken (not sure how much more aggressive we can be without taking my life savings!).
 
Andy slept most of this morning on the couch, snuggled next to me.  At one point he made me panic by having his foot seem a little swollen and he started to pant.  He ended up getting a cool cloth spread over him and a little more pampering. 
 
This afternoon the good news is that Andy felt well enough to eat almost a 1/2 can of dog food.   He also ate a handful of cooked turkey.  Both good signs.   Good boy!   My fingers are crossed that we will continue to see improvement. 

Andy's vet visit on 5/22/04

Yesterday was a bad day for Andy.   I sat outside with him and looked him in the eye and said to him  "What do you want me to do Andy?  Are you ready to throw in the towel?  Please tell me."   
 
He's back to not eating again.   The pads of his feet are white and he's got pale gums.   I cried most of the night and this morning I cried as well.     I stuffed him last night with liver, which he kept down.  
 
When I woke up this morning, Andy was standing by his kennel door ready to go outside to potty.  He gave a small wag tail in greeting his partners in crime - Abbie and Scandal.  He refused to eat again this morning, so I stuffed him with more liver and then gave his pills, which he promptly threw all of it up.  I got the pills back down him.   I have been syringing water into him every hour to keep him hydrated.
 
I can't give up on Andy because he hasn't given up.   The night before I had laid out my plans.   If his WBC was down as well as his RBC's, I'd have a blood transfusion done.   If his WBC was the same and the RBC's were down, we'd do a blood transfusion and stay the course another week.   If his WBC was up and the RBC's were down... I didn't know what I'd do.. I'd consider euthanasia.
 
The first happy news was that FINALLY... his fever is gone!   He was 102.3 - a first since this had all started.    The vet told me that Andy did have non-regenerative anemia - most likely brought on by severe infection.  No cancers cells were found in his bone marrow (good news).   The moment of truth was about to happen - he drew blood.
 
The RBC (red blood cells) were low, but not dangerously low.   Because he didn't want to risk IMHA or causing a severe reaction at this stage, no blood transfusion would be done.   We elected to try to help him rebuild RBC's by giving supplements to help encourage new RBCs.   Because I know the signs of too low of RBC (how could I not after going thru what I did with Abbie!), I know what to watch for in case he goes further down in his numbers.
 
The BEST news...   The WBC (white blood cell) count was DOWN!   The last count was at 41.  Today's count was down to 32!!!   Not to bad considering that on Wednesday he was feverish and not looking  like a good candidate for surgery.
 
The big concern right now is keeping his energy up and getting him to eat.   I am now giving him Carafate and Reglan one hour in the morning before meals and pills to help coat and calm his stomach.     I will force feed if necessary and am going to continue to syringe water every hour into him until he starts eating/drinking on his own.    
 
The problem we've had in the past is that he would improve a bit after any procedure, eat and then crash again almost immediately.  So it's a wait and see game to see if we will continue to improve.  He's scheduled for a 10 a.m. recheck on Thursday to see if he continues to improve. 
 
At the moment we are holding off using any immune suppressants and only as a last resort to see if that helps.   I don't want him on anymore Pred because I don't think it would help (it didn't the last time) and a part of me is convinced it's use on him caused some of this.  
 
So that's where we are today.  I'm hoping that we will see him start to eat on his own soon.   The fever being gone and the WBC being down is the best news I've heard in a LONG time.
 
This afternoon we again spent quality time together watching our favorite show (okay, mine)... Law and Order.  After our hour together, and time for the Carafate and Reglan to take effect, Andy decided that he was hungry and ate on his own.  Good boy.   I certainly hope this means we are on the LONG road to recovery!  
 
A thanks to all who have been sending prayers his way.  I do believe in the power of prayer and in the absolute willpower of one little dark blue dog who refuses to give up.   He is such an inspiration to me.

I forgot to mention that the vet is very sure (as I am) that Andy's initial illness was tick borne, Canine Ehrlichiosis.  

He has had all the classic symptoms for this disease.  He presented with almost every sign except Thrombocytopenia (thank god).    He started out with the classic symptoms of mild fever, lethargy, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea and  joint swelling due to polyarthritis.   His mild non-regenerative Anemia is another classic symptom.  

Why or how this ended up behind his eyes is a mystery and if it's even something else is unknown.   

This website will give anyone more information about this disease:
http://www.vet.uga.edu/vpp/CLERK/Bockino/

Thank you to all who have privately replied with their well wishes to Andy.   He's been kissed so much that he now thinks he's KING of the world :O).   I told him no head swelling is allowed (pun intended - and I can now laugh a little in relief about it ).


5/24/04 - Andy's battle continues

Yesterday wasn't such a good day.   I wasn't told that the Iron supplements would upset his stomach.  He spent most of the day throwing up anything I could get down him.  He did defecate, which was good.  

This morning though, he did not get up to greet me.  He is very weak, pale and I can tell that he is having vision problems.   He didn't see the blanket on the floor and took a hard tumble to the ground.   He is not interested in eating anything.    I gave him some of his pills this morning in hopes that it will encourage his appetite.      

I hope to see an improvement in the appetite department now that I've removed the Iron from his diet.  The rebuilding of his RBC's will have to wait until he is stronger and able to handle something that hard on his stomach.


5/25/04 - Baby Steps....

After a lot of research on the internet, I'm learning about the care of a critically ill pet.  Especially in the nutrition department.   As it stands, Andy is emaciated.   When the body gets to a certain point, things begin to shut down.    The largest concern is the gastrointestinal tract and the concern that it remain functional.    I have initiated feeding him by syringe until he is able to eat on his own.   The goal is to have him eating the amount he would normally eat in a day, but because he cannot handle large meals, it is spread out into small meals throughout the day. 

He is also receiving puree chicken, Hills A/D and Yogurt via syringe.   So far, I have seen an increase in energy for him.   He is able to give himself a little better "shake" when I stand him up.  The hard part is resisting the urge to stuff him full of food.  I found it interesting that I need to feed mostly fatThis is because it's easier for his body to process this for energy. I've been giving him the chicken fat in addition to his pureed dog food. Although they recommend 4 meals a day at this particular website - I am going to feeding him every hour to every other hour, small amounts that will equal what he would eat at one meal in a day - spread out over time.

I think a residue affect of all this is that he will be permanently blind - or at least partially blind. He cannot see very well - he has run into a few things by mistake. I think the pressure in the back of the eyes was enough to do some damage to the pupils. We will find out tomorrow when I do a follow up visit with the eye vet. I'll take blindness!!! Lord knows that if that's all this leaves him is blind, I'll be very happy. Dogs can lead very normal lives without their eyesight.

I questioned myself all day long. Wondering if I am prolonging his agony, if I should let him peacefully go or if I should continue to fight and help him survive. A part of me says let him go, and another part of me says keep going.

The decisions will be made on Thursday of whether I will let him peacefully go or continue the fight for his life. It's when he will have his regular vet check to see where his numbers are.

I will post more photos soon.   Just a side note, on Saturday when I weighed Andy at the Vet office, he weighed in at 8 1/2 lbs.  His normal weight is 15 lbs.  Almost half his weight has been lost.


5/26/04 Still alive...

This morning as I approached his kennel I wondered if Andy were still alive.  Granted, I was up earlier than normal, but I was hoping for a greeting from him.  None.   I picked him up and carried him outside for his morning potty.   He gave a small shake and a wag of his tail, then peed.    I carried him back in to conserve his energy.

I liquefied his chicken soup in the blender.   I'm scared that I'm going to overfeed him too soon, but at the same time I want to make sure he is getting enough food to jump start his system.   I've measured out how many syringes of food equal a 1/3 cup.   Since the liquid food is a lot of water, I'm not too concerned I'll over feed him, but I make sure I don't go over 1/3 cup at one time.   

Today we have our first vet visit back to the eye vet to see if he has improved.  I'll also be interested to see how much eyesight he's lost.  I don't want to be too optimistic but I think he's improved there.  Probably because of the forced feeding.

I'm really hoping that white cell count will be down tommorrow.  The big battle now is to jump start his system into accepting food and processing the food.   His temperature has been remaining consistent at 103. to 103.5   I'm monitoring him hourly. 

After his second feeding, I noticed Andy laying in his kennel, ears perked forward and listening to the sounds around him.  It did my heart good to see him doing something other than just laying in his bed, asleep and not moving.     I took him out for a quick potty break, which he appreciated.   11 a.m. can't come soon enough for me.      I spent some time reading  websites.  Calorie intake is important.  Excess carbohydrates could cause major problems, resulting in respiratory and cardiovascular failures - which could kill him.     

He's back to sleeping now.  We are off to the eye vet to see what they have to say...

Eye vet says that he can see out of his eyes.  The retinas are reactive and he has a blink reflex.  More than likely his vision is obscured by the abrasions.   I can live with that.  Although the abrasions are still there, she thought his ability to close his eyes was much better than last week.  He was alert and looking around at the vet office.  Just finished feeding him again and he's alert and looking around.   I hope these hourly feedings are doing him some good.   He did have a bit of a gag reflex just before going to the eye vet, but he didn't regurgitate and he held his food down.


5/27/04 - The Vet visit....

The most difficult thing, I have to go out of town today and will be gone a week! I am leaving my hubby in charge. Andy scared me a bit this morning by throwing up some food. I think it maybe a reaction to a bit too much food (my over eagerness to give him food).

The good news is that Andy GAINED almost a pound! This is a HUGE victory. His weight is up to 9.75. The vet visit went well. I will not know the numbers until tomorrow. The vet wants to send this off to a lab to see where the numbers are since we are hinging his life on these numbers. Vet felt his color looked better as well.

In my heart I feel the numbers will be down. His temperature today has remained well within normal range. He got home from the vet, walked from the car to his kennel, got in his luxury bed (pillows, blankets and so much more) and ate two more old Roy Dinners rounds.

Very proud of him. I was worried this morning because he had a lot of gagging reflex, but after a bit of regurgitation, he feels better. I'm backing off a bit on his food intake because I don't think he's ready for the amount i want to give him.

I hope that in the next few days he will be eating on his own.


June 8th 2004...  

 

It's with great heartache that I write this note.

Today Paula and I helped Andy over the rainbow bridge to ease his suffering. He just can't seem to make the turn towards recovery, gaining no weight and steadily losing more red cells.  What little progress was made was lost just as quickly.  

He has so valiantly tried to recover, I think for my sake more than his own. A true gentlemen with the heart and courage of a lion.  

Dr. Borden, his vet has been wonderful throughout all of his illness, it was nice that he was there to help ease his passage over.   I was able to hold Andy and kiss him goodbye.   He went easily and quietly; he was ready even if I wasn't really ready to let him go. 

I was so lucky to have him.    I will miss your sweet "whoo whoos", your wagging happy tail and sweet smiling face. Please wait for me at the bridge, I know I'll be happy to see you again, all healthy and looking just as beautiful as you did the first day I saw you.
 

Thank you Paula Carroll for some of the best years of my life. I'm so fortunate to have shared both laughter and tears with a dog as wonderful as Andy.

Somehow things won't be the same without him.

I want to say thank you to all the wonderful Italian Greyhound people who have sent me private emails and who have called me.   Andy was a very special dog and to those who got to meet him, I know he touched their hearts.   I had hoped his story would be a happy ending, and in a way it is.   He is running free now, no longer sick, no longer tired.    

If anything I hope that all of you remember how he looks above - that's my memory of him, coursing the fields of St. Louis, happy to be running all out after the "bunny".

 

The following photos actually make him appear BETTER than he actually is.

Notice lack of muscle and prominent bone in thighs- Thighs are paper thin, notice ridge of back and concaved loin.  Neck is concaved in.
Ribs Showing prominent hip bones.