To be honest, I struggled with what to name this post for a long time. I thought about something like "When Dogs Can't Tell You They are Sick" or "Why Dogs are More Difficult Than Kids" but they either seemed to sad or inciteful. So, you get the dramatic title. Anywho, the story...
On Christmas Day (Thursday) M and I noticed that Hewitt didn't have much of an appetite. We thought maybe he was just pouting because we were gone most of the day and had a lot of company the night before. All weekend I tried enticing him with rice, chicken, treats, fruit and even baby food! By Monday, he wasn't eating and was even refusing apples (his absolute favorite treat) so I called my vet and took him in. He was acting pretty lethargic most of the weekend, which I figured was because he hadn't really eaten anything. My vet did some blood work and gave me some meds thinking he might have some back pain. They said they'd call me the next day with blood work results.
I didn't hear from them on Tuesday and when I called, they said the results were incomplete so they needed to wait another day to give me results. (At this was I a little skeptical. I've worked in this industry before and I couldn't understand how you could only have partial results back when you said it would only take 1 day. But I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. Deep down, a nasty little seed started growing that there was something really wrong with him.)
Wednesday (New Year's Eve), my vet called me around noon and gave me the test results. He said that Hewitt's blood platelet counts were dangerously low and he was at immediate risk of internal hemmorhage or spontaneous bleeding due to thrombocytopenia. Basically he had almost no platelets so his blood couldn't clot. He was a very high risk of bleeding out or severe internal bleeding. My vet said this thrombocytopenia is a result of an autoimmune disease where the body starts attacking and destroying its own blood platelets. He also said that there were three known causes of this disease: late stage cancer/abdominal tumor, tick-borne infectious disease or a spontaneous version that just starts to occur in the body.
My vet "strongly recommended" that I take Hewitt to the emergency vet immediately for ultrasound, xrays, additional bloodwork and potentially a blood transfusion and hospitalization.
Of course at this point, I'm freaking out. I ran downstairs to tell M what the vet said and fell down the stairs. (I was that jarred!) I was so upset that Hewitt was so ill. He's really not had a lot of health problems except for his tendency to eat gum and trash...and a Sharpie or two. How could he be so sick all of a sudden?
The next few hours were a blur. We rushed him to the vet and they took him and did more tests and the ultrasound/x rays. After what seemed like forever, the vet came out to see us and gave us good news AND bad news. Good news, it wasn't cancer or a tick-borne infectious disease. Bad news, he had ITP (Immune-Mediated Thrombocytopenia). This is an incurable disease but it does go into "remission" if treatment works.
Honestly, when we took him into the vet, I thought we might not leave with him alive so hearing that while he was very sick, there was hope, was amazing. He really had exhibited no other symptoms besides lethargy and not eating (to my knowledge...but now I realize that the petechial rash on his belly was actually internal bleeding and not just brusing) so I had no way of knowing how sick he really was. Normal dog blood platelet levels around around 300,000 to 500,000 and Hewitt's was 13,000. Diagnosis was to start with a very high dose of steroids to suppress the immune system that was attacking his platelets and see how he responded.
Instead of hospitalization my vet recommended he go home with us and come back daily for platelet checks until they stabilized. (Hewitt is very stressed in cages and has been very anxious when he's been hospitalized at the emergency vet before...for eating gum. Long story. So, my vet said in this case him being there and away from home would actually make him worse.) One of the only things Hewitt showed an interest in was french fries from Cookout so he became accustomed to getting some after he went to the vet for platelet check. Poor little guy...
H, going to get some French fries with M.
Daily rechecks turned into weekly rechecks as his platelet levels climbed back up towards normal. He is responding to the steroids and we are now in the process of decreasing him down to a maintenance dose. At the vet last week, his platelets were over 500,000. I'm so happy he's on the mend.
He's had a few setbacks and med side effects but we've been able to remedy them for the most part. I'm so happy he is getting better. He's 12 years old and I wasn't ready to make that decision of treatment vs. age/quality of life quite yet. If he'd not responded so well to treatment, that would be a whole other issue. He's eating again and acting almost completely normal. (the meds he is on causes some weakness, so he's not quite as active, but he's still "Hewitt")