One evening late last August, I was on the computer and saw a message come in from Westie Rescue of Missouri’s (WRM) Facebook discussion board. Four months earlier I wrote a post about a recurrence of furunculosis in my eight-year-old former mill dog, PeachPie – the issue had long since resolved. A reply was posted, and I was tempted to ignore it but opened it anyway. It simply read that the writer was encouraged that my dog’s ailment had healed at least once…her dog’s hadn’t and it had been a very long time. I wrote her back and said I’d try to help with some info, but it would take a while because I was swamped. An email came back saying she (Lisa) understood and she would wait. She included a photo of her dog, Dodger, taken that evening. It stopped me in my tracks.
From the photo, Dodger, a two year, eight-month-old Westie, had a horrible growth under his chin and huge, awful looking paws. I was pretty dumbfounded but learned Dodger lived in central Louisiana and had been seen by numerous vets and even LSU Veterinary Clinic. No one really seemed to know what was wrong, what to do, or how to do it. One vet diagnosed Dodger with “the canine equivalent of Scleroderma” and recommended Dodger be put down.
I sent the photo along with the medical reports Lisa had emailed to everyone I knew and heard back from Karen Simondet. She offered to send the reports/photos to specialists she knew in California, but it was Labor Day weekend, and it took a little more than two weeks for the information to come back. Both the specialist and Westie Specialist, Dr. Kay believed Dodger’s problems were allergy-based bacterial and yeast infections.
WRM recommended I contact BJ – a woman with a lot of experience in holistic alternatives for info as well. For two months Karen, BJ, and I tried to support Lisa and Dodger from a distance but he got worse. By mid-October I received a heartbreaking email from Lisa. Dodger’s “chin mass” got worse and ruptured and his feet were no better. Lisa said for the first time in two and a half years, she no longer believed she could get Dodger well.
Lisa, Karen, BJ and I came up with a plan for Dodger to come up to me – just outside of St Louis – close to BJ. We thought if nothing else a new environment and a new vet might help. And WRM gave Dodger WRM Honoree Rescue status, allowing my vet to “officially” treat Dodger as a dog in rescue – waiving many fees and substantially discounting care and supplies.
On November 1, 2010, Lisa arrived from a two-day drive from Louisiana with Dodger in tow. Dodger exceeded all of our worst expectations. The first night alone, the smell of yeast was simply awful-within an hour the house reeked. Dodger went to the yard, but unfamiliar with its terrain, he tripped several times, breaking open some of the growths on his feet. They just oozed more. I called to get a vet appointment the next day and Lisa headed out to start her long trip back to Louisiana. Through all of this, Dodger was the sweetest dog and acted like everything was ok. He seemed to smile when he looked at me.
When I took Dodger to the vet the next day, the technician came in to get Dodger’s history and to look at him. You could just tell by the look on her face. She left the room and returned with my vet a few minutes later. By that time the exam room reeked. When Dr. Chris came in, he was friendly and professional as always, but the look on his face spoke volumes.
Dr. Chris didn’t know what to think about it all. He’d seen some pretty bad things before, but nothing like Dodger. He took some samples for cultures and dressed Dodger’s front feet in an antibiotic ointment. He changed the oral antibiotic from Baytril to Cephalexin and reduced Dodger’s two-month-long 10mg/day Prednisone dose down to 5mg/day. He increased Dodger’s Ketoconazole to 1/4 tab twice a day and later to 1/2 tab 2x/day. He also wanted daily cleaning of Dodger’s “chin mass” by scrubbing with Malaseb equivalent shampoo. He immediately took Dodger off the Metacam he’d been taking occasionally for pain and put him on Tramadol. Dodger also went on Doxycycline for a month when E-coli was present per the sensitivity cultures. Dodger also went on a limited ingredient diet to help his immune system to return to normal.
I asked Dr. Chris if he’d mind me bringing Dodger in every week or so, just to make sure everything was okay. After he looked at me like I was from Mars, he told me Dodger would be coming in every two to three days “for a while”. “Awhile” was a month.
Dodger’s first month was difficult. He ran into numerous problems – terribly constipated from a raw-only diet I’d put him on within his first week, sick from Ketoconazole, frustrated at having his feet and chin squeezed and prodded by the vet three times a week, and frustrated with rough scrubbings of his chin every day. For a while, the infections got worse too. But he never had a bad day and never growled through any of it. He always seemed to smile as if he knew I was there to help him, not hurt him.
In early December Dr. Chris biopsied three of the feet after Dodger had more problems with his feet. At this time, Pat Baker, an avid Westie lover, and groomer that I know through Facebook suggested I ask my vet to look into a compounded antifungal to help with Dodger’s nausea and anorexia, as her own dog experienced the same problems with the drugs.
My vet ordered a compounded Itraconazole and WRM helped with Dodger’s two-month supply. Within two days of that change, Dodger’s appetite bounced back and within a week the yeast began to retreat. The biopsies came back with the paw problems being follicular in origin. By mid-December Dodger was also off Doxycycline and down to 5 mg Prednisone on alternating days. His dressings came off and he was changed to 2x/day soaks/scrubs of his feet and chin and the vet gave us the okay to use immune-boosting supplements, so BJ developed Dodger’s nutritional support/supplementation plan. Dodger also remained on his very limited ingredient diet which the owner of a specialty grooming and specialty dog food store a few towns over chose for him.
By mid-December, Dodger was doing very well and the vet wanted to cut away the granulomas to his feet and to cut away Dodger’s “chin mass” that never did stop producing sterile pus. The vet believed surgery would reduce the opportunity for yeast and infection to grow/hide and would give Dodger a better quality of life. Dodger had to wait three weeks for my schedule to allow for his surgery – it was scheduled for 1/3/11. In the interim, he went to once a day soaks/scrubs.
Lisa relinquished Dodger to me on New Year’s Day because she loved him dearly and wanted this sweet boy to live knowing that returning him to Louisiana could be very detrimental to his health.
Dodger’s surgery was done on 1/3/11 and inside each granuloma, on each paw, the vet found a hardened mass of infected hair follicle. The chin mass had little blood supply but was still laden with pus. Dodger will return to the vet tomorrow to remove the bandages to his three paws. Later this month he will have allergy testing. And after that, he will have teeth cleaning due to the hyperplasia of his gums. They aren’t expected to improve. Dodger also needs specially formulated heartworm prevention that costs more than regular preventative, and because he had a bad skin reaction to Revolution, he has to take Comfortis for flea/tick prevention.
As you can imagine, Dodger’s vet bills, food bills, and supplements have been quite high these past two months, even with my vet’s generosity. The grant Dodger’s received from WestieMed will do so much – paying for this week’s surgery, upcoming allergy testing and serum, the dental cleaning and medications, special heartworm prevention, and Comfortis. By the end of this month, we expect Dodger to primarily require preventative maintenance medications and baths as well as a limited ingredient diet. We’re thankful to everyone who’s been involved with Dodger’s journey, the support we’ve received from Facebook connections, most of whom we’ve never met and from WestieMed for supporting Dodger and helping us cover his medical bills. Sometimes it was that support that got us from a bad day to the next day! It really DID take a village to give Dodger his life back.
Thank you WestieMed! We will keep you updated on Dodger’s progress.
Daine and John Brundage and Dodger Westie Dog (DWD)
Update January 8, 2011
DWD pulled out of his back right leg bandage yesterday and again this morning while I was running errands. When I came home I could see it had bled a little. His front right foot is hurting him a lot again today. And after the vet visit, DWD insisted on running in the field for a while with Sandy Neighbor Dog – so he’s probably going to be pretty sore for the rest of the day and into tomorrow. The vet visit went well. We should have the bandages off Monday. He continues on California Natural Lamb/Rice and Bravo lamb grind and California Natural Lamb/Rice (with oatmeal) bars (treats). He will stay on 250 mg Ceph 3x/day through January and then down to 2x/day. He will stay on the Itraconazole compound through January and then probably to ketoconazole every other day. He’s changed from every other day Pred to 5 mg on MWF. He still takes zinc. He gets coconut oil, Prozyme, and Wobenzyme as supplements. He gets Animax applied to his chin 3x/day and will get it on his feet 2x/day when the bandages come off for a while. He will get allergy testing in about three weeks.
While we were at the vet today, there was a tiny Rottie mix puppy that Dodger was very interested in so he got to check the pup out and he was very gentle with the pup, it was very cute. Everyone at the vet’s office agrees that he’s never had a bad day through this all. Thanks again for caring about this LWD and have a great weekend. Daine
Update January 10, 2011
DWD had his bandages removed today and then ran alongside me while I went to get Sandy Neighbor Dog out. It was a little too much for him. The smaller of the granuloma on the right front foot was the deepest of all, it went all the way through to the bottom of his paw – but that was the ONLY one that did that. His feet are obviously swollen and hurt him a lot right now. He has Animax ointment on his feet/chin – 3x a day now and he’s wearing children’s athletic socks over his feet secured above the paw with self-sticking velcro. For they’ll get changed 2-3 x a day. His chin looks great. He goes back on Saturday to have the sutures removed. Dr. Chris put some sutures in where the big granuloma was cut away. DWD will have his allergy testing on 2/3/11. We want to sincerely thank you all again for the support you’ve given DWD and us. It’s made things so much easier.
Update January 15, 2011
DWD had the stitches from a couple of his toes removed this am. He’s doing very well and he’s healing nicely. He stopped taking tram on Tues or Wed night. He’s not having any pain and has definitely found his wag. He sat as quiet as he could while the stitches came out this morning, but became very brave and bossy and barked up a storm while sitting in John’s lap. There’s very little swelling of his paws – especially compared to Monday’s pics. But today we can tell that both of the huge granulomas – the big nasty pink/red one on his right front paw and the BIG, nasty black one on his left front paw actually did grow through the paw – top to the pad. Dodger will get a soak and light scrub of feet and chin for at least the next week. We are leaving his feet uncovered through most of the day now – covered and with Animax at night. I expect we’ll start using the malaseb spray again at night too before long. His medications and his supplements and food are still the same. In February he will go down to 2 Ceph/day and the vet will decide about the Pred and Ketoconazole or alternative then. Dodger Westie Dog will have his allergy testing blood drawn on 2/3/11. This will be the last update until 2/3/11 unless there’s something worth sharing. I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone for your support over the past two and a half months and for caring about this LWD. Lisa wrote to me yesterday and said she misses him terribly. She’s thrilled with his surgery and it’s the outcome so far though, and she starts college classes again on Monday and said she made the right decision to let DWD go.
Update February 2, 2011
DWD went back to the vet today. Dodger’s front feet are doing very well. So is his chin.
His rear left paw has some swelling and bloody draining. This is the foot that was lanced and biopsied in early December. No granuloma has grown, but this was a change for the worse compared to last month. His right ear has become much softer/thin, but the left ear is about as leathery as it was at last visit last month. His meds were changed to: Ceph 250 2x/day, ketoconazole 1/2 tab/day x 30 days, zinc daily, Pred on M/W/F. He’s still on prozyme but the vet wants him off wobenzyme for now. He still gets some coconut oil in his food each day. He gets Antimax on his paws at night and they are covered. He’ gotten the wraps off his left front paw quite a bit recently, and his feet aren’t covered during the day as it’s been very wet here. He had blood drawn for allergy testing today.
Oh – vet wants me to spray with Genesis spray once a week. DWD will probably go back to the vet when the allergy testing results are in – about ten days. Otherwise, DWD is doing well. He’s gotten bored with his treats and food, so that’s become a bit of a battle and he’s managed to grab others’ treats sometimes. He also has a very bad habit of eating things in the yard – birdseed, leaves, twigs, etc. He’s also grabbed and eaten some other dog’s hair (from clippers). Found a no-fail way to get him to take his meds. He gets them in a small amount of Bravo as I SHOW him another wad of Bravo. He’s greedy so he gobbles down the first wad with the meds, without his usual inspection, and goes for the second wad. Please let me know if you have any suggestions or thoughts. Thanks for caring about this LWD.
Update April 6, 2011
It’s been just over three months since Dodger had surgery to remove the masses to his three paws (fourth was done four months earlier as a test), so it seems like a good time to send an update. Dodge’s chin has healed nicely. And his paws are doing very well too, but they continue to be a challenge. Dodger’s had a couple more growths – one that the vet had to remove from the first paw that was done back in November. Dodger is holding his own but the paws still blister at times and always seem to drain – but not much. He gets a 15-20 minute foot soak and scrub with a boar bristle brush on most days, followed by Genesis spray to all paws. And every night he gets Antimax ointment rubbed in between his toes and his feet are covered with socks ’til morning. He’s been on allergy shots for almost two months now and is at ten-day intervals now. Dodger’s going to stay on a limited diet of California Natural Lamb & Rice, he also gets some peanut butter and raw food – but not much, and the occasional cat food he steals. One problem we have is that he has the equivalent of Pica for dogs. He eats a lot of what he finds outdoors – plants, grass, seed pods, you name it – he’s not fussy. Our vet decided its better for Dodger to remain on Ceph (2x/day), Ketoconazole (1/2 tab/day), and Pred (3x/wk) along with supplements and probiotics until Fall’s first hard frost than to risk it. But instead of going to the vet three to four times a week – now he goes about once a month. WestieMed, we can’t thank you enough for the assistance you provided with Dodger’s medical bills! Dodger,
Daine, & John Brundage
Update December 20, 2011
Well, our first full year as Dodger’s permanent guardians is quickly coming to a close and what better time to send an update to WestieMed about him.
It’s been a year full of ups and downs for Dodger. Unfortunately, the growths on his feet returned and were removed several times, much more so on his front paws. We don’t know what stimulates their growth, but we’re pretty sure it’s environmental and he’s much worse in the humid, hot summer months.
In June Dodger got a very bad infection in one of his back legs that turned out to be pseudomonas, an opportunistic bacteria. He spent a month on Baytril and beat the infection but it was a scary time.
We’ve had lots of ups this year too! After Dodger’s pseudomonas episode, Dr. Chris decided to take him off the prednisone he’d been taking to suppress his immune system for well over a year and Dodger did great! Since then we’ve also cut his ketoconazole to 1/4 tab 3x/wk from 1/2 tab every day! Oh, and that “thing” that was cut off his chin in January – it never came back and all the hair grew back!
Dodger gets his allergy shots every month now and he eats a limited ingredient diet.
He doesn’t have to have to have his feet soaked and scrubbed anymore because we learned it didn’t really help him, we put Antimax antibiotic ointment on Dodger’s feet and cover them in socks each night. He’s been free of yeast infections this past year and that’s been wonderful! Also, there’ve been no lampshade collars for Dodger to endure since he joined our family in late 2010 and we’re really happy about that, too.
But Dodger’s skin is very thick which makes it quite difficult to give his allergy shots and it’s become all but impossible to intubate him; thankfully so far and he’s been able to have what medical procedures he’s needed with local sedation. Over the past months, Dodger’s had a harder and harder time evacuating his bowels so we’re watching that closely and hoping the problem won’t cause any problems or worsen.
Dodger’s got a wonderful disposition, he’s a bossy, chatty, opinionated little white dog who always seems to make the best out of whatever life dishes out to him. He loves people and attention and gives our vet’s staff and our visitors gentle “love bites” whenever he can. Oh, and Dodger eventually wore us down at bedtime and staked claim to a good portion of our bed a few months back. He’s very pleased with himself about that accomplishment and I swear he smiles when I put him on the bed each night.
In closing, we want to thank WestiMed once again for being there for Dodger and for us! It’s made all the difference in the world to know there are so many in WestieMed-land who’ve cared about and rallied for our little, bossy guy.
Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday and a prosperous new year.
Update June 22, 2012
I am sad to tell those of you who knew Dodger that we had him put to sleep this morning. Dodger came to us on 11/1/10 – initially to stay with us a few months, but it took a NY second for all of us to realize he’d come home. He brought John and me so much joy and laughter and happiness at the same time our hearts broke at the fate he was destined to on this earth. I will be forever grateful to all the wonderful people who shared our joy and sadness and who rallied for him and loved him from afar. Your support and encouragement were very much appreciated by Dodger Westie Dog and by John and me.
Summers were never easy for Dodger and this one was worse than the last two. He struggled for the past six weeks with boils that came back with a vengeance. Until yesterday we were able to cover the pain that came and went as the sores came and left. But by last night even high doses of tram and rimadyl barely helped. There were other problems too – related to the treatment and to the disease, whatever it was. After we got him comfortable today, he spent the morning in the yard, lying on his island and in the grass – barking and watching all the things that go on in the yard. Today he was as he always was – happy, opinionated, bossy, and stoic.
Thank you again for all your support and love – to Dodger and to me. It made all the difference in the world.
If there is a place that transcends the pain and suffering of live as we know it, and I believe there is, Dodger is now able to run and eat and drink free of the pain, suffering, encumbrances, limitations, and challenges that he experienced in his life up til now.