Ripley’s Believe it or Not
By: Dr. Amanda Glew
One of my favorite things about opening a new clinic is meeting new clients. You start afresh, and you quickly establish a relationship binding you together because of an animal. However, sometimes these first encounters are fraught with emotion- especially when it is a euthanasia, or a very sick animal.
My first meeting with Ripley’s mom was for another aged standard poodle, who ended up having cancer. After some time of treating him, we decided to let him go. I went to her home, and as I usually do when performing a house call, we sat and talked. It was then that I found out that Ripleys owner had recently lost her husband of many years to a sudden heart attack. It was a shock, and the suddenness made her rely on her two dogs to help her through the upheaval. So when the older dog died, she felt overwhelmed.
Two weeks later, she returned to the clinic with her younger standard poodle, Ripley, who was losing weight. A blood test soon revealed liver disease, which then opened up what I refer to as the diagnostic highway- once on it, it is difficult to get off. More tests were done, finally he was referred for an ultra-sound, and it was then that the specialist recommended a liver biopsy. We performed the surgery, which was nerve wracking as well, and the results came back- cirrhosis of the liver. In humans this is end-stage liver disease, carries a poor prognosis, and you usually go on the waiting list for a liver transplant. In dogs, this is a death sentence.
Ripley’s mom was devastated. What trick of fate was happening that she would lose her husband and her 2 dogs within a year? She asked me, and I could not answer. Now, I am not religious, but I am spiritual. So I asked a few questions of the spirit – and continued with what I can do- medicate, support, and help to counsel.
We offered to take Ripley at our house when she went on holiday because she was worried, and I wanted to supervise him closely. The first hurdle was that he did not like other dogs. But our house is different, and Ripley loved the walks in Hudson, being off leash, and even learned to play a little with our own sick dog, Coal. They are on the same medications, so it is easy. What was also most satisfying is that he came to see me as a friend, not as the person who constantly pokes and prods him.
A few months later, we repeated the bloods, and his levels were improved. His symptoms of anorexia, and soft stools, were improving. He was putting on weight. How could this be?
Six months later, he visited our house again, and spent another wonderful weekend with my dogs. He was putting on weight, and looked almost normal. Lots of poodles are picky eaters, so we were not too worried.
One year later, he returned, and he now eats with appetite. His weight is back up to normal, and his liver values are also normal. So this end stage disease is either 1.) Resolving 2.) Was misdiagnosed. 3.) Is my miracle of the year Or 4.) Is on a little blip before he goes downhill.
In an ideal world, we would go back and repeat the liver biopsy. But as I said to Ripley’s mom, it is only for our knowledge, not his. As far as Ripley is concerned, he is living in the moment, and is doing well. That is all we need to know. That is all his mom his concerned about. Believe it, or not.