I’ve put off writing this blog entry for a long time. Partly because I was hoping to write once I had all the answers; I still don’t. The other reason I’ve delayed is because I haven’t felt like it. Literally. My motivation for many things has been borderline zero. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism earlier this year which comes with a lack of desire to do things. Even fun things. And it takes a long time to get it regulated (and I’m still in that process). So, while this entry is about Kyu’s chronic condition, my chronic condition is also playing a factor in our lives together.
Kyu started having chronic diarrhea in December of last year (this is when I first noticed I wasn’t feeling all that great as well). I joke that losing Risa sent us both off the deep end and, while it’s not 100% true, there is probably some level of truth to it. It certainly upset our usual lives and caused us both grief. I also started a new job about 2 weeks after losing her which also added additional stress to our lives. For Kyu, he was now left home alone for a longer period of time (I can’t come home to let him out mid-day like I had his entire life). And he’s completely alone because he’s now an only dog. Whereas Risa was fine flying solo, I know Kyu really enjoys the company of other dogs. Stress can certainly make things worse.
Given a lifetime of dealing with chronic diarrhea with Risa (from SIBO to food sensitivities and even HGE), I didn’t worry much at first. I monitored it and made adjustments to try and tackle it on my own. Even though it resembled the type of diarrhea I’d seen in my years with Risa I refused to believe it was the same thing at first. I was worried my bias was influencing what I saw. That I was thinking “zebras” instead of “horses.” Eventually, when things didn’t clear up, we were off to the vet. Fecal test was clear so we did a course of Flagyl and probiotics. He improved but was back to yuck again once the meds were done. Back to the vet for a longer course of Flagyl, continued probiotics, and a test for intestinal parasites (like Giardia). We also started a bland diet to reset his system. Test came back clear; no GI baddies to blame. He did well on the Flagyl and bland diet. Things slid off again after the Flagyl was stopped but I switched one of the foods in his bland diet and things improved. Once he was stable again, I started to transition him back to his regular diet. And it all fell apart again.
Now I was concerned. I didn’t know what was going on and it appeared to be similar to what I’d been through with Risa. I dreaded this. I asked the Universe why it felt I was fit to take care of another GI dog. It clearly hadn’t been watching me cry over shit-soaked carpets or the fact that I can’t even manage something as simple as feeding a dog. I didn’t feel I was getting anywhere with my vet so I took matters into my own hands and ordered the Nutriscan test. I knew people who had good results with it and, in all honesty, I just needed a starting point with his diet. So I sent his spit away for testing and got the results. Yes! He did have food sensitivities! I eliminated everything on the list and he improved. For a while. But things went downhill again. He started having loose stools again. One Friday night, he had urgent diarrhea and then threw up bile in the yard. He then tried to lie down but couldn’t get comfortable. I was very worried so I took him to the vet that night for evaluation. We put him on Flagyl and probiotics again and took blood for a GI panel. Results: chronic pancreatitis. 🙁
The vet sent him home with some EN prescription food to try but he turned his nose up at it. So I put him on a bland diet again this time with a conscious effort to keep things low fat. He still didn’t stay stable. He would do okay for a while and then, seemingly out of nowhere, do poorly again. Nothing was consistent and he had lost almost 2 lbs (which is a lot for a little guy!). I couldn’t get weight back on him or keep him stable. Even with avoiding the no no foods from the Nutriscan test. I had a consult with a nutritionist which didn’t go very well. It felt more confrontational than conversational (and I can’t say whether it was just me or us both) and didn’t jive with my ideals. I’d also now had two vets tell me the Nutriscan test was bogus and useless. It wasn’t until I tried to adjust Kyu’s diet to include more chicken (buffalo is low fat but expensive!) that I noticed things started to get bad quickly. Chicken was part of the problem (which makes me sad looking back because I was using almost exclusively chicken as a training treat!). And the Nutriscan test said chicken was fine! Now I couldn’t believe anything it said. 🙁 I eliminated chicken from his diet but, still, he hasn’t been stable.
I took him to the TCVM vet that Risa had seen for her GI issues because I wanted both sides of the coin for my options. I also know she will use food therapy to help dogs recover and, most importantly, she’s willing to have a conversation with me about my thoughts and the options I need to consider. Plus she agrees with me that we need to treat the cause not the symptom. Much like Risa whose bouts of SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) were caused by food sensitivities, I feared Kyu’s pancreatitis was also the result of the same. However, it’s also possible he has IBD in addition to the chronic pancreatitis. 🙁 An endoscopy is the only way to know for sure. 🙁 Despite being on Cerenia for a week, supplementing with folate, putting him on probiotics again, and restricting his diet even more; he’s still not stable. Looks like I may be opening up my wallet again for even more GI testing. 🙁
Unsurprisingly, his training has taken a serious downturn. While I’m sure my overlong training sessions definitely played a factor in his previous refusals to work with me, I’m fairly certain he has been sick for a while and that’s why he hasn’t wanted to work. He was such an engaged partner as a baby. Even bouncing off me when we entered the training room demanding to get to work. That’s not who he is now. He leaves sessions. Or isn’t as enthused as I want him to be. It’s because he doesn’t feel good and, unlike Risa, won’t still play when he feels icky. I don’t blame him. My chronic problem hasn’t exactly made me the best training partner as of late either.
I’ve been fortunate he’s felt good enough to be an active partner in several recent events. I had a working spot with him at Fenzi Camp and he was AMAZING all three days. He worked with me and he was even better just being in that environment. Waited patiently outside the ring mostly focused on me. Walked around lots of dogs and people without obnoxiously pulling me towards them. He was a STAR. Even though I know he wasn’t really feeling all that great. The following weekend was his breed specialty where he took 1st in conformation in a large Grand Champion class. He showed well despite not feeling it at all (I wasn’t feeling it either, tbh). I scratched him from racing because I didn’t think it was fair to ask him to do it after being ill so long and he told me he couldn’t do rally so I excused us from that. This weekend, he attended a seminar with Julie Flanery and worked well there too!
But I know we’re both struggling to connect on a training level because we’re both still not 100%. I can’t speak for him; only try and extrapolate from his actions. I imagine he’s feeling a lot like I am right now. I know training my dog should be fun. I know I do enjoy events like this. Hanging out with “my people” and learning how to be a better trainer. And working with my wonderful little partner. But lately I’m just not “there.” Physically I’m there and I’m capable of doing just enough to get something out of it. But I’m not me. I’m going through the motions more than anything. And I feel like that’s where he is too. I can recognize it for what it likely is but that still doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt a little to watch your dog find more joy in sniffing the room than engaging with you. (It’s like having Risa all over again in that respect!) I know it’s possibly temporary. That, once he feels better, he’ll reconnect with me again. And same for me. Once I feel better, I’ll reconnect again and our training will improve. Not just because I’ve learned more and come away with better training skills and options from Camp and our seminar but because I will have the mental and physical stamina to enjoy it again. I’m sure the same will happen for him once we get his disease figured out and stable.
For now, I’ve put a lot of my goals for him on hold. There is no point in trying to train him to a high level when we’re both barely functioning. And I don’t want to poison training by having him feel icky while doing it. We will still train. . .but only if we feel like it. I’m definitely itching to get back into competition. . .but not at the expense of my long term goals. He needs to feel better. WE need to feel better. Then we can truly give our all.