**DISCLAIMER** Please note: I am not a veterinarian, and the purpose of this blog is solely to educate, provide resources, and share Reo's story. In this blog, I will present research and information on the theories of SARDS to which I subscribe, along with my own narrative. If you think your dog may have SARDS, or adrenal exhaustion/Plechner Syndrome, please seek veterinary care right away!

If you are just beginning your SARDS education, I suggest you start with the blog post from August 22, 2011 entitled "SARDS Resources". If you'd like to know our trials, tribulations, and joys from the beginning, start with "But first...Reo!" and click chronologically on from there.

If you would like to read my suggestions as to how I would approach treatment for a newly-diagnosed dog, check the November 16, 2011 post "If I had another SARDS dog" (and then read my blog more fully for appropriate context).

Though we have decided to suspend Reo's retinal protection supplements in September 2012 (see September 16, 2012 post "Decision for Reo") due to the fact that she had very little remaining vision, I am still strongly supportive of our treatment approach, and know that it changed Reo's health and longevity in a positive way. Feel free to comment and ask me any questions - I am happy to help if I can!

Update: Reo became an angel on October 21, 2014. She had a profound kidney infection, causing acute kidney failure, and she was unable to recover. The contributing factors to her decline are covered in my February 16, 2015 blog post "Farewell to Reo".

Monday, February 16, 2015

Farewell to Reo

February 16, 2015

Thanks, everyone for your comments, messages, and thoughts in the wake of Reo's passing.  We still miss her every day - some more than others.  I know she is with us all of the time, and she occasionally will "possess" one of our other Min Pins, which always makes us smile.

I have been meaning to write a post about what I feel are the contributing factors to Reo's decline, in the hopes that they might help another dog owner out there. I've been putting it off because of my own personal pain - I just wasn't ready.  Of course, hindsight is 20/20, and it wasn't until her final weeks that I was able to put all of the pieces together.  I still carry a huge burden of guilt for not seeing this sooner and being more proactive about getting her in for blood testing sooner than I did.  At the end of the day, she was a nearly 14-year old dog, with several health issues, and we knew we couldn't keep her forever, BUT I am her mama who loves her very much, and it's hard not to blame myself for things related to her health. 

At the beginning of 2014, we reduced her T4 supplementation dosage from 0.1 mg BID to 0.05 mg BID (we did this because she was showing clinical signs of too much thyroid - couldn't keep weight on her despite healthy appetite, restlessness, etc. - and her bloodwork showed her in the upper 50% of the reference range).  When we reduced her dose, she seemed to return to normal/stable and so we thought it was the right decision for her.  We also made the switch from Medrol to prednisolone liquid, because this was easier for me to adjust her dose when she needed a little more.  We were only able to get 4 mg Medrol tablets, and it was too difficult to make adjustments when needed.

As you might recall, Reo had a dental in July.  She had an abscessed tooth along the gumline.  We had tried different antibiotics and mouth treatments to get it to abate, but it just wouldn't go away.  So, she got a nice cleaning and a few extractions.  Her pre-surgery bloodwork looked great, and we had the anesthesiologist custom-tailor a plan for her based on her medical history (as well as monitor her surgery).  She was only under for about 45 minutes, and they let me be there and hold her/talk to her for her recovery to help reduce her stress.  It was kind of incredible the difference it made in her disposition after the surgery.  She was much more happy and energetic, and way more playful, too.  I regretted waiting so long (over a year) to get this surgery for her, and wished I did it sooner, because it was clearly bothering her!

At the end of August, we traveled back to the east coast with Reo and Leigh for my sister's wedding.  It was a stressful/busy time for all of us, and that was when we started to notice Reo's waning appetite.  She was still eating, just more slowly, was more picky about what she was eating.  This went on for weeks - somehow not severe enough for me to bring her to the vet, but somehow not quite right, either.  Clinically, she seemed to be doing ok - drinking her normal amount (which was always a fair bit), urine and stools normal to my eyes.  She was just slightly "off".

Around the end of September, I was at the end of my rope with the eating games.  She still would eat, but smaller portions, and I was using a rotation to keep her interested.  I noticed she was getting up earlier and earlier for a drink of water and/or potty.  So finally I made an appointment with my vet for a booster injection of DepoMedrol, an EI-1 panel, and regular bloodwork.

Nothing could have prepared me for how poor her bloodwork was.  Just two months ago, her blood chemistry looked great!  Now she was in kidney failure - BUN and creatinine were highly elevated, phosphorus, very high, and electrolytes out of balance.  Some liver enzyme elevations, too - but we were mostly concerned about the kidneys.  The CBC showed an infection, as well - very high white blood cells.  The EI-1 panel came back and her levels were awful - high estrogen, low cortisol, low T3 and T4, and low immunoglobulins.  I was hoping that the DepoMedrol injection would perk her up while we could get her infection under control.  We also did leptospirosis serology, which came back negative.

She had a week of IV fluid flush at our vet's - I would drop her off in the morning, and pick her up in the evening - to try and get her BUN down.  She had two different antibiotics (which I know did NOT help her appetite because they upset her stomach), as well as Denamarin for her liver.  Her appetite was extremely poor, and I tried to get her to eat absolutely anything she would (but tried to keep low phosphorous foods in mind).  We were also doing sub-cutaneous fluids at home, to try and keep her hydrated, and to help her body flush out the toxins.  I also joined the (incredibly wonderful, helpful, and knowledgable) K9 Kidneys Yahoo Group, who truly helped educate me, in a very short period of time, of everything I needed to do to help Reo's kidneys.

We had an ultrasound, which confirmed a kidney infection as well as mild pancreatitis (no doubt from letting her eat whatever she would eat over the past couple of weeks).  So now I had to find something low fat and low phosphorous that would entice her - not to mention all of her medication.  It was nearly impossible!  We had an absurd feeding and medication schedule, that occupied my whole day, essentially.  She was being fed every two hours, and many of her meds couldn't be given together and had to be spread out.  Reo HATED all of this, and started rebelling at all of the meds.  So, I began using a syringe to help feed her.  I would make organic baby rice cereal, and mix it with beef and veggie dinner baby food and syringe it small amounts at a time, mixed with some of her meds.  She would eat this way, but not on her own.  I even gave her "dessert" of baby food fruit, mixed with aluminum hydroxide powder to try and mitigate her phosphorous levels.  

There was no doubt we were scrambling, and very far behind, to try and help her.  I told her every day that I was paying attention to her, and she had to let me know if/when she was ready to stop fighting.  What I feel were contributing factors to Reo's decline:   
1) Reducing T4 dosage without running a re-check EI-1 panel a few months later to see her levels
2) Switching to prednisolone over Medrol without running a re-check EI-1 panel a few months later to see her levels
3) Anesthesia from her dental affecting her kidneys (could catheter insertion contributed to her kidney infection?)
4) Not running a re-check blood chemistry a month or so after her dental, which would have helped us pick up on the infection/kidney failure earlier
5) Some stressful travel events

Essentially, this was a "perfect storm" of events, that I feel all together contributed to her decline.  How could I have been so blind to not pay attention to all of this together?  She was just doing so well with everything until all of a sudden she was not.  *kicks self*

We were repeating blood chemistry and CBC many times to see where she was, and the disturbing thing was that the infection was not going away.  Some improvement in BUN and creatinine, but not enough to make her feel better.  There was slight improvement in white blood cells, but the infection was still strong, despite two different antibiotics (she was on oral, but we had also done injectables as well).  We were using Cerenia to help with her nausea and encourage her appetite.  I began to feel like we were fighting a losing battle.  

One morning, I had just syringed Reo's breakfast into her and had her all set up on the couch.  I went upstairs to get my coffee, and when I came back, she had thrown everything up everywhere and was just sitting in it, looking like she was in a daze.  It was at that precise moment that I knew it was her time.  I exploded into tears and lovingly cleaned her up.  The fire and spark in her was gone and she didn't want to fight any more.

We spent a day celebrating her - thanking her, loving her, cuddling her, kissing her.  We sang her song, 'Rio" by Duran Duran, and danced around with her.  We sat in the sun for hours, in the unseasonably warm October for Denver.  I fed her vanilla ice cream.  We cried rivers of tears.  We laughed at stories we shared of her antics.  I fed her more vanilla ice cream.  I made an appointment with one of my veterinary friends, who came to our house to help her earn her angel wings.  We sent her off with love, gratitude, and comfort.  All of our dogs were there with her, and she took her final, shuddering breath laying on my chest.  I can still feel the weight of her there, against my heart.

She was a once-in-a-lifetime dog, and a very special little girl.  She is profoundly missed by her family, including her "online extended family" of SARDS dogs and their owners.  I will continue SARDS education and group maintenance in her honor!  From my family to yours, thank you for your support.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Still processing...

01/22/15 - I can't believe it's been 3 months since Reo has passed.  It feels like a lifetime, and my heart is still grieving.

I have been mulling over my informative blog post to discuss the factors I feel lead to Reo's decline (spoiler alert - the anesthesia from the dental procedure she had in July, together with a few other factors).  But, I can't quite bring myself to write it yet.  I will not abandon you, dear readers!  I know many of you read this blog with interest, and have cared and loved Reo from afar.  I just need a little more time to gather my thoughts, and to grieve a bit more.  It is amazing how such a tiny dog has left such a large void in my family's lives - human and dog.

Thank you for your collective patience...bear with this grieving mamma.  :)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Reo is an angel now...

It's taken me weeks to write this post, and I do have more to say, looking back on the events that transpired over the past several weeks...but for now, just a tribute to her:

January 03, 2001 ~ October 21, 2014. Today, our beloved Reo earned her angel wings. Jagart's Thalo Vermilion Reo - sassy gal in the show ring, original squirrel patrol, loyal and loving companion all of her days, ghostface killah to her toys, most courageous dog I've ever met. She traveled with us to 28 states, making her more traveled than most Americans, I am sure! She overcame so many health obstacles in her life, never let her blindness stop her from her independence (or from bossing much bigger dogs around!), and in her last years was an inspiration to thousands of dogs and their owners around the world by raising awareness for SARDS (a legacy I will continue in her memory for the years to come). Full of fighting spirit her whole life, she was betrayed by her little old lady body in the end. Her kidneys just could not hold out while we tried to heal the infection and get her endocrine issues back on track.

Our home feels empty, we have holes in our hearts, and our Leigh is without her lifelong best friend. I miss her so much already - I cannot yet believe she's gone when I still feel her warmth on my chest. Thank you, sweet Reo, for teaching me to be a better person and dog owner. You gave our family so much joy and so many laughs over the years, not to mention valuable dog owner lessons. We are inspired by your strength and courage, and will keep your spirit alive in our hearts and in joyful memories for the rest of our days. I won't be able to sit in the afternoon sun without thinking of how much you loved it.

In the words of Duran Duran...which is forever "your" song...
"...You know you're something special and you look like you're the best...
Her name is Reo and she dances on the sand
Just like that river twisting through a dusty land
And when she shines she really shows you all she can
Oh Reo, Reo dance across the Rio Grande..."

Run free, sweet Reo! There are so many squirrels and chips waiting for you on the other side - maybe your sib Mikaela will help you hunt! Don't forget your loving family down here on earth - we'll be reunited again someday - but until then, we'll look for you to visit us in our dreams. All our love, always. Lynn, Sean, Leigh, Tula, and Capone. ♥ ♥ ♥

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Dental health!

07/06/14 - Reo had surgery last week!  Eeeek!  We had done everything we could to prevent her from undergoing anesthesia, due to her hormonal imbalances, age, and heart murmur.  But, she developed a pocket along her gumline that would accumulate food.  It bled like crazy when I tried to brush her teeth, and I know it was painful to her.  So, we made the decision to get her a thorough dental, to let her live out her days pain-free.

We are very fortunate to live in the city next door to VCA Alameda East - one of the best vet hospitals in the country.  Reo's surgery was detailed, and she had an anesthesiologist on hand to tailor her treatment plan, and monitor her surgery to make sure everything went well.  Fortunately for us, it did!  She did extremely well, considering the circumstances, and is nearly back to her normal self - what a relief!

I know that many of us struggle with our dogs' dental health, particularly those of us with little dogs.  Reo's oral surgery was done by a Diplomate in dentistry.  I told him we have tried just about every dental toothpaste, spray, gel, wipe, and food additive out there (even those prescribed by our general practice vet), but it didn't help or prevent Reo's periodontal disease.  I wanted to share a few things he told me, in hopes that it will help someone!

The first thing he told me is that there is NO substitute for brushing.  Our dogs' teeth really need the mechanical action to get plaque off teeth, so don't delude yourself that a miracle product is going to eliminate this need.

The second thing he said, is that there is only one brand of dental products on the market that is VOHC-approved (Veterinary Oral Health Council - didn't even know there was such a thing!).  That brand is Healthymouth:

He recommended the water additive, which I purchased (expensive!).  It is way too soon to tell if it is effective, but all of the dogs in my household are getting this product in their water, so we shall see if it helps.

Just wanted to share what I learned!  :)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Renal panel - in the clear!

04/08/14 - Last week, we repeated the renal panel for Reo.  It took longer than I had anticipated because she kept having set-backs for a variety of reasons.  The big set-back was that our younger rescue puppy went after Reo over a crumb on the floor (hello dog-dog resource guarding issues - I was not expecting you!!).  Reo was fine - he just scared her very badly and knocked her over on the floor, poor sweet girl.  The stress of the incident brought on a pretty bad flare and she was miserable - lots of diarrhea, depression, inappetance.  We are back on track now, but we were very worried about her for a few weeks.

The good news is, Reo's renal panel looks great!  All the electrolytes have normalized, which makes me think that the initial changes we saw were a result of post-seizure activity, and not true kidney disease and/or her adrenal exhaustion/Atypical Addison's condition moving toward "true" Addison's.  The only thing slightly elevated was BUN, and we are not worried about that at this time.  Yay!  Very relieved that we don't have to make any other changes right now.

Reo seems quite stable for the moment.  :)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Prednisolone vs. Medrol

03/24/14 - Today I started Reo on PediaPred (5 mg/5ml) prednisolone sodium phosphate, instead of Medrol.  The reason?  I could only get 4 mg Medrol tablets, and was cutting them into fourths for Reo's daily dose.  When she needs to get a little more (and hopefully in the future, a little less), it is hard to add more or less to her dose by using the tablets.  The liquid gives us more flexibility to titrate her dose down in the future, and increase during times of stress.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Definite improvement

03/03/14 - Well, Reo is doing just wonderfully at present!  There have been no more seizures, thankfully.

After only a couple of days on the reduced thyroid dosage, she was perkier, seemed happier and more active.  That trend is continuing, so I am very happy.  We will repeat her bloodwork in a couple of weeks and see how she is doing, but I am optimistic!

With respect to diet, I reduced her Stella & Chewy's portion, and have replaced that with ZiwiPeak tripe recipe canned food.  I rotate the canned food with sardines or canned salmon, just to give her some variety.  Will see how her kidney panel looks soon and see if she is improving.  I would like to get her to gain at least 8 ounces if possible, my skinny girl!