Note: The author has had no veterinary or medical training. She has documented her dog's process. Be sure to check with your veterinarian before acting on any information you see here.
Amie has two major health problems which have made diagnosis of each difficult.
CALCIUM OXALATE KIDNEY STONES
Crystals were found in her urine in May '92. She has been on several prescription and homemade diets to try to correct this. These foods fix the urine problem but seem to make her allergies worse. In August '95 we began adding a urine acidifier to her food. It was difficult to control her urine pH and the symptoms associated with the urine problem. In August '96 she was treated with antibiotics for a urinary infection that didn't go away. The next month she was x-rayed and a kidney stone was found. More tests were performed at Michigan State University Vet School and ultra sound confirmed the presence of the stone. Her x-rays and medical records were sent to Dr. Larry Adams at Purdue University Vet School. Ultrasound shock wavetherapy (lithotripsy) was performed at a human hospital in Indianapolis in December 1996 and January 1997. It was found that instead of an acidifier she needs to keep her urine pH higher. Since then we have been working to develop a non-allergenic, non-stone-forming diet. As of November '99 her blood and urine chemistry seemed fine.ALLERGIES
Amie has been diagnosed with allergic dermatitis. She has had open sores on her body and she has chewed off the hair on her back, tail and feet. She was in pretty bad shape for a while. We tried many things to ease her symptoms and to discover the source. We did a lot of work to purify her environment. We have tried many Elimination Diet experiments and are fairly certain her problems are mostly diet related. She improved dramatically when she began eating a combination of food that worked for her. She has been on a homemade diet (under the guidance of the Hills dog food company and others). She has been periodically dosed with a tiny amount of steroids when needed, but has had Prednisone every other day for at least 2 years now. In March, 1997 we began to pursue getting her customized diet analyzed. Her food was tested by Woodson-Tenet Labs. A number of dog nutritionists have been consulted and we round out her diet with more nutrients.
From day one they were the cutest pair.
Both were diminutive. Mom was an Ambassador at our resort town's visitor
information booth in Saugatuck, Michigan, and Amie went, too, delighting
visitors. Amie and Mom would prance down the street and were a familiar
sight around town.When Mom would leave her alone, Amie sat on the back
of the couch looking out the window, patiently waiting for Grinny to return.
Then when she saw Mom's car pull up she would race to the back door with
her tiny tail wagging so fast it was a blur.
Amie arrived paper-trained and Mom cautioned me to only put down newspapers without colors because Amie doesn't like them. I fumed a little because of the continuous stream of ways I had to change my behavior because of what Amie liked or didn't like. But Mom was right. Amie doesn't like colored newspapers. And I read that there are enough toxic chemicals in the colors to make a pet sick.
At one year of age Amie was mostly untrained. She didn't come when called, sit, stay, or obey in any way. One day neither of us could find her and Mom called, "Amie, where are you?". I said, "You really have gone off the deep end if you think that dog, who doesn't yet even know her name, will come." Mom was triumphant and smug when Amie came bouncing right up to us with an expectant look on her face as if to say, "You rang?". I ate crow.
I was concerned when Mom would be gone a long time during the day. I said, "What does she do all day? She'll get lonely." Mom said Amie played with the ball herself. It is true. Amie drops the ball, kicks it and then chases after it. We have a circular floor plan and while there was wall-to-wall carpet she would get excited and make loops around the house at a high speed. She would do this just for the fun of it.
I have had it in mind to make a "Busy Board" or playground for dogs - things they can entertain themselves with. It would have a paw-activated treadmill, a sandbox for digging, a ball attached to a rope on a pole, paw-activated owner messages - "Good doggie! Amie, dig in your sandbox. Play ball, Amie", etc. I digress. Chase is one of her favorite games. So is hide and go seek. When we're stuck we can call, "Amie, where are you?".
Amie learned to walk on a leash, and oh, does she prance! People can't help but smile at her. I wish they would refrain from feeding or petting her. Because of her small size children think Amie would love to be treated like a live doll. She doesn't like to be approached by strangers. She's afraid of their size and children are so rough with her. Occasionally children will ask if they can pet her. I say, "Thanks for asking, but she doesn't feel good." It's amazing how many parents get annoyed because I refused their darling. I say, "Oh, I guess you wouldn't mind if she bit your kid." She probably wouldn't bite, but she might snarl and snap. Tort.
The last time I saw my Mom she was holding Amie and having her face licked all over to Grinny's joyous delight. Mom died in the summer of '90 when Amie was one year old. My husband, Jeff, and I moved into Mom's house and adopted Amie.
When we took over after Mom died, Amie did not warm to the new regime. First, she missed Mom like crazy. For years after Mom died, she looked out the window, waiting for Grinny to come home. Mom couldn't see well and she wasn't as quick as a person needs to be to housetrain a pet. Although Amie was paper-trained by the time Mom got her, Amie took advantage of Mom. We discovered that she urinated where she wished when she could get away with it. She barked at anything as small as a falling leaf and was generally driving us crazy. Never having trained a dog before, Jeff and I made all the mistakes. (See Training Amie)
She sleeps a lot, but I'm told that's what dogs do.
She likes to play ball. After demolishing a nerf, rubber balls, baseballs and other spherical forms we found that a racquet ball (washed in the dishwasher to get rid of the smell) works very well. She has never pierced one or otherwise ruined it - and you get 3 in a package! She likes to catch it in her mouth.
Her favorite thing is to romp on the sand at the beach. She chases the waves, sometimes barking at them if they catch her unexpectedly.
Once Jeff and I were playing miniature golf at a practically deserted campground. Because Amie generally stays very close when off the leash, I said, "Let's let her off the leash. What trouble could she get into out here?" Seconds later she was in the little pond chasing water fowl. We scooped her up before she did anything more than terrorize them and took her back to dry heroff. She likes to chase.
She's never really adjusted to other dogs. Once I invited a male dachshund to play with her and she hid under the bed. When she meets other dogs on the beach she runs to my arms or, if cornered, she'll bark defiantly, even at the biggest ones.
We heard that some dogs like dog dolls and will play with them like a doll. We got her a tiny stuffed poodle. We held it and said how good it feels and put it in her bed. She did not want that thing near her. Even though she hasn't warmed to the dogs I've introduced her to, I wonder if she'd enjoy a puppy smaller than she is. I'd like to get another dog for her to play with but one sick dog is more than I can deal with right now and probably more than she can handle. I would like to get another so I won't be so bereft when Amie goes to Grinny.
Other things Amie likes
Forward to: Amie's PhotosNote: The author has had no veterinary or medical training. She has merely documented her experience with her dog's health problems. Be sure to check with your veterinarian before acting on any information you see here.
Update: November 3, 2000
This is my last posting. Amie died yesterday. I'm filled with grief and relief at the same time.
On Tuesday she had a seizure. On Wednesday she was increasingly growly. Thursday she refused to be picked up - hurting. Wasn't urinating much. Although there were several things we could have tried (more tests, etc) we just knew it was time to let her go. For more info on our decision to euthanize, our experience and final comments go to Final Days.
Update: October 25, 2000
Amie's been on a slow and steady decline. Last May she started dragging one of her back legs. We presumed it was from arthritis which appeared on one of her x-rays. Last month she started falling. Claudia (our vet) said she had been reading about hypertenstion and kidney disease. She thought Amie's rear legs might be due to thromboembolism. Claudia bent Amie's foot under her and Amie didn't try to move her foot back. The vet said her kidneys are swollen and pressing a nerve in her back. So we did the usual treatments - steroids and antibiotics - to no avail.
Recently someone found Amie's page and sent me info on a diet that cured her doberman's "wobblies". I sent for the supplements but it was obvious that it wasn't going to work for her. I didn't trust the very high ratio of meat to vegetables for her stone problem and the person who sells this on the web obviously thinks all stones are alike.
Amie had her first acupuncture consultation with a new vet. Funny thing is, she knows she can't walk well but she doesn't think she's sick. She's loving and peppy in a geriatric sort of way. Her first treatment is Monday and it's possible we will see results within 2 days. He recommended MSM, which we had been giving her. He said MSM is good for arthritis in the back, non lubricated joints. Chondroitin would be best for lubricated joints.
Amie's back was almost bald when I started giving her a cap of Dream Coat, a mix a oils, and her hair is coming back as a soft fuzz. She's not itching, but we know we haven't solved the allergy problem.
Update: November 16, 1999
Haven't had much to say. Amie had her 10th birthday in June and I can't help but notice her gray hair and slow gait. But she's hanging in there. After her last tests Amie was put on a more potent antibiotic (Augmentin) which she will take for the rest of her life. She's eating well. She doesn't drink at all but I add homemade turkey broth and vegetables to each meal.
Here's a story I find hard to believe. Just a few years ago Amie barked at leaves falling from the trees and was highly excitable. In September we had a possum in the house and it was close enough to Amie to give her fleas, but she never made a peep! So we've been battling fleas (baths and diatomaceous earth). Because of the Pred she doesn't even scratch.
Apparently this site has finally made the search engines (I registered almost 2 years ago!). Been getting alot of emails, especially from Yorkie owners. Check out "What They're saying" to see how others have been dealing with similar problems. I've been converting computers and I know I am way behind on maintaining this site, especially the links. I hope to get to it soon. Thanks for all the wonderful feedback. It's great to know I'm not alone in this search process.
Update: June 7, 1999
Amie has another e. coli infection (Baytril). She's doing pretty well and we're still very much enjoying her company.
Claudia and I did win the Allegan County Red Cross Every Day Hero Award! There were several very worthy nominees and we were thrilled to be selected. The event included corsages, dinner and rock 'n' rock dance. We received a framed certificate and a trophy. We had a wonderful time. See photos for pix of the event.
Update: May 14, 1999
Amie pulled through her last bout of infections, but the bounce has gone out of her step. Her hair is turning gray, she collects goop in her eyes more often, she won't play ball, jump from the couch or go up stairs. Last fall she seemed to lack the energy to lift her head off her pillow and would have pulsing cramping of her lower body. Then the same day she'd be wagging her tail and feeling fine. We thought that she might not live through the winter, but again, she stabilized. From January on, I don't think she had a day I could say was a bad one.
She was due for blood and urine tests for kidney functioning and heartworm test. Since she's been on heartworm meds continuously I wondered if we could skip it. I also wondered why we should put her through another blood test (she REALLY hates going to the vet). Claudia said that the kidney tests would tell us if she has an infection or if medication is needed. She tried to draw enough blood for the heartworm test and said, "She can't have heartworms [an indoor dog] and if she does, she wouldn't survive the treatment."
Meanwhile, I got a call from the county Red Cross saying Claudia and I had been nominated for an "Everyday Hero" award in the category of Animal Rescue! I am quick to criticize the overuse of the word "hero". Sports figures are not heroes. My husband's actions in Vietnam were heroic - making a web page is not. When I expressed my discomfort to Claudia, she said in essence - lighten up, it's an excuse for a fundraiser, let's go to the banquet and have some fun.
Update: September 11, 1998
Amie had blood and urine tests right after Labor Day. Good news, Amie's e.coli infection is gone, but she has strep and pseudomonis infections, high reading of creatine, and urate stones. Vet Claudia Lewis speaks in hushed tones so I know this is even more serious than before. So why is Amie so perky? Her allergies seem to have abated and she weighs almost 2 pounds more than before her lithotripsy. She's eating like a pig and often drinking her turkey broth. Nevertheless Jeff and I have had to consider her next round of treatments and the "final solution".
Update: August 4, 1998
Tests were worse than we expected - kidney infection. She was put on amoxicillin immediately and the Pred was stopped. Then we found out it is an e.coli infection!! How does that happen?? I was panicked because I found that the strain 0157 can be fatal. There is no sub-typing for animals. Vet Claudia Lewis thought her symptoms would be much worse if it was 0157. Still, it's pretty serious to have a kidney infection.
When e.coli was determined, she was switched to Baytril (1/2 tab twice a day). After two weeks, Amie wasn't improved. On top of not having the energy to lift her head from her pillow, she is suffering from the allergies everyone is experiencing. So there are big clumps of fur on the floor and she has lost hair on her tail, back and around her eyes. We were told not to give her any medication for her allergies because of the Baytril.
Amie celebrated her 9th birthday by going to the Farmers' Market and watching us eat cake. Her dose was increased July 8 to 1/2 tab 3 times a day and we started to see a change. By the second week of July she was almost like her old self. She was on Baytril for 6 weeks and has completed the course of medicine. She will even play ball now and then. She is affectionate and mostly urinates on her papers. We will retest her in a month and monthly until she has 2 or 3 clear results, then every 6 months.
Update: March 31, 1998
Amie had severe digestive upset on one medication to keep her from forming kidney stones. We tried another, which she is allergic to. Unfortunately the freezing weather broke just as we took her off that medicine and she has been reacting to the exceptionally high mold count (as many of us have). She's scratching, smelling and doesn't have good control of her bladder. She's playful and happy, though. We have about exhausted our sources of info for her diet and are still trying to get a multi-vitamin that doesn't have vitamin C or ingredients she will react to. Sometimes we get discouraged but she runs to greet us, wagging her tail and she kisses our face with joy. We're grateful for every day she is happy.
Update: February 28, 1998
Amie seems okay, although she sleeps a lot. Each day I track the number of her urinations, morning urine pH, food intake, behavior. Lately she's been missing her papers at least once a day and urinating in the middle of the night. She isn't eating well and often becomes growly. It looks like its time to schedule some tests again.
We received some new dietary suggestions but have been unable to get the recommended vitamin and mineral supplements. Amie has been on this restricted diet since July of 1996. Are her problems due to lack of nutrients?
Update: January 12, 1998
Amie didn't feel real well for a long time. She has perky, playful moments, but for so long she was so uncomfortable with her scratching. And for so long she had urinary problems. I once had a kidney infection. Yow! It hurt and I felt awful. Amie hasn't once winced from touch but she sometimes is unable to jump on or off the couch. And she seems embarrassed urinating in the wrong places. Since her kidney stone treatment she uses her papers about 7 out of 8 times. Since her last lithotripsy in January 1997, she has had one urinary infection and as of January '98 she's doing pretty well. She has a full coat of fur and only occasionally chews herself. There is definitely room for improvement. Her latest tests (October '97) showed that her kidney functioning is holding and she's otherwise in pretty good shape. We're still tinkering with her custom recipe and trying to find food and nutritional supplements to round out her diet.