It started nearly three years ago…
Charles and I had just moved to a new city in a new state, our first big move together. He was 3.75 years old, and I, a 26-year-old human onto a new university to earn my Ph.D. Charles is a very good boy and always has been. He is not known for getting into garbage cans (which can admittedly be a difficult feat for a short dog), or even stealing food of of plates or other surfaces.
However, several months after moving, I went home during lunch for a reason I don’t remember, to find Charles acting very strange. It soon became apparent to me that he had gotten into the garbage and eaten the foil wrapper to the burrito I had for dinner the night before.
Being new to the Ames, I had yet to establish a veterinarian for my lil’ buddy. So I called my mother first to see if she thought I would be okay to call the vet from my hometown. I proceeded to call Dr. F and he suggested I give Charles some hydrogen peroxide in an attempt to encourage vomiting of the foil. He wasn’t a fan of the H2O2 (who would be?), but I administered the suggested amount and waited. We went on a little walk so he would hopefully throw-up outside. He did. There was some foil, but not much. This made me worry more.
I had to go back to work and finish the tasks I needed to get done for the day, so I did so with haste only to come back home and find he was deteriorating more. I was able to get him into a local vet that was not too far from my home. This doctor thought that he had simply tweaked his back and prescribed me some anti-inflammatory medication and suggested crate-rest. We went home to do that.
The next day, he seemed to get worse, and I woke up to find him chewing on my cell phone. It was beyond repair. I went home to check on him a couple of times throughout the day and I continued to observe Charles’ neurological state deteriorating. He was walking into corners and “head-pressing” on the wall. I made the decision to take him to the Iowa State University Emergency Vet, but had to have my mom make the phone call for me since I was phone-less. There, the suspected aluminum toxicity, and perhaps something more.
They were convinced that he needed to be evaluated by the neurology service, which I agreed to. They wanted to test him for ingestion of cannabis (which he had no access to as I don’t have any). Eventually, after a couple of days, they landed on the concept of him having a portosystemic shunt, which is a shunt that diverts blood from the vein that moves blood from the large intestine to the liver and instead directly to the vena cava, and thus to the rest of the body.
A couple of months later, we had an ultrasound done to determine the presence of a portosystemic shunt. We had our answer, and it was yes. Now the question was whether or not he had one shunt or multiple, small, acquired shunts.
You see, one shunt is fixable, but multiple, acquired shunts are not. We scheduled surgery for a few weeks later, prior to which they would do a CT scan to get a better look and see if they could distinguish single or multiple shunts. They thought they saw one shunt, so the proceeded with surgery. However, what they found was completely unexpected. The doctors found multiple, small, acquire shunts and that his liver was completely abnormal. Charle was in liver failure. On top of that, they nearly lost Charles in surgery when his blood pressure dropped. He made it through though. Let’s give that to the fighting corgi sprit he has. We were far from in the clear though. The next few days were touch-and-go, but eventually my little buddy got to come home.
He was on many medications including an antibiotic called Baytril since the biopsies the cultured from his liver grew out some bacteria. Charles was definitely mad at me when we got home, but I slept on the floor with him two nights in a row and he eventually forgave me and got back to his normal goofy self.
Things were great for a couple of months until he started to develop some sores/ulcerations on his right front paw. The severity of the ulcerations increased with time, and the doctors at his liver checkup consulted with the dermatologists. Everyone was baffled. They decided to do a biopsy on his paw. Unfortunately, through various tests for suspected pathogens, there was no underlying cause determined.
They placed him on several different medications: Atopica, Pentoxyfiline, and Prednisone, in an attempt to manage the sores on his paws. Throughout the next one-and-a-half years, and with varying doses of prednisone, it seemed like we were managing it somewhat reasonably as he would have a few months here and there that he could be cone-free. However, the doctors and I know that it is not great for a dog, especially one in liver failure, to be on prednisone long-term. So we decreased the prednisone.
The pads of Charles’ paw never seemed quite right after the last time we decreased the prednisone. They tissue was scaley, thick, dry, cracked, and just weird. The poor guy was stuck in a cone since October of 2017 (though he didn’t let that slow him down!). It made me feel so bad though because we never could get a good handle on what was going on or how to treat his paw.
We finally officially saw the dermatology service a little over a month ago to talk about his paw, because it had gotten particularly bad in July. They prescribed him some antibiotics after seeing some bacteria on a smear from his paw and decreased his prednisone dose further. After a couple weeks we went back for a re-check and then they saw yeasts on his paw, so we were doing anti-bacterial anti-fungal soap soaks for his paw. After the next recheck, they decided to change the antibiotic he was on as well as to splint his leg in hopes that by taking pressure off of his paw, his pads would have the opportunity to properly heal up. However, just four days after the splint was put on Charles was no longer putting any weight on that leg and it was starting to get a little smelly.
The next day, the odor was much stronger and he was visibly lethargic. It was a Sunday, so I called the emergency vet to see if I should take the splint off myself or bring him into the hospital. The doctors said to bring him in so that they could better assess what was going on.
When the unwrapped Charles’ splint, what they saw was very upsetting. The wounds were much worse and whatever infection he had seemed to be spreading. The likely course of action would be amputation, but they waited to decide until Monday when the could gather the brains of the dermatology, internal medicine, anesthesiology, and soft tissue surgery departments. In the meantime, Charles needed to stay in ICU for treatment.
Sure enough, I got the call on Monday that they recommended going forward with amputation. I went to spend some time with him on Monday evening, because I knew surgery was a scary thing (especially for a dog with liver issues). The doctors told me that his clotting times were lower than they would want, so they did a plasma transfusion early in the morning before his surgery. I was an anxious wreck all of Tuesday until I received the call that he made it through surgery wonderfully. I was hoping to get to see him on Tuesday evening, but they told me to wait as he was still very sleepy from the anesthesia. So then I was hoping for a Wednesday morning visit; however, the student working on his case told me that Charles was very anxious and over-stimulated, side effects from the pain drugs he was on, and a visit was not advisable. So again, I waited.
When I finally got the call that I could visit him Wednesday evening, I was elated. They told me on the phone that Charles was bouncing around, had gone potty on his own, and was quite spry. I couldn’t wait to see him. He bounced into the room were I was waiting to see him and came right up to me and gave me kisses! He wasn’t mad at me at all. It was obvious that he was feeling so much better!
The doctor told me that the sent his leg off to pathology in hopes to get to the bottom of what caused all of this to see if we need to do anything to prevent such an ordeal again. She also told me that Charles is clearly milking everything he can out of the situation including being stubborn and refusing to walk for the option of being carried instead, and making it difficult for them to change his bandages. Sounds like Charles is already back to his old antics.
Now, I am so happy and excited that he is coming home this afternoon. It will be quite the adjustment and any and all advice you have for us is welcome. Thank you for listening to our story!