Monday, October 12, 2015

The Most Expensive Dog Ever

Lily at 10 weeks.
When we got Lily, we were well aware of the health issues that plague her breed. We had NO idea that weird things would happen to her.

When I say she is the most expensive dog ever, I'm not talking over her lifetime. I cannot bring myself to add up what we have spent on her over the course of her 8 years blessing our lives. We don't have to go that far back to get to the bulk of the money. My husband jokingly refers to her as The Money Pit. It's really not much of a joke.

$30,000 in the last two and a half years.

What could possibly cost that much?

Where do I even begin?

Pitties are known for their allergies. Her coloring is known to have them times a thousand. The allergies are so severe that she gets staph infections. Chronically. That are now antibiotic resistant. But that's not even where most of the money went, believe it or not.

It started one blustery Wednesday. The day before Thanksgiving. Being a Mom, I hear when she moves. If she's up, I'm up. (This comes from her IBD, which used to plague her seemingly out of nowhere in the middle of the night, most of the time when I needed to be somewhere early. And she would go all night long. Poor thing. Her, not me. Sleep deprivation is something you get used to with kids and ill dogs.) She got up and I heard the tap, tap, tap of her feet on our hardwood floors. I beat her to the front door. Where she proceeded to shake her head so hard that she flipped herself sideways. She's done this before and it can be quite comical.

On this morning, it was not.

The side of her head smacked so hard on the kitchen floor that I felt it in MY teeth. When she got up, she was walking wonky. I watched her in the yard and her balance seemed off. I called out to my husband, "Something's wrong with Lily." He scooped her up and off to the Emergency Vet we went.

They ran preliminary neurological assessment and tests with no results to indicate it was neuro. They sent us home to follow-up with our own vet when they opened in an hour. But not before trying to argue with me that she had a seizure. (She did NOT have a seizure. I've had dogs with epilepsy. She never lost consciousness. It was a matter of seconds. But don't listen to the dog owner.) They suggested it was her heart. Did I forget to mention she has a heart murmur? Of course she does! She's Lily!

Our vet gave us grave news. After again insisting she'd had a seizure, she wanted to do a chest x-ray. When it came back, she saw a mass in the chest cavity. And sent us home to sob. Okay, my husband didn't cry. I did enough of that for both of us. The next morning, two other vets saw nothing but a heart on the x-ray. So off to the neurologist we went!

Tests to make sure her heart could withstand sedation, then sedation for an MRI and a spinal tap. Rule out brain tumors, check for infection. Chronic ear infections can lead to loss of balance. They found nothing. The diagnosis: Bells Palsy. In a dog. Which is all kinds of rare. So, naturally Lily had it.

Tilty Dog.
It took months for her head to stop looking like she was always questioning.

It took months for her to regain her balance. You can still see a slight droop. Unless it's frigid out - then it all comes back and she has trouble with her coordination and part of her face paralyzes.

Poor picture quality but you can see that one side is not like the other.

Next, we had to do an echocardiogram to check on her heart. She has a mitrovalve issue, but is otherwise heart healthy. Two walks a day help that. Agility during those walks help as well.

Then came the Pancreatitis. If you have never experienced this with your dog, count your blessings. It is not fun in any way for your pet and it worries you almost to death (or maybe that's just me).

She looks like she's had a night on the town.
In reality, it's the combo of nausea meds and pain killers.

She had recovered from that when I noticed an odd bump on her back. Remember the chronic skin infections? That's what it looked like at first. But it wasn't healing. And it was growing. It ended up about the size of a ping pong ball. So we biopsied it. The good news: it was not the mast cell cancer they suspected. The weird news: it was a rare cancer in a location it NEVER occurs. Because Lily.

They removed the cancer and felt very confident that it was all gone. Knock on wood, we're almost a year out from that and it hasn't come back yet. I stress yet because this is Lily. And weird things happen to her.

Lily and her friend, fellow cancer survivor, Atlas.
Atlas also had a rare form of cancer.

This dog eats the best dog food (Stella & Chewy's raw patties, Honest Kitchen). Her treats are high quality. Her cookies are grain free. We spend around $600 feeding her every month. She's got RX Biotics and Enteric Support. She's got antihistamines and steroids. Only now, we can't do the steroids because her liver is enlarged so she just started on Atopica and we're hoping it doesn't bring the cancer back (because it's counter indicative). The only antibiotic that semi works is over $200 for each course. It all adds up.

Through it all, she never loses her gentle, loving nature. She races around the vets office, excited to see everyone even when they poke her with needles. It's hard not to get mad - not at Lily, but at the universe. Here is this good dog. This sweet natured, loving, goofball who lives for her pumpkin beef cookies and her walls and camping in Oregon and her Uncle Drew and her favorite cat Pip has been through SO MUCH. It never seems to end. And you get to the point where you just want HER to have a break. You're fine with having to get an extra job and work extra hours because that medical fund has to be built up since you never know what's coming next because Lily.

Because Lily.

Typical Lily

She's worth every penny of that $30,000. She's worth another $30,000. But for her sake, it would be nice for her to get a break. Even a small one.

What about you - does your dog suffer from any health issues?

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