When we adopt dogs, we gain furry friends who entertain us, we experience their unconditional love, and we avoid thinking about the inevitable.
Several years ago, after losing two young dogs, in rapid succession, to cancer, we adopted two-year-old Cairn terrier sisters, Nutmeg and Nora. Their owner had died, and they had been housed at a kennel for two months before they were put up for adoption. The most remarkable aspect of their story is that they might have never made it to our home, if it hadn’t been for a veterinarian who refused to euthanize healthy, two-year-old dogs.
Nutmeg and Nora were given a second chance at life, and we looked forward to at least 10 years with them, based on the Cairn terrier life expectancy. I took their youth for granted and thought that since we already had bad luck with two pets, lighting wouldn’t strike a third time, that is, until Nora started developing troubling symptoms in March of 2015 at the age of six.
Nora Gets Sick
Nora’s belly grew large, and she started having accidents in the house. She was constantly hungry and thirsty, too. My mind immediately imagined a large tumor in her abdomen, as our black-lab mix, Happy, had developed several years ago. I didn’t even want to take her to the vet, because I was afraid of the diagnosis.
My daughter let me know how foolish I was to avoid the vet and talked me into making an appointment. It turned out that Nora had a urinary tract infection, and the vet thought perhaps that could explain her big belly, too. So, we left with a two-week supply of antibiotics and a follow-up appointment.
Two weeks later, Nora’s UTI was gone, but she was still drinking a lot and having accidents. In addition, her urine was too diluted, according to the vet. Her belly was still bloated, too. So, I asked for an X-ray. The results showed bladder stones and no massive tumor. I was joyous until the vet said the bladder stones didn’t explain her other symptoms. She was concerned that Nora might have Cushing’s disease. Nora was put on special food and would continue the antibiotics until the stones dissolved.
I was also instructed to collect a urine sample from her first thing in the morning for a test that could rule out Cushing’s. Unfortunately, the lab work didn’t rule out the disease, so the next step was an eight-hour blood test, which could tell us for sure if she had Cushing’s, and if it was pituitary dependent or adrenal dependent. The pituitary kind occurs 85% of the time, and it is much more treatable than the adrenal.
As we waited several days for the results, Nora got weaker. On our walks, along with stopping at every yard to pee, she would halt in the middle of the road to rest. So, I wasn’t surprised when the vet told me she did, indeed, have Cushing’s, and I was relieved when he said it was the 85% variety. The vet said that with a drug called Vetoryl, she could live for several years, but she will need to have regular blood work and medication adjustments for the rest of her life.
I’m no medical professional, but what I have learned about Cushing’s disease is this: There’s most likely a small tumor on Nora’s pituitary gland and because of it, her body is producing too much cortisol, which causes her thirst, hunger, fatigue, abdominal swelling, muscle weakness, thin skin, and fur loss.
Nora started on the Vetoryl three days ago and seems to be tolerating it pretty well, with none of the side effects we were looking for. Improvement is usually noticed within two weeks, but she already seems better. She has been able to keep up with Nutmeg on our walks for the past two days. She still moves pretty slowly in the evenings, but she has the pain reliever, Rimadyl, and that’s helping. She’s still extremely thirsty, but her appetite seems to have lessened a bit.
I should mention that there are several people from Nutmeg and Nora’s pre-rescue life, who love them and have followed their story on my blog, so I will keep posting on Nora’s progress. I hope to have good reports in the coming weeks.
I’m taking a philosophical approach to Nora’s situation, and I realize that pets have shorter lifespans than we do. It won’t do any good to mope about that. It won’t do any good to complain that our last two pets didn’t live their expected life spans, and Nora might not either. We will just continue to love and care for both of our pups, appreciating every day that we have with them.
Ann Silverthorn writes about a wide variety of topics in numerous genres, including non-fiction, fiction, poetry, travel, and grant writing. She’s currently on a seven-things kick and presents seven-point content about a variety of topics. These seven points are easy to remember and share with your friends when the conversation wanes.