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Old December 27th, 2013, 02:52 PM
Chris7 Chris7 is offline
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pancreatitis in older dog, any tips / suggestions

I am very much new to this, but would appreciate anyone’s help or advice during this difficult time. My 12-year-old shepherd mix has been in the vet hospital coming on 48hrs. for pancreatitis.

On Monday (12/23) at 6:30 am she threw up bile and undigested food – had all the normal symptoms of pancreatitis; did not want to move, would not eat, would not drink water and looked to be in pain. I was at the vets office by noon and she was given a pain shot, anti-nausea shot, a fluid pack to be given under the skin at home (200 CC once a day) and Tramadol for pain (100mg twice a day). She came home and slept on her bed and looked to be looking a little better, but at 2 AM she attempted to get up and took maybe 6 steps and collapsed in front of the kitchen. By Christmas day (Wed. 12/25) she had not moved from the spot in front of the fridge and was still not showing any interest in food, on Tuesday 12/24 she had started drinking bits of water that I would give her with pedialyte and did not throw any of it up.

At 5:30 pm on Christmas night I rushed her to the Vet Emergency room to be treated since I saw no improvement. Once there she was put on an IV and pain meds. Her blood pressure was normal; she had fluid in her abdomen, which they tapped to make sure it wasn’t blood (which it wasn’t), and told that she seemed to have an irregular heartbeat. She was left at the hospital to recover. Blood work was ordered that showed high levels of enzymes in her pancreas (don’t know the exact number). X-rays were done, which showed an enlarged liver. She was put on an EKG to monitor her heart. Was told that she ate some food once she was left there, but then refused to eat food again.

When I visited her at 2pm yesterday (Thur. 12/26) she didn’t even acknowledge that I was there and would not lift her head. She had been taken out but was not able to walk or stand on her own. She seemed to have no change in her condition, other than the fact that she was extremely scared of her surroundings. I came back at 6:30 with the rest of my family and she was brought to a visiting room on a cart. She seemed more alert then and lifted her head and started crying when she saw all of us. She even turned on her side when we were petting her. I asked for food in an attempt to get her to eat – which she did eat half of.

We discussed our options with the Vet – (1) Perform an ultrasound to see if there is a mass around her liver or pancreas, which they would then take a sample of to test for cancer. Or (2) Put her down (Which he said wouldn’t be wrong given her age and future quality of life) . After much thought we decided to give her another day and perform an ultra-sound, which would put us very close to spending a little over $4,000 up to this point(these emergency vet hospitals sure are expensive).

I called this morning (Fri. 12/27) for an update – another Vet was handling her case today (these hospitals seem to change vets on a daily basis). She said that she was still extremely lethargic, would not move/ could not walk without assistance, and was again not eating anything. The only good news is that she had not thrown up the food she ate last night. She would be continued on IV and pain meds. Her ultrasound would not be able to be performed until this afternoon, afterwards they would probably insert a nasal feeding tube. They will be calling me after the ultrasound to explain their findings.

At this point I am extremely unsure of how to proceed after the Ultra-sound. If there is a mass and it is cancerous than I don’t think I should put her through the pain of treatment – but even so I won’t know this for a couple of days since they have to send the samples out for testing. She is 12, going on 13, and I don’t think it would be fair to expect her to go through all of that. But, what if it just shows that it is a really bad case of Pancreatitis? When do I know enough is enough? Money is certainly an issue, I don’t know how much longer I can afford to keep her at the hospital given they charge close to 1,000 a day with all the meds and tests they run on her. Also, she hates it in there – she has always been a scared dog and I stay up at night imagining how bad she must feel to be in a foreign place and to have all of these procedures done on her – she looks terrified. Any suggestions or thoughts from people who have gone through this? Am I just trying to hold on to my Blanca, even though it’s her time?

I forgot to mention that she did have a previous pancreatitis attack a little under a year ago. She had all of the same symptoms and it looked really bad then (although I don’t know if that’s just because it was the first time we experienced it). On her first attack she wasn’t hospitalized – we just gave her fluids under the skin at home and pain medication from regular vet. She wouldn’t eat or drink for three days – but on the fourth she started eating bits of rice and we slowly got her back to normal. Since then we have been extremely on top of not giving her human food – other than rice, lean boiled chicken mixed in with her regular grain food. She’s also been on 10mg of Prednisone for severe allergies every Monday, Wed, and Fri for a while.

Any suggestions? Thoughts? Sorry for the super long thread….
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Old December 27th, 2013, 03:37 PM
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So sorry you are going through this Chris.

Welcome to the forum - i wish it was under better circumstances. There was an issue with this post showing up, but now that it has I hope other members have input for you.
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Old December 27th, 2013, 03:44 PM
Chris7 Chris7 is offline
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Thanks Marko. Hoping someone has some useful insight before I have to make another decision.
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Old December 27th, 2013, 06:34 PM
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So sorry you're going through this. It's never an easy decision. My best advice is to take the information the vets give you, keep Blanca's best interests in mind and make the best decision you can. You can only do your best--and as long as your decision is made out of love for your girl, it will be the right decision.

The hardest part of pet ownership is knowing when it's time to let them go. It never feels right and I always have to fight the urge to second-guess myself after the fact. But because we live in an imperfect world, we can never know when the perfect time is. Best we can do is make an educated guess...

How long will it be before you get the results of the ultrasound? With luck, you'll have a better idea of what's going on after you get the results. Might make it a bit easier to make a decision. If more tests are suggested, look at them carefully to see what the results might tell you. If the results won't change the outcome or the treatment (or lack thereof), the test is probably just an unnecessary expense. If you can't afford it, you can't afford it, plain and simple. No guilt.

Regardless of how this turns out, please post back and let us know how it goes. Most of us have been where you are at one time or another and have an inkling of what you're going through. Hang in there and remember to breathe!
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Old December 27th, 2013, 06:45 PM
Chris7 Chris7 is offline
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I will be getting the results from the Ultra Sound most likely in the next hour or so. If the results show other major complications than I surely don't want her to suffer anymore. However, if they just support a bad case of pancreatitis then I feel really unsure of how to proceed. I would need to figure out if I give her more time to maybe get better, and if so how much time. It really feels like a horrible place to be at. Thanks for your advice it's greatly appreciated.
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Old December 28th, 2013, 11:09 AM
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I know how tough it is.

What did the ultrasound results tell you?
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Old December 28th, 2013, 03:09 PM
Chris7 Chris7 is offline
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Sorry for the lag and thanks for the kind words and tips. It’s been really great getting to write/talk things out. I feel like it gives me a chance to think things through, very therapeutic.

Got the results from the Ultra Sound late last night. Luckily, she does not have a growth/mass around her liver or pancreas. However, the ultra sound did show an enlarged liver and a “very inflamed pancreas”. They still took cell samples from her liver to test for cancer or any other reason why it may be enlarged. Should get results back today or Sunday. Vet explained that it may just be enlarged from the pancreatitis or we may just never find out.

As of now they are diagnosing this as a severe pancreatitis case. Treatment will continue with IV, Pain Med and Feeding Tube, if she continues to refuse food. Vet said that there wasn’t much more we could do to treat it.

The great news is that she did look a lot better last night. She was really drugged up from the ultra sound but she slowly started to come down and act more alert. They brought her in on a cart still, but did say that she had actually gotten up on her own once and took a couple of steps around her cage. She was still refusing food – as a result she had a feeding tube inserted that seemed to cause her a lot of discomfort, but once again when I offered her food in the visiting room she ate up an entire can. This morning on the update call the vet said that she looked even better than yesterday – had actually started eating a bit on her own and had gotten up a couple of more times. They want to keep her another night to wane her off the high dosage of pain meds she’s on and to see if she keeps eating. I of course want to bring her home as soon as possible – (1) because I think she wants to be home and (2) because of the amount of money it costs to keep them hospitalized (probably an additional $800 a night). I’m leaning towards letting her stay the extra night, but will ask again if its possible she come home this afternoon.

Ultimately, I am hesitantly optimistic that she can get back to her normal self – she’s shown great improvement. I am very happy that we decided to give her a chance to recover. However, I am scared to death of another severe pancreatitis flare up – as next time I probably won’t be able to shell out another $5,000 to $6,000 to keep her hospitalized. Also, this attack must have taken a lot out of her – she really looked like she was ready to leave us. I’m hoping that since we have ruled out a mass and hopefully cancer when we get the results from her liver back, that if it happens next time it can be treated as chronic pancreatitis (i.e.: pain killers, IV, and anti-nausea meds) at a local vet – without the need to run the expensive tests to confirm it (i.e.: Blood, x-rays, and ultrasound). Nevertheless, things are certainly starting to look up.

Thanks again for the feedback. Any suggestions on food (I know it should be low fat – any ideas on brands or home cooked recipes would be much welcomed) or questions to ask the vet later today when I go see her would be great.
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Old December 28th, 2013, 03:46 PM
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Would it be possible to have her transferred to your regular vet clinic? Might be cheaper than the emergency clinic, and now that you have a plan of treatment, they should be able to handle it? Offering up some prayers for your girl!
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Old December 28th, 2013, 04:45 PM
Chris7 Chris7 is offline
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Unfortunately, my regular vet doesn’t do overnight hospitalization (she would only be able to treat her with an IV/meds from 7am-7-pm) and is not open on Sundays. Therefore, this time around I wouldn’t be able to transfer her unless I sought out another vet, which is a great idea (esp. for future flare ups).
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Old December 30th, 2013, 09:57 AM
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How is she doing? I hope you're able to get her home soon!
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