I’ve talked a couple of times before about Dean, my German shepherd, being sick this year. Finally we have an answer, but here’s the story from the beginning.
It started with him losing a lot of weight which I thought was from anxiety. Then in August he got very sick. He was throwing up and had very bad diarrhea that eventually turned bloody. I took him to the Emergency Animal Hospital and they did tests, took x-rays, and kept him overnight. When I got him back he was feeling better. He got sick like this 2 more times and his stool was abnormally soft all the time. The last time he got sick was over Thanksgiving weekend and my vet was out of ideas. So basically I had a dog that was 25 lbs underweight despite eating way more than he should need, and diarrhea or soft stool all the time, and routinely got very sick. Not good!
(This was on the way to the UW Vet Clinic. See the ribs and hip bones sticking out? And he obviously wasn’t feeling good. Poor puppy.)
I ended up taking Dean to the University of Wisconsin Veterinary Clinic. They were wonderful. First of all, I called on a Wednesday and they were able to get me in the next day. I drove up that morning and got there about 30 minutes early. They were able to get me in before my appointment time. Point for them.
I started with a 4th year veterinary student going over a very, very detailed history of Dean’s issues and giving him a basic exam. The the student went back to talk to the vet and about 20-30 minutes later the doctor came in to talk to me. Right away she said that Dean’s issues led her to believe that the diagnosis was EPI: Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency. It is a disease where the pancreas no longer creates the enzymes necessary to break down food and absorb vitamins and nutrients. She told me that there could be other causes for his symptoms (Addison’s disease, cancer, inflammatory bowel syndrome) but they were all much less likely. Rather than spend a lot of my money doing all the tests at once, she only did the test for EPI. If that was negative, which she didn’t think would happen, we would go back in and do the other tests. All in all, she probably saved me $500 or more doing this. A hundred points for them!
The vet did the test and sent us on our way. I was in and out in less than 2.5 hours. Less than a week later I got a call with the test results and the vet was right, Dean has EPI. The disease is very treatable but Dean will have to be on pancreatic enzyme supplements for the rest of his life. This will help him absorb the nutrients in his food and gain weight rather than the food just going through him like it has been. Currently he is getting 2 teaspoons of powdered supplement on moistened food at every meal (2-3 times per day). He also needs vitamin B12 shots weekly. Eventually he may be able to go down to monthly B12 shots and 1 teaspoon of supplement per meal.
(This was Halloween… we call it “Dapper Dean”)
This whole process has been very stressful and scary, but I am so thankful to have some answers now. I would recommend UW Vet Clinic to anyone. I’m also thankful that his disease is so treatable. In less than a week of being on the supplements he has stopped frantically begging for food every few hours. I take this to mean that the food is sticking with him now rather than going through him. Hopefully in the next month or two I will see him put on some weight as well.
One really helpful resource a friend found for me during this was www.epi4dogs.com. It explains the disease, has great forums, and shows crazy before and after shots. There are a lot of dogs on there much worse off than Dean is that recovered fully. It is scary to see what could have happened if it didn’t get diagnosed though!