Life with Canine Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia

A few weeks ago, I made a post about how I got our dog to start eating again by giving her buttermilk. In it, I revealed Canine Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia. Now, this has been one of my top recent posts (yes, WordPress, I do look at my Dashboard!), so I thought a follow-up post is in order. No, I never did ask the vet about the buttermilk, and I haven’t had to give her anymore since I wrote about it. Zinneke is back on dry food, and her appetite is very healthy. We’ve had very few problems, and her energy continues to improve, despite the fact that our vet has begun to reduce the steroid dosage from one pill twice a day to 3/4 pill twice a day. We hope next week it might go down to half a pill.

So what were the complications, once we got past the initial loss of appetite and lethargy? The main complication was simply a side effect of the steroids: because they make her drink a ton of water, we had some accidents in the house. Now, you have to realize that Zinne has always had a bladder of steel — well, at least since she had the very expensive bladder repair surgery when we first got her (it turned out her bladder wasn’t hooked up to her kidneys right, so she peed constantly then). I was getting up a couple of times a night to let her out and trying not to leave her alone for very long, but we were too optimistic. Even though I was getting up to let her out, she either went before my alarm went off or couldn’t hold out long enough while we were gone.

This meant a few places on our rugs needed some serious cleaning, and I spent one solid weekend on one room, and then tackled another room before we were done. You may ask, how we cleaned the rugs. We have a carpet cleaner (Dirt Devil) from the days when we had carpets. Now we have area rugs on hardwood floors. So I bought a big plastic drop cloth and put it under one rug (used a couple smaller old ones on the other rug) and shampooed the carpet with Nature’s Miracle carpet cleaner. For the worst spots, I also saturated them with Nature’s Miracle urine destroyer, let them soak for over an hour, then shampooed the rug with the carpet cleaner. When I say saturated, I really mean I got it soaking wet before letting it soak.

(I usually don’t endorse products, but these worked. We’ve used other enzyme based pet odor removers in the past, esp. when house training a pet, and had good success, but I was particularly impressed with the urine destroyer. It did the trick with steroid induced pee, which more plentiful and odoriferous than typical dog pee. It worked better than the carpet cleaner or the regular-strength Odor Remover, which I tried first.)

Now, there’s no smell. But the dog does stay outside more! I let her be in with us when we are around, but at night or if we’re going to be gone, she has to be out back in our fenced-in yard with lots of water. And she’s gotten used to it. She’ll usually bark to wake me up in the morning about 6:00 or so. (If she would bark to be let out she could stay in all night, but she didn’t do that.) Fortunately, it’s summer, and as her medicine gets reduced, we should be able to trust her again, so we’ll try leaving her inside. But for now, we have a new routine, and a relatively healthy pet who keeps getting better every day.

Her favorite part of being sick is probably getting her medicine in peanut butter twice a day. If she ever gets to the point where she doesn’t need any steroids, we’ll probably still need to give her a little peanut butter on a finger now and then! (Of course, we’ve read that many dogs have a relapse within a year and that the disease can shorten the dog’s life expectancy dramatically, but for now, we’re glad that she’s recovering very well.)

Published by Kendall Dunkelberg

I am a poet, translator, and professor of literature and creative writing at Mississippi University for Women, where I direct the Low-Res MFA in Creative Writing, the undergraduate concentration in creative writing, and the Eudora Welty Writers' Symposium. I have published three books of poetry, Barrier Island Suite, Time Capsules, and Landscapes and Architectures, as well as a collection of translations of the Belgian poet Paul Snoek, Hercules, Richelieu, and Nostradamus. I live in Columbus with my wife, Kim Whitehead; son, Aidan; and dog, Aleida.

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