Back in October, it was time for my annual trip to see the vet for a blood panel, to have my heart listened to, my limbs given the once over, all that stuff. It happens every year and every year without fail I receive a glowing report card. Well, except for that lump they had to remove a couple of years ago, but even that turned out to be benign. What can I say? I’m a healthy guy.
In October I saw a different vet than the previous year. My regular vet moved away and T hasn’t settled on a new one just yet so was trying a different clinic. The doctor was very thorough and had a laundry list of concerns when she delivered me back to the truck (the pandemic means T can’t come into the clinic with me).
First on the list was my eyesight which made no sense to me because I can see just fine. She said I’d run into a doorframe in the clinic. Oh, that. I was just distracted by the resident cat sitting on the counter.
My hearing is shot, but we already knew that.
She said I was slipping on their floor and that probably arthritis is the cause and maybe we should consider medication. I slip on the hardwood at home these days too but it all comes down to my pads not being as grippy as they used to be. Sure, I feel a little stiff when I get out of bed these days but I don’t need any pills for that, I have my joint and mobility supplements.
I have a heart murmur—a small one, but it’s there. Not sure I like that since Logan had a murmur in his latter years and it did ultimately give him trouble.
But, the most concerning of the long list were my liver enzyme numbers which, combined with being a lot more thirsty and hungry than normal in recent months, easily overheated, and restless at night, pointed to a condition called Cushing’s Disease.
They’d have to run more tests to confirm the diagnosis, but T’s online research revealed that the testing isn’t entirely reliable because it’s prone to false positives. Since the treatment plan from a positive result would have been a medication that T didn’t want to give me, there didn’t seem to be any point. Whew! I’m just as glad to skip the testing since it involved a full day at the clinic, without my peeps.
The most common cause of Cushing’s in dogs is a small tumour on the pituitary gland. This tumour makes the body produce too much of a hormone called cortisol. Too much cortisol in the system stresses out the liver and causes a range of symptoms from thirst to hunger to hair loss to the development of a pot belly (ack!) to excessive panting and the list goes on. So, all in all, not a good thing. The medication is designed to suppress the adrenal glands to keep them from producing the excess cortisol but can result in another serious condition called Addison’s Disease when the adrenals stop working altogether. You can probably see why the peeps weren’t crazy about the medication solution.
So, as she does, T consulted the many online sources of information and expertise and came up with a medicine-free treatment program that is actually recommended by a lot of veterinarians. It involves a regimen of melatonin and something called lignans. The combination of these two things helps the body manage the cortisol production which, in turn, lessens my symptoms. Lignans come from flax seeds, which I had at first, but the lignans I have now are supposed to be better and come from Norwegian Spruce Trees. So, every time I take one of those little white capsules, I’m really just chewing on a stick. ;o)
In addition to the lignans and melatonin, I get a twice-daily dose of CBD oil which has been shown to shrink tumours in dogs. I don’t know if it’s working on my suspected pituitary tumour, but my benign lipomas are shrinking so I think that’s a good sign, and I just generally feel a little bouncier and spry since I started taking it.
Lastly, when I still wasn’t sleeping soundly, T started giving me something she had left over from Logan called Calm Shen. Once my water consumption was under control I didn’t have to go outside for a pee at night, but I just felt anxious when I’d wake in the quiet, dark room. I felt the need to check that I wasn’t alone by waking up Nollind or T, or both. I don’t know if it’s my lack of hearing or just that I’m getting older, but I’m not as easygoing as I used to be. I like to know where my people are at all times and I want their location to be no more than a few feet away from mine. Anyway, the Calm Shen, fed in a bedtime snack of chicken or turkey and a little broth, was the ticket. I sleep like a puppy now.
Dogs with Cushing’s Disease are given a two-year life expectancy, but, before you freak out like I did, Cushing’s is typically a disease of older dogs who may not have lived more than two years anyway. I’ll be turning twelve soon, so another two years would be a pretty fair age for a mid-sized dog, but here’s hoping that all the stuff that goes in my food three times a day keeps me trucking along beyond that two-years-down-the-road expiry date. I know it’s sure made me feel better and is keeping the hair loss and dreaded pot belly away!