Coda has a file in my desk. It used to be happy things, like copies of The Boerne Star when he won his Boerne Berges Fest Dachshund race, vet bills for his vaccinations, certificates for participating in races and obedience classes, and when I had insurance on him for a short stint. It was only a big file because of the two copies of the paper with our picture on the front page.
Since September 20, 2016, he has been to the Alamo Hills Animal Hospital at least nine times. But they saved his life. They were our confidants. The front office ladies became like family to us and we would catch up every few weeks when Coda had to go in for his blood test. They laughed with us, assured us that they were going to do the best they could, and helped heal our baby.
If you haven’t met me in person or if you haven’t seen my Facebook page, I’ll go ahead and introduce Coda (affectionately known around the house as Bear, Four Legs, Butt Head, and multiple other names) to you. Coda was supposed to be a miniature dachshund. His mother, father, and one of his brothers are all true miniature dachshunds weighing in around 7-10 pounds. Coda weighs ~20 pounds. TWENTY. He isn’t fat, just a big-muscled dog. (seriously. He is pure muscle.) We race him in dachshund races in Boerne and Buda. He has won the Boerne race twice. HE IS FAST. We have dachshund memorabilia all over the house. I have a dachshund tape dispenser, a dachshund lamp base, dachshund chalk board, little dachshund knickknacks, a dachshund eraser, and many dachshund wall hangings or art pieces. We are the parents obsessed with our baby. (And don’t try to tell me Coda is not my child. That is a conversation that we are going to have to agree to disagree on.) Coda is a huge snuggler and loves food. He has never not finished his food in 2.7 seconds flat. Coda is my shadow. He is always within 2 feet of me. He has his man cave under my desk the he sleeps in when I am hard at work. When we are relaxing in the living room, he is either in the corner of my legs or on the floor next to me with one of his toys. He is in the bathroom with me when I shower. He sleeps with us each and every night. He is our everything. He is our why. We personify him. We both cried during A Dog’s Purpose, which I wanted to sneak him in for.
September 19th started off as a normal day. I had class, came home, grabbed a bite to eat, took Bear outside to enjoy the weather, and I was going to start some steno practice soon after. That day I found a leak from our living room window unit on our original hardwood floors. That stressed Andy out, of course. Andy spent the day in between phone calls and work stuff pulling off the baseboards and moving furniture. We had a couple of fans hitting that whole wall for a couple of weeks to make sure it wouldn’t mold.
For a couple of days, we had seen some little bruises that would come and go. I didn’t think much of it because, well, he’s a dog.
Coda doesn’t like to be outside by himself unless it is a pretty day, and in that case, *I* want to be outside soaking up that sun! I was busy grabbing a bite to eat while he was sunbathing, eating his poop, and doing whatever else dogs do outback. I called for Coda to come in. I usually have to bribe him with an unsalted chip or a treat if he isn’t done being nosy. I tried all of my tricks. Nothing worked.
This is when September 9th went wary. I went out back and found him with something in his mouth. Of course, my first thought was that he got a bird or he has a mouth full of poop. I tried to weasel my way in his mouth to see what he had. It was vomit. It was bloody vomit. My heart sank. I ran inside to tell Andy. He was on the phone with one of his lawyer friends but I knew I had to let him know. I mouthed to him what just happened. He got off of the phone and we grabbed a paper towel with hopes of finding the vomit in the backyard. We found it, soaked it up to make sure it was blood, and made sure Coda was okay and didn’t have any open wounds in his mouth. We decided we wouldn’t freak out quite yet unless we saw blood in his stool. WE WERE FOLLOWING THAT DOG EVERYWHERE to make sure we caught him “in the act.”
We saw it. We saw the blood in his stool. We cried. Our hearts sank. Were we going to lose our baby? What is going on to my healthy dog?
The vet was closed by this time so I called the vet the next morning. We had an appointment that we almost cancelled because HE IS HEALTHY! Maybe he just ate something that irritated his GI tract. I don’t know. We were trying to think of anything POSITIVE and not that something major was wrong with Bear.
We took Coda in that Tuesday to Alamo Hill Animal Hospital. Dr. Campbell noticed some petechiae on the inside of his cheeks, a sign of low platelets. Bear’s diagnosis was immune-mediated thrombocytopenia (IMTP.) He had zero platelets. None. He was supposed to have 148,000-484,000 per microliter of blood. Dr. Amy Campbell saved Coda. He received some Vincristine, doxycycline, and prednisone. They kept him for a couple hours.
Andy and I came home empty handed. We sat on the couch and cried. No TV, no phone calls, no social media. Just the two of us. It should have been the three of us, but No. 3 was at the vet’s office. We had trusted AHAH with the care of Coda. We weren’t sure what the next 24 hours would be like. Were we going to be Coda-less within the next week? Bear was immortal. He brought so much joy to our life. When Andy first met Coda, Coda peed on me while Andy was being pulled over by a Boerne Police officer. (Ask one of us for that story if you don’t know it!)
Coda came home a couple hours later. He was sluggish from the Vincristine, a chemo drug that helps jumpstart the platelets. He came home with a hematoma and a catheter JUST in case we had to do more Vincristine.
We had a new life. We were having to take him outside every two to three hours. We tried to perfect our night routine. One of us stayed at home at all times so he wouldn’t have to potty in his cage. Coda was ‘roid raging. He became mean. He just wanted to eat, drink, and pee. He lost two and a half pounds of pure muscle. He wouldn’t sleep and wouldn’t play. We let him do what he wanted. We let him bark at all of the squirrels because we didn’t know how much longer we would have him. We gave him a high-protein diet since he lost so much weight. I was supplementing his meals with boiled chicken. There were a couple of nights that Coda and I slept on the couch because Andy had court the next morning and needed good sleep.
We knew how bad these medicines were on his body because he couldn’t jump on the couch. This is a couch that he has jumped on for years. It brought us to tears knowing that his muscles were so weak he couldn’t do everyday tasks.
Andy went on his annual hunting trip with the boys in his family at the end of October. I had a dog that was on a high dose of prednisone. Prednisone makes you have to pee way more often. We were going through so much bottled water. (We went with bottled because we were concerned with giving him a large amount of tap water. Our pipes are old. We don’t drink out of the tap.) I e-mailed Dr. Campbell during this time with my frustrations of him not sleeping, which means I wasn’t sleeping. I literally was about to take him to her for her to board him so I could get a good night’s rest. I was frustrated. I felt like a single mother of a newborn with no help. I did the best I could with school. I didn’t go each day, but I tried. No Sleep Katelyn is not a good Katelyn.
We went in for his “last” CBC today. He had 407,000 platelets per microliter of blood! Coda has beat this round of IMTP although it can rear its ugly head at any given time. We will be keeping an eye out for the symptoms we saw when he first got sick. Coda can no longer receive any vaccinations. We don’t know if he will be able to race again because of that. Dr. Campbell said she will write a letter for the organizations if needed. He has gained his weight back. The first night we saw him playing with his toys, I started tearing up. It was something so small that we always took for granted. He can no longer stay at his favorite place, Pampr’d Pawz.
Coda was on Trifexis before he got sick. He had his Trifexis about 5 days before we got sick. Dr. Campbell decided to switch him from Trifexis to Heartgard and Nexgard. We wanted to make sure that we started with a clean slate. So far he is tolerating the new medicines fine.
We were lucky that this process was a fairly cheap one. It costs us less than $600 from beginning to end. If you look at the bright side, he didn’t have to have surgery and can never receive vaccinations again since his immune system is not that strong. Those vaccinations would equal $600 by the end. So we broke even!
Our baby is healthy again. We have our crazy, beautiful, happy boy back. We now sleep through the night. We forever indebted to Dr. Campbell and the rest of the gang at AHAH.
As we were leaving today, Andy asked Dr. Campbell what would’ve happened had we not brought him in. She said he would have bled out and died. That was a hard pill to swallow. Since he has been sick, we have seen countless blogs and vlogs about dogs who have been diagnosed with the same issue and the owner didn’t know. The animal ends up bleeding all over the house or suffering internal bleeding. About a week ago, AHAH has seen one other dog with IMTP. The owners took him in because his eyes were looking weird. Turns out it was IMTP. It took the vet a little longer to get his platelets up.
Thank you to Dr. Campbell and all of the staff at Alamo Hills Animal Hospital. Thank you to all of our friends and family that let us vent our worries. Thank you to all of our friends that asked how he (and we) were doing during these last few months. It was such a relief to know that our support group was there. I prayed so much in the last few months asking God to save our baby. He answered our prayers. God receives our thanks every night.
If you are reading this after finding out your baby’s diagnosis, please don’t hesitate to contact me. We would love to help you in any way that we can. The first two months were monsters, but after that is smooth sailing.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. We love you.
-Katelyn, Andy, and Coda Bear Van Laird
I recently read someone’s Facebook post that said that their dog was diagnosed with IMTP but they were only on the steroid (prednisone) for two weeks. I wanted to share our tapering experience.
So we would taper on a Monday and go in for his CBC on the following Friday. We would stay on the new dose (from that Monday) and stay on that dose for a total of 3 weeks.
We started at 10 mg twice a day, so a total of 20 mg. We went in two or three times in about a week or two for blood tests.
On October 10th, we tapered down to 1.5 pills a day, or 15 mg a day. One October 14th, we took him in for his “routine” CBC. During this test, his white blood cell count was a little high. We went back on an antibiotic.
On October 31, we tapered down to 10 mg a day, or .5 twice a day. CBC on November 4 came back “normal.”
We went out of town in November. Previously, we left him with a boarder without cages. We loved her so much. Because of his immune system status, we are not able to leave him at a boarder other than the vets now. He stayed there for a night.
On November 21, we reduced down to half a pill, or 5 mg, a day. We decided to give him the medicine in the morning so that he (and we!!!) would sleep better at night. On November 25th, we took him for his CBC. His test came back “normal” again.
On December 12, we tapered down to 5 mg, or half a pill twice a day. On December 16, we took him for a CBC. “Normal” results.
January 2, we tapered down to .25 of a pill, so 2.5 mg, every day. CBC on January 6 was “normal.”
We stayed on the prednisone every other day for 1 more week. We then decreased to twice a week for 1 week. We then did a quarter of a pill once a week. We waited a week after his last dose to get his “last” CBC done. We had it checked this afternoon, February 3, 2017. He had 407,000 platelets per microliter of blood!