Even their food didn't fit the problem as they've been on grain- and chemical-free food since she and her brother, Jayzbo, were babies. "Spontaneous" they determined. In short her body's immune system is destroying its own red blood cells. Since they carry oxygen throughout the body and Bella wasn't getting nearly enough air, she was very lethargic.
Dr. Krenz's clinic arranged for us to 'go now, go immediately' to Southern Colorado Veterinary Internal Medicine (SCVIM) hospital in Colorado Springs an hour away.
Once there and checked in, they performed an ultrasound. Nothing there either. Then they began her first blood transfusion, which took 6 hours. It didn't help so a second one began at midnight. By 6 am it finished. At 8 am, they drew more blood and that transfusion raised the count 10 points. Now the next hurdle was 'would it hold'? They put Bella on a boatload of meds: steroids, anti-nausea, blood thinner + 3 others. She didn't want to eat or drink and just lay quietly in the ICU wing for the next 5 days. We didn't know if she would live or die. It was awful the heartache.
We drove to see her daily and while loving and sweet as darling Bella normally is, she had little energy. Let us share that Kelpies are Australian cattle dogs. They are working dogs, which means they are usually full of boundless energy, very smart and clever. So while visiting we got lots of kisses, she didn't have enough energy to crawl up in our laps all 68 pounds of her. Every day we cried and prayed a lot not knowing if she would make it.
By Sunday she looked a bit better, but nowhere near normal, and Dr. Miles said she might do just as well at home. Once home, Jayzbo was overjoyed to see her and she greeted him as best she could in her depleted state.
PHOTO: At SCVIM Bella was totally disinterested in food, but then again, it wasn't the 'gourmet meals' her dad fixes for them. They'd shaved both front legs for transfusions and her tummy for the ultrasound. The green strip around her neck is the same as people's hospital arm band ID.
Sunday night she did eat some and we were encouraged. Then yesterday she took some steps back as she became totally disinterested in food again. Monday we took her back to Dr. Krenz and she drew more blood and her red blood cell count was holding, but not rising. Dr. Miles and Dr. Cannizzo, vets at SCVIM, both said that it could take 6 days for the steroids to work their magic and suppress her immune system. It took every bit of that.
By that evening she was ready for food and once again we were encouraged.
HOLLY NOTE: If you missed yesterday's news about Stan and our dog Bella, you can read it at the top of this page. For Bella, improvement is slow. She's eating and drinking well, which is terrific, though her energy is still nowhere near normal. Thursday she sees Dr. Krenz for another blood draw to see if her red blood cell count is moving up. At the very least, we pray it's holding and she's not losing ground.
As for Stan, his CT scan revealed a "huge kidney stone". That thing has been in there a long time and shows no sign of budging. They want him to pass it, but it has a mind of its own and has shown zero inclination of moving. Waiting to hear back from the nurse how long they expect him to wait before they might consider blasting it out. His extensive blood tests came back absolutely brilliant. Nothing amiss, so what is causing the severe body cramping, fatigue and night sweats?
Funny thing, we hadn't seen our new neighbors for several months when they pulled into our driveway this morning. We've both been busy with inside house projects and it was nice to see them. I shared about Stan's and Bella's issues. We chatted for a bit and then Stan wandered outside. Deb is a nurse and mentioned that a virus is going around here that sounds exactly like what's been plaguing him same symptoms. She said the virus is something you just have to wait out for about 2 weeks and treat with Potassium and Magnesium, and drink electrolytes like Gatorade. Maybe Stan's issue minus the kidney stone will be a simple fix. Time and vitamins. So hopefully the 2- and 4-leggeds will back to normal in the coming days. Many thanks to all who sent emails with prayers and thoughts. So appreciated! Our heartfelt thanks, Stan, Holly, Bella and Jayzbo
Two weeks ago Tincy S. & Akshaya A. from Kelambakkam, Tamil Nadu (India) gifted her with Nupro's All Natural Dog Supplement. It contains a rich variety of vitamins and minerals that makes into a fabulous gravy when mixed with water. Bella is a bit finicky when it comes to meals, but her brother, Jayzbo, pretty much inhales everything. They always 'sit' for their lunch and even Bella can't plant her buns fast enough when she smells the Nupro. No email or contact information was given for Tincy and Akshaya in the shipping box, so we're thanking them publicly and hope they see this message.
A week later a gift from an unknown sender in Canada sent her Norwegian Sea Kelp Meal for dogs. It too, is packed with minerals and amino acids. I know from writing Garden Gold: Grow Maximum Veggies With Minimum Effort just how depleted our foods are compared to 60 years ago. It now takes 6 carrots to get the same nutrition from just 1 back then. Since many pet foods are derived from the same sources as their pet parents, they aren't any better off. Additionally, if feeding them commercial kibble, most of the vitamins and minerals are cooked out in the processing. So thank you for thinking of them, for the gift of the Sea Kelp. Your thoughtfulness is so appreciated and such a wonderful idea that when they're gone, we will continue to give them to our 4-leggeds.
P.S. In case you're wondering about the cooking spray… The large CycloSporine gel caps have to be put down her throat. They stink like marijuana, some people say 'skunk', so there's no way to hide them in the wad of chicken or cheese. She'd bite through it in a heartbeat and gag on the taste. We found that if you give the capsule a tiny squirt of butter-flavored spray, not only does it help disguise the taste/smell, it makes the capsule glide down her throat.
Bella's next vet appointment is Oct. 9 so we'll keep you posted. Many thanks again for your prayers, well wishes and gifts. Stan, Holly, Bella & Jayzbo
One funny thing happened while at the clinic. First let us share that Prednisone makes both people and pets absolutely ravenous and thirsty. She literally drinks a gallon of water a day now when it used to be about 1/3 of that. Animals don't develop the moon-face that people often do and that my mom did when she had to take it. However, people can take themselves to the bathroom. For Bella, there have been days when she's had to go outside 5 times in a hour and a half. She also can't wait to eat.
PHOTO: Bella is just being her girly self scratching her back in the yard and thinking life is good again.
At 6 in the morning we give Bella her meds in a nitrate/nitrite-free hotdog that she wolfs down. By their 11:30 lunch, she's ready to eat paint off the walls. So this morning she had her 1/2 hotdog and at 10:30 we set off for Colorado Springs. We arrived right when she would normally be having lunch, which was now going to be 2-1/2 hours late.
About noon, Vet Tech Aly took her for a blood draw and she came back with Bella in tow laughing so hard a huge grin split her face. What was up? In order to distract animals during these tests they give them a piece of sliced turkey. When Aly brought out the container, Bella apparently bypassed the "piece" and dove for the bucket. Aly said Bella plunged her face right in and helped herself.
We were a bit horrified, but they thought it was funny. Bella is extraordinarily affectionate kissing all staff members alike from the receptionists through the veterinarians so I guess they overlooked her bad behavior. Pre-predisone days Bella was always a finicky eater. Now, everything not nailed down is at risk.
Last weekend I had peeled a cupcake liner from a muffin and tossed it into the trash. Dashing around the kitchen intent on making Stan's breakfast I didn't think much about it. The trash bucket sat out from under the sink by the stove waiting for egg shells to be tossed in. I turned my back for maybe 10 seconds and Bella had fished out the muffin wrapper and proceeded to munch through the paper. Even though it had bits of muffin stuck to it, eating paper probably wasn't the best idea. On my knees, I had to pry her jaws apart while she rolled her eyes in protest to extract the muffin wrapper.
We'll be so glad when Bella's off the Prednisone so her eating and bathroom patterns are back to normal! As it stand nows, Bella will be on the Prednisone maybe for a couple of months more. Dunno for sure, but the Azathioprine she will likely be on permanently. Dr. McPherson said today, "it's such a terrible disease that we don't want to risk a relapse." He went on to say that dogs who contract autoimmune disease have only a 50-50 chance of survival. So Bella was a very lucky, no blessed, little dog.
I 'heard' Dr. McPherson say this, but thought in the back of my mind that it was somewhat of an exaggeration. Then a friend (Larry Taylor) of a friend connected us she living in Howard, CO, where we'd thought would be a lovely place to move. We'd already scoped a nice place there. Then all of this stuff hit with Bella and launching a successful new business the EMP Shield. This is nothing like what our friends, the Marzullis, are going through with their entire home and studio burned down in the Woolsey Fire.
So our darling Isabella Margarita will be on this one medication Azathioprine for life to stave off relapse, but for now, she is good as ever though still on steroids.