I thought I might put here the recent story of my Airedale Terrier, Rio. Rio is 8 years old and has always been very healthy. I had dreams of him one day becoming a very old dog. Looking at him I thought, well at least 12 years...and wow...maybe more. I know of some Airedales living to 15. I love old dogs. My last two died at 11 and 9, respectively. The first died of a heart attack. The second from a massively messed up immune system.
When I lost them I felt cheated.
But Rio was my hope of having the same dog with me much, much longer.
About three months ago (I think), I noticed a lump forming on his right wrist...right on the front of his leg. The lump was bald...it had no hair on it. I remember feeling a bit shocked that I hadn't noticed it earlier. I was visiting with my Dad, and while sitting on his back steps, Rio had come up behind me and laid his head on my right shoulder. I reached back to stroke my hand down his legs as he stood there, and that is when I felt the lump.
Not long after I found the lump, Rio had begun to not do so well on his food (he was on a grain free dog food), so I had switched him to raw. He has done really well on it so far.
I waited awhile to do anything about the lump. Really, fearing it might be cancer, I chose to ignore it for a while...just wishing it would go away. But eventually, I spotted another lump in front of his right ear, and then one began to form on his head, right between his eyes. I had to go to the vet.
So on November 25 I took him to the vet to have the lumps removed. The previous day they had done blood work to make sure he was ok for the surgery. At that time the vet noticed a very slight elevation in his ALT numbers which is related to his liver. I don't know specifically about the test, but the vet said it was minor and we could go ahead with the surgery. So we did. She removed four (found one more tiny one just above the lump on his right wrist) lumps and sent them for testing. However, the largest lump on his wrist ran too deep and she couldn't get all of it...so I just prayed it wasn't cancer.
Rio came home with many stitches, and his leg bandaged heavily to keep him from bending it too much.
In a few days, we had the test results back. The diagnosis is Cutaneous or Systemic Histiocytosis.
This is (again!!!!!!!!!) an immune system condition of unknown origin. In Rio's case it is not genetic. I suspect it could be a result of his immune system reacting to his last rabies vaccine. I have no proof of that. I thought I was doing my best to keep that kind of thing at bay by doing three year, staggered vaccines. In one year he would get a rabies shot, then the following year his other vaccine, then a two year break before starting the cycle again. This would also reduce the number of vaccines in his lifetime. I had already begun to think that this last shot, could be the last of his lifetime The only reason I was doing the vaccines at all was so that he could travel with me across the border into the US to visit my dad. At any rate, with his immune system now compromised, he won't ever get another shot. However, it could be closing the barn door after the horses have left, so to speak. I'm very sad about this.
So. There is no cure. Of course there is not cure. No dog of mine would bother to get anything that could be cured.
At the moment the vet feels that the disease is cutaneous (limited to his skin) only. If it were systemic (lumps form on organs), she says that Rio would be depressed, lethargic, losing weight, etc. On the contrary, he is gaining weight on the raw diet, filling out in a lovely way with a beautiful coat and shining eyes. The only concern is that slightly elevated liver reading. More on that shortly.
Then I was faced with what to do about all this. The disease can only be delayed (and in some very rare cases sent into remission) with the use of steroids. I really don't want to do that to Rio. It would be trading one killer for another. One way or another he would eventually decline. The only option I can see that makes any sense at all, is to support his system in the best possible way I can find to do it, and help him live as healthy as possible for as long as possible.
A friend of mine in Vancouver British Columbia is always speaking very highly of her vet, who practices both traditional and holistic veterinary care. He has agreed to consult, look at all the information he can and to then prescribe a diet (to make sure his raw diet is balanced for his needs) and supplement regimen for Rio.
First, I have to test Rio's thyroid through a lab in the US (Dr. Jean Dodds), and then also we will retest his blood locally, but in a larger lab to see if the pre surgery blood test was inaccurate or accurate and it will give us a more certain baseline for future blood testing.
So the journey has begun. I do not hold out hope that we will fix Rio, but with all the lovely help I'm getting, I'm hoping to have him with me for some time to come. I'll post updates occasionally, and I'll also post the supplement list later.
I don't need a lot of moral support now. I'm doing ok. I just thought I would post this for the sake of interest. Rio does NOT know he is sick. He's doing fantastic right now and acting very normal. Yesterday when I didn't make my bed, he jumped up to roll the bed and he dug in his nails and ripped a big hole in my brand new flannel sheets. LOL. That's normal for him, and I can celebrate his brattiness!