About a year and a half ago, I posted about Trixie and some serious health issues we were having with her. The whole story is here, but in short, in early February of 2013 her platelet count dropped down to zero, and we don’t know why. If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you’ve likely seen updates and photos of her periodically, but I figured I’d write a longer follow-up post to share just how she’s been lately, and what the road to recovery was like for us.
It Was a Long Road
When we started the whole ordeal, the veterinarians couldn’t tell us how long it would take until Trixie was better. In fact, when we left her in the emergency vet’s office that first night, they weren’t sure she’d even make it through the night. But we got to bring her home the next day, as long as we were careful. That meant no stairs, no jumping on furniture, no hard food, no toys… nothing that could cause her even the slightest injury, because the tiniest cut (internal or external) meant she would bleed to death. Her blood still wasn’t able to clot itself, but she’d responded so well to the medication that first night, that they were ok letting us take her home (which saved us hundreds of dollars). We boarded her at the vet during the day, so hubs and I could both continue to work, and so that they could monitor her and do any necessary bloodwork.
But Recovery Was Fast
The first few weeks meant lots of medication, blood tests every few days, sleepless nights, and an incredible amount of uncertainty. Was it medication-related, triggered by an infection, auto-immune? Or maybe it was cancer… we’d already had one scare with that. But in the beginning, figuring out what it was wasn’t much of a concern; all we cared about was Trixie’s counts getting into the normal range. Once that happened, then we could perhaps try to figure out if there was something else at work.
Lots of Changes
With each blood test, Trixie improved. After a couple weeks, she no longer had to be boarded every day, though she still couldn’t have anything crunchy to eat, jump up on furniture, or do much of anything. And really, she didn’t want to do anything other than eat, drink, and sleep. The amount of prednisone she was on was incredibly high, and it made her hungry, thirsty, and overall just not herself. It was torturous, both because it meant she had to go outside every couple hours, and because she just wasn’t Trixie. By the time she was cleared to do stairs and jump up on things again, she could barely jump into the footwell of the car by herself–the prednisone and lack of activity totally robbed her of her muscle.
The above picture really captures the change in personality we saw, and some of the physical changes. Her eyes teared more, and for the first time ever we saw tearstains on her pretty face. She was also incredibly paranoid, for lack of a better way of putting it. She really only seemed to trust hubs and myself (though she went willingly with the vet techs every month, thankfully). And on top of the weight gain and the muscle loss, at one point, the left side of her face became paralyzed. But looking at the above picture, my heart breaks seeing just how different she was–she was absolutely not feeling herself, and we often worried that her personality would be forever changed. The picture was taken in April of 2013–so two months after everything started–and she was still on quite a bit of medication, though (from what I recall) her platelets were in the low-end of the normal range by then.
Continuing to Improve
After the emergency vet approved us moving to monthly blood tests at our regular vet, we kept seeing results. The two offices did a great job keeping in touch during the first few weeks, and our vet was fully prepared to start seeing her. It made the transition a little easier, though the drive was longer (our emergency clinic happens to be about 5 minutes from the house, on the way to hubs’ work, so it was super convenient). On the plus side, knowing I was going to be in every four weeks on the dot made it easy to get Saturday appointments.
By May of 2013, she’d improved so much that we were able to start taking her on walks. The above picture was one of the first, I believe, and it was short because she had very little muscle. But we kept at it and worked to build her muscle back as she continued to get better. With every other blood test result that came in, we weaned her off her medications one by one, and we got the ok to go more and more places with her… even the dog parks again. She still wasn’t able to do things like jump up on the bed, but we were getting there.
As she was weaned off the meds, we realized just how much her body had changed. That summer, she shed a lot. Now, she normally sheds heavily in summer, but by October her coat was so thin you could see her skin, and in some places, she had almost no fur left at all. Her normally beautiful, thick tail looked more like a Labrador Retriever’s tail, and her mane was all but gone.
She looked like a different dog, but the vet assured us it would be ok. “The body, when it goes though traumas like what hers did, often stops worrying about non-essential things like hair production so that it can focus all its energy on healing,” they explained. I was assured us that her hair would start to grow back and that what we were seeing was normal. The above picture was Thanksgiving weekend, and while the weather was beautiful, we knew winter was coming. I ended up having to take her shopping, which was ridiculous, but necessary if we wanted to her stay warm while she was out in the winter. And sure enough, as winter approached, we noticed her fur thickening. It was as if her body was sensing the polar vortex’s approach, haha!
By the time winter arrived (which wasn’t that much later), her mane was coming back, her tail was thickening, and her “bunny slippers” were back. We were all, I think, equally happy with that. Not only did she look more like herself, but we didn’t have to worry about keeping her warm when she went outside.
Tears of Joy
On my last phone call with the vet in 2013 I cried. It was a few days before Christmas, and hubs and I had been stressing about hosting our first holiday ever, for over 30 people, with just two weeks’ notice. And in the middle of all of it, Trixie had to go in for another CBC. It had been ten months of very promising results, with a platelet count that rose each month, and I was expecting more of the same. What I wasn’t expecting, however, was the vet telling us that, if we wanted, we could drop her medication down from 1/4 tablet every other day, to 1/4 tablet just once a week. A happy holiday season indeed!
I opted not to lower the dosage just yet, because of us having over 30 people in our house. I didn’t want to have the stress possibly trigger a relapse and have her on a lower dose of meds, possibly pushing back all of the progress we had made. At that point in our phone call, I was holding it together. It was the vet telling me that we could wait 6 to 8 weeks to come back for more bloodwork that brought tears to my eyes. Trixie was doing so well that they were confident she would continue to improve and didn’t feel it was necessary to see her on such a strict schedule any longer.
I fought the urge this past holiday to really spoil her, but she got a few gifts nonetheless. And I teared up watching her open them. Had you asked me in February, or even March, if I thought she’d make it to Christmas and be able to open presents, I would have told you that we were taking it a day at a time, or that I’d let you know after the next blood test.
New Year, New Hopes
We rang in 2014 quietly, hubs and I choosing to stay home with Trixie. He and I walked around the neighborhood around midnight together, laughing, drinking beer, and enjoying the quiet as the snow fell. That evening, on my way home from work, I stopped by the emergency vet with a New Year’s card and trays of goodies, to thank them for everything they did for us. I did the same a couple days later on my lunch break for our regular vet. In both cases, I got choked up just saying thank you to the girls at the front desk… but it was worth it to see the smiles on their faces.
I wanted to do just a little something special for them to show our gratitude. And in both places, I choked up as I thanked them for what they did for us. Without the fast-thinking doctor in the emergency vet, Trixie wouldn’t be here at all. And without the diligent, caring, and very patient team at our regular vet, chances are the road to recovery would have been a lot longer and a much rougher one.
After the call in December we waited about six weeks for another platelet count. After that blood test, and everything coming back well within the normal range again, we took her off medication altogether. It was a big deal for us, and I was excited but nervous. There were a lot of worries, but I did my best to stay positive, focusing on how well she was doing and how far she’d come. In June we went in again for another count–the first once since being off meds altogether. Everything was still normal, and, in fact, up from the last platelet count. It was looking like we totally beat this thing… whatever it was!
Fast Forward to Now
Last week we had our annual vet visit. We did our first blood test since mid-June and everything is still beautifully normal. Her titer test (where they check for antibodies for distemper and parvo) came back good as well, which means she’s covered for those as well. We don’t need to worry about risking a vaccination, and because she has antibodies for those two diseases, there’s a good chance she’s protected if she’s ever exposed (it’s not a 100% thing, but antibodies are good regardless). She’s been given the all clear to continue enjoying the dog parks and can even meet my parents’ new puppy Zoe. Trixie is doing wonderful, and you’d never know how sick she was or how close we were to losing her!
While I credit her getting better to the quick-thinking vets at the emergency vet and the great care she had after (both at the emergency vet and our regular vet), I also can’t discount the power of positive thinking. We have a great support system in our family and friends, and without everyone’s outpouring of love for Trixie, it would have been extremely hard to stay positive. Our vets also did a great job of always being positive with us as well, and getting calls from them was always a pleasure (it helped that it was always good news). They have been patient and done their best to answer my questions, even when I call at odd hours and leave them voicemails. It’s all helped immensely!
From all of us, thank you!
Whether your realize it or not, you helped up get through all of this. So thank you for all the support, the photo likes, the comments, and the love you’ve sent our way. It made everything so much easier to bear!