Losing a young dog to Lyme Disease

Its been over 4 year now since this chapter in our lives unfolded.  June 2015, God dropped this amazing little yorkie, Harley, into our lives.  My nephew text me and said there was a small dog down by the barn.  So my husband and I went to see what was there. Low and behold, a little 2 pound yorkie.  She ran right to my husband acting like, where have you been?  I have been waiting for you. We took her home and bathed her. We tried to find her owner by calling neighbors, local vet offices and the human society to find her owner. There was no one looking for her.  

I took her to the vet for a physical.  She was healthy, no worms and very happy.  The vet figured she was about 3 to 4 months old.  We started shots and the monthly treatment for heart worm, fleas and ticks. And that was that.  We now had a new little one in our home.  She instantly bonded with my other 2 dogs.  Loving to every person and every dog she met.

At the time, we did not know what the future held for us.

She was an amazing little companion.  Loved to walk, swim, train in Rally obedience, Agility, Nose Work.  So easy to train.  I told everyone that I felt spoiled with this little one. Everything came so easy.

We competed in Agility.  She qualified almost every run.  Not something that I was used to, as my previous agility dog was Lilly, a Miniature Pinscher. But that is a story for another day.  She just loved being with me and working.  Everyone kept telling me what heart she had.  And how far we were going to go.

We then did Rally Obedience.  The first day we showed up to compete, I had someone ask me if I was there to watch someone.  I said we are competing.    She chuckled like, ya right.  Then we stepped in the ring.  I think we shocked the crowd by the teamwork we had. There was no longer a thought as to whether we belonged there. There was nothing that I didn’t try with this little girl that she wasn’t willing to give her full heart.  It still brings me to tears to think what we had.

The next part of this chapter is one that I personally had to come to grips with.   I can only learn from my mistakes not beat myself up about them.  Even though I did, at least for a little while.

I always did our yearly routine physical.  Every year I would opt out of the blood test for heart worm and Lyme disease since my dogs are kept on treatment year round.  I was once told years ago from other vets that if treated year round they would not be susceptible to getting heart worm or Lyme.  So I thought I was doing the right thing.

Harley was a tick magnet.  She could not go outside without getting a tick.  I would check her daily and clean them off if she had any.  A couple were engorged.  But again.  We are all good.  She is on tick preventative.  They were dead.  They couldn’t be transmitting Lyme.

Fall of 2017,  We were competing in agility.  I went to get her to run and she was acting weird.  Wobbley and Lethargic. I rushed her to the vet but they didn’t find anything.  When we got home, I happened to find a tick between her back legs.  I removed it.  She seemed to start feeling better after that.  At the moment, I realized it might have been from the tick.  I even called the vet and they said I would need to wait 8 weeks before I could test her for Lyme.  But then symptoms never returned, so I didn’t think anything more about it.  So I never had her Lyme tested.

Harley was her normal self for the next 6 months.  In the spring of 2018,  she started to get what I thought was stress in agility.  Run really well the first run then the second run, she would avoid running, then was slow through the course.  She didn’t want to weave sometimes, so I would have her adjusted by a chiropractor.  She had inflammation in the hip joint but once adjusted she would bounce back.  Then she started going off her food.  But again, she would bounce back.

September 2018, I took her to the vet thinking she needed a diet change.  Everything else check out.  She was acting normal, no fever, wanted to eat but would throw up sometimes.  So we changed her food.

The next 24 hours was the beginning of something I never thought I would go through.  Harley ended up at the vets on a Saturday with non stop vomiting.  I thought she was going to turn inside out.  She only weighed 4.5 pounds so I was very concerned.  Once at the vet, the vomiting had settled and again acting somewhat normal.  They checked her urine and blood panel.  Her urine was full of infection and her kidney function wasn’t good.  We treated with antibiotics and fluids for the weekend.

Monday morning she came home.  Happy and spry.  You would never had known how sick she was 2 days before.  But by the time I told the vet she was doing better, once again, Tuesday morning the vomiting returned.   Back to the vet.  Her kidney levels had worsened again.  The vet just kept saying this is not good.  They sent me to Pittsburgh to figure out why her kidneys were failing.  

My best friend, Sharon, drove me.  And thank goodness she did.  We sat in the waiting room until 11 pm before we got in to see a vet.  They told me they were going to do a Lyme test.  I thought o.k but what does that have to do with the kidneys?

September 25, 2018,  The vet came in and said, I am very sorry but Harley has Lyme Nephritis.  There is nothing we can do.  What?  What is it?  She started to explain that a very low percentage of dogs that have Lyme get this.  It is the body trying to fight off the infection but attacks its own organs in the process.  I asked what does this mean?  She again said, I am sorry but she probably only has days to weeks left.  We normally do not see them last for months.  We can treat the symptoms but eventually the kidneys will fail.

In total shock and devastation, I call my husband at 1:00 am to tell him our sweet little girl is dying. I wrap her up and bring her home.  Totally feeling helpless.  How much time do we have left? The next day I call my local vet and tell them the news.  We were not giving up on her.  If we could keep her eating and keeps it down, she has a chance.  We put her on kidney function food, anti nausea, appetite stimulant, and antibiotics. If something quit working or it made her sick, we tried different medications.  Again, we were treating the symptoms and just trying to keep her eating.  Finally, one day I realized that the treatment was not giving her quality of life.  It would upset her stomach, which would make her not want to eat even more.  So, I decided enough was enough.  I continued to control her diet but all medications were stopped.

There were many ups and downs.  The unknown is the worst.  Is today the day?  Harley would bounce back and say, “nope not today, I have hunting to do”.  Like so many people told me, she had heart.  She fought until her body said no more.  We lost her January 2, 2019.  Our little girl lasted 3 months and 1 week.  Yes, we were told days to weeks.  And we got months.  We beat the odds.  She would have been 4 in February 2019.

I truly believe that God uses our circumstances to teach us and to help others. Looking back,  everything I mentioned were signs of the disease.  Now Lyme would be one of my first thoughts when talking with my vet.  Since I had never experienced Lyme disease, my thoughts went to what I knew.  Small dog syndrome, I call it, and soreness from over use.

Here are some highlights of my experience.

  1. Harley is now the poster child for Lyme at our vet’s office. It reconfirmed that all size dogs are susceptible to this disease.  Not just the larger dogs that are always running in the woods.
  2. Educate yourself on how Lyme Disease.  I hope you never have to experience it but at least you will be aware.
  3. Pennsylvania and New York states are two of the highest states for the disease.
  4. Test your dogs yearly.  No matter if you think they have had a tick or not.  The cost of the test is worth early detection and treatment.  

What have I taken away from this experience?

  1. Our dogs are a blessing from God.  They teach us as much as we teach them.  
  2. Enjoy every moment with them.  Whether good or bad.
  3. They give us unconditional love even at the moment that it is time to let them go.

This is in Loving Memory of

Harley Got A Free Ride.

Little did I know how short that ride would be.  But it was a great one.

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