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Lisa Nicolello

General's Story

By Lisa Nicolello

General Lee or "Gen Gen" as he is called at home, is a loving, funny young adult mastiff. I got him last summer to sell, but his unique personality and many talents earned him a life-long home here. He is small, well-built, moves flawlessly, is very handsome, and a bit too bright. He and his ten littermates had Parvo as puppies and all survived, although Gen was one of the sickest.

Gen Gen has done beautifully in weight-pulling, carting, obedience and is pointed in the breed ring. His favorite trick is doing a combination playbow/extended stretch while both front feet are planted on a human's feet. It's cute, but painful when the recipient is barefoot.

I got both Gen and his dam Amanda in July of 1996. Amanda was three years old and Gen was ten months. In September of 1996, Amanda was diagnosed with acute kidney failure. With a lot of luck, excellent vet care, homeopathics, and three months of force feeding, Amanda stabilized. She has been doing well since, but may have permanent kidney damage. The cause was Leptospirosis, which she had not been vaccinated against. In California where she was raised, the vaccine was not routinely given. Lepto is carried by rodents and spread through contact with contaminated water. Moving from dry California to wet Florida put them both at risk. Lepto is rare, and Amanda was only tested for it six weeks after she became ill. After her positive titer came back, we treated her with Doxycycline, and gave booster vaccines (DA2PL) to all dogs on our property. Boosters were repeated in two weeks, and again this January.

We have dogs here from 9-1/2 years old to newborns, and have lived here for ten years. In the spring and summer it rains every day. We get flooded often, with runoff coming from who knows where. The dogs love the water and mud, and prefer to wallow in and drink the grossest, foulest water they can find instead of the clean, fresh water always available.

In August of this year we had two bitches in heat, so the boys pined, cried and lost weight. On the morning of August 29th I noticed that Gen was subdued. He ate well, and his stool was normal. I brought him to the vet clinic at 6:00am (I have a key) and left a note to have him examined. I then worked my morning job and got to the clinic about 11:30 am.

I was worried about the horrible breath and coating on his teeth I had found, and the fact that he hadn't bowed on my feet for two days. His temperature was 98.5 (very low for an adult dog) and his stomach was gassy and made horrible rumbling, gurgling noises. His stools were perfect, not vomiting, but starting Saturday, he drank and drank and drank at the water bowl.

I asked my vet to take blood so we could see what was happening. I had a horrible suspicion from his mouth odor of what was wrong, and so did my vet (but she kept quiet, not wanting to worry me yet). We drew blood for a CBC/SuperChem, and got the results Saturday morning. To our horror Gen was in acute kidney failure with a urea nitrogen level of 217 (normal range is 8 to 25). His creatinine level was 10.5 (normal range is 0.5 to 2.0). He was very anemic. We started an IV, pulled more blood for a Lepto test, and put him on Doxycycline.

I went home in shock to spend the Holiday weekend with Gen in my lap, getting bag after bag of fluids. He ate his breakfast with enthusiasm on Sunday, and acted happy. He even bowed a few times. I had to leash walk him in the yard because he wanted to go straight for the muddy swamp water to drink. I made him drink fresh water and got a dirty look for it. He ate dinner greedily that night, and on Monday he also ate well and seemed to feel a lot better.

I sent the bloodwork results to Sharon Krauss who bred Gen. She was horrified and called Marina Zacharias to order homeopathics for him as we did for Amanda a year earlier. At this point we didn't know if Gen had Lepto, or a congenital kidney defect. On Tuesday, Gen went back to the vet for another CBC/SuperChem and more fluids. His mouth smelled better, his digestive tract still gurgled, but stools were normal. It really helped that he was willing to eat on his own, unlike his dam.

We didn't receive the Lepto test back until Thursday. It was positive for L. Canicola 1:400 which suggests current or recent infection. His CBC/SuperChem results had improved -- Urea nitrogen 150 and creatinine 8.4. Still extremely high, but a definite change for the better. We planned to keep him on Doxycycline for three weeks and repeat the Lepto test in two weeks. I will do bloodwork every week or two to monitor his progress.

I'm very concerned about the rest of my dogs. Gen was vaccinated three times for Lepto and he still got it. He may have permanent kidney damage, only time will tell. Sharon and I are wondering if the fact that he was not vaccinated for Lepto until he was a young adult somehow did not give him the immunity he needed. My other dogs are all given DA2PL boosters after twelve weeks of age and then annually.

I can only hope not to see this horrible disease again. The Lepto bacteria is now, of course, all over my property, and both Gen and Amanda may be still shedding it. What a nightmare!

Infection with Leptospira bacteria occurs chiefly through exposure to contaminated water. Leptospiras commonly localize in the kidneys, and may be shed in urine for months or years. Sudden onset of depression, anorexia, vomiting and diarrhea is characteristic of acute leptospirosis; jaundice, fever, and generalized weakness may also occur. Subsequently, body temperature may drop to below normal and weakness may advance to muscular pain, stiffness and tremors. Labored breathing, coughing and intense thirst typically accompany these signs.

To be continued . . . .

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