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Off Topic :
Old Dog with Tummy Torments

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 Superesse (original poster member #60731) posted at 3:59 AM on Friday, September 23rd, 2022

Have any of you had an old dog (especially a Lab or Shepherd type) with both pancreatitis and hypothyroidism? I know they can be difficult and variable problems, but I am wearing out our vet with questions we don't seem to have answers for, and this dear dog is wearing us out, as well!

Last year, he got diagnosed at age 13+ with low thyroid T4 (probably had been getting worse for years), so we started on the thyroxin pill regimen the vet prescribed. Immediately that caused his metabolism to rev up (of course) and we noticed he was panting more, drinking a ton more water, and acting like somebody stole half his food! But also, tummy problems became way more frequent. He always did have a sensitive stomach.

We decided to cut his thyroxin dose to half but supplement his feed with a retail thyroid-stimulating herb mix, and it seemed he was settling into his new regimen with months of good T4 blood levels on the half dose + herbal therapy.

But then, a few months later, he started having attacks of diarrhea every four or five days, so the vet ran another blood test, and found low pancreatic enzymes. We added prescription pancreatic enzyme pills before every meal and we have had to sharply limit fat and keep his protein content under 20%. Very few affordable feeds work for this kind of diet, and he isn't happy about all this, either!

But here's the weird thing: after a year of expensive tests and prescription pills, his lab work just showed he's healthy and within normal ranges, and the vet thinks he's doing well enough. Yet he is getting more and more difficult for us to figure out (especially, when he needs to go out!)

Just last week, we found a true low fat kibble (5%) and started transitioning him to it for a quarter to half his regular senior dog food ration. At 70 lbs., he gets 1 scant cup of the mixture of 2 low-fat, low-protein feeds at each feeding, whereas their charts say to feed 3-4 cups a day. We switched to the 2nd dry kibble because my little home-cooked rice and ground beef "brownies," added to 1 cup of senior kibble, seemed too much bulk for his gut. We blamed them for causing loose stools.

But soon after we started with this new mix of feeds, he has double the volume of #2, and now wants to go OUT urgently 3 times or more a day...lately, he is even dumping a load in the house in the middle of the night! (At least it's "formed" and not too bad to deal with.) And with not a shred of guilt...in a dog who never did this in his long life? Either dementia, tummy distress, or both...

The fine print of the new feed might explain part of this: 10% fiber versus the existing senior kibble's 4.5% max. But surely, a relatively small increase in fiber would not by itself double the bulk of his #2 business?? Plus, due to the restricted diet, he had been losing enough weight we can feel his ribs. So after consulting with the vet, we figured 3 meals a day might help his tummy deal with this new blend of food while keeping his calories up.

But nothing seems to work well for long. Today, we skipped his midday feed but still only gave him his 1 cup tonight of the 2 dry feeds, along with his pancreatic enzyme pills and Fortiflora probiotic powder. Soon as he finishes eating and drinking, he begs to go out for a massive #2 but then, 2 hours later, we get another desperate request to go out, only this time, it's diarrhea. I am stumped.

My husband wonders if he is "forcing himself to go" sometimes, because the smart old dog understands the People are going to bed soon, and the night is getting long; 8 hours now is too long for the old guy, I think.

I guess I'm at the end of what we know to try, and wondering if anybody else has figured out how to anticipate their old dog's needs - without becoming caught up in a game of "What? You wanna go out AGAIN?" :) I wonder if he's having a bit of memory loss, that he forgets he just ate or forgets he just went. Yikes. I'm committed to this dog until death do us part, but it's just about all my husband and I talk about, any more! We have heard similar tales of woe from a couple other dog owners who have had a pancreatitis and/or hypothyroid to cope with. I'm trying to cope....help!?

If you read this far, thank you, even if you have no suggestion!

posts: 1493   ·   registered: Sep. 22nd, 2017   ·   location: Washington D C area
id 8756624
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 Superesse (original poster member #60731) posted at 12:56 PM on Friday, September 23rd, 2022

So last night, he slept like a baby all through the night (not sitting up and panting every so often, like he has been doing for months) but not surprised to hear that on his morning walk, he had no #2. Probably because he has nothing left in his gut, after yesterday's last trip outside.

Now if only his Mom could get a good night's sleep!

posts: 1493   ·   registered: Sep. 22nd, 2017   ·   location: Washington D C area
id 8756667
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tushnurse ( member #21101) posted at 7:29 PM on Friday, September 23rd, 2022

Sorry you are dealingnwith this. All I have to offer is commiseration.
I have a 13.5 yo lab that has kidney disease and a splenic tumor about the size of a softball.
I had switched her to homemade food a year ago due to corn and chicken allergies. Now custom made for her kidney issues and allergies.
I make a bunch of it and bag it up for individual servings.

Me: FBS
Him: FWS
Kids: 22 & 25
Married for 30 years now, was 16 at the time.
D-Day Sept 26 2008
R'd in about 2 years. Old Vet now.

posts: 19510   ·   registered: Oct. 1st, 2008   ·   location: St. Louis
id 8756797
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JasonCh ( new member #80102) posted at 7:59 PM on Friday, September 23rd, 2022

Sorry you are dealing with dog issues. Our sheppard/lab mix of 14 years just passed away a month and a half ago. It is lonely here on the farm without her.

I would second what tushnurse said about making your own. Our dog also had a very sensitive stomach to all vet medications (including the anti-vomiting and anti-diarrheal drugs). I used brown rice and chicken. I would keep her on that for a week or so and then then gradually reintroduce kibble and watch her reaction. Beef may be too rich for his gut. Maybe also think about not giving any meidcations or supplements until you get his gut settled down and then again add things back in one at a time until you find what works *now* for him.

posts: 11   ·   registered: Mar. 18th, 2022
id 8756805
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 Superesse (original poster member #60731) posted at 2:28 AM on Saturday, September 24th, 2022

Thank you Tushnurse and JasonCh for the sympathies; this is one of those subject matters they don't like to tell us much about in the books.

For brevity - just the thought of me being brief 😂 - I didn't describe my last venture into home-cooking for him, before we resorted to this latest low-fat kibble trial, but it was partly inspired by something Tushnurse wrote someone about making specialty dog food.

I was afraid the rice I was fixing with defatted ground beef (sauteed, boiled, cooled and all fat skimmed) was likely too many carbs with not much nutrition. So instead, I researched a bit and tried cooking up a bag of whole barley with 2 lbs of defatted ground beef, chopped kale and canned pumpkin, and made the mix into frozen bars so we could defrost one every morning and night. Wow, that barley sure bulked him up...or maybe it was the pumpkin. One little square the size of a small, thin brownie! Scratch that, we decided. I read where some dogs with pancreatitis do better with added fiber and others do better on a more total digestible ration. Maybe we have that second type of dog.

I also can't help wondering if these prescription thyroid pills aggravated some latent pancreatic issue, since we had him on thyroid pills only a few months before the other problem flared up so badly. Vet says 2 weeks for the dog to adjust to the thyroid dose level, so we want to keep him steady with that. He had been slowing way down and his coat was getting ratty-looking before the hypothyroid diagnosis, which improved both those issues, but it seems a little bit of that medicine goes a long way, with him!

JasonCh, my heart goes out to you in the loss of your old gal. I cannot imagine the aching hole she left! If you don't mind me asking, how did she pass, like "on her own?" We actually wonder about this with our old boy. A vet tech said we have kept him going longer than some people would bother doing, which was hard to hear. We have even been taking the 2 dogs on camping trips this last month to far away destinations before he cannot travel, since truck rides and camping trips seem to be his remaining joy in life, now that he can't catch groundhogs any longer!

On the road trips, he really perks up and - I am not making this up - wakes up out of the back seat in the truck cab and climbs up on the jump seat console exactly whenever we are crossing state lines on Interstate roads, and also whenever we approach major bridges like the Hudson River crossing (last fall he had to wake up to take a long look at the Mississippi River bridge as we crossed into Vicksburg.) He knows the rest stops between D.C. and Ohio, too. His GPS works better than Garmin!! We figure he just wants to know we are on course. His cataracts are lately getting larger, so we wonder if he really "sees" everything clearly, but he appears very interested in people walking near the truck and tractor trailers zooming by us at rest stops, so I think he is still able to see some. He startles a little easier if you come up along side of him, so I guess he's losing some of that vision and we know he's getting hard of hearing. But such a cool dog, with a courageous spirit! May we all fight the inevitable with such a desire for living!

I guess he is doing pretty good for an old dog, if he could just get his tummy to cooperate! Thanks again, (((group hugs)))

posts: 1493   ·   registered: Sep. 22nd, 2017   ·   location: Washington D C area
id 8756847
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