We got Bella the end of October 2010 at "8 weeks". She seemed small then, but we loved her. (health cert birth date 9/12) From day one she had diarrhea. The breeder said from food changes, it will end soon, the vet treated her for worms. Still no response, 2 weeks later, still constant diarrhea, from runny to soft serve. The breeder came over to give me the AKC papers (birthdate 8/23) and she was active, just diarrhea, he again gave me some dewormer and said she would be fine. Go forward a month, Bella is growing taller, but not wider. More and more people are commenting on her being thin. New vet eval and shots, Bella is 3 months old and just a little over 6 lbs...yes thin. Dr Turman gave her wet food to mix with kibble and see if she can gain weight.
One week later, no weight gain and by this time her heart rate was 40bpm. All Dr. Turman could say was "if we don't do something, she won't make it through the weekend" "what do you want me to do?" by this time I was sobbing and could barely talk "you have to save her life" She then took Bella to the back and told me to go home, she would call me with any changes and was going to consult a specialist. I immediately got in the car and called Terri, crying so hard, I didn't want to go home. Once home I was greeted by my son Ian, he was 17 at the time. He knew I was crying and said "what did they take her?" I could just nod my head, he then stared crying and went up to get his girlfriend. Terri came home from work right away just to find the three of us crying and cuddling over Abby. I then got mad. I called the breeder to see if by chance he would have any answers, after all he sold 20 pups that same weekend, there had to be some others sick too. He just told me "cut your losses, it is just a dog, but if you expect a replacement, then you need to prove it was something congenital" He also said not to have the ER clinic monitor her over the weekend, it would be so very expensive, he offered to have his Vet do it, his vet "wouldn't charge as much" but the disclaimer was "don't let him know you are angry with me, we are friends and he wouldn't appreciate it" WTH? the vet should be saving animals lives not choosing what to do based on if I was mad at his friend or not! SO I opted to NOT do it.
I couldn't wait any longer, we all piled in the car to head back to the vets office. She informed me that the specialist, Dr Walker, suggested to administer Atropine and see if that helped. And it did, when we got there, Bella had her heart rate back up and actually acted more alert. The vet allowed me to bring her home and between the 4 of us, we monitored her heart 24/7 until Monday morning. That is when Terri took her to Dr Walker. After an EKG and a series of tests it was diagnosed that she had a mis-charge of the heart and possible pace-maker later on, but until then, meds. We went home, happy that we found our answers. Two weeks later, still no weight gain and chronic diarrhea....By this time she was almost 5 months old and barely 8lbs. At this point Bella could not regulate her body temp so she either slept on a heating pad/dog bed, in front of the electric fireplace or snuggled to my chest under the sheets at night. She also had bad incontinent bowels, she wore a diaper most of the time. I mean constantly it came out!! Just little blobs, but constant, if not in a diaper, she was wrapped up in a blanket for us to stay clean. At night I would wrap her up in baby blankets and every so often get up and change it out, the whole time her sleeping up under my chin to keep warm. (what we do for our babies)
We went back to Dr. Walker and he was not happy with the minimal weight gain, she had only gained 3 oz. It was the middle of Jan, she was 5 months old and still 8lbs. He wanted to keep her for the afternoon, so she could fast and they again would do blood work. Once I got back he mentioned she had poo'd while there and a light bulb went off. Once he saw her HUGE, yellow soft stool he knew it most possibly was Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency, EPI for short. You see Dr Walker's specialty is digestive diseases and he even studied and researched under the vet who discovered and developed the blood test for EPI. He knew the signs and symptoms and was sure. He needed to do a blood test, however he was so sure he just gave us the enzymes to use right away. The reason he missed it was that there had never been a documented case of a puppy having EPI from birth, or at this age. It is 99% in German Sheppard and can develop any time in a dogs life, but mainly a couple years old. That night Bella had her first meal with enzymes and the next morning her first dark brown tootsie roll poo......YEAH. I was so excited I took a photo!
From there I found a wonderful EPI support site and that led me here. How? Well I am the Rescue Moderater for them, I look up specific rescue sites looking for dogs with this EPI descriptions and then notify the rescue group with EPI info and testing requirements. There was a posting on EBN for a bully who had specific symptoms that sounded like EPI, the rest is history. So far to date, 5 dogs have been saved. I have designed an awareness ribbon, and sell those ribbon magnets for Clemson Universtiy research, which Bella is a research Pup.
Here are her photos. Sorry the story was so long....
Skinny but un-diagnosed
Worst time 8lbs
one month later....16lbs