Let Inga Tell You: Cats may have nine lives, but they can’t beat our miracle dog

A sight Inga thought she would never see again: her dog eating.

Against all odds, our beloved dog is still with us. Canceling the in-home euthanasia service was one of the happiest moments of our lives. She is truly a miracle dog.

We adopted this then-7-year-old dog back in 2016 after she was placed in our home as a “one week emergency foster” by a rescue agency. They saw us for the mushballs that we were. That dog had us at “arf.”

Her entire mouth was rotten (hence her relinquishment to the pound), so we instantly incurred $1,500 in doggie dental work. In 2020 and again in 2022, she blew out first her left CCL (knee) and then her right.

By late last fall, she finally seemed fully recovered from the second knee surgery. But then she suddenly stopped eating. My husband, Olof, became a dog food whisperer, sitting on the floor with her trying to entice her to lick homemade mush, or even just warm beef broth, off his fingers. Her harness hung off her as her weight dropped daily.

Critical diagnostic sign: She stopped barking at the mailman.

She underwent every lab test and scan known to dog, with several genuinely earnest vets. Every result came back normal. The dog was treated with multiple anti-nausea shots and pills, probiotics, antacids, all manner of stomach soothers and expensive special diets. Nothing helped.

Puzzlingly, she also was having difficulty standing and going up and down our two front steps. Yet spinal X-rays were normal, too.

As a last-ditch effort, we took her to an internal medicine specialist. We were already well into the five figures in vet bills in the past year, between her second knee surgery and all the diagnostic tests and treatments. How much further were we willing to go?

The internist spent considerable time reviewing the dog’s voluminous records and went through a very long list of all the possibilities for her anorexia, many of them involving treatments that would be unacceptable to us. For example, Cushing’s disease was a major possibility, but it would be caused by a pituitary tumor that would require brain surgery or radiation.

Perhaps she had inflammatory bowel disease or a fungal gastrointestinal disease like histoplasmosis (which would need more sophisticated tests than the ones for parasites she’d already been tested for) or intestinal cancer (her previous abdominal ultrasound should be repeated), maybe low-grade pancreatitis or a long list of other possibilities, some treatable, others not very.

Steroid therapy would have many side effects, especially on her heart. They definitely would want to do some biopsies. We had been desperately hoping that something obvious would jump out at the doctor that had been missed.

When they gave us an estimate for the first round of diagnostic tests, it was $5,100.

Alternatively, they could install an esophageal feeding tube under anesthesia.

We declined both.

Clutching the dog on my lap, I sobbed into her fur all the way home. I think Olof would have been sobbing, too, if he hadn’t been driving. Our last hope was gone. We had already begun researching the in-home euthanasia services. Olof was especially adamant that we weren’t going to watch this dog starve to death. But how do you put down a dog when you have no diagnosis?

And then the miracle. By pure serendipity, I was given the name of a retired vet, recently moved to the area, who had practiced integrated veterinary medicine, i.e., both Eastern and Western approaches. He kindly agreed to see the dog the next day. Olof thought it was a waste of time.

Two minutes into his exam, the vet noted: “Well, first thing I’m seeing is that her jaw is dislocated. No wonder she won’t eat.” Her SI (sacroiliac) joint was also out of place.

He gently manipulated her jaw and her spine, followed by acupuncture. She devoured half a bag of soft treats before leaving.

We had been keeping small dishes of food on her mat hoping to entice her to eat. When I took her home, she devoured all three.

It’s been four months since that day. This wonderful man has graciously seen her several times since to check her jaw and SI alignment. He prescribed various herbs as well, which we frankly would have rolled our eyes at before all this. Olof has become an ace capsule filler.

The dog will be 14 soon. She definitely has old-dog issues, is a little stiff when she gets up, but no problems with steps. She’s a picky eater, but she eats on her own and has regained all her lost weight. And in the truest sign of recovery, she is barking lustily again at what Olof refers to as “FedEx charcuterie.”

So what happened? Did she have a fall at home that we didn’t see? At the groomer’s? It will probably always be a mystery.

We’re beyond grateful for every moment she’s remained in our lives. And even more grateful to the vet who saved her.

Inga’s looks at life appear regularly in the La Jolla Light. Reach her at ◆