How Casper got Liver Cirrhosis

It is the most heartbreaking thing to see your dog take his last breath on your lap. An arena that can never be forgotten all your life. Even after 5 years of Casper’s death, that field of vision is as fresh as if it was just yesterday.

Casper had liver cirrhosis. But he died due to stroke which was caused on account of all the complications from his primary illness. How Casper got Liver Cirrhosis is something I honestly don’t know. But I am going to narrate the stages of his life that made him cross the rainbow bridge at the age of 5 years 8 months. My purpose for this post is, to save any dog going through this or to begin with, no dog should go through this. And to make the pet parents aware of any hidden illness in their dogs before it is too late.

I distinctly remember, it was the summer of 2011 when we had gone to a farmhouse in Lonavala to get a dog for our farmhouse. We named him Scooby and he was already 9 months old. All his brothers and sisters were adopted when they were puppies, but he was left behind; and we wanted a little bigger dog as it is. The owner of the farmhouse told us that he was going to conduct a summer camp for dogs in some days and invited us to drop Scooby and Casper and enjoy swimming, playing games, running around, etc. for a few days.

Living in a city like Mumbai, the invitation was tempting as Casper would get to run free and have fun for a few days and even socialize with other dogs. We left Casper and Scooby in Lonavala and came back to Mumbai. I had my Law final exams going on, so I thought it was a good idea as I would get time to study and Casper would be enjoying himself. Before my last 2 papers, I had a break of 8 days. So my ex-husband and I thought of visiting Casper.

Casper was a very active dog, and whenever he would see us, he would come running to us all excited. When we reached the farmhouse and got out of the car, Casper was just sitting afar and didn’t move an inch. That very moment we realized something was wrong. The other strange thing was, we didn’t see Scooby anywhere and neither was the farmhouse owner in sight. We picked Casper up and immediately left for Mumbai and took him to the vet. In the meantime, we called the owner and gave him a piece of our mind and enquired about Scooby. That’s when he told us that Scooby had tick fever and he was in the hospital for treatment and he didn’t know why Casper was dull.

On reaching the vet, we narrated the whole story. Since we have friendly relations with the vet, he scolded us for being so reckless and leaving our dogs in a place infested with ticks and fleas (which we didn’t know at that time). The vet ran through some tests and confirmed that even Casper had high grade tick fever and was critical. He told us that he will do everything in his power to treat him, but it was upto the dog to fight from within. Since Casper was a young 1-year-old dog that time, the vet also told us that chances are bright for him to fight this out.

Little did we know, imagining a summer camp to be a fun filled few days would turn into a life and death situation. Day and night we were at the vet with Casper for his treatment, at the same time, we were also constantly in touch with the other vet where Scooby was admitted. In some days Scooby recovered and my ex-husband took him to our farmhouse in Karjat and settled him where he was taken good care of. But even after 4 days of treatment, Casper showed no signs of improvement. Then one day, a miracle happened out of nowhere.  I was home with Casper and he got up on his own and started eating his food which was kept next to him. I shed tears of joy. All these days I had to forcefully feed Casper with a syringe. But that day, he ate on his own. And his recovery began. At last, Casper’s health improved completely.

My vet had told me to continue some tonics and supplements for some months. After about a year of this incident, Casper looked completely normal and we stopped his medicines. This was the biggest mistake of my life. I should have never stopped giving Casper his supplements. Labradors are very active and playful dogs. Most of the time, they don’t show symptoms till the last moment. Casper was always playing and eating like he was never ill. He would throw up once every month, but we assumed each time, that the weather is not good or he over ate or he over played, etc.

Then Casper started developing rashes between all his legs. We ran through some tests and all were normal. So we treated him for allergy or skin infection. Basically, we never got any hint that these were the symptoms of an underlying disease. When I would take Casper and Junior for a walk, after sometime Casper would refuse to walk. But I would still make him finish his exercise quota thinking he has become lazy.

Plainly, Casper did show signs of an underlying disease, but since his blood records were always normal, we always looked at the outer picture and never imagined anything else. One fine day, Casper kept throwing up and we had to put him on drip. That’s when the vet noticed his stomach had water retention. My vet immediately sent him for a Sonography and did advanced blood check. Once again, Casper’s blood reports were normal but his liver walls a little thickened. He took a second opinion and the other vet told him that it was not too serious. This was on the 8th February 2016. Casper’s health started deteriorating quick. He wouldn’t stop vomiting and started shedding a lot. His nose had become dry and cracked. His skin had become dry and stomach had swollen to a size of a ball. But he was still active, playing and eating. Then he started pooping, peeing and vomiting blood. I took him to a third vet on the 12th and fourth vet on 16th February 2016. By then, all the vets finally told me that he relapsed from tick fever and had last stage liver cirrhosis. All told me to put Casper down.

It was only my old and original vet who told me that he will try till Casper’s last breath. Unfortunately, on the treatment table, Casper got a stroke and passed away on the 18th February 2016. It took Casper only 10 days from his initial throwing up to dying. Active all the time. Till date, I do not know how he relapsed so bad. Was it home food that I fed him for some time when I was broke? Was it a result of over breeding from where we bought him when he was a puppy? Was it really a relapse of his tick fever from 4 years ago? Was it because I discontinued his supplements? I still don’t know.

The loss is too huge for me to ever recover from. But I would like to tell all the pet parents, do your dog’s blood tests every year even if he/she are healthy and fine. Do not keep changing their food. If they are suddenly reluctant to walk, get them checked. If they have ever got tick fever and recovered, give them liver supplements always. Do not assume anything. In short, if you feel something is off, then take your dog to the vet immediately. Dogs do not show symptoms often. We as pet parents, play a big role in understanding them. I hope this helps you’ll. I wish good health and love to all and never ever any pet parent should go through the guilt of not being able to save their dog and the dog shouldn’t go through the ordeal that Casper went through where later even the syringes couldn’t go into his body. Take care!

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Sapna Shah

A Dog Mom, who's dogs have adopted her.

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