Thursday, October 18, 2012

INFLAMMATORY BOWEL DISEASE, by Nicky the greyhound

It is now official.  I have IBD, which stands for Inflammatory Bowel Disease.  Of course, I've been trying to tell Mom all along that something didn't feel good inside me, and she believed me, so we tried all kinds of medicine and special food and everything else.  Then last week, Mom finally forked over more than $1,500 to get me an endoscopy and find out the exact diagnosis.




Actually, I had two endoscopies, one down my throat, and the other up my, ahem, other end.  I slept through it all, so it wasn't really a horrible experience.  But when we got home that night, I was definitely not in the mood to eat any supper or do anything much except sleep.  By the next morning, though, I felt a lot better, and I was really hungry for breakfast.

Mom has had other dogs with IBD, and some cats, too.  Mel has it, and he takes a little white prednisone pill every other day, plus metronidazole twice every day.  Gabe had a pretty bad case of it, and it just got worse toward the end of his life.  Mom's first basenji, Trixie, had it, and so did a couple of cats she used to have.  Charlie probably has it, but every time he has a flare-up, he gets some metronidazole, and that makes him feel better.  So my point is that I am a long ways from being Mom's first experience with IBD.


What an endoscope sees


Dr. Grigsby, my internist, called Mom Tuesday with the results of the endoscopies and the biopsies -- because while that tube thing was inside me looking around, it also took some little samples of tissue.  Then the samples got sent off to the lab.  The thing that surprised Dr. Grigsby was that the inflammation was in my small intestines, rather than in my colon, which is where she thought it would be.  The people at the lab looked at little tiny bits of my intestines under their microscopes, and they decided that I did indeed have IBD.  But luckily, they did not see even one cancer cell.

After getting my diagnosis, I naturally started thinking, "Why me?" which is what people always think when they get sick.  So I started looking for answers on the internet, which has all kinds of answers, both right and wrong. The first thing I found out was that IBD is a complicated and confusing sort of ailment.  It sometimes goes by other names such as Colitis, Chronic Colitis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Regional Enteritis, Granulomatous Enteritis, or Spastic Bowel Syndrome.  The name that is used depends on what kind of symptoms you are having.  In people, it's called Crohn's Disease, but it's still basically the same thing.


This is an inflamed colon, but an inflamed small intestine
probably looks about the same.


There are four kinds of IBD, but the most common type is Lymphocytic-Plasmacytic Enterocolitis.  Mom thinks that is the kind Dr. Grigsby said I have, but it was too many big words for her to understand and remember.  So she was just listening for the explanation in plain English.

Anyway, what happens to a dog with IBD seems to be that there are these things called lymphocytes and plasma cells, and these are the cells that get all inflamed and cause the problems.  Usually, these cells are busy fighting bacteria, but in IBD, they accumulate in large numbers in the lining of the intestines, and then they overreact and start thinking everything is a threat, even if it isn't.  So some of the dog's cells are attacking other cells inside the same dog, and everything gets all painful and icky.




When that happens, a dog starts having diarrhea because his food moves through his intestines too fast, and the watery part doesn't get absorbed.  And the nutrients might not get absorbed either, so he gets anemic and loses weight.  Another symptom is vomiting, but I haven't done much of that.  Mostly, I just have diarrhea.  And sometimes my tummy hurts, and I don't want to eat.  Or I want to eat dirt or poop or something like that.  But dirt is the yummiest, I think.




Some breeds are more likely to get IBD, which means it is probably genetic.  A 2012 study in the UK showed that the types of dogs who get IBD most often are weimaraners, rottweilers, German shepherds, boxers, and border collies.  Another study also mentioned shar-peis and soft-coated wheaten terriers.  Basenjis have their very own form of the illness called immuno-proliferative IBD.  This is probably what Gabe had.  None of the lists mentioned greyhounds, though, so this is one reason I feel unfairly singled out to get IBD.

Here are some common symptoms of IBD:  persistent diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, inflamed anus and "butt scooting," picky appetite, weight loss, brittle coat, lots of shedding, gurgling tummy, flatulence, bloating, and vomiting.  Of course, there are other illnesses that can cause these symptoms, so you have to rule out as many as you can before paying Big Bucks for an endoscopy.  If your mom or dad can't afford to have the endoscopy done, your vet will often just treat your dog with the assumption that IBD is the problem.  This is what Mom did with her cats who presumably had it.

Okay, so once you know you have IBD, what do you do about it?  In my case, Dr. Grigsby thought we should start with prednisone, which is a steroid, but it's not illegal for dogs to take it, like it is for athletes.  Well, it might be illegal for race dogs to take steroids, but my racing career was too short for me to learn about stuff like that.


My poop is very popular!

I took prednisone before because of my back problems and joint problems, and it made me feel much better.  It made me eat better, too, so I am happy to be taking prednisone again.  Unfortunately, if you take prednisone for a long time, it can do bad things to your liver and other parts of you, so it's best to stop taking it after a while, or else to take the lowest dose that will still make you feel better.

Another thing we might try later is a special diet, except that I was on one for a year or two, and I was still having diarrhea sometimes.  Now all of us dogs are eating food made out of salmon and potatoes, and we really like it.  But first Dr. Grigsby wants to see how I do on the prednisone.

Oh, and maybe I forgot to mention that you can't really get "cured" of IBD.  You can only "manage" the illness.  But if "managing" means I start feeling better, I'm all for it!


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