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Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Pet Safety in the Garage

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Author: Stephanie Hyde

Dogs are known for being fearless explorers of the  unknown. Unfortunately for us, that “unknown” sometimes means our garage. When strapped for space, many homeowners turn to their garage to store off-season items, tools, and chemicals for the car. Storing these items in the garage can produce a tempting threat and unsafe area for dogs. However, by following the few simple steps, your garage can be a serve the purpose of a storage and safe play area for your furry friends.

cabinets and shelving copyGet it off the floor: Nothing is more tempting to a dog than items at eye level. Shelving and cabinets are a simple solutions to this problem. Cabinets provide a safe way to store harsh chemicals out of the sight and reach of dogs. This also reduces the risk bottles and cans forming puddles for curious animals to drink from. Shelving with hooks is a great way to customize your area, create space, and get sports equipment, gardening tools, sharp items off of the floor, and keeping paws safe.

Look for heavy objects: Stacking is a great way to maximize space in a small area. However, rambunctious dogs running around can bump these piles and make them fall. Overhead storage allows you to store boxes and tubs safely out of the way. This storage method is great for less frequently used items and off season item. When looking at overhead storage, make sure there is at least an one inch lip to prevent items from falling.

Organization is key: Perhaps the easiest way to prevent accidents is by being organized. By knowing where things are and keeping them out of the way of small paws, it almost completely eliminates the risk. Of course, this is easier said than done. By utilizing shelving, overhead storage, and cabinets, this task can become much simpler.

Creating a safe and fun area for your pets in the garage doesn’t have to be hard. Just remember the three simple steps: get it off the floor, look for heavy objects, and organization is key. You’ll be on your way to a happy and healthy dog.

About the author: Stephanie Hyde works for George’s Gorgeous Garages, a garage storage and organization company serving homeowners in the Lansing area. For more tips on home organization, visit our blog at


Canine Aura Photography With Donna Aiken

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

Canine Aura Photography with Donna Aiken

See your dog’s aura in living color. Aura and chakra photography is a multimedia biofeedback imaging system using the science of biofeedback, color therapy and energy medicine to measure, analyze and display a representation of the emotional-energetic state of your aura.

Chakras are wheels of energy within our bodies, aligned with our spinal column, that influence our health, emotions and spirit. Auras are color representations of our chakra energy. Learn more about Aura Photography in a wonderful interview with Donna Aiken.

Donna Aiken began doing aura photography in 2003. She will be available at AnnaBelle’s Pet Station for Dog Aura Photography on Friday Sept. 6 from 1-8 p.m. Each session is 20 minutes. COST: $30. One dog per session.  SIGN UP NOW!

Interested in having your own personal aura report done? Donna will be available for human aura photography at Just B Yoga on Sept. 7 and 8 for appointments to produce custom aura reports. COST: $30. SCHEDULE YOUR APPOINTMENT for Human Aura Photography at

Adventures In Nail Trimming!

Friday, August 2nd, 2013
Buddy - the former finger biter.

Buddy: the former finger biter
and forever the drama queen.

The bane of a dog’s existence (and their pet parent’s) is often the dreaded TRIMMING OF THE NAILS. I have two rottweilers, Buddy and Martini. Buddy used to let me trim his nails with no trouble, but then, I clipped a little too close once and BOOM – it was the end of Buddy’s cooperative personality and he turned into THE BITER. Martini, on the other hand, would rather die than put her teeth on a person, no matter what. Trimming her nails was, however, like wrestling a greased up alligator, who thankfully, doesn’t bite. Neither experience was pleasant or productive. No nails got trimmed and we all ended up frustrated and cranky.

The next option is to abandon all efforts to trim the dogs’ nails at home and just let their nails get too long. This is uncomfortable for the dogs and I always end up being scratched somewhere.  And, the longer you wait between nail trims, there is less nail length that can be trimmed without harming the dog because the nail quick does not get pushed back regularly, as it does with regular trimming. When you finally go back to regular nail trims, the nails have to be gradually clipped shorter each time so that the dog is not injured. So avoiding the problem just makes it worse in so many ways.

Martini: the 90 lb greased-up alligator

Martini: the 90 lb
greased-up alligator

The best option – take this job to the pros! You would think, as co-owner of AnnaBelle’s Pet Station, this would have occurred to me sooner.  While I brought the dogs in for a bath and nail trim occasionally, I never brought them in on a regular, monthly basis. One day, as I vacuumed up gobs of dog hair in my house for the millionth time, I thought … mmmmm, regular de-shedding is definitely in order! But, do I really want to torture our lovely groomers with doing my dogs’ nails? Meh. So, with a little guilt and a lot of relief, I made their appointments.

At the first appointment, Buddy had to be muzzled and Martini was still like wrestling a greased up alligator, except Yeon (our senior groomer) was actually able to get her nails trimmed AND dremeled! WOW! I took my two shiny rottweilers home after leaving Yeon a BIG FAT tip for her hard work.

The second trip one month later was a little easier. Buddy still needed to be muzzled, but was far less dramatic. Yeon’s experienced and patient, yet quick, technique, along with the positive reinforcement of yummy cheese and Natural Balance during the grooming process was really starting to make headway for both of them. Buddy grumbled less and Martini more easily let Yeon touch her front feet.

And the third trip was the charm! Well, almost. Both dogs were far more cooperative, Buddy learned that he LOVES the hairdryer (yes, he is a princess), and Martini figured out that Yeon was not going to hurt her. At the fourth trip, I couldn’t stay for their grooming and had to run some errands. Low and behold, while Mom is away, the Rotties’ behavior was vastly improved! (I’m sure every parent of a pet or human child has experienced this phenomenon). I came back to the shop in the middle of the process and Yeon gently explained, “they were so good while you were gone.”  And then there was a long pause. “Ohhhhhhhhhhh, would you like me to leave again?” I said, as the light bulb went on. “Yes, please,” Yeon said ever so sweetly.  So I found more stuff to do. And the dogs both behaved beautifully and lived happily ever after.

At AnnaBelle’s, we want the grooming experience to be as positive as possible, especially those pesky nail trims. So, in addition to sharing my own personal adventures in nail trimming, we have created this fun and informative video — all about the nails — featuring our Team Leader, Erinn Hadley, Dr. Joyce Heideman from Southside Animal Hospital, trainer Dawn Pizzoferrato, ABCDT, and groomer Sam Waterbury. Please enjoy! Angela B.

Learn more about AnnaBelle’s Pampered Pooch Salon and our awesome grooming team. Or, call (517.599.0995) or email ( us if you have any questions or would like to make an appointment.

Carol’s Corner: How to Discourage Poop-Eating Behavior

Friday, February 1st, 2013

linksDear Carol: Do you have any advice to prevent my dog from eating poop outside? Thanks, Jennifer

Dear Jennifer:

Poop eating or coprophagia is a relatively common behavior, especially in younger dogs.  Many dogs outgrow the problem.  As disgusting as the behavior seems to us, it falls under the category of being self-reinforcing to dogs.  There are many solutions that can be tried and the owner is encouraged to try more than one, as what works for one dog may not work for another.

Adding 2 – 4 tablespoons of canned pumpkin or canned pineapple to the dog’s meals each day can be an effective cure for many dogs.  Unfortunately, if the pumpkin or pineapple is stopped the dog will often go back to eating its own feces.

There are products on the market designed to be added to the dog’s food that can also be effective; these include Deter, Dis-Taste and For-Bid.  Sometimes adding meat tenderizer or MSG to the dog’s diet will also produce the desired results.  A veterinarian friend of mine said she’d had the most success having clients add a human natural food enzyme, found at any health food store to their dog’s food.

Another tactic that many have found successful is to switch their dogs current diet to a B.A.R.F. diet.  B.A.R.F. is an acronym that stands for  Bones And Raw Food.  There are many books and on-line advice regarding “feeding raw” and those that support it often claim many other benefits to their dog’s health as well.

Hope this helps you get on the right track!

Sincerely, Carol

Carol Hein-Creger
Director of Training
Canine Training Center

Carol Hein-Creger has been training dogs and their owners since 1979. She has trained thousands of people, including many local dog trainers. Carol is the lead trainer at AnnaBelle’s Pet Station in downtown Lansing. Check out her upcoming class schedule. Do you have a training or behavior question for Carol? Send an email to with “Carol’s Corner” in the subject line or use the “Contact Us” form.

The Vet’s Perspective: Holiday Hazards

Friday, December 14th, 2012

Author: Joyce Heideman, DVM


Christmas-DogWithSantaCapThe holidays are a special time of year for most of us and can be a very joyous time. Unfortunately, they also bring their own set up hazards and risks for your pet. These include foreign body ingestion, accidental poisonings and feeding problems. This is a list of some “Holiday Hazards” and how to avoid them.

Start by looking at the decorations in your home. Anything that is “new and shiny” can look inviting to your pet to play with and unfortunately, ingest. The Christmas tree is beautiful, but full of hazards for both dogs and cats. Avoid tinsel! Many cats love to play with tinsel, string, yarn, or ribbon but, if ingested it can cause twisting and rupture of the intestines, which can be fatal. Glass ornaments can also be very dangerous in the mouths and stomachs of our pets. Place them out of reach, or use only plastic ornaments. Even the water in the base of the tree can contain secretions from the tree that can cause the pet to become ill. And, of course, the string of lights is very appealing as a chew toy to kittens, cats, and puppies alike. Also, realize that fresh cut trees can result in a break in the rules of house training for some dogs. Why else would you have brought the outdoors inside for them?

Accidental poisonings often result from plants or edible gifts we receive or make at this time of year. Poinsettia, mistletoe and the root of the amaryllis plant are very pretty and a true sign of the holidays, but all can be very toxic. Keep these plants and decorations well out of reach of your pets, or don’t bring them into the home at all. Most people are aware that chocolate is toxic to dogs, and candy dishes should be kept out of reach, but, how about that box of candy under the tree for the newspaper person, or mail carrier? Don’t believe that just because it is wrapped, your pet won’t be able to smell it and open it! Dark chocolate is more dangerous that milk chocolate and many of us bake with baker’s chocolate, which is the most toxic to our pets. Be careful to keep these, and the finished products, away from our pets. For a small dog, even a small piece of milk chocolate can result in toxicity. Macadamia nuts are another important toxin that we often bake with this time of year. Macadamia nuts are extremely toxic to dogs, even in small amounts and can cause ataxia, weakness, coma and even death.

dreamstime_15859626While we are on the topic of edibles, be careful with too many “tastes” from the table. A small portion on a rare occasion may be a nice treat, but too much, too often or inappropriate items can mean trouble. Stay away from fatty meats, poultry skin, bacon, or gravy. All of these are very high in fat and can cause digestive upset or deadly pancreatitis. Poultry bones, no matter how big, should be avoided as they have a tendency to splinter and can lacerate or puncture the intestinal tract. Along the same lines, it is tempting to get your pet the largest rawhide you can find, or a stocking filled with all sorts of edible treats. Remember not to give them all the treats at once or let them consume the rawhide in one sitting. Even if they’re used to rawhides and other treats, too much at once can cause digestive upset that can be serious.

Happy Holidays! I hope this helps you relax and enjoy the holidays without the dangers they can pose to our pets.

Dr. Joyce Heideman DVM
Southside Animal Hospital
5134 S Martin Luther King Jr Blvd
Lansing, Mich. 48891

Fourth of July Fireworks Pet Precautions

Friday, June 29th, 2012

By: Dawn Archer Pizzoferrato, ABCDT, owner of Arrow Dog Training

With Michigan’s new “legal” fireworks law, this weekend, next week and next weekend could be quite stressful for our pets.  Plan now to take precautions to make this holiday a happy time instead of a tragic one!! Remember, this is the #1 time of year when pet go missing…Don’t let it be yours.

1. Make sure your pet is wearing their collar with ID tags.

2. Bring your pets in at dusk BEFORE most fireworks take place.

3. Secure them in a covered kennel, to muffle sound or in a room away from windows or cover windows with extra blankets to muffle the sound.

4. Keep a light on so that any “flashes” outside are less noticeable.

5. Play soothing music, or leave a TV on loud enough to cover up outside noises.

6. Give your dog a favorite chew, bone or kong to chew on to relieve stress and occupy them.

7. Arm yourself with the many anti-anxiety tools available.  Thundershirts, calming phermone, herbs and essential oils have all shown to help calm anxiety.

8. If your dog still gets very anxious and starts whining, pacing, barking or howling or acting out in any way, DO NOT comfort them! Stay calm, don’t react to the booms, don’t talk to your dog, don’t look at them and don’t touch them.  This only reinforces the nervous behavior.  You can be in the same room, but CANNOT give any attention. If you’re too much of a softy, don’t stay in the room. Make sure your dog is safe and secure and get out. Get your own ear plugs to lower your own distress.
If your dog stays calm, give calm verbal reinforcement ….”good boy/girl”. You can even give special yummy treat if you know your dog heard something, but did not react.  This teaches them that staying calm in the presence of scary noises earns them rewards. And over time the scary noises become much less scary.

9. Gradually desensitize your dog to the sounds of storms and fireworks during NON-firework times. Get a CD with firework and/or storm sounds  and play it at a very low level…a level that elicits NO reaction from you dog. Reward for staying calm with treats or attention. Then gradually, VERY gradually increase the volume to levels where your dog can stay calm.

10. Talk to your neighbors TODAY and let them know you have an anxious animal. Most people will take this in to consideration when using their fireworks.

Have fun and be safe!

Learn More About Dawn & How to Get Your Dog On Target!

Dawn is an Animal Behavior College Certified Dog Trainer, an experienced Nose Work Instructor, an AKC Canine Good Citizen evaluator, and the owner of Arrow Dog Training. She also works at AnnaBelle’s Day Care Depot and is a doggie play time expert!

Dawn is AnnaBelle’s resident clicker training specialist and she can help you Get Your Dog on Target! Dawn uses scientifically proven “clicker training” and “free shaping” to teach your dog all the basics plus other fun, useful behaviors. She uses operant conditioning and positive reinforcement, without correction, to help you and your dog build a bond of trust and respect.

In addition to presenting Doggie Do Good clicker classes, Dawn also offers  Nose Work classes, TDI® classes (Therapy Dog International) and in-home private training. Dawn’s group classes are taught at AnnaBelle’s on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. Click here to see her complete class schedule!

The Vet’s Perspective with Dr. Joyce: Flea Control 2012

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Author: Joyce Heideman, DVM

It’s that time of year again when the weather is warm and humid, and the fleas are making our pets miserable. It has been said that with the past year’s weather conditions, this year will be pretty bad with the flea, tick and mosquito problem. To help you get control over this problem (and maybe even prevent it) here are a few facts and tips regarding flea control.

Flea Basics:

Fleas are tiny brown insects that live on mammals and suck blood from their tissues. They are most common external parasite of companion animals, and carry many diseases including tapeworms. Flea allergy dermatitis is the most common skin problem in pets, and fleas can make even non-allergic pets uncomfortable. However, just because your pet is not itching doesn’t mean it does not have fleas. If one pet in the household has fleas, they all have fleas. Some are just more sensitive to flea bites than others.

Fleas can infest squirrels, rabbits, mice and rats, and these hosts can be a source of fleas for our pets. Pets do not need to go outside to get fleas. We can transport fleas inside on our clothing, they can jump through open doors, and they can be brought in by mice or rodents.

Once in the house, fleas seek out our pets. They prefer pets to people, but will jump on and bite people if there are no pets present or if there is a very heavy infestation.

Just because you don’t see fleas doesn’t mean they are not there. It is unusual to be able to see fleas in a mild to moderate infestation. They burrow and run fast, and many pets groom them off and swallow them.

Female fleas lay a tremendous number of eggs which fall into the environment and hatch when conditions are right. This can be as short as 16 days or as long as 90 days. The pupated flea can be dormant in the yard over the winter and re-emerge when the weather warms. Fleas are at their worse during warm humid months, typically May to October in Michigan.

Lifecycle of the Flea:

Eggs are laid in the hair coat and are designed to fall off the host. They are resistant to insecticides, but susceptible to various insect growth regulators. Larvae develop in the host’s environment and feed on adult flea feces (blood) that fall out of the hair coat of the pet. Larvae are susceptible to traditional insecticides, borates and insect growth regulators. Larvae eventually spin cocoons (often within carpet fibers) for pupation. Pupae are resistant to freezing, desiccation, and insecticides. Pupae can lie dormant for many months; they are stimulated to ex-pupate as emergent adults by vibration, warming and increased carbon dioxide. Normally, ex-pupation occurs when a host is near and the new flea finds the pet within seconds of emergence. Emergent fleas are fairly mobile and can survive a few days without a host, if in a suitable environment. New fleas begin feeding within hours of finding a dog or cat. Once a blood meal has been taken, the flea can survive only a short time if it is dislodged from the host. New fleas experience very high mortality on healthy adult hosts. Most fleas do not survive 72 hours on an animal that is itching and able to groom itself

Flea control basics:

Effective flea control aims at breaking the flea lifecycle on the pet. This is done by using products that interfere with the flea’s reproduction, or growth of the juvenile forms. Many new products combine this ability with the ability to kill the adults as well. Products that just kill the adults like many over the counter sprays or collars are very ineffective.

Insecticides that have been around for a long time, are more likely to have some resistance with them. Over time, fleas have been exposed to pyrethrins so often, that they often no longer work. Newer products or non-insecticidal products are less likely to have resistance problems.

Most over the counter products are insecticides and many can have toxicity problems. Insecticides like permethrins are very toxic to cats and toxicity has been reported just from contact with a treated dog in the house. Make sure you read the label well and use the product properly if using over the counter insecticides.

Monthly applied flea control, that kills the adult and breaks the lifecycle, should be used monthly for at least 3 months to overcome an infestation. After that, products that simply break the lifecycle can often be used as a preventative. Remember that products that just break the lifecycle like Sentinel, do not kill adult fleas, and you may see fleas on your pet, but they will not lay viable eggs, and will die or be groomed off typically by 72 hours.

Helpful tips for picking the right flea control:

  1. Stay away from powders, sprays and shampoo that only kill the adult and don’t last very long (24-48 hours)
  2. Basic flea collars, like those made by Hartz or Sergeants are very ineffective and concentrate insecticide around the pet’s neck.
  3. Products that you get from your veterinarian usually are really better because they are made with safer and more effective ingredients, the company usually stands behind veterinary products, and you are getting the expertise of your veterinarian.
  4. Many fleas are resistant to over the counter products containing permethrins and pyrethrins. Check the ingredients list before you buy. There are some safe and effective over-the-counter products out there, particularly the ones that contain “fipronyl” found in “Front line”.
  5. Now-a-days, many flea products come combined with tick, heartworm and even intestinal parasite control. Be sure your pet has been heartworm tested before using combination products that prevent heartworms.
  6. Make sure you are using the right type and dose of medication for your pet. Never use a dog only product on a cat and vice versa.
  7. If you have an infestation problem, you will need to use a monthly product for at least 3 months to get the problem under control.
  8. If your pet swims or is groomed often, you may want to stay away from the topical insecticidal products. Even if they say they are water proof, swimming and bathing has been shown to decrease some of the efficacy.
  9. If your pet has been diagnosed with a food allergy, you will want to stay away from flavored oral pills.
  10. If you have any questions or concerns about flea control products, discuss them with your veterinarian.

About the Author: Dr. Joyce A Heideman is a graduate of the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine and has been a practicing veterinarian in the Lansing area for over 25 years. She is dedicated to the health and welfare of companion animals and is regularly donates her time to animal welfare and rescue efforts.

Southside Animal Hospital
5134 S ML King Jr Blvd
Lansing, Michigan 48911

HEART Vaccination Clinic – July 1, 2012

Sunday, June 17th, 2012

H.E.A.R.T. (Helping Eaton Animals Resource Team) is hosting a FREE pet vaccination clinic at Soldan’s in Charlotte on July 1, 2012.  Vaccinations are FREE to those who qualify and a low-cost option is also available.  Dr. Joyce Heideman of Southside Animal Hospital is kindly donating her expert services!

Download PDF flier: heart vaccination clinic flier2

FREE Pet Vaccinations to Eaton County MI Residents in Need!

Sunday, May 27th, 2012

If you are an Eaton County, MI resident and cannot afford to vaccinate your pets, H.E.A.R.T. can help! Please complete the online application or call 517.481.3495 for a paper application.  To download the informational flier: heart vaccination info flier.

Weight loss? Brittle fur? Starving all the time? What’s happening to my dog?

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Author: Angie Falcsik, CNWI, owner of Pawsitive K9 Obedience & Training and trainer at AnnaBelle’s Pet Station

These are just some of the symptoms I was noticing with Beaner, my 10 year old German Shepherd/Greyhound. It started out with the weight loss but as she was a little on the pudgy side, and was reducing her food a bit, I didn’t think much of it. However, then other symptoms started to appear.

When I was brushing her I noticed that she was losing more fur than normal and her skin was very dry and flaky. Yes, I know, GSD’s don’t have a shedding season (she is predominately GSD) – they shed all year long; but this was in the fall and not the time of year she should be shedding this much. I also noticed that her fur was not as soft; but again, explained this away knowing she needed a bath and the fact that it was getting colder outside and maybe her skin was just getting dry. I thought maybe the food the dogs eat had changed formula, but after doing some research, learned that was not the case. All the dogs are on Fish Oil daily along with Osteo Bi-Flex so I knew she was getting enough Omega 3. I decided to give her just a little bit of EVOO in her food and give her a bath. I use Main & Tail shampoo and conditioner which has always worked very well for the dogs. However, even after her bath, her fur still didn’t feel right. She also was depressed and irritable. She didn’t want to engage in play or even snuggling at times. She was less tolerant of her canine brothers and would snap and growl at them over the littlest things. Her eyes were sunken and she literally looked sad.

I also would catch her eating not only her poo, but her brothers’ as well. Not even waiting for it to hit the ground at times! I know – disgusting. She was ravenous when she would eat each meal and despite increasing her food from 1 ¼ cups twice a day slowly all the way to 2 cups twice a day, she continued to act as if she was starving and was still losing weight.

I also would hear very loud rumblings from her tummy all the time, regardless of how close to or after feeding her and she had really bad gas. I thought she just had a tummy ache and started to give her pumpkin in her food to help settle her tummy. The rumbling and gas continued, however. I thought could I have been wrong about her food? Was this not the right brand for her? The boys were not losing weight. Then, I thought, worms? Parasite?  But the boys weren’t losing weight. Their fur was still soft and had normal shedding. They were not acting as if they were starving. I thought if Beaner had a parasite, the boys would have it too (they unfortunately are poo eaters at times as well). I figured if one had a parasite, it was likely the others would as well. At this point I decided to call the vet.

Although he agreed with my analysis, he still said it was possible and he wanted a stool sample; a fresh one – not frozen or refrigerated overnight. Yeah, right! I work 3 jobs; 85+ hours a week. How was I going to get a “fresh” sample during a time that the vet was open? I decided to wait for the weekend and try to get one in the morning before I went to go teach obedience class. During the week (called the vet on Monday), she deteriorated.

I watched her come inside one evening after playing ball, her muscles were quivering. She stood there for a bit and then basically collapsed to the floor. Her muscles had begun to atrophy already and she was not strong enough after 10-15 minutes of playing to hold herself up. I was very scared at this point. I examined her and could see that she had lost some muscle tone and knew at this point we were not dealing with a parasite; or at least not only a parasite.

I immediately looked at her fatty tumor on her chest that has now gotten to the size of a golf ball and thought, the vet has been wrong all this time – it was not a fatty tumor – it is cancer and I’m going to lose my girl! I kept trying to remind myself of the times the vet had pulled fluid from this fatty tumor and over the years assured me that is all it was. He had given me the option of having her undergo surgery to remove it but I could not justify putting her under to remove something that was not bothering/hurting her; it bothered me. Selfish. She did not need to risk the possible risks of surgery because I didn’t like how it looked. Still, I thought, can a fatty tumor become cancerous? Research told me no.

Back to the drawing board. That whole week I watched her like a hawk. I decided not to over exert her and other than her ravenous eating, poo eating and brittle fur, she was walking/standing/jumping on/off the bed okay. Saturday finally came. I knew that the dogs’ poo schedule was right around 10 am so right after breakfast I locked them in the house for a couple of hours. I finally let them out and followed Beaner with a large baggie – 2 in fact. (Beaner’s poo is extra large!). I wasn’t sure what type of tests they were going to do or how much they needed so I was planning accordingly. She did not want to go with mom watching and knowing I wanted her to go. She tried to get me to play with her, she ran across the ¼ acre back yard to try and poo in private. No luck –I waited around the bush and as she was squatting ran up to her. It was gray! It was slimy and runny too! I expected soft or even runny but not gray and slime! Now I was very concerned.

With Beaner and poo bag in tow, we were off to the vet for her appointment. I handed the poo bag to the vet assistant and she assured me I had more than enough. I think she was being sarcastic J The vet examined Beaner and weighed her. She was 56 pounds! Her normal weight about 80 pounds! I could not believe her weight was that low! The vet drew some blood and asked me to get a urine sample. Sure, now he tells me – could have done that at home. Good thing Beaner pees on command, even if she just went. He handed me a Styrofoam cup and I took her outside and told her to go potty. Of course, the good girl that she is, she started to pee but I got a little snow in the cup as I tried to get it under her and the vet said he needs a completely clean sample. Again –now he tells me. The vet assistant came in with another cup and suggested we cut the cup lengthwise so it was more like a scoop – good idea. This time I took her to the parking lot close to the snow but not in it. Hoping she still had something in her asked her to go potty again.

She looked at me as if to say, “I just went!” But again, the good girl she is, she peed again and this time we got a clean sample. Very carefully so as not to spill, I poured it into another cup and brought it back inside. Now it was a waiting game. Blood work would take a couple of days, urine would take a day as would the stool, unless more extensive tests were needed and then it would be couple of days. He had a couple of things he was thinking; protein loss, digestion issue, and of course, the “C” word – cancer.

We got home and after a bit of snuggling I decided not to let her see me so upset. Beaner and her brothers and I went to do some nosework to get our minds off things. Surprisingly, a couple of hours after leaving the vet, I got a phone call. The vet said, although the other tests still needed to be done, it was very clear from the initial stool test that Beaner was not absorbing ANY nutrients from her food. Everything she ate was going right through her and that she was likely suffering from EPI; Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency. I said, “exocrine, what?” The vet explained that there are certain cells called the acinar cells which are found in the exocrine pancreas and are needed to produce and secrete the 3 necessary enzymes needed to digest food. They are:

  1. Amylase for digestion of carbohydrates (sugars & starches in grains, fruits & vegetables);
  2. Lipases for digestion of fats and oils; and
  3.  Trypsin and Proteases for digestion of proteins.

Beaner can no longer produce what is necessary to digest her food and allow her body to absorb and utilize the nutrients – basically, she was literally starving and without treatment, would not live! EPI is not curable, only treatable with specific enzymes. I made another appointment to go in as soon as the other tests were completed.

After hanging up with the vet, I sat down and cried! How could I not have known it was this serious? What kind of mom am I? Why didn’t I take her in sooner? I decided to do some research. I read more about the enzymes that were needed to digest food, that this disease can affect other parts of a dog’s body; organs, immune, nervous system, and mental status. They can become depressed, aggressive and/or fearful.

I also found out that this disease is very hard to diagnose and that many times the obvious symptoms do not reveal themselves until 80-90% of the exocrine pancreas acinar cells are destroyed. While that did not change anything, it at least eased my mind a little in that I was not beating myself up – as much. I pride myself on being very aware of my dog’s health and daily routines and now this is the second dog that something serious has happened and I didn’t realize it immediately. First Indy with his dysplasia and now Beaner with EPI.

A few days later we were back at the vet. Beaner’s urine test was perfect and her blood work was as well. No protein loss and no cancer. The vet discussed a more specific test where blood would be drawn again and sent down to Texas, the only lab in the US that conducts this particular test and runs approximately $200.00. This test, called a cTLI test, is the only test that can confirm EPI. One is looking for a range between 5.0-35.0. Now I had to decide what to do. Her blood work was normal, her urine was normal, her stool was grey, slimy, running, she was loosing weight, bony frame, losing hair, fur turning brittle, mental status changes, tummy gurgling/gas – classic EPI symptoms. The enzymes she would be started on is $150.00 a bottle which lasts approximately 6-8 weeks. I made the decision to start Beaner on the pancreatic enzymes without having the cTLI test as I completely trust my vet and he has seen this many times before and has patients suffering from this disease. Of course, we could perform the cTLI at any time if I chose to do so but for now, I chose to get her started on the enzymes right away.

There are a few ways of treating this, but the recommended treatment is powdered porcine pancreatic enzyme, which by the way, does not smell very good. The vet warned me it smells like vomit and I asked if Beaner will even eat it if it smells that bad. His response, “she eats poo doesn’t she?”. Touché. As it turns out, it is not as bad as they made it out, but you definitely do not want to get your nose too close! I picked up a few cans of pumpkin and canned dog food on our way home with enzymes in tote. The directions state that the enzymes must “incubate” for a minimum of 10-15 mts so I measured 1 tsp with a good size spoonful of canned food, mixed it really well and let it sit for the appropriate time. Meanwhile, the dogs are going crazy because they know it’s dinner time, they see me preparing the food and then they have to wait! Not happy campers I tell you!

I continued this regimen for a few days, getting Beaner’s food ready in the morning after my work out and while I was getting ready for work which worked out well, but it was the dinner time regimen that was a nightmare for everyone.

I remembered a Yahoo Group that I found and joined for owners of EPI dogs and posted my dilemma. I received a number of really great responses! Many people had to same situation I did. They worked late, multiple jobs and didn’t want their dogs to have to wait to eat after a long day. It was also recommended that depending on the level of the disease, feeding small amounts multiple times a day was the best thing to do until it was under control.

The idea that worked best for me was place her dry kibble in containers along with the enzymes and shake really well so all the kibble is coated. I have about 5-6 containers in the fridge at all times. When I feed the dogs at night, I add just enough water to barely coat the kibble and let it sit over night for her morning feeding. In the morning, I do the same thing for her evening feed. This is a great idea if one is going on vacation and either has a pet sitter coming in or wants to make sure the boarding facility has the appropriately mixed food/meds. It was even suggested to mix food, meds and meds, let it incubate a few hours and then freeze it!

With my schedule, working 3 jobs, and crazy hours, this formula works great for Beaner. If I’m going to be running late, I can have a neighbor come over and feed the dogs and know she is getting exactly what she needs.

Okay, so back to our story. The first week was difficult as I was not seeing any changes in her behavior, appetite, poo eating regimen, attitude, weight – nothing! I called the vet and he said we needed to give it a bit more time. If I was still not seeing any changes in another 4-5 days, we would move forward with cTLI test.

A few days later I was looking out the window and saw Indy outside doing his duty and Beaner right next to him waiting for him to finish. I was just about to tell her to leave it so I could pick it up when much to my surprise, she sniffed it and walked away! I knew that this meant progress was occurring and she was feeling better! The enzymes were working!

Each day I noticed more and more signs that she was doing better. She was not as ravenous at the food bowl, her fur started to feel less brittle and after about a week, actually started feeling soft again! She began to get that spark back in her eyes and spunk in her attitude! She even began to smile and wink at me again! She was able to play and walk longer without getting so tired she could barely stand up and her mental status became more stable. She became tolerant of the little things again and her depression was going away. I knew she was really feeling better when her nosework started going from hunting for the food box because she was starving to hunting because she loved the game! My girl was back!

It has now been about almost a month and she has gained 5 pounds! Her fur is really soft again, she plays, throws her toys at me, runs and has that sparkle in her eyes again! We still have a ways to go to put another 12-15 pounds but we are well on our way to better health. Although her normal weight when she was younger and healthier (developing some hip/joint issues), the vet and I decided not to bring her weight back to her 76-80 pound weight but to keep her at about 70-72 so as not to put too much pressure on her joints.

Beaner will need to have her enzymes for the rest of her life, but now that we have finally gotten the right diagnosis, she is getting healthier day by day! I do of course, continue to read and converse with my Yahoo EPI group as there is always something that comes up in someone’s life that we can learn from to help Beaner in her recovery. They have been a wonderful support group and wealth of information.