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Our Experience with the Symptoms of End-Stage Renal Dysplasia in Our Puppy

Updated: Jan 20

# Rest in Peace Magnus


A thousand words won't bring you back, I know because I have tried;

neither will a thousand tears. I know because I have cried*.



Renal dysplasia in dogs is a condition that begins during fetal development, meaning the dog has either acquired it from a genetic mutation or through trauma or disease that can affect puppies in the womb. The exact cause of renal dysplasia is unknown. Be aware that a dog/bitch who had scanned scanned kidneys, urine, blood with excellent results … still can produce renal dysplasia - the dog/bitch can be just as minimum a carrier of gene as this part is being denied by those who produce these puppies.

To my opinion, the parents of puppies showing signs of renal dysplasia should be immediately taken from breeding consideration, till we as a society find a test which confirms that it was really the environment what caused Renal Dysplasia. One sick puppy - in our case nearly half of the litter - is too many. How can the breeder look to the eyes of the people, who lost or battling the life with a doggie with renal dysplasia and continue to breed the parents with "hope" it won't happen?

It already happen, I believe it is the responsibility of the breeder to take immediate action to get as minimum the parents out to preserve the HEALTH of the breed.

While we were searching for information about the symptoms of renal dysplasia, we found only a few publications that described what we would see and feel. Now, I understand why, people don't want talk loudly and openly about that it happened to them. We always hoped that reaching out to the top will get us the best information, how wrong we were. It is bad to have a sick doggie, however if you see that the situation is not handled to eliminate the repetition, you really can't believe. We do have a second bull terrier boy, who is tested as homozygous, he is a cousin for our lost Magnus. We absolutely love our boy Ares, that much more that we know what may come, that much more we appreciate each second we can enjoy him as being himself. So is it really environmental or just simply genetical?


Renal dysplasia is not easy, and it is painful. This is a cruel disease. We lost our bull terrier boy Magnus at the tender age of 8.5 months - he was diagnosed just 110 days before renal dysplasia took him as its own.


This article focuses on only the last few weeks, as the complete story of how our furry puppy boy was diagnosed, how we tried to help, whom we contacted, and much more is available on website dedicated to our bull terriers.


This disease goes so fast that you may not even realize that it’s been just three months since you had an active, loving furry puppy in front of you, and all of a sudden, you are holding your dying puppy in your arms, and it’s all happening while you watch. This helplessness will make you sleepless.


After reading tons of information on how to slow down this disease, whether it is painful or if the dog is suffering, I cannot tell you that I found an answer on how to slow it down - otherwise my gorgeous little special boy would still be with us. But I can say it’s not easy, and it’s going to hurt. It will impact your family regime, certainly touch your finances, and make you know that life is not fair at tall. However, the memories with your little four-legged friend will be everlasting.


Some of the symptoms that our boy experienced:


Symptoms

1. Lethargy—weakness

2. Poor coat condition

3. Weight loss and failing appetite

4. Foul breath

5. Ulcers—mouth sores

6. Excessive thirst

7. Increased urination

8. Bleeding gums

9. Pale gums

10. Shortness of breath

11. Vomiting

12. Skin clusters caused by subcutaneous fluids


1. Lethargy—weakness

In the final weeks, your puppy will probably lose his/her muscle tone all over the body. Our champion was incredibly young, with a predisposition to be a strong boy who loved life, yet during the last stretch, he lost some additional weight, and not only that, his muscle tone nearly disappeared. His once strong impressive chest became skinny and fragile, his back legs lost muscle as well, and occasionally he would slightly lose his balance.

Renal Dysplasia

Our boy, who loved all the adventures we used to enjoy, all of a sudden had a problem going for a one-mile walk. I still remember like it was today us walking in the woods—when not even a half-mile into the walk, we just sat on a nearby bench, he laid his head in my lap, and we rested. I had to wait until he felt strong enough to return home.


These moments, after all this is over, will stay with you—all the pain will one day be gone; the memories will stay. It was such a privilege to have that extra time, just for him and myself. We slowly came back home, and Magnus slept all the way through till morning. He was so exhausted. Walking in the ending stage is not even walking; the pace of your walks slows. Yet, he was still in his element, sniffing around, digging little holes, and many other things, just at a much slower pace. Let these guys be, and do not rush the time you still have to spend together. It is just so short. There were times during the last days I carried him from place to place. He didn’t mind.


Don’t misunderstand: I’m not saying they don’t still love to see and play with their four-legged friends or chase a deer or a rabbit. They do, and you should let them. Let them enjoy all this. They will come to you and appreciate all the time you can spend together. Magnus just became that much sweeter and loving. Do not expect or push them to do anything extra; let them show you what they can manage and please, respect it.


2. Poor coat condition

Renal Dysplasia

Magnus was a gorgeous white bull terrier boy. I had read very little about the quality of a dog’s coat while experiencing renal dysplasia, maybe just because the changes are so much more visible on a white dog. Magnus certainly lost the quality of his shiny coat and developed brown liver-colored spotting across his body, which here and there got infected and needed additional treatment. Of course, we ran extensive allergy tests, but they did not uncover anything to be concerned about.



3. Weight loss and poor appetite

Renal Dysplasia

We made it to day 110 — 110 days we fought renal dysplasia, but in the end, it overpowered us. Thus, I suggest that if you and your doggie get yourselves all the way to the ending stage, just slow down with the food obsession right there. Let them eat what they care for—at this moment it is too late. You will not reach the required calorie intake a regular healthy dog should eat, or if you do, it will just bite you from another side, because you do not have a regular healthy dog to begin with. Do not get frustrated; do not allow your last days together to be overshadowed by things that have no bearing in the end. If you are still counting out the amount of phosphorus, protein, and other ingredients, you may as well take it easy. Let them have whatever appeals to them—the amount they eat will not change the outcome. Enjoy your time with them. We tried for the longest time to stimulate Magnus’s appetite with medication, but at the end of the day, during the last weeks, it stopped working. The belly, and not just the belly, at this stage is under fire, and they are very seriously sick. I do not know whether, because Magnus was such a stunning boy, he never showed how much he was suffering or if he was just a puppy who so much wanted to live. One way or another, let them eat what they want—whenever they want it. You have just something around three months to spare. Nothing more.


4. Foul breath

Their mouth is smelly. It comes and goes, but at the end it stays. We got used to the odor, but towards the end, it was much stronger. Today, I would tell anyone going through this phase to pay attention, and go in for blood work to double check your numbers. Magnus’s mouth had this odor of decay twice before he passed away. It is something you really cannot miss. I describe it as decaying; somebody else may smell it differently. It really does not matter how healthy your puppy’s oral hygiene used to be. Our boy did not mind having his teeth brushed. That can ease up the foul breath just a little; it’s coming from the digestive tract. Be very gentle while brushing their teeth. Magnus developed a yellow plaque over his teeth during the last few weeks.


5. Ulcers—mouth sores

I was going to find them sooner rather than later, as our boy was drinking excessively for a while, but for some reason, I was always checking the inside of his mouth.

Renal Dysplasia

I did not find anything until Magnus’s last day. His tongue got covered with ulcers; you may need trained eyes to recognize it, as a puppy’s tongue will probably be covered with saliva as well and it masks the ulcers perfectly. He had ulcers right around the edge of his tongue. I remember thinking to myself as I was fighting a disease with similar symptoms, this is unbearable. Please do not push these doggies to eat; they really can’t. I could not. It is very painful to consume anything except water, and even water will eventually become painful to drink. Your body is poisoning itself from within. I had the opportunity to get treatment for my disease; these guys do not have the option of successful treatment at this time.


6. Excessive thirst

During this stage, we had water around everywhere for our boy; he preferred water right from the garden hose rather than any other source.

Renal Dysplasia

I can again very much relate to this, as at this stage the water works for you like oil on a very rusty mechanism. The more you drink, the better you feel, but only for a moment. Nothing comes free. The more you drink, the more you urinate. Eventually, you will develop ulcers that make drinking very painful, which will stop you from having the “pleasure” or even the possibility to drink, and that is right at the end. Your body cannot do without water. Experiencing it myself and then seeing our little guy go through it was bone-chilling.


7. Increased urination

During our walks, you could see that he had to pee more often than a regular boy his age. Although I should say, we really did not see it as a troublesome issue, but mainly because he was always able to go pee anytime he felt like it as we had doggie doors allowing him to come and go as he wished. In this stage, I am sure those were a major help. But certainly, we had to keep it in mind that our boy may need a pee break more often than normal doggies when we were on trips. Again, from my own experience, if you must go, you must go. Nothing will stop it. Please understand that at this point it has nothing to do with how well behaved your doggie is. Holding urine will be painful and even impossible if you don’t allow them to have frequent pee breaks.


Renal Dysplasia

8. Bleeding gums

On probably two occasions before Magnus passed away, you could see that he was sort of swallowing his own spit. That was acid reflux. His belly was always very noisy, but during the last days, it went through a heavy hurricane season. The day he passed away, Magnus came to me with a light brown line around his lips looking like food remains, but his gums were bleeding. You could just catch a glimpse of it inside his mouth between gums and lips. It was very minor but not a good sign.


9. Pale gums

If you have trained eyes or another doggie to compare your guy’s gums with, this may be easier to recognize. Magnus certainly had an issue with anemia, which on its own was causing additional troubles related to renal dysplasia, and pale gums is a sign of anemia.


10. Shortness of breath

Now and then, Magnus was gasping for air. It happened mainly when he was stressed out by something or at times when he suffered severe diarrhea episodes or vomiting. It looked and sounded fairly mild, as if he was choking slightly on something or had something stuck in his nose. The toxins were getting to his lungs. We just calmed him down, and it would subside.


11. Vomiting

I’m not sure whether this can be eliminated at the very ending stage. It somehow went away at the beginning of our fight with renal dysplasia, but it came back towards the end. Vomiting and diarrhea are extremely dangerous for these guys, and additional care needs to be provided.


12. Skin clusters caused by subcutaneous fluids

I must be thankful that our team at home was coordinated. It became clear that the best time to apply subcutaneous fluid was when Magnus was sleeping deeply—sometimes throughout the night. We warmed up the SubQ as we realized that it woke up Magnus just minimally compared to when the SubQ was at room temperature. He was such a good boy; sometimes he slept right through it.

Renal Dysplasia

Applying SubQ is not comfortable, but again, from my own personal experience, it is really nothing to be excited about. We used smaller needles. Do not go too fast; the skin can stretch only so much. I am not a doctor, just describing my own feelings at this moment. I would say at the beginning of our stage 4 renal dysplasia, SubQ treatment was helping; towards the end, I cannot say there was much relief. Towards the end, we were giving Magnus SubQ five times a week. I would dare say that at that time we were supplementing Magnus’s kidney function, which was gone.

We found that while it was easy to inject SubQ at beginning of our journey, it became worse towards the end. The needle no longer dripped the fluids, and we had to discuss with our vet how to find different areas for application.


Final Thoughts


This disease is profoundly serious and deadly; it will not only drastically impact your furry friend’s life but the life of your family as well. You will have to adjust your speed if you decide that there is hope.


We, as many others, had hoped we would make it happen and that something would work for our boy Magnus. More detailed information is on our website. We did not have enough time to find answers to all our questions about treatment. Renal dysplasia took our boy too fast.


Renal Dysplasia

There is nothing wrong with being frustrated, angry, or feeling guilty that you may have been incapable or did not do enough to save your furry child’s life. I personally went through all the stages. Many times I found myself sleeping on my keyboard after endless searching. And not just me. It was also my darling boyfriend Marcin, who was right there when I struggled with not finding answers, and he would pointing out new pathways to check.


Do not feel guilty about seeking second opinions; double check your sources. This disease is expensive. I very much appreciate our insurance, Pumpkin, for significant help as the bills for our boy Magnus piled up. Of course, I cannot forget to mention our local veterinarian, DMV Elliot Grossman and his team from Roanoke Island Animal Clinic, in NC, USA. It was as great a challenge to our veterinarian as it was to us; his knowledge was beyond our expectations. The same can be said for our NC State vet, DMV Bierlein and her team, who assisted even during the hours I was not expecting to get any answer at all. This is a serious and deadly condition, but like any other disease, one day, I hope, will be possible to cure and prevent it. We just have to keep asking to find the solution.


As tragic this whole situation was, I was hoping that we will learn from this and as in minimum in a respect to the owners of these no longer living puppies and in respects to the owners, who are still trying to provide the best possible life to those doggies, who are still with us, the breeders would never use the d - the breeders decided to use the dog for breeding again with statement that it was just accident. And yes, of course with the many times repeated nonsense, let's test kidney, blood and urine. Clearly conveniently forgetting about the genetic part as well.


It is truly a teamwork effort to help a dog with renal dysplasia, and we greatly appreciate the help from all of you who wanted to help our boy.


Rest In Peace, our Charming Youngster Magnus.


Our journey together was short, but you showed us that regardless, how awful life may be,

there is always an opportunity to be nice and see something exciting around you.

You were an Example of that.

I hope you’re now enjoying your time with your brothers Luis and Boris, who passed away at a bit younger age to the same disease.

We will remember you and we will carry your legacy & we will dare to call you just statistic and accident.

You died in excruciating pain.

Hopefully your story will never be forgotten and your pain will provide wisdom to breeders to be selective with future dogs to fight for future without renal dysplasia.

We miss you.


Magnus and Renal Dysplasia





 


Sources


1. Western Carolina Regional Animal Hospital & Veterinary Emergency Hospital. Renal Failure in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment

2. IRIS – International Renal Interest Society: IRIS Staging of CKD

3. Lively Paws: Renal dysplasia in dogs—everything you need to know, 01/11/2021

4. Author unknown: * "A thousand words won't bring you back, I know because I have tried; neither will a thousand tears. I know because I have cried."


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