I know a lot of people probably have questions about what happened to Tanner as his end came so suddenly. The thing about kidney disease though is that there are no early signs of it. Most dogs show no symptoms whatsoever until they have irrevocably lost at least 75% of kidney function. Tanner, who was a hyper-dedicated, overachieving Border Collie did not show signs until he had lost closer 95% of kidney function and was on the brink to total renal failure.
While his end was sudden, in hindsight there were some subtle signs. I took him to the vet last year and told her I thought something wasn't quite right. His coat wasn't quite as beautifully soft and silky as it always had been, he tired faster. This summer, I noticed signs that his vision was not what it had been. No one but me ever noticed and given Tanner's extreme phobia of all things vet related, his vet and I both agreed that lots of test were not in his best interest.
I can say now that Tanner had Chronic Kidney Disease. It happens in about 10% of dogs and 20% of cats. It can happen for a number of reasons, but in Tanner's case it was most likely either congenital or occurred secondary to a cancerous tumor. We did not bother to figure out which as it was completely irrelevant. The end would be the same regardless.
Kidney disease is a bit like a Tsunami. It starts like a little ripple out in the deep ocean that builds and grows slowly. It gradually gets bigger, gathering momentum and speed as it moves relentlessly onward. A boat traveling over it in deep water probably won't even know it's there, but when it finally reaches shore, it's path of destruction is unstoppable.
In Tanner's last couple of weeks, he started getting increasingly picky about food. Then he began leaving meals unfinished. Eventually he refused to eat altogether. At first, I took no notice. He has always been a somewhat fussy eater and it was not unusual for him to skip a meal. He was never highly food motivated, he'd drop a steak dinner at the sight of a Frisbee.
He began to have increasingly bad breath. I thought he might be having trouble with a broken tooth or have something stuck in his throat - his habit of playing with sticks finally coming round to haunt him. Last Friday, he was still playing with his brother, the picture of health. By Sunday, he wouldn't eat and was showing signs of lethargy. On Monday, I set out to find a new vet for him as his regular vet had retired. After trying 4 different clinics, I finally lucked out on the 5th when the vet herself actually answered the phone. She told me to bring him in that afternoon.
I think she knew before she ever saw him. If he was someone else's dog, I think I would have known too, but denial is a powerful thing. I had managed to convince myself that we could fix this right up until the vet stepped out and showed me the test results. His numbers were so bad that the blood analyzer kept throwing error messages, convinced that they couldn't be right. But they were.
We tried. We put tanner on intensive fluid therapy and fomotadine, hoping that he would respond, but the Tsunami had hit the shore. He went downhill VERY fast.
Once I knew, or accepted, that it was hopeless, I made arrangements with my horse vet to come out to the farm and put Tanner down, honoring a promise I made to him many years ago, that I would not let him suffer and I would not let him die in a vet clinic. The night before, I gave Tanner a large dose of prednisone and lots of fluids, which fixes nothing, but made him feel better. We played some Frisbee. In the morning, more prednisone and FB and I took him and both of her dogs down to Tanner's favorite creek. For a short time, he was once again the Lord of the Forrest, the fearless trailblazer, the steadfast companion, the protector. He even went for a swim. Afterward, one last car ride home and we sat on the lawn together. He was very content, sitting with me, enjoying a massage as he surveyed his kingdom. Eventually, he laid his head on my thigh and went to sleep. The vet showed up shortly after and Tanner barely woke. I held him in my arms as we all said goodbye.
I know a lot of vets advocate yearly blood tests, lots of screenings. Had I known of Tanner's hidden illness earlier I might have been able to start fluid therapy sooner, but he would have HATED that. Some dogs respond well to a very low protein diet, then again, many don't. Some advocate a diet of very high quality protein instead. Tanner got nothing but best all his life. They say fish oil can help. I was already giving it to him for his joints. There is some possibility that I could have bought him a couple of more months if I'd know earlier. Then again, it may be that all the things I was already doing had already bought him an extra year. Knowing would have been a blight on both our lives. I'm glad I didn't put either of us through the trauma to find out. There is no stopping a Tsunami anyway.
I made a pledge to Tanner when he was just a pup that I would give him the best life possible, that I would make every day his birthday. When there were thunderstorms or gunshots and he had to hide in the bathtub, he probably thought they were lousy birthdays, but I know I always tried my best. I have no regrets, but I miss him terribly.
I'm going to take a little time off from the blog, from the computer. I tried, but it's just too hard right now and I'm not good company anyway. Thank you all for your caring and support, I can't tell you how much it means. I'll be back in a little while, for now, I have to go hug a donkey.