She was Best Puppy in Breed at Crufts 1999, and although she never liked showing she always did me proud in the ring, her tail would
wag like fury as we walked out of the ring back to her bench! Being at the ‘heart’ of the Wheaten fraternity for the first 6 years of her life, one would have thought I was aware
of the ever present health issues affecting our lovely breed.
Unfortunately you never think it will happen to you . . .
It was Christmas 2003 and after a large family gathering with young children, Megan started to have loose bowel movements. Thinking someone had been too generous with the Christmas pudding, I did
the normal things, starve for 24 hours, rice, rice and fish
Megan didn't seem to respond, so I took her to the Vet on December 30th.
The Vet promptly prescribed antibiotics, which seemed to improve her condition a little for a couple of days and then over the
following two weeks she went rapidly downhill. Her movements can only be described as huge browny yellow explosions (sorry about the detail).
Back to the Vet, stronger antibiotics and still no improvement.
Coincidentally my other Wheaten Alex started to throw up, so I assumed we were hit with a gastric bug, Megan suffering the worst. Alex improved after two days, Megan just got thinner
and thinner and sadly no better.
Back to the Vet, urine tests, blood tests, when he asked if the breed suffered from any specific health issues. I said “Yes, PLA, RDA . . .” I didn't know the initials, they were
just letters to me having never paid too much attention to these diseases which after all, only affect other dogs, not mine. “Could it be PLE or PLN” the Vet asked…
“Yes” I said and although still not quite sure what we were talking about, that sinking feeling came over me.
The Vet explained that both names are protein losing diseases, one through the gut and one through the kidneys. Megan was showing low protein in the blood, which meant she was losing protein through the intestine (gut).
Straight away on the phone to my Wheaten friends, Glen Harris and Carole Barnes-Davies . . . Carole advised me to feed Megan fish and mashed potato which improved her bowel movements until she was admitted to hospital.
At this stage, Megan had lost nearly 30% of her body weight, and although she is on the large side for a bitch she had never been very well covered anyway. She was admitted into
the Queen Mother Animal Hospital within two days where they took a scraping from her gut to diagnose the condition. Megan did not show signs of a seriously ill dog, this is important
because Wheatens generally do not show signs one would normally expect in such an acute disease.
She went in with her tail wagging . . Her condition was confirmed and we were prescribed steroids, antibiotics and a digestive medicine. I had to keep a medicine chart and she
was also prescribed a special diet, Eukanuba FD, which is just Fish and Potato in kibble form, so the right balance. She was fed four small meals a day with medicine four times a day.
It was quite a logistics operation.
Following her discharge, we visited the Vet every week for blood tests and weigh-ins, then every two weeks for about six months. I obviously did a lot of reading and asked lots
of questions and I had concluded that if Megan came through the first five months then we would have a good chance of keeping her another thirty months. I kept asking if there was
anything I could have done to prevent it . . .
Early detection and a change in diet may have helped although there is no proof. Fortunately I had not bred from Megan, but even if I had the disease did not present itself until
she was six years old. Any breeding programme will have been carried out well before a bitch is this age!
Each time we went to the Vet Megan’s protein level had increased. The steroids made her very hungry and she put on weight. At her lowest she was 12 kilos and when we finished
treatment she was 19.5Kgs. Her normal weight was 17 kilos.
Here we are ten months later and I cannot believe the change in Megan. In hindsight I feel she was probably getting quite sick long before she had diarrhoea. I remember before
that there were often ‘sick puddles’ in the kitchen, with two Wheatens in there I was never sure which one it was, but now I know as these don’t appear anymore. Megan
is playful, affectionate and strong now, she is as lively as a Wheaten should be.
When I look back, Megan had got quieter, less active, I realise now I had incorrectly put her reduced activity down to her age. We have got our dear sweet Meggie back as she
was, she is top dog on the walks again and we don’t get the squabbles in the house now as they are all back in their pecking order.
She is still on the special (very expensive, but worth it) Eukanuba diet, and gets BURNS dried fish treats, which all the dogs love, but only Megan gets them every day!
I have had Megan’s full sister and two of her cousins tested also and am happy to say that at present there is no cause for concern.
I treasure every day we have with her for I know how lucky we are that she has responded to treatment. Sadly there were two other Wheatens diagnosed at the same time who did not
make it and my heart goes out to their owners.
I was pleased to write my story for you as I hope it may give another Wheaten owner in this situation hope.
Our Wheatens can respond to treatment - don’t give up. Be aware of the disease, so that
you can inform your Vet. It’s surprising that most Vets do not know of these problems in Wheatens, not that surprising I suppose, as we are not a numerically strong breed.
Thank you to my friends for all your support during our difficult times.
Megan was diagnosed in February 2004 with PLE, so we are now 18 months on…
She is the picture of health, has a new zest for life and weighed in this week at almost 17 kilos which was her average weight before she was diagnosed! She has maintained around this weight since coming
off the steroids some months ago.
About six months ago, we had a small scare, as she started having diarrhoea and I immediately jumped to the conclusion that we were in trouble again. Unfortunately, the wonderful vet who had originally
treated her had moved on from the surgery and the main Vet had not been too familiar with her treatment. He immediately put her on antibiotics in the hope that it was just a bug.
After 4 days, things had not really improved much, and I asked him to take blood tests (not sure why he did not do this in the first place!) The blood tests fortunately proved that she was not
losing protein, although as a precaution and so as not to take any chances, he put her on a mild dose of steroids.
Megan was soon back to fine health and we have put that one down to a ‘tummy bug’, although that could very easily have gone the other way. With my other dogs I would have starved them and
fed fish and rice, however, I did not delay with Megan, it was straight to the Vet.
Recently Megan had a couple of tumours on her muzzle and neck which have been removed by laser and everything is fine, but she did have a general anaesthetic and responded absolutely normally. Incidentally,
she does have a ‘wax build up’ problem in her ears and I am not sure if this could be related to her condition (the vet is not sure either), so we have to vigilantly clean her ears and keep
a close watch on them as they do get sore.
Megan is now seven years old and seems to be going strong, I had heard that if they can survive the first five months then there is a good chance they will get through. We are well beyond that now,
and I am so happy that we get this extended time with her.
Although we have three dogs in the house, she is definitely our ‘special’ little girl. We are just lucky, although we did get excellent treatment and early diagnosis. Of course for some
little dogs this may not be enough, so treasure every moment and my thoughts are with anyone who is suffering the uncertainty and worry that this condition brings.
All the best….