By Dr. Leslie Ross D.V.M. B.Sc
This month I have chosen to showcase “SPOT”, a gentle little 12-year-old Shih Tzu cross as our “Case of the Month”.
This choice is based not only on our clinic team’s admiration for this fluffy little dog’s personality but additionally, for my personal appreciation of the unfailing compliance of his owner as she has diligently attended to his health needs over many years of his life.
Another of his characteristics is of particular value to mention. It is one shared universally by all pet owners that are strongly bonded to their pets; sustained eye contact between the two of them. Eye contact between a pet and his or her owner can communicate emotions more eloquently than can any word or phrase. It is a measure of loyalty and trust. Very similar is the child to parent bond where again loving eye contact actually causes positive hormonal changes such as the release of oxytocin, the “ feel-good hormone” into their bloodstreams. Very aptly, a loving gaze has been dubbed the “Hands-Free Cuddle” by some authorities!
“Spot” was born on October 1, 2003, and adopted by his present owner when he was five years old. He came with no documentation of vaccination or medical history from his previous life.
We were introduced to him on October 26th, 2009 when he was presented for a new pet wellness checkup. At the time he had a soft, fluffy hair coat colored by patches of black and white of various shapes and sizes. His very large, expressive eyes were his most outstanding feature. I recorded at the time that he was a calm, very trusting little dog. I can still attest to this same description of his personality to the present day.
On his first visit wellness, check-up Spot was found to have a significant degree of dental disease including some obviously rotten teeth. He also had a mild ear infection and indications of a low-grade anal gland inflammation. Medications were dispensed for his first two problems and dental procedures were performed a short time later.
As time moved on Spot developed a heart condition, kidney disease, and high blood pressure. Subsequently, as these conditions have become more progressive, he has required more treatments and medications during his senior years. Many of the required medications needed to be given at specific intervals over various times of the day. Despite her many other family and friend activities his owner is unfailing and dedicated to maintaining his medication schedule over the years. The spot is presently receiving a variety of heart medications, kidney support medications, blood pressure-lowering medication, monthly Vitamin B injections, as well as client- administered cartrophen injections for an arthritic back. As well he is receiving a specialized diet to provide his body with nutrients to support his heart and kidney function and glucosamine treats for his arthritis. (With the occasional diet drift, “doctor approved” to supplemental appetite kick-starters such as vanilla ice-cream and plain pasta with a pinch of parmesan cheese along with an appetite stimulant medication if his appetite is particularly jaded!).
Also, his very conscientious mom walks him to our clinic twice weekly for a procedure involving subcutaneous administration of warmed lactated Ringers solution to provide additional support to his weakening kidneys. At other times when the need arises, he is scheduled for anal sac expressions and eye treatments.
Even further to these medical commitments, approximately every three months Spot’s blood pressure and intraocular eye pressure values are checked (the latter to check for glaucoma, which is not uncommon in his breed).
Spot’s body is changing as he ages and his body functions are slowly declining but his thought processes remain acute. Similarly, his personality remains one of calmness and dignity seemingly unchanged from the day we first met him many years ago. Despite having to undergo many diagnostic procedures and treatments over the years he still remains a very calm and trusting little dog.
He accepts all as long as he can lock his gaze on his mom close by as if invisible filaments are connecting his large eyes to hers. If she shifts her body position, his eyes shift to accommodate. He trembles but never resists, never demonstrating any needle shyness or resistance as long as his gaze is locked on hers. It seems to be that in his mind if it o.k. with her, it is o.k with him so whatever needs to be done can be done.