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Matthew Sisk: Sudden illness takes toll on older dog
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Seventeen is old for most dogs. And although Lemmy is not like most dogs, 17 is old for him, too.

So when he comes in as an ADR appointment, I have more worries than I might for a youthful pup.

ADR is lingo for Ain’t Doin’ Right. General, yes. Useful? Maybe not. But it’s the way many sick pet visits are described when the appointment is made.

I see the visit on the schedule and the worry center in my brain fires up. At Lemmy’s age, it could be anything from a broken toe nail that’s infected to cancer, diabetes or some other catastrophic illness.

When he arrives, I get to work. Lemmy’s been lethargic for three days and hasn’t eaten well over the last week. But today, he’s coated the floor of his family’s house with vomit and diarrhea.

Lemmy is panting heavily and looks depressed. His gums are almost white. He is clearly dehydrated and has pains in his abdomen.

I try to stay professional and keep my chin up for his family. The expression on the family’s faces is worry. I try to focus on my job and the intellectual aspect of searching for the reason for this illness, but I’m worried, too. I love Lemmy.

First, I run blood work. Six months ago, his results were stellar. Today, they’re awful.

Change happens faster than comfort desires. His kidney values are through the roof. Toxins normally filtered from the blood are too high to measure. His kidneys are no longer concentrating his urine. And he’s lost almost 15 percent of his body weight.

Lemmy is dying.

But one light glimmers at the end of this tunnel. His white blood cell count is just as high as his kidney values. An infection may be to blame.

I hospitalize him to provide intravenous fluids and antibiotics, as well as supportive care. Only time will tell if he responds.

We may have a treatable disease, but Lemmy is old. Theoretical recovery is harder at his age.

We have a chance to save him, but he’s far from out of the woods.

Matthew Sisk is a practicing veterinarian from Habersham County. Have questions about your pet? He can be reached at

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