Any parent gets to know her child’s body intimately. It goes with being responsible for a helpless being. There are diapers to change and cradle cap to grease up and the three a.m. vomit down your neck. You can’t be squeamish as a new parent. That is as true for puppies as it is for babies. This saga begins with a urinary tract infection (UTI) and ends (I hope) with vulva washing.
Ages ago, when Seva was ten weeks old—ten weeks ago really, but it feels like actual ages—she was peeing a lot, about every twenty minutes, and having more in-house accidents. I took her to the vet to check for a UTI and she was prescribed antibiotics. Simple enough.
Her ears started looking pink and bumpy. I assumed it was a heat rash since this is a spring litter and the weather was turning hot.
Toward the end of the course of antibiotics for the UTI, we went to training class and someone said she had a bump on her nose. So she did. She and her brother, Roger, had greeted each other with lots of teeth, so that was no surprise. After class she took a nap, and when I got her up to go the vet for her vaccination, she had more bumps on her nose, but Roger was nowhere to blame. By the time Dr. Smith was looking at her, she was covered in boils!
Seva, Roger, & Storm roughhousing at Helping Paws.
Instead of getting her vaccination, she got a steroid shot to clear up the “drug eruption” that had been caused by the antibiotics for the UTI.
This is our first year in this house. We don’t know about the previous owner, but we are not much for lawn maintenance. The maple seeds that covered our yard eventually gave way to dandelions, which have given way to clover. It’s not that we’re lazy, but we have children and a dog. We live in the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District. We love squirrels and bunnies and birds, feeding everyone we can in our little sanctuary. We had a pair of mallards that I fed by hand until Seva ran them off. One day a wild turkey passed through, and one morning Scott caught a glimpse of a fox slinking along the fence. We planted a little vegetable garden to help feed our family. Of course we do not put chemicals on our yard.
Several of our pine trees died this spring. They yellowed and branches drooped. They became an eyesore, mottling the greenery that screens us from Excelsior Boulevard. When a horticulturalist from the University of Minnesota came out to look at the trees, he said he suspected a broadleaf herbicide that, if overused, gets in the soil and poisons the trees.
Seva, like all dogs, eats grass, pushes her snout into the ground, and rolls around in dirt every chance she gets. About the time the steroid shot was wearing off, we tilled up a patch of ground to plant our vegetables. Seva tore through the yard and dove into the freshly tilled dirt, kamikaze style. And her face erupted in fresh boils.
If it looks like a zebra, smells like a zebra, sounds like a zebra, it’s probably a horse.
Puppy booty–our yard is full of fun–and poison?!
A logical evaluation of the situation led me and Scott (but mostly me) to one conclusion: we were poisoning our service dog.
Here is the evidence:
1. The lady we bought the house from had moved out before it sold and her nephew was living here. We saw his Harley Davidson lamp in the bedroom and video games in the basement. Surely she had asked him to maintain the house in exchange for rent. She said, “Put some herbicide on the grass so it looks nice.” He figured if a little is good, a lot is better. And we have nine dead trees in our yard, which, according to the University of Minnesota expert, was likely caused by the overzealous use of a broadleaf herbicide the previous year.
2. Seva eats dirt.
3. If Seva were having a drug eruption, the steroid shot would have cleared it up, but her boils got worse.
4. The boils got worse right after she buried her face in the freshly tilled garden plot.
Obviously, Seva was reacting to the poison in our dirt. And obviously, we would not be allowed to keep a dog we were poisoning every time she went out to play.
Not to mention that we had just planted a vegetable garden and we intended to feed our children homegrown food, which we now knew was poisoned.
I spent the weekend in a panic. And it was all thanks to that video-gaming, Harley-riding motorhead nephew! He had gotten carried away with the death sprayer, and I blamed him for the fact that Seva was sick and about to be placed in a new foster home!
In an email to Helping Paws, I suggested she could be reacting to something in our environment without actually laying out my evidence. If they saw it my way, Seva was gone sooner than later. Eileen, the Director, said it was probably not something in our house or yard, which made me feel a little better, but I was calculating when to tell her and the vet what I knew about our pine trees and the motorhead.
The boils puppy. They were even in her eyelids.
When I took her to the vet, Seva had boils all over her face, ears, and groin. Still, Dr. Smith went for the horse, not the zebra, and diagnosed her with Puppy Strangles. It is some kind of immune system freak-out that sometimes occurs in young puppies with no known cause, and is treated with steroids.
It seems the motorhead was off the hook and so was I.
Let me summarize the third act.
Seva began a round of oral steroids and got ointment for her boils. Things were going well, then she developed another UTI. I called the emergency clinic since it was a Saturday afternoon. When I asked if it could wait until Monday, I was told, “Just don’t let it become a kidney stone.” Oh, sure, I’m going to wait until Monday now! So, $180 and a Saturday afternoon gone just to get another round of antibiotics.
Right after this trip to the emergency clinic, she developed new spots on her groin. An internet search suggested ring worm, but it was likely a staph infection. Since she was already on antibiotics for the UTI, no further trips to the vet were required–that week.
The boils improved, but weren’t gone, so we began a second round of oral steroids. Each round lasts five weeks—she’s got one final pill in that bottle!
When we made another trip to the vet for vaccinations, I asked the vet to take a look at her girly bits, the vulvar folds actually. They had these tiny black dots all over them. It turns out, Seva has a bacterial infection there, and in her right ear as well.
I also told the vet that she was itching like crazy all over. Seva then obliged us with a demonstration by doing laps around the little room, rubbing her shoulder and side along the walls the entire way.
I left the vet with ear ointment, a vulva wash, medicated shampoo, and another round of antibiotics!
The steroids she has been on for ten weeks suppress the immune system, making her more susceptible to all these various infections.
The new parent panic has subsided. We are not poisoning our service dog! And as Act III draws to a close, Seva is finishing up the steroids, but the vulvar washes continue. And the ear ointment. And the medicated baths. So, if you want to know what I’ll be doing on Friday night, see above!
“Your Smurf village is not safe from Seva, the Wonder Pup!”