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liz chowsie

Five years ago, after a difficult (and expensive) week at the specialty/emergency clinic, my veterinarian determined what was causing my Yorkie’s frequent stomach upset, weight loss, and seizures. He was diagnosed with a chronic condition that, fortunately, is completely manageable by medication and diet.

I’ve had to tweak his care over the years, but please show no pity for my little pup. He’s doing just fine, and I suspect, possibly even has a better life than he would if he were totally healthy. Here’s why:

He gets more frequent veterinary checkups.

I may slack off when it comes to my own annual physicals, but since my dog’s prescriptions are contingent on bloodwork every six months, you can bet your bottom dollar I’m in that clinic like clockwork. Besides checking his condition, my vet looks at his organ functionality so if there’s an issue unrelated to his disease, I’ll know sooner than I might otherwise. This also gives me a close relationship with my veterinarian, who in a pinch, I can email on a weekend and since she knows my dog’s history, can give advice off the top of her head.

He gets only the healthiest treats.

The steroid my dog takes each day has caused him to have a sensitive belly. So there’s no temptation for me to feed him fatty table scraps unless I want to subject him to a bout of pancreatitis. Instead, he gets rewarded with apple pieces and baby carrots, and I splurge on the all-natural dog treats (I like Honest Kitchen “Quickies”). Plus, this makes the bit of string cheese (shh, there’s a pill inside), he gets each morning even more enjoyable for him.

The ante is upped for boarding and grooming.

I’m not sure if I’d have the heart to board my dog overnight at a boarding facility with crates (most dogs are fine with this, but mine is high-maintenance), but with his condition being exasperated by stress, it’s just not an option. Instead, if I want to go away, I have to arrange for him to stay with a friend or family member who he knows and likes (and preferably lets him sleep in their bed). Otherwise, I find a way for him to come with me, or I don’t go.

And for grooming, I have to seek out the shi-shi places that do appointment-based grooming so he’s there for only an hour rather than the whole day. This costs more and is definitely more leg work, but in the end, he’s happier and more comfortable than he would be if I had the luxury, so to speak, of picking the cheaper option.

I’m very aware of his mood and, er, bodily functions.

If my dog is feeling off, I will know probably even before he does. Maybe that beautiful twinkle in his eye is a little less bright, or he greets me with one less bounce than usual. Having a dog with belly problems also makes you very aware of his poop. Is it a bit softer than usual? Someone’s getting Pepcid tonight. Is he having diarrhea? Let’s up the meds a bit to give his system a boost. I can catch problems earlier than I might if I weren’t watching him like a hawk.

I appreciate every second I have with him.

Waiting to find out what was wrong with my dog and seeing him hooked up to IVs with a “seizure watch” sign on his crate was a horrible experience. One vet told me they’d be checking for a pancreatic tumor, and I almost fainted. Since it ended being something I could manage, I’m grateful for every lick and wag, and even every terrier tantrum. The extra steps I have to take and the money I have to spend is all irrelevant. After all, he’s my best friend—and I’d do anything for him.

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