August 8, 2010

Max’s Journey

Posted in Journal at 9:46 pm by Jenn

If you are a regular reader of this blog then you know that Max is my four legged son.   For those of you who don’t frequent, Max is a Cocker Spaniel, Miniature Poodle (by DNA confirmation) mix.  Scott and I adopted Max in late August of 2005.  We found him by chance as we were looking at doggie day care facilities for a Springer Spaniel puppy that we were planning to buy from a breeder in South Carolina.  We stopped in to look at Pup’s Play N Stay in Wilmington, NC and there he was.  He was in one of the large kennels.  Scott looked as his information and saw that his owner was the Humane Society.  He asked if the dog “Baby” as he was called back then was up for adoption.  The answer was yes.  I was less than thrilled.  I just wanted to check out the facility and get going.  Scott on the other hand was smitten by this train wreck of a dog in this kennel.  He asked if he could take the dog out and play for a while and the owner said “yes”.  That was all it took.  Instant bond with man and beast.

Needless to say my visions of a life with a beautiful Springer Spaniel puppy vanished and I found myself with a scruffy Spaniel Mix who Scott renamed Max.  My choice was Willie.  Scott loved this dog.  Right away he was a proud Papa.   We immediately went to the PetSmart and purchased all the necessary items, kennel, dog toys, dog bowls, dog food, dog collar, dog leash, dog shampoo, etc.   I on the other hand was not so thrilled.  The dog was a wreck.  He was out of control – spastic, jumping and running everywhere.  Crying all night in his kennel.  Of course that lasted one whole night.  He quickly learned that the way to his dad’s heart was to pout.  Max found his way in to our bed in less than 36 hours. 

On the agenda next was a visit to the vet for all the necessary shots and an appointment for him to be neutered.  This was a condition of the adoption.  We had to provide the Humane Society with proof of altering within 30 days of the adoption.  Max had his first rabies shot and DHPP vaccination on August 22, 2005 and was started on Interceptor.  About a month later he had the second DHPP and was neutered. 

In March of 2006 we had the first of our scares with Max.  He had somehow found his way in to Scott’s duffle bag and ate 10 Naprosyn.  We spent the next month dealing with bleeding stomach ulcers and a special diet.  In August of that year it was time for his annual visit and his next rabies vaccination, this time a 3 year.  He also got the DHPP vaccination and his Bordetella booster.  Looking back at his medical history I see that this is also the first of his treatments for ear infection. 

2006 was pretty uneventful for Max healthwise.  He spent a lot of time in PetSmart’s obedience classes and a big surprise was that he was really a great dog.  He is very easy to train and he loves being rewarded with treats.  He will do anything you ask him to with the exception of coming to his name when he is outside.  Forget about it.  There is no reward greater that the wild blue yonder for him. 

In 2007 we got the news that we were going to be heading overseas and we started seeing the vet on base to get his medical record in order.  Looking back through his treatment record I see that he had another 3 year rabies in May of 2007, even though he wasn’t due until August 2009.  They provided me with a certificate that said his next vaccination was due in May of 2010, but for some reason when we visited the vet in June of 2007 he was given ANOTHER vaccination.  The notes from that vet visit note that his ears are “sensitive”.

We left the US for Belarus in September 2007 with Max as express baggage.  The little guy was a trooper.  He travelled very well.  He seemed to adjust pretty well to life in Belarus.  He and I had bonded during Scott’s deployment to Irag and he was now a part of my daily routine.  Our stay in Belarus was cut short and we were forced out of the country to live for a few weeks in Lithuania.  This meant another rabies shot for Max on March 27, 2008 along with DHPP and Lepto.  According to his pet passports he got another rabies in March of 2009 and Lepto/DHPP in November of 2008. 

In May of 2009, Max and I were back in the US and heading to the Vet for some flea/tick/heartworm meds.  We switched him to Frontline and Heartguard because that’s what the vet had available.  During this visit we also declined a rabies vaccination (seriously) and I requested that his titre level be checked in case we were going to be travelling back overseas.  His titre came back greater than 4.56 and acceptable is o.5.  Needless to say he definitely didn’t need a vaccine any time soon.  Now that I’m typing this I wonder how long titre levels are good for…this last one was May 2009….

June of 2009 is when the ear nightmares began.  This was the first of many costly trips to the local vet.  In September I had his teeth cleaned.  In December we were still battling the ear infections and we switched him to the prescription dog food and treats.  He was on Tavist for allergies and daily ear cleanings and antibiotic drops.  We stopped the Frontline and Heartguard and switched him to Revolution.  He was still having problems even on the prescription food and all these meds in February 2010.  At the end of February we started him on Atopica, much to my dismay, but I didn’t know what else to do.  The dog was miserable and I just felt I needed to do something.

I don’t know why I didn’t consider a Holistic Vet sooner.  After speaking to a friend I decided that I taking him to a Holistic vet certainly wasn’t going to hurt.  I had been reading up about chronic ear infections and realized that holistic was probably the way to go.

Max had his first appointment with the Holistic Vet in March 2010.  We stopped all the meds he was taking, drew distemper and parvo titers, did an allergy test and started him on a Raw Food diet.  The doctor suspected that Max had been over vaccinated and all of his problems were the result of his immune system being over worked.  The results of his allergy test were shocking.  He was allergic to Egg, Soy Beef, Oat, Milk, Rice, Pork, Lamb, and Pea.  Amazing.   His titre levels were through the roof.  The vet said that he most likely wouldn’t need another vaccination for at least 3 years.  Unbelievable.  You’d think that the laws for pet travel would change to accept titre levels.  Why vaccinate when it isn’t necessary?

We made the dietary changes and followed up with the vet a month later.  Max was feeling better, his fur looked healthier but he was still battling ear infections.  The vet said that the infections were deep an that it would take a while for them to clear up.  He was on antibiotics, ear ointment and cleaner.  We couldn’t give him any of the flea tick treatments that we had previously given because they either contain beef or pork.  We discussed putting him back on Revolution. 

A few weeks later the groomer noticed a small hole next to his anus.  We were due for a follow up with the vet for his ear so I had this checked out.  He had an anal sac that  had ruptured.  She expressed his anal glands and I gave him antibiotics for a week.  The sac healed.

A month later it was time for his Revolution.  Two days after the application he had another hole appear next to his anus, this time with bloody discharge.  Back to the vet.  Apparently this is a response to the Revolution because his immune system is so screwed up.  Needless to say no more of these products for Max.  I bought some daily wipes and will be treating him with those starting in about two weeks.  As for the heartworm protection I’ll be giving him a daily Dimmitrol tablet.

This has been quite a frustrating journey for me and I’m sure for Max.  He is definitely feeling better than he was a year ago.  At our last trip to the vet his ear infection is completely gone.  We are cleaning his ears out weekly and more often if needed.  We have changed his diet to eliminate all of the things that he is allergic to.  He is on Natural Balance dog food – Duck and Potato with the matching treats.  We also give him Primal mixed in with the kibble along with a tablespoon of canned pumpkin and when we have leftovers – green beans (home canned by mom).  He loves his food now.  No more fussiness at dinner time.  The poor guy was probably trying to tell me he was allergic to the stuff I was giving him before.  When this bag of Primal is gone I’m going to trial him on Force.  It is a dehydrated dog food and I’ve heard really great things about it.  I love the fact that it’s nutritionally complete on it’s own. 

It makes sense to me as a Registered Dietitian that good health starts with a good diet.  I can’t see ever going back to feeding any animal that I own anything less than food with human grade ingredients.  Scott and I always fed him good food before but now with human grade ingredients and allergen free Max is on the road to recovery.  Thank God.

So this dog who was a furry mess when we found him 5 years ago is still a mess, but he’s my mess and I wouldn’t trade him for anything.  In fact there has been talk about a sister for Max (the four legged variety of course)….stay tuned.



  1. wineymomma said,

    Way to go! So glad he is feeling better! Our poor Lab suffered from chronic ear infection only in his right ear. When we took him to his very last vet appointment they said that they thought he was paralyzed on the right side of his head which caused soooooo many problems!

    And I wish you good luck in finding a sister for Max!

    Was the paralysis from the ear infections? I can’t even imagine. I think I’m biting off more that I can chew in the sister department, but looking never hurts : ). Kind of like window shopping.

  2. Emily said,

    Poor Max! That’s really frustrating that they would make you vaccinate him so many times because it seems pretty logical that overvaccinating wouldn’t be healthy.

    Sounds like Max and Lola are similar – she’s also a Cocker mix, and I think she’s got a little poodle in her. Plus when we first got her, she had warts in her mouth (the vet thought from the stress of having been on the streets), and we had to go through multiple surgeries and eventually a custom-made vaccine. Luckily unlike Max, she’s generally healthy now. Hope Max keeps improving with his new food

    Max is doing great with this new diet Emily. He still has problems and we make frequent costly trips to the vet, but he’s worth it. Too bad Max and Lola never got to meet!

  3. Jen D said,

    Max is sooooo lucky to have a mom and dad who care as much as you two do!

    I tell him that every day Jen! LOL.

  4. Oh I am right there with you on spending your life and life savings at the vet. We go every four weeks to have my Sadie’s glands expressed. And she’s been having seizures. But not frequently enough to go on meds. It’s about all I can handle. But she’s my fur baby so what’s a momma to do?!

    Is Sadie on a raw diet? What is causing the seizures?

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