Source: Yahoo News (Extract)
Posted: June 23, 2024

An Australian pet owner faced a harrowing ordeal when her beloved nine-year-old Weimaraner, Harlow, suddenly fell critically ill in 2020.

Alana from Sydney recounted how Harlow’s health deteriorated rapidly, leaving her emaciated and nearly at death’s door. Despite numerous vet visits, the cause of Harlow’s severe weight loss remained elusive, perplexing even the most diligent veterinarians.

Harlow, typically robust and active, had drastically reduced her food intake, leaving her once robust physique a mere shadow of its former self. Alana described the desperate situation, where Harlow’s condition worsened over months despite frequent vet consultations averaging two to three times per week. The dog exhibited alarming symptoms including vomiting blood, gastric torsion, and recurrent episodes of bloat.

The situation became so dire that Alana was reluctantly considering euthanasia for Harlow, as specialists struggled to pinpoint the underlying cause of her rapid decline.

Dog’s ‘rapid’ weight loss stumps vets, until specialist intervention

With few options left, the family was advised to seek help from the team at SASH, Sydney’s Small Animal Specialist Hospital, known for handling complex cases. There, they met Dr. Amy Lam.

Dr. Lam conducted specialized tests, including a meticulous endoscopy that revealed severe inflammation in Harlow’s gastrointestinal tract. This led to a breakthrough in Harlow’s diagnosis: she was suffering from severe chronic neutrophilic enteritis, the rarest form of chronic enteropathy. At one point, she was described as “the sickest dog this department has encountered.”

Despite Alana’s initial hopes for improvement following Harlow’s diagnosis, her condition continued to deteriorate, and her weight failed to stabilize. By March 2021, Harlow had lost her vitality and was severely emaciated, weighing just 13kg compared to her previous 24kg before the illness began—almost half her original weight.

Faced with Harlow’s declining health and quality of life, Alana made the heart-wrenching decision one Friday night to end her beloved pet’s suffering.

Decision nobody ever wants to make

“I will always remember that day as one of the most devastating in my life,” Alana shared with Yahoo News Australia. “As long as Harlow had her spark and wagged her tail with the desire to live, I kept fighting for her.

“But the time came when her spark faded—she lost control of her bodily functions, her vital signs were weak, and she was so frail that she couldn’t move or lift herself (we had to carry her). Her quality of life had deteriorated significantly, and when she mustered the strength to look at us, it was as if she was telling us she couldn’t fight anymore.

“At that point, you have to question whether what you’re doing is right, and sometimes letting them go peacefully is the most selfless act of love you can give them.”

However, just as Alana was preparing to say goodbye to Harlow, everything changed the next day. “The following morning, I got a call from Dr. Amy, even though it was her day off,” she recalled. “She told me she had figured out the issue. We quickly carried Harlow to the car and rushed straight to the hospital.”

Last-minute call changes everything

“Amy explained that she suspected Harlow might be reacting to animal proteins, even those hydrolyzed in foods that typically work for many dogs with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), but hadn’t been effective for Harlow.

“So, we decided to try a hydrolyzed vegetarian diet, and to our surprise, Harlow, who had refused all food for over a week by then, immediately accepted it. I can’t explain why she did, but we were incredibly relieved nonetheless. As her symptoms began to subside, her energy returned, and she started gaining weight — we were overjoyed.

“Seeing her zest for life come back was an indescribable feeling—it was like someone had flipped a switch, and our lively girl was back!”

Since transitioning to a plant-based diet, Harlow has made remarkable progress, and as of 2024, she’s back to being the “happy little girl” she always was. “Harlow is doing fantastically well now,” Alana shared. “Looking at her today, you wouldn’t even believe she went through such a tough time.

“Harlow is thriving! She has been in remission for over two years now. She absolutely loves her specialized food and is quite reluctant to try anything else. Her diet is perfectly balanced, so she’s in excellent physical health.

“She’s a joyful girl with a wonderful temperament, and even at 9 years old, she has boundless energy! Harlow has always been my soul dog, but going through this journey with her has made her even more special.

“Moreover, it inspired me to change careers and pursue veterinary medicine, all thanks to this extraordinary little dog who never gave up, and the incredible Dr. Amy Lam and veterinary team who dedicated themselves to saving her.”