Thursday, March 17, 2011

Weight Loss, Brittle Fur, Starving All The Time ... Beaner's Story (Part I)

Beaner's story is shared by Angie Falcsik of  Pawsitive K-9 Obedience. You can also follow her on Twitter or Facebook. Thank you, Angie, for sharing your story with us!

These are just some of the symptoms I was noticing with Beaner, my 10 year old German Shepherd/Greyhound. 

It started out with the weight loss but as she was a little on the pudgy side, and was reducing her food a bit, I didn’t think much of it. 

However, then other symptoms started to appear.

When I was brushing her I noticed that she was losing more fur than normal and her skin was very dry and flaky. 

Yes, I know, GSD’s don’t have a shedding season (she is predominately GSD) – they shed all year long; but this was in the fall and not the time of year she should be shedding this much. I also noticed that her fur was not as soft; but again, explained this away knowing she needed a bath and the fact that it was getting colder outside and maybe her skin was just getting dry. 

I thought maybe the food the dogs eat had changed formula, but after doing some research, learned that was not the case. 

All the dogs are on Fish Oil daily along with Osteo Bi-Flex so I knew she was getting enough Omega 3. I decided to give her just a little bit of EVOO in her food and give her a bath. I use Main & Tail shampoo and conditioner which has always worked very well for the dogs. 

However, even after her bath, her fur still didn’t feel right. She  was also depressed and irritable. 

She didn’t want to engage in play or even snuggling at times. She was less tolerant of her canine brothers and would snap and growl at them over the littlest things. Her eyes were sunken and she literally looked sad.

I also would catch her eating not only her poo, but her brothers’ as well. 

Not even waiting for it to hit the ground at times! I know – disgusting. She was ravenous when she would eat each meal and despite increasing her food from 1 ¼ cups twice a day slowly all the way to 2 cups twice a day, she continued to act as if she was starving and was still losing weight.

I also would hear very loud rumblings from her tummy all the time, regardless of how close to or after feeding her and she had really bad gas. 

I thought she just had a tummy ache and started to add pumpkin in her food to help settle her tummy. The rumbling and gas continued. I thought could I have been wrong about her food? Was this not the right brand for her? The boys were not losing weight. Then, I thought, worms? Parasite? But the boys weren’t losing weight. Their fur was still soft and had normal shedding. They were not acting as if they were starving.

I thought if Beaner had a parasite, the boys would have it too (they unfortunately are poo eaters at times as well). 

I figured if one had a parasite, it was likely the others would as well. At this point I decided to call the vet.

Although he agreed with my analysis, he still said it was possible and he wanted a stool sample; a fresh one – not frozen or refrigerated overnight. Yeah, right! I work 3 jobs; 85+ hours a week. How was I going to get a “fresh” sample during a time that the vet was open? I decided to wait for the weekend and try to get one in the morning before I went to go teach obedience class. 

During the week (called the vet on Monday), she deteriorated.

I watched her come inside one evening after playing ball, her muscles were quivering. She stood there for a bit and then basically collapsed to the floor. Her muscles had begun to atrophy already and she was not strong enough after 10-15 mts of playing to hold herself up. 

I was very scared at this point!

I examined her and could see that she had lost some muscle tone and knew at this point we were not dealing with a parasite; or at least not only a parasite.

I immediately looked at her fatty tumor on her chest that has now gotten to the size of a golf ball and thought, the vet has been wrong all this time – it was not a fatty tumor – it is cancer and I’m going to lose my girl!

I kept trying to remind myself of the times the vet had pulled fluid from this fatty tumor and over the years assured me that is all it was. He had given me the option of having her undergo surgery to remove it but I could not justify putting her under to remove something that was not bothering/hurting her; it bothered me. Selfish. She did not need to risk the possible risks of surgery because I didn’t like how it looked. 

Still, I thought, can a fatty tumor become cancerous? Research told me no.

Back to the drawing board. That whole week I watched her like a hawk. I decided not to over exert her and other than her ravenous eating, poo eating and brittle fur, she was walking/standing/jumping on/off the bed okay. 

Saturday finally came. 

I knew that the dogs’ poo schedule was right around 10 am so right after breakfast I locked them in the house for a couple of hours. I finally let them out and followed Beaner with a large baggie – 2 in fact. (Beaner’s poo is extra large!). I wasn’t sure what type of tests they were going to do or how much they needed so I was planning accordingly. 

She did not want to go with mom watching and knowing I wanted her to go. She tried to get me to play with her, she ran across the ¼ acre back yard to try and poo in private. No luck –I waited around the bush and as she was squatting ran up to her. It was gray! It was slimy and runny too! 

I expected soft, or even runny, but not gray and slime! Now I was very concerned.

With Beaner and poo bag in tow, we were off to the vet for her appointment. I handed the poo bag to the vet assistant and she assured me I had more than enough. I think she was being sarcastic

The vet examined Beaner and weighed her. She was 56 pounds! 

Her normal weight about 80 pounds! I could not believe her weight was that low! The vet drew some blood and asked me to get a urine sample. Sure, now he tells me – could have done that at home. Good thing Beaner pees on command, even if she just went. He handed me a Styrofoam cup and I took her outside and told her to go potty. 

Of course, the good girl that she is, she started to pee but I got a little snow in the cup as I tried to get it under her and the vet said he needs a completely clean sample. Again –now he tells me. The vet assistant came in with another cup and suggested we cut the cup lengthwise so it was more like a scoop – good idea. This time I took her to the parking lot close to the snow but not in it. Hoping she still had something in her asked her to go potty again.

She looked at me as if to say, “I just went!” But again, the good girl she is, she peed again and this time we got a clean sample. Very carefully so as not to spill, I poured it into another cup and brought it back inside. 

Now it was a waiting game. 

Blood work would take a couple of days, urine would take a day as would the stool, unless more extensive tests were needed and then it would be couple of days. 

The vet had a couple of things he was thinking; protein loss, digestion issue, and of course, the “C” word – cancer.

We got home and after a bit of snuggling I decided not to let her see me so upset. Beaner and her brothers and I went to do some nosework to get our minds off things. 

Surprisingly, a couple of hours after leaving the vet, I got a phone call. The vet said, although the other tests still needed to be done, it was very clear from the initial stool test that

Beaner was not absorbing ANY nutrients from her food ...

Stay tuned for conclusion of the story.


For nearly 10 years, Angie Falcsik has been professionally dedicated to the training, rehabilitation, and rescue of dogs. But the roles of trainer, rescuer, and rehabilitator have been a large part of her life since she was a child. Angie's life-long passion and the goal of her professional career is to educate people regarding responsible dog ownership and the realities involved in being a responsible dog owner. Angie has been working with Animal Control agencies and shelters for many years and has offered expert advice and testimony in animal abuse and neglect cases. Angie has been professionally training dogs since 2002 and is an AKC Canine Good Citizen Evaluator. Through her classes, private in-home training, and rescue work, she has trained hundreds of dogs. In her own home alone, she has fostered and trained over 350 dogs!

Angie's unique obedience class (Language and Leadership) focuses on pack leadership, body language, and positive reinforcement. Her classes involve training the owner and family members and rehabilitating the dog. Angie's method uses body language as well as voice commands to develop and establish an appropriate relationship between owner and dog. If your dog is not listening to you, chances are, your dog does not have sufficient respect for you. Angie will teach you how to become a pack leader and earn the necessary respect so that following your lead becomes second nature to your dog.

In Angie's class, you will learn the importance of pack leadership, establishing rules and boundaries, along with an exercise regimen, and how to implement these essential aspects of responsible dog ownership into your lives. You and your dog will also learn basic obedience such as heel, sit, wait, down, and come, as well as additional training/rehabilitation measures that are specific to your dog and family. While some basic training is essential for all dogs, Angie believes that not every technique works or is appropriate for every dog and family. Each dog and family is unique and Angie's training philosophy and methods are designed to address and work with different family/dog situations and living styles.


  1. Very Interesting blog. I am now a follower. I thought you might want to check out Paradox Principles
    All the best, Bob West

  2. Poor Beaner ... Very good described how horrible all the guessing, waiting, testing, etc. is. All while you know your dog is not alright!

  3. Guessing, testing and waiting is always the worst part.

  4. fair! I have a guess in my head, but I won't say, in case I am way off!

    It is the worst when you know that something just isn't right with your pet but don't have any answers.
    I hope to hear Beamer is doing well:)

  5. Nice comments i like your all blog thanks lot off. i want to know more information about this matter.

  6. He Sea Veg, please check out the second part of the story for further links and information, also an earlier article Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (Maldigestion)