Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Don't Miss the Forest for the Trees: Duke's Story

An obvious diagnosis might not be the right diagnosis.



Don't let your vet insist on a diagnosis based on the first thing they might stumble upon when trying to figure out what's wrong with your dog. Even if it might make sense at first.

If your dog isn't getting better with treatment, either the diagnosis or the treatment is wrong.


Duke was a happy 7-year-old Boxer. He was living a happy life until he suddenly started having serious problems. He was lethargic, losing weight, painful lower back, and some lameness of back legs.

Duke was examined and diagnosed with spondylosis.


Spondylosis is a spinal issue that could explain the symptoms and Boxers are one of the breeds that have a genetic predisposition for the problem. Pain could explain lethargy, lameness and even loss of muscle mass, particularly in the hind end.

Duke was treated based on the diagnoses but wasn't getting any better. 


He kept losing an enormous amount of weight in spite of having more than a hearty appetite. He was becoming skin and bone literally, looking almost like some of the photos of emaciated rescue dogs. He was losing a lot of weight everywhere, not just on the hind end. Duke also started drinking large amounts of water.

In spite of his treatment, Duke kept getting worse until he became unable to walk down the stairs or to use the bathroom and required substantial help to get out and eliminate.

That's when his owner noticed that Duke's urine smelled absolutely fetid. It also looked dark, cloudy and foamy.

The owner was able to collect a sample for urinalysis.


They also decided to seek a different vet because they no longer believed that spondylosis was what was causing all this trouble.

Duke's urine was extremely concentrated, contained a bunch of blood, protein, and crystals. The urine itself was not enough to come to any conclusions, and the new vet kept Duke for further tests.

Duke's body was ravaged by a systemic disease.


The vet concluded that Duke had either cancer or immune-mediated disease but was at the point that he was not going to be able to make it through and Duke was set free from his physical suffering.

Yes, Duke did have spondylosis. But that was not at all what ravaged his body and took his life.


Rest in peace, Duke.



Do you have a story to share?

Your story can help others, maybe even save a life!


What were the first signs you noticed? How did your dog get diagnosed? What treatment did/didn't work for you? What was your experience with your vet(s)? How did you cope with the challenges?

Email me, I'll be happy to hear from you.


Do you know what your dog is telling you about their health?


Learn how to detect and interpret the signs of a potential problem.



An award-winning guide to better understanding what your dog is telling you about their health, Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, is available in paperback and Kindle. Each chapter includes notes on when it is an emergency.

18 comments

  1. I'm so sorry for Duke and his family. I appreciate you sharing his story and hope it will help others.

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    1. Thank you, Beth, it's surely devastating.

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  2. That is awful for Duke and his family. As with most things in life, second opinions can be useful!

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    1. Yes, very awful. One needs to question things when their dog isn't getting better.

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  3. Oh gosh, I am so sorry for poor Duke. I am glad he is no longer suffering but sending much support to his family. Second opinions are always a good idea.

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  4. As pet owners we put our faith in our veterinarians. But we should always trust our gut because no one knows our pets like we do.

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    1. Actually, no, I don't believe in putting my faith in any human being. I do believe in cooperation but evaluating whether or not a diagnosis makes sense and treatment brings sufficient results.

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  5. My vet actually encourages a second opinion, especially since she is on her own. She also discusses cases with other vets. My former vet didn't have me see specialists and my dog suffered for months until I insisted on further testing and a second opinion.

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    1. I love your vet. Jasmine's vet also consults with other vets and specialists on his own, as well as happy to have me consult.

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  6. I know when my cat is unwell. Beyond that I am really at the mercy of the vet I find.

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    1. You're not at your vet's mercy - you can always ask for referral to a specialist or specialty hospital, or seek a second opinion.

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  7. I'm so sorry to hear about Duke. I had a similar experience with my previous cat. The vets were treating her for everything except the cancer that eventually took her from me. I knew I didn't want to continue with this vet practice when Truffle and Brulee came to live with me.

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    1. It's not about any particular vet knowing everything, it's about them realizing they don't know everything.

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  8. I'm so sorry to hear about Duke! I agree - sometimes you need more analysis of the problem or a second opinion. Veterinarians are not infallible and they have a very difficult job since their patients can't speak for themselves. My first cat, Obi-Wan, had chronic urinary tract issues. We had to take him to the vet over and over. One night we took him to the veterinarian and she told us that he would be fine if we gave him his prescribed meds and changed to a prescription food. The next morning his bladder ruptured and we had to put him down. It was heart breaking to say the least. I had just been reassured that everything would be fine and it definitely wasn't. You just never know.

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    1. The main rule is that if the treatment doesn't bring satisfactory results, both the diagnosis and the treatment need to be revisited.

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  9. Oh my gosh I'm sorry to hear that's how Duke's story ended. I can't even imagine trying to listen to the vet but feeling like it's not right and that being true! I learned a good lesson here to question if things are improving and if not then seek a second opinion.

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    1. Yes, it is important to question things if the treatment is clearly not working and a diagnosis leaves questions unanswered.

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