It’s been a little over 8 months now since Leroy came home from the hospital.
I was looking through pictures the other day and the images of him are heartbreaking.
It was heartbreaking to see him this way when it was going on and it’s just as heartbreaking to look back at them today.
One of the most gorgeous and strong dogs that I have ever known looked like one of the most sickly dogs I have ever seen. He was down to skin and bones. Muscle atrophy had sent in, hair loss and sores covered his body.
He needed assistance to get up.
It was these days that we questioned his quality of life and how much time we should give him to try and recover.
At times we underestimated him.
And at times we underestimated our ability to care for him.
How did he get to this stage?
The answer is simple.
He ate rocks.
For years he ate rocks and for years we tried to stop him.
I’m not an idiot and it’s taken me a long time to convince myself that after this, I’m not a bad dog owner.
While I sometimes lightly joked about Leroy’s rock eating, I was a vet tech and I knew the damage that could be done by his awful habit.
I knew one day his rock eating would get him and that’s why we thought we were doing everything to stop it.
We were given the possible diagnosis of Pica and advised not to let him have access to rocks.
We removed the majority of the rocks from our yard, laid a concrete patio and blocked off areas where there was the potential to be rocks. We built walls and put up fences.
We even got to a point where we muzzled him when he was outside on walks because he would try to eat them them too. We babysat him when he was outside. We used positive training. We occupied him. We checked him for vitamin deficiencies. We tried to stay one step ahead of him at all times.
Little did we know that despite our efforts Leroy would always be a step ahead of us.
Leroy hadn’t eaten a rock for over a year.
We had no more rocks in the yard and he didn’t even look twice at them when we were out for walk.
We thought we broke the habit.
Leroy knew we didn’t.
The day that he did this, was a bitter cold winter day. The ground was frozen.
Never would of imagined that he would of dug up the frozen ground and swallowed over 60 rocks.
What’s frustrating is that there’s so much conflicting information out there about Pica that it’s discouraging. It’s labeled as a compulsive behavior with perhaps an underlying medical condition.
You’re told to break the habit. Period.
We thought we broke the habit but yet still ended up here.
Today, now that we have a confirmed medical condition of IBD, we are left with unanswered questions.
Did Leroy have Pica back then or did he have IBD?
Did he have both?
Did Leroy have IBD which is why he ate the rocks?
Did the rocks cause the IBD?
Did the surgery to remove the rocks put the IBD in motion?
We’ll never know the answers to those questions .
Up until this very second of writing this post, everyday I have second guessed doing the surgery to remove the rocks because that is when things went really bad. Could he of passed the remaining 20+ rocks on his own? He had passed several in the past without intervention, so why not this time? Why didn’t I wait and see?
But now I get it. If he would of not had the surgery the cycle would of kept repeating itself and we never would of been able to get to the bottom of it and get him the proper treatment that he needed.
It was almost too late and it wasn’t without some major obstacles to overcome but here we are.
My point is this:
If you have a dog that repeatably eats rocks or foreign objects, it’s serious.
It might not seem like it now because your dog is fine but It’s worth getting to the bottom of it and/or stopping it no matter what needs to be done.
It’s slowly destroying your dog.
Your dog could wind up like Leroy.
For those that have been with us since the beginning, you’ve followed the rock stories. You know the anguish it caused. You laughed and you cried with us.
It’s taken me a few days to write this post and it wasn’t easy.
Admitting defeat never is.
Looking at pictures of your dog like this is heartbreaking.
And no matter what I write I just can’t seem to get it to come out the way I want it to, but what really sparked this post was seeing comments like this around:
“Lol. My dog eats rocks all the time and he’s never had any issues.”
“My dog ate rocks and had to have them removed and now he’s fine.”
Well to people like this let me tell you:
My dog isn’t fine after eating rocks. My dog ate rocks on and off for about 3 years. One day he ate too many and had to have surgery to remove them. After that it was all down hill. Diarrhea, vomiting, invasive tests. vet appointment after vet appointment, 20 pounds in retained fluid, which finally led to about a week stay in the ICU hooked up to monitors and IV’s more invasive tests, extreme weight loss and muscle atrophy, steroids and various injections. He survived but has to be on a costly prescription diet, long term steroid treatments to keep the inflammation down, monthly rechecks and an owner who is just waiting for a relapse.
I can’t even tell you the cost of this over the years but I can assure you it goes well over $10,000. We exhausted our funds just as things got serious and had to ask for help.
The mental anguish alone is indescribable.
Please take it serious and even though it sounds harsh, don’t give your dog the benefit of the doubt.
And for veterinarians, I would love to eventually see more studies on dogs with Pica. Maybe they exist now and I just can’t find them. Maybe it’s something to think about if they don’t. It would be great to have a plan in place for dogs like this other than to break the habit, because for some dogs, maybe it can’t be broken because we need to fix something else first.
If your dog has a habit of eating rocks or other foreign objects, we recommend pet health insurance from Embrace.
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