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Bigger than the Golden Gate
Photo taken 4 May 2011

Shortly after joining the Yahoo group for hypothyroid pets, another Shiba owner introduced herself to the list with the following anecdote (reposted with author’s permission with slight edits for clarity):

I have a five year old Shiba Inu who was just diagnosed as Hypothyroid. The reason we had her tested was due to “night terrors”. She has not slept through the night for 3 weeks. The first week she scratched at my face all night and panted so bad it was dripping all over my face. Nothing calmed her until dawn came. I used to crate her when she would get worked up over storms, but it wasn’t even storming. I tried to crate her but the anxiety increased. We tried to crate her in another room with a radio but she broke a tooth off at the gum line so crating is out. We do have a Kennel-aire now with the 1″ diameter wire so she can’t get her teeth on it. She goes in that during the day but I will still come home to a crate wet with drool. We tried Clomipramine at 25mg (she weighs 17lb) but that did nothing at night. While we were waiting for the thyroid results, which took 10 days, she has been on Reconcile [fluoxetine hydrochloride, aka Prozac] that helped a bit but seeing her on Prozac was SO SAD. She is now slowly being taken off that. It was horrible having her on it. She was on 8mg once a day which caused severe constipation.

NOW that we have her thyroid results she is on Pala-Tech 0.1mg twice a day. She still pants on and off through the night but she can’t make it through the night without going out to pee. I pull her water bowl up at 7pm and take her out at 9pm before bed. Is this due to the Pala-Tech? Will this go away? I need SLEEP. It’s been weeks. I also have to sleep downstairs with her because this night time fear all started when she heard bats in the attic and they were coming in the house. Bats are gone and we haven’t heard them for weeks now.

Of course, I jumped right on that one. I felt a particular sense of urgency to respond because Bowdu was going through a simultaneous bout of consecutive nights of “night terrors,” as she so aptly described it.

From April 21st to April 27th, Bowdu did not sleep through an entire night.

April 21, 7 AM (about half an hour before my alarm clock): Bowdu jumped up onto my side of the bed to hover over my head, back legs quaking.

April 22, 6 AM: Same thing. I groggily let him out in the backyard to relieve himself, thinking this might help. When he came back, he was still shaking so I held him and tried vainly to doze until my alarm went off.

April 23: An especially rough night. I was looking at a 14-hour day across the Bay, and already went to bed far too late. Bowdu jumped up into bed at 2:30 AM, shaking for no discernible reason. This time I desperately did not want to deal with it, so I flounced off to the front room with earplugs stuffed into my ears and closed the door, hoping the Doggy Daddy could be awakened from his winterbear-slumber. Instead, Bowdu pushed open my door and climbed onto the futon, trembling so hard that I could not fall asleep.

This lasted for three hours.

Finally at 5:30 AM, I reached over and dragged him from the edge of the futon over to the wall next to me, where I pressed my body against him and the pillow propped up against the wall. I basically sandwiched him between a bunch of soft things. And then miraculously, maybe because he was finally exhausted or because I had inadvertently unlocked the secret of the “squeeze machine”, he stopped shaking. Bodies aligned, we got about an hour’s worth of sleep.

That was the worst of it. Bowdu continued to jump up onto the bed trembling at 7 AM, 4 AM, and 7 AM again for the next few days, but the terrors eventually subsided. Unlike the other Shiba above, he did not drool, but the other behaviors sounded all too familiar — all that panting, pacing, trembling, which I’ve documented just recently.

I am not familiar with any of the drugs that the other Shiba owner gave her pet (except for Prozac, which is more extreme than what I think is necessary for Bowdu). We both got one “new” suggestion from the Hypothyroid pet list to check out our pets’ cortisol levels and to supplement with T3 drugs (Triiodothyronine) instead of just T4 (Levothyroxine), which is what we’ve been doing.

I am not ready to go this route, and need to look into it a little more, especially as I recall the peer-reviewed literature recommending against T3 therapy for a variety of reasons related mainly to sourcing (i.e., bovine vs. porcine hormones) that I have to fact check before I report back here. At any rate, I know there is some preference for this kind of dessicated thyroid therapy since it’s available from animal sources. Could the trade-off be standardization of production and quality control (including published research that does not make a distinction between bovine or porcine sources for natural thyroid extracts)? Though Soloxine is synthetic, honestly, it has worked very well for Bowdu for a good run so far, and I’m not willing to risk upsetting the balance until I know exactly what I’m doing or until I have veterinary approval.

At any rate, it’s a reminder to take online veterinary health advice with caution, and follow up with your own diligent research. Even if I don’t understand everything that I’m told/given, I will at least evaluate my sources. (The academic in me revolts against the very idea of citing Wikipedia as a source, but if you read between the lines of the entry on dessicated thyroid extracts, you get a hint of the contested nature of this terrain in both human and animal health.)

In other news, last week I ran into another Shiba owner whom I had never met before. She was with a handsome red male named Fuji. After brief introductions, one of her first questions was, “Does your Shiba have allergies?

So I referred her to this blog…

I can’t remember how old Fuji is, but I seem to recall that he was quite young for a Shiba who’s already undergone the rigmarole of steroid pills, Atopica, allergy testing, and now allergy shots. I didn’t get a good look at his fur or his skin. It was rather hot that day, and Fuji was hanging out under the shade while the Two Bows were pushing ahead in the opposite direction. Fuji’s person commented that Bowdu appeared in good shape for a Shiba who was supposedly prone to allergies. All I can say to that is knock on wood. In the past couple of weeks, both Bows have been licking themselves and scratching their muzzles more often, though there is no visible change to their skin. We’re trying to get a jump on preventative therapy this year, so I’ve already been dosing Bowdu with OTC allergy pills about every other day or when plant activity seems especially profuse. I’m also busting out the baby wipes after every dog park run. I also need to pick up some more local honey from the community garden down the street (great for homemade facial masks, too!).

We’re also trying the above combination of Azmira Holistic herbal extracts. I dropped about $40 on two vials of Yucca Intensive and Aller’G Grass and Pollen mix (which contains a pungent mixture of eyebright herb, bayberry root bark, goldenseal root, calamus root, stinging nettle leaf, and grain alcohol). A couple other different kinds of Aller’G extracts are available through this company, and they recommend using them in combination with several other products, but given how expensive these remedies are, I’d rather try a bit at a time and see if I can notice any improvement over time.

The last 2 fl. oz vial of Yucca Intensive lasted nearly a year (only Bowdu was getting this natural anti-inflammatory supplement). So presumably the 1 oz. vial of Aller’G Grass and Pollen will last long enough for me to assess its efficacy. Both Bows are getting a few drops several times a day, mixed with a little bit of all natural apple juice. It’s a new treat they’re quite happy to lap up.