Losses on the Farm: Hawks and Lepto

We’ve suffered a major loss on the farm due to hawks and lepto. I’m sure you know hawks like to grab little ones such as chickens and bunnies, but perhaps you don’t know what lepto is. Short for leptospirosis, it is a nasty and often fatal bacteria that comes from the urine of cattle and swine and wild animals such as deer, armadillo, and even wild dogs.

Last month, my Bichon/Skye Terrier mix had goop in his eyes. I figured he had some sort of infection and watched him closely for a couple weeks, waiting for his body to fight it off. He wasn’t acting sick, so I wiped his eyes out a couple time a day with a warm washcloth and let his immune system do its thing. After about two weeks, on a Friday night, he started shivering with fever. Time to go to the vet. I took him in Saturday morning and found his WBC showed he was fighting a major infection. His kidney function was also very high, so the vet pumped him up with some fluids to hydrate him and gave us two antibiotics to help fight off whatever it was.

On Wednesday, he was no better, so we went back. His WBC and kidney numbers were even higher. The vet thought we might be fighting cancer but didn’t see any cancer cells under the microscope, so we did the next obvious test for a country dog; we checked for lepto. The test came back positive. Ugh. The treatment is penicillin followed by two weeks of doxycycline. Even with that proven treatment, there’s still a chance you will lose your pet. It’s a very aggressive bacteria that kills very quickly. We gave him more fluids, penicillin, vitamin B, and 21 days of doxy. I also ran my mini schnauzer up to the vet that day to have her tested, but her test came back negative. Thank goodness.

That day, while running back and forth to the vet, my hens were scratching around the horse barn. I saw the hawks flying around and ran them off, but I couldn’t coax the girls to go back to the coop, and I didn’t have time to mess with them due to dealing with the dogs. That evening, one of my girls didn’t come back. I assume the hawks got her. I get to feel guilty about that for a while, and I’m so sad to lose one of my girls. I raised them from day-old chicks and have had them about two years. What a horrible way to die.

A week later, our pup was worse. He stopped eating, stopped walking, slept most of the time, burning up with fever. I carried him outside a couple time a day to go to the bathroom. When I took him back to the vet on day nine of the doxy regiment, his numbers were worse. WBC and kidney function were even worse, and now his liver function, which was normal at 98 only nine days ago, was 1100. We’re losing him. We gave him more penicillin and fluids on Friday, again Saturday, and again Monday, and doubled the doxy. He had enough drugs in him for a 30-lb dog, but he was dropping weight like crazy. Usually 21 pounds. Only 17 last week. 15 pounds today.

The next day, the doxy was making him so sick, I felt terrible. He completely stopped eating and drinking. I hand-fed him bites of chicken, carried him outside, snuggled with him as much as I could. Friday, we took him back in to check his numbers. Kidney function was about the same, WBC was climbing, and liver function was now 1500. His organs were shutting down. The vet again suggested cancer or maybe sepsis.

I decided if he survived the weekend, if we didn’t see any improvement by Monday, we’d let him go.

That’s exactly what we did. My heart is broken at the loss of my pup. Lepto is a bitch. And I’ve declared war on the hawks.

Rest in peace, my little Ru-bear. Momma loves you.

Rudy Sep 2006 – Dec 2019

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