|Barked: Tue Apr 30, '13 10:56am PST |
|Michelle - I'm very sorry that your Lily has been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. I lost my beautiful Westie, Katie, at almost 12 years old, to this disease in December 2011. I was working at a veterinary at the time and also found one veterinarian with experience in treating Westies with this disease.
Here are some things I learned:
"Westie lung disease," or idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), is known to affect especially short-nosed dog breeds, as well as humans. Although research is being done, even with cooperative research of the disease in humans and dogs in some cases, there is no known cure.
It is thought that the disease may be related to allergens, as well as heredity, and that inflammation-causing pollution (environmental dust, molds, pollens, hairspray, car exhaust fumes, cigarette smoke, etc.) may be involved, but nothing is proven so far.
Treatment remains focused on relief of symptoms and protection from stress, overheating,infections, or other complicating factors.
A good-quality air purifier may provide some relief.
It helps a great deal to be sure your Westie doesn't get overheated. Keeping her cool helps. Air conditioning may also help to remove irritants from the air. I set my thermostat at no higher than 68 degrees F, and even as cool as 60 degrees if Katie still seemed to be too warm.
Some people have also reported some relief for the dog when the diet was changed to the "Westie diet," which you can find on the Internet. It cuts
down on the wheat and corn base of many canned foods, and seems to help with inflammation in some cases. You will need to talk this over with your veterinarian before changing her diet.
IPF is said to be very difficult to diagnose, and many American veterinarians have never heard of it as "Westie Lung Disease," nor have they ever seen a case of it. In the UK, where there are more Westies, there seem to be more research studies being published. In the USA research is being done in several major university veterinary medical schools.
Misdiagnosis can cost precious time, and can even be dangerous if the veterinarian tries to treat with incorrect medication. Enlarged heart and other related effects of IPF can confuse the diagnosis all too easily. Some strong stimulants, sometimes prescribed for heart failure and other emergency conditions, can put strain on liver, heart, and kidneys, and may even cause the dog to "crash." Some of these are specifically mentioned in Internet sites as "to be avoided" in IPF. I found that it's important continually to keep up with the most trustworthy of the websites (respected and established organizations, veterinary schools, etc., and to make sure the information is current.
It is important to locate a veterinarian with experience in treating the disease. If you can not find one in your part of the country, then at least be sure that your veterinarian is keeping well-informed, and proceeds with all sensible gentleness and caution in types of tests, treatments, and medications. Our veterinarian, e.g., decided against testing with lavage because it would be too hard on Katie.
Do your own thorough research on the Internet and (respectfully) give copies of everything relevant to your veterinarian. If the veterinarian is not open simply to considering information that you find, my experience is that you should find a more dedicated doctor as quickly as possible.
Good general information about this disease in Westies can be found at the website for the Westie Foundation of America, www.westiefoundation.org, and the Foundation also supports research projects.
The Westie Club of America website is another good general information source, at www.westieclubamerica.com. The Westie Clubs of the various states - California, Michigan, etc. - can be contacted to ask about local-area doctors and veterinary specialty clinics with experience in treating the disease.
My heart goes out to you and your Lily. Someday there will be a cure for IPF.
In the meantime, researchers and doctors are continually learning more about how to make patients more comfortable, and that's a bit of a help.
Barbara, in Illinois
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