Henry and I run a small rescue in the Malaga region of southern Spain – we live very rural – it is a 17km drive down the riverbed to our home from the nearest village Campanillas. Most of the dogs we rescue have been abandoned on the river bed – many have been born there to ‘parents’ previously dumped. We also save one or two from the local pound and try to help other rescues where we can …. we also rehabilitate dogs who are no longer wanted or needed by their owners. We try to find good homes for them – locally but in other European countries too. We don’t keep our dogs in kennels for very long – we try to integrate them as soon as we feel they are ready, we put them back together physically and mentally, we socialize them, house train them, we protect them from future disease where we can and we neuter them so no more unwanted little ones can suffer the way they have, we love them and when they eventually leave for their new homes we break our hearts because they take a little part of us with them when they go.
Driving down the track we go to a dip where the river divides … just standing there in front of us in the glare of the headlights we saw this ‘thing’ – the thing looked like a hyena, thin, pointy ears and spotty … it stood calmly in front of us for what must have been around 5 or 10 seconds – we all just looked at each other … with that it took off into the darkness. The next day we went in search of this ‘hyena’ … we asked the local goat man and he said yes he’d seen it – a dog – ‘muy malo’ – very bad – he said making a dismissive gesture with his hand – telling us to leave it alone. Not to be deterred Henry set off to look for it …. another neighbour told him they had seen it in a clump of trees …. and there it was … the Hyena thing ….
Roxy was surviving living off a dead goat … the meat was all gone and all she was left with the chew on was the bones. Every day Henry went down with food and fresh water … after a week or so she left that den and started to come a little closer … the trouble is many locals don’t like strays … they frighten them away … shouting or even shooting warning shots, treatment of strays can be shocking and shots don’t always stop at a warning especially with a dog like Roxy who is Belgian Malinois and looks like she is carrying some awful disease.
We had a few set backs but we kept finding her and our neighbour was now helping too .. she eventually found a large drain she made her ‘home’ – she was frightened still at this stage and we couldn’t catch her. The weeks went by and she began to trust Henry – she was covered in ticks and fleas and at this point we managed to get an antiparasite treatment on her skin and put worming tablets in her food. With in a couple of days she decided she was good to go …. and she left her drain for good….. a month from first seeing her.
Once in safety we went straight to the vet – she was painfully thin, her skin was black and she had little hair … hence the way she looked spotty in the dark … she smelt very bad, she was starving hungry and she had the most horrendous diarrhoea, she also had open sores all over her body. Blood tests were taken for Leishmania and other Mediterranean diseases, we were sure she had Leish. Her skin problem is Malassezia which is usually a secondary condition … we treated her for Guardia ….
She proved negative for Leish and everything else … but the diarrhoea continued – it was yellow, incredibly smelly and volumous and instead of putting weight on she was losing it… alarm bells rang in our lovely vets head. She took further blood tests … Results were all over the place. This time it showed she had tick fever – so antibiotics for that. But sadly they showed Roxy has EPI and so the ‘journey’ began into something we had no idea about …
he started on Kreon/Creon and we did see a small improvement, antibiotics for Tick Fever continuing, anti fungal medication for the Malassezia together with an antifungal shampoo. Creon is in short supply here in Spain, also it was becoming difficult to get Roxy to swallow it whole and we seemed to take a nose dive again in her condition. Our fabulous vet consulted specialist Pharmacists and they came up with a different format enzyme to try. It’s in a tablet form Pancrea Pharma and the ‘mix’ is a little different to Creon … from the first meal we saw a difference .. for the first time we had really great poops! Now to say we have become obsessed with poo is an understatement! We take photos of it – we keep a poop diary … poop is THE thing on our minds most of the day!! 10 days on and we have had great poop every day, we see an improvement in her skin … still black but maybe a lighter shade, it doesn’t smell anymore, and it doesn’t feel greasy – plus – we see stubble growing! The regime of mess for that will continue and the daily baths and lotions. Hair will be great for her, the temperatures here at present on average are 40 degrees – no hair and black skin means poor Roxy suffers with the heat more than any of our other dogs. Needless to say she loves laying in front of a fan!
This has been a journey of just over 10 weeks but it feels a life time. We felt very down about the diagnosis initially, I don’t mind saying and the feeling of hopelessness was shocking, worry of the financial implications and could we actually do this poor girl justice. We are sure this girl was someone’s dog but they dumped her to die … she wasn’t responsibly owned, in Spain it’s a legal requirement to have a dog chipped and vaccinated – she had no chip … we think she has probably suffered EPI to some degree all her life – she is smaller than she should be – the Malassezia is chronic she’s had this a long time … she is judging by her teeth only just maybe 2 years old … they probably thought she had Leishmania I doubt EPI was even on their radar.
I found EPI4Dogs foundation on the internet and I must say without them we would not be were we are today – with their help we hit the ground running so to speak – I changed her diet immediately to low fibre, grain free, currently on TOTW which she loves, she has no treats at present and if we make any change or add anything we do it one thing at a time so we can see any problematic results. I learned about enzymes, different ways of doing things, I learned it’s not a ‘one fit’ treatment and management and we felt incredible support was out there. The knowledge and information on the Facebook page and website is incredible … everyday I learn a little more and I understand a little more.
Roxy lost an adoption that was in place for her – not because the family are bad people – far from it but the financial implications for Roxy’s future are daunting. Different countries have different costs for vet care, food, medications etc and it quickly adds up – we totally understand. But there’s a friendship now there too and they keep in touch and are concerned for Roxy and her health. In honestly I don’t feel anyone will ever want to adopt her – she is now a lifelong commitment for us I think which is a huge shame for her. If you were to ask Roxy if she was happy I think she would say yes but we know she could have so much more with someone else – we have many other dogs here who need care too. Roxy in keeping with her breeding has boundless energy – I almost shudder sometimes when I wonder what she will be like when she is well!! But she’s a good girl – not one ounce of aggression, she is one of the happiest dogs we have ever known – some times she has to ‘take 5’ in her own kennel and play area so she isn’t burning off every bit of energy she is taking in and also to let the other dogs have a rest — we currently now have 16 dogs – sizes from a big Dutch shepherd to a 3kg Chihuahua and ages
from 6 months to 14 … not forgetting Eric the cat who is 17!
So our journey along the EPI path continues – but we walk it now with positivity – well most days! We long for the day Roxy looks as beautiful as she should and we know she is.
Our house is full, our pockets empty but I guess our hearts are full too … oh and we have lots of great poop — what more could anyone wish for!!??
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