“I was taught in veterinary school that when you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras.” This was what our vet told us as we sat in his office with Sheba on Sunday evening. In this case, the horses are a urinary tract infection, and the zebras are cancer.
When I first saw the blood in Sheba’s urine on Sunday morning, I of course thought zebras. Pet parents play many roles in their dogs’ lives and the first role I had to play that morning was detective. I was outside playing with the dogs when I happened to notice a little puddle on the ground, and it looked red. Because it was on dirt, I couldn’t be sure and even grabbing a tissue to sop some of it up didn’t give me a clear answer.
I had just seen both Cricket and Luke pee not long before that, in a different area – I noticed that because I always chuckle when they have to pee in the same spot as the other. Therefore, I immediately suspected Sheba, and decided to keep an eye on her. When I went back into the house not long after and grabbed the old sheet off the bed that we put on top to keep our quilt clean, as I shook it out off the deck I saw the blood stains on it.
Next I looked at Sheba and could see blood in her fur on her hind end. My stomach sank and tears came into my eyes. My hubby was out in the woods cutting trees so I had to immediately decide myself what to do. It was Sunday, so was this urgent, and did it require an immediate vet visit? Sheba certainly seemed to feel fine and I hadn’t seen her straining to pee or anything.
I decided to call our vet’s emergency number to ask them if they thought it was urgent. Our vet was out of town, but a message was relayed to him, and he offered to meet us Sunday evening when he got back into town, or we could schedule an appointment for Monday. At least that assured me he didn’t feel it was necessarily urgent. Only it still was to me. Emergency visits can be expensive, but I had several reasons for wanting to go in sooner. First, I couldn’t really afford to miss any more work since I’ve taken extra time off lately, and that would mean waiting until afternoon on Monday. I wanted my hubby to be able to go with me, and I also didn’t want to spend any more time than necessary worrying.
As it was, I had all day Sunday to worry, and that was more than enough. We waited for the vet’s call that he was back in town, and his office called about 5:30 to say he would meet us at 6. I had somehow missed a voicemail telling us to get a urine sample, but luckily I at least had the presence of mind to figure out I needed to do that myself. It’s not something I’ve done often, and had doubts. All I had was a plastic bowl, and I just shoved it under Sheba the next time I saw her pee and I got lucky that some of it actually landed in the bowl!
What I saw, however, did not reassure me one bit. Her urine wasn’t just tinged with pink, it was RED. Frankly, that scared the crap out of me, but at that point I still had hours before the vet would call. I quickly did research on storing it and found that I needed to put it into the refrigerator to keep it fresh. By 5:00 I was pacing back and forth waiting for the phone to ring.
We got to his office at 6, but he was a little later than that so there was more sitting and waiting. His assistant was there when we arrived and took the urine sample to test it; so she had that done by the time he got there. He saw that there was bacteria in her urine, but no crystals and no cancer cells. He felt her bladder and reported that he felt some thickening, but that was expected with a UTI.
Horses, not zebras, but it’s not that simple when you have a dog who already has a cancer diagnosis. We discussed her cancer. On the good news side, her type of cancer does not typically metastasize to anywhere but the lungs, so it’s not likely that it has spread to her bladder or kidneys. However, that doesn’t mean she hasn’t developed another cancer.
Her first surgery to remove her spindle cell sarcoma was in February 2015; and the second surgery in December of that same year. Our vet feels good that it has been close to a year and a half and she’s had good quality of life for this whole time. Her lumps returned over a month ago, and he agreed with what we had already decided, that another surgery would not be worthwhile. We had considered it briefly, but knowing we got 10 months after the first surgery, but only 5 after the second, we knew that another would not give us enough more time to make it worth putting her through it. We want her to be able to enjoy swimming and walking this summer.
The zebras are still lingering in the background, and I won’t relax completely until I see her pee run clear, which hasn’t happened yet. The doctor wanted us to give it 2-3 days on the antibiotics and if improvement is not seen, he wants to run further tests (x-rays and ultrasound). Thinking horses, he didn’t feel we needed to take that step yet.
The other thing that has concerned us is that her appetite has been waning over the last few weeks. We had to switch her breakfast from kibble to wet food to get her to eat. Sunday night she wouldn’t eat at all, and Monday morning all I could get her to eat was some fresh turkey. Last night she did eat her homemade meal. She refuses some treats but will take others.
Horses: dogs with UTI’s can have reduced appetites. Who knows how long this has been developing? Also, the weather has been hot which often reduces appetites. Through all of this, she has still been playing ball even though she seems to have slowed down just a bit. Zebras: for every pet we’ve lost to cancer, the first symptom they showed was lack of appetite.
So I’ll try to hold myself together while we play the waiting game. We know that Sheba’s time with us is probably winding down anyway, but I just want the rest of the summer with her. Please pray for horses for us this time at least, and we’ll keep you posted.
*Disclaimer: If you see blood in your dog’s urine, don’t panic, but get them to your vet to have it checked out. I am not a veterinarian and am just sharing our experience with this.
Groovy Goldendoodles says
Just like with our own bodies – when you see something foreign going on with your beloved pet – you panic. Thanks for sharing the possibilities of a less frightening diagnosis than the “zebra.” You are a wealth of information to so many – thanks my friend.
Sand spring chesapeakes says
Sounds like she’s on the mend, keep giving the antibiotics and make sure you recheck her urine to make sure the infection is completely gone.
Thank you for the tip about having her urine re-checked, JoAnn, I wouldn’t have thought of doing that!
Monika & Sam says
Heard about your post from Jodi at Heart Like a Dog. Sam & I will see our paws crossed that it is a ‘routine’ UTI. Seeing blood in our fur-kids from any orifice can be terrifying. It seems like you’ve handled it well in conjunction with your vet. Gold star for you with digital POTP for your baby. ღ
Thank you! We got good news with Sheba…her urine is now clear, and her appetite is coming back! She’s been perkier today as well, so we are feeling optimistic a UTI is all it was.
Thanks so much for stopping by!
2 Brown Dawgs says
I can say from my own experience that seeing blood in the urine is very very scary. I hope Sheba has started to feel better and it is just a UTI. Those can take a bit to clear and as you say can cause loss of appetite.
Her urine is now clear and her appetite is much better too! It’s such a relief to know that the UTI was most likely the cause of that.
2 Brown Dawgs says
Fabulous news. I was just going to ask for an update. 🙂
"Auntie Sheryl" says
Beautifully written!!!! Plus I’m so proud of you for getting that urine sample without them even telling you to…not to mention your technique! I also loved the horses/zebra scenario. Totally praying for horses!!!! Love to your Sheba. ❤️????
Thank you, Auntie Sheryl! ♥ Remember this one. 🙂
M. K. Clinton says
We are thinking horses! Bentley had bloody stools a couple of weeks ago and I totally freaked. His was treated with antibiotics and probiotics. Give Sheba a kiss from me. ♥
P.S. We are back from our 10-day road trip to BlogPaws so I will be visiting again. ♥
I’m so glad Bentley got feeling better too! I’m also glad you all had a safe trip. We’re looking forward to seeing you at next year’s conference!
The Island Cats says
We’re sending you and Sheba lots of purrs. Having a UTI must make Sheba feel a little bit lousy, so that might explain the off-appetite. So we’re thinking and praying for horses.
Thank you for your prayers, they worked!
Bev Green says
Oh Jan..i know that feeling my friend..Dinnermintz peed pure blood and i was beside myself..hers being a kitty was a crystals issue which thankfully has resolved..i am curious that Sheba has been eating more kibble and now this? i would query this with the vet..her UTI may be connected to the increase in dry food! as for the Zebras..well i always here Zebras..and now every bump Doc gets i will be paranoid..keep on keeping on and try and keep a positive mindset..easy to say i know..live to you both..Bev xx
And the same to you, Bev. You have been through some awfully tough times lately. I think you misread what I wrote though…Sheba is eating less kibble now, not more, so I’m not sure what might have triggered this issue. She hasn’t had a UTI since she was very young. I imagine her immune system is just a bit compromised as she fights off the cancer though, so that might be a factor. Thank you! xxoo
Bev Green says
Jan i did misread..ugh..i think you are right as her immune system is compromised poor girl..i think a lot of us are going through some pretty ordinary times..Doc thankfully had his staples out and is doing really well..the vet is super pleased..of course these cancers lurk under the surface and no telling when another will pop up..but with constant checks we hope to keep on top of them..not much we can do but enjoy each day and approach each one and the challenges presented..huge hugs to your sweet girl and of course you too!! Love Bev xxx
Sending you lots of good vibes and prayers! I still remember the first time I saw blood in Soth’s urine–I was panicked and we rushed to the vet as soon as possible, too. It’s never easy to see blood where it doesn’t belong! Hope that the antibiotics clear things up soon. Maybe the lack of appetite is related to discomfort the UTI was causing–Soth’s appetite tends to be nonexistent when he’s in pain. My fingers are crossed for a positive update soon!
Thank you for the good vibes, Beth, they obviously helped! We had a cat with urinary issues many years ago too. It was so long ago now I forgot about it….I imagine I panicked back then too though!
Definitely praying horses! Hopefully the reduced appetite is due to the UTI in addition to the weather. I would have totally freaked out. So glad you could get in to see your vet. Will keep an eye on FB for updates.
I know you saw my FB post, Sue, and thank you for your helpful prayers. Sheba’s appetite seems to be coming back quite well so we’re hoping it was all due to the UTI!
Praying for a herd of horses.
Thank you, Susan!!
We hope the horses keep prancing for a long long time. Your a sweetie Miss Sheba!
Edie Chase says
I hope it’s just a uti. Sending healing thoughts.
Thank you so much, Edie!
Boy! Blood in the urine seems to be that latest problem in Blogville. We sure hope it is just a UTI. We hope the lack of appetite is also from the UTI. Mom was always messing with Katie’s food for the last 18 months. She just wasn’t into her meals, but she had an appetite for treats. I’m sure it’s just a UTI.
I think changes in appetite can just come with age too. Thank you for your positive thoughts!
Callie, Shadow, and Ducky's Mom says
Oh Jan, you know Sheba – all of you, really – is/are in my prayers. As Jodi, said, how scary for you! And I’ll ask Callie to up the intensity of her guardianship. We will pray for horses, horses, and more horses! I’ll keep in touch….
Having Callie on her side is a huge help for Sheba!
I know how you feel and hope Sheba’s doing better. When Mia started limping last week, I thought, “Is this it? The start of her decline?” (she seems to be getting better, and the vet didn’t think it was zebras.)
Jodi Stone says
God it’s so scary. I am praying with every fiber of my being for horses. it must have been excruciating for you to have to wait. I lucked out in that I never saw Delilah’s pee until we were actually AT the vet’s office, I think I might have had to sedate myself otherwise.
I’m so glad you were on top of it and noticed that blood. I had no idea that they could check for cancer cells in the urine.
I hope Sheba is feeling better today, please keep me posted!
easy rider says
I pray for horses and lots of horses… and we hope the zebras will not find the way to you… and with some loud barks Luke maybe can chase that striped guys away… hugs to you… I had to fight with my tears while reading… and I can only imagine how heavy your heart was that moment and while waiting for the vet appointment…
Thank you, Easy! We’ve got Luke working on that barking now!
Dolly the Doxie says
I am honestly speechless and don’t know what to say that can help. You are doing everything that you can for Sheba and the rest is in God’s hands.