Today’s patient story features Charlie, aka Charlie Bear, a handsome Pekingese around 11 or 12 years old (maybe older), who was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Charlie’s human companion is Gary Rhoades. Gary adopted Charlie about three years ago from Rocket Dog Rescue. Charlie has a lot of fans around VCA SFVS, and he is a patient of holistic veterinarian Dr. David Fong and of veterinary cardiologist Dr. Justin Williams.
Here, Gary shares his and Charlie’s story. Many thanks, Gary!
For me, Charlie was a lifesaver. About two weeks after I adopted him, I was abruptly fired … after a 15-year career with the company. There were many reasons and it takes both sides to create a situation, but being fired is a devastating experience. I questioned my abilities and so many other things, but I had Charlie, who needed training and attention. Subsequently, I decided I really wanted to write and began a novel. The novel is in the final stages of editing, and Charlie has been here for the entire process. (He’s in the book, too.)
I am a great believer in TCM [Traditional Chinese Medicine] … and Dr. David Fong has performed acupuncture on Charlie for years (for seizures), and the acupuncture controlled the seizures.
Charlie started getting sick about a year later. I took him to a regular vet. The vet examined Charlie, took an X-ray, and told me: “This is the worst case of congestive heart failure I’ve ever seen.” Then … [the vet] told me Charlie had maybe 6 to 8 months live. … I remembered Dr. Fong and took Charlie to see him.
The acupuncture perked Charlie right up, and we met [veterinary cardiologist] Dr. Justin Williams. Dr. Williams examined Charlie and looked at the X-rays and agreed the situation was dire – but also had some suggestions on how to make Charlie feel better.
This began a four-week process of adding pills and changing doses of western meds while combining them with Chinese herbs. I was so grateful to have Dr. Fong and Dr. Williams – and they actually talk and work together – to help devise a treatment with Western meds and Chinese herbs. The Western meds control the condition while the Chinese herbs strengthen Charlie’s system. As DVMs they talk to me like I’m a person and explain things. … This extra effort makes all the difference to me. Dr. Fong took 20 minutes one day to walk me through the proper diet for Charlie.
After initially improving, Charlie’s little 12-lb. body couldn’t keep up anymore and he gained 2 lbs. of fluid. Everyone told me – get prepared, this is it, Charlie’s on his last legs – everyone except Dr. Williams and Dr. Fong.
I would sit for hours just holding Charlie on my lap because I thought this would be all I would ever have. Then Dr. Williams proposed the abdominocentesis (an abdominal tap in which a needle drains excess fluid). I read about it on the web and saw horror stories, and friends and even people from the rescue organization advised me not to do it.
Dr. Williams addressed each concern in turn. The worst case [he told me] is it lasts a month, best case is Charlie will never need it again. The procedure takes two hours, you drop him off and then pick him up, and Charlie will experience minimal stress. I could be completely open with Dr. Williams – and talk about internet articles or people’s experience – he never scoffed or laughed. He just told me the facts.
Charlie was at death’s door, so I dropped him off at 8 AM one morning and picked him up at 11 AM. Afterwards, Charlie came running out of the room to me (the first time he could run in about four weeks) – 2 lbs. lighter. The moral is – don’t believe everything you read on the internet, and ask a professional.
Six weeks later, Charlie is a new dog. His condition is under control and he is happy. I can tell he is happy because he humps anyone and anything in sight. Something he had stopped doing over a year before.
We are pursuing a combination treatment of Western meds and TCM herbs. Dr. Williams and Dr. Fong talk to each other to ensure there are no interactions. They talk to me like a person and treat Charlie with a level of care that goes beyond professional.
Go Charlie! We are so happy you are feeling better.