Perianal Fistulas (PFs) a Continuing Fight
By DJ Hensch

Lance's long struggle is finally at an end, at least for now. One of the biggest heartbreaks of learning your dog has been diagnosed with perianal fistulas is realizing that there is no exact known cause and thus no cure for this disease. One's only hop e is healing the fistulas and putting the disease into remission. For exactly how long no one can say.

For those of you who read my article "Perianal Fistulas" in the fall 1998 issue of GS Quarterly you will recall that I have two German Shepherd Dogs suffering from this killer disease. My older male German Shepherd, Teddy, was the first of my dogs to dev elop PFs. Teddy has been in remission (PF-free) since June 9, 1997 after undergoing surgery to remove the PFs where his anal gland sacs had ruptured.

In April of that same year Lance began scooting his butt across the floor. Although nothing could be seen I knew something was wrong when I saw him begin to lick the area repeatedly. Determined to not go through a second PF dog it was decided to have La nce's anal gland sacs surgically removed on May 15, 1997 in the hopes of preventing PFs from developing. Much to our dismay by August 21, 1997 it was made obvious we had not been successful and by October 21, 1997 we knew it to be so. Upon close examin ation by the Vet on October 28th it was confirmed. Lance too had the first signs of Perianal Fistulas.

Here is another PF dog owner's extremely good description of seeing their dog's PFs begin: "First symptom we noticed was a swelling and redness. Afterward you could see the skin becoming a greyish color and beginning to get pretty rough looking. Then th e holes appeared. You can think of PFs as how a plant grows. You don't see the roots but may notice the soil (skin) disturbed. But until the plant breaks the surface and "blossoms" you won't know for sure what it is. This is why internal treatments are important. The PFs are 'seeded' beneath the skin. You could also think of it as a 'plantor's wort'. If you ever saw one of those and had to get rid of it, you would know that until the 'seeds' or what some call 'the mother' is removed (dead) it just keep s spreading 'children'. The real frustrating part of PFs is the fact that the dogs own system is causing this, not something exterior. And nobody really knows what triggers the body to form these things!"

November 20th arrangements were made for Lance to undergo the exact same surgery on December 1st that Teddy had undergone for his PFs earlier that year.

The surgery itself appeared to be completely successful and we prayed it was the last we'd hear of PFs. This was not to be. On December 28th Lance began to lick his backside again. With absolute dread I lifted his tail and to my horror saw the PFs were back with a vengeance. My heart ached for him. All the pain and suffering earlier was for naught. It was then I fully realized how deadly serious PFs were and that our previous success with Teddy's PF battle would not come with any guarantees either.

From there it was a downhill battle for Lance. As if the PFs weren't enough he had begun to have blood in his urine in amounts to cause me alarm. Repeatedly we tested the urine looking for clues as to the cause of the blood. The first vet treated him f or urinary tract infections. Then tested for bacteria, found two of the worst and treated him with antibiotic injections, which I had to give him twice a day for 3 weeks. The bloody urine continued. We tried antibiotic after antibiotic trying to find t he one that would solve the bleeding problem. I took Lance to a second vet who shot die into the bladder with x-rays and did an ultra sound looking for abnormalities to his prostate, bladder. Nothing abnormal was found. This second vet's gut feeling w as it was Lance's prostate but the x-rays showed the prostate to be so slightly larger that this didn't fit the profile. The prostate was still within normal range for size. This vet then referred us to a specialist who performed an ultra sound for a w hopping $210 fee compared to $35 at the regular vet. The specialist saw what she thought was a possible thickening of the bladder wall (scaring us into believing possible cancer) which turned out to be nothing and left us no closer to the cause.

By now we were desperate to find the cause and stop the bleeding. Lance's PFs were at an all time flare. He was one very sick pup. Then one day the blood urinated was a bright red indicating the source was near the urethra and getting worse. There was hardly any urine at all. Upon being notified the second vet suggested that we go ahead and neuter Lance and see what results, if any, that brought about. His suspicions remained with the prostate being the cause. So it was agreed that Lance would be n eutered. I had planned to neuter him anyway because I refused to stud a dog that had a dwarf sister and PFs.

It wasn't until the vet confirmed we had found the cause that we finally let out a sigh of relief. Now to battle Lance's PFs into remission. continue to Page 2