Important Information Pertaining to PFs
By DJ Hensch

There are a few things people need to understand about PFs and treating PF dogs.

VETERINARIANS

For starters many veterinarians remain uneducated about treating PFs in dogs. Some vets are still suggesting tail amputation as a treatment/cure and we now know this radical procedure will not get rid of PFs. How do we know this? Because we have dogs t hat underwent tail amputation but still have PFs and we have dog breeds without tails or whose tails are not heavy or low set and that are still developing PFs.

Then there are the vets who are prescribing antibiotics to treat PFs but antibiotics in themselves can only help to prevent secondary infections, they will not heal PFs.

Find a vet who has some basic knowledge about PFs or is willing to at least do research into the disease to better treat your dog. If you are having a problem locating a vet write to us. We will try to help put you in touch with a vet near you..

TREATMENTS

Cyclosporin, the immunosuppressant drug used for human transplant patients has proven to be helpful in suppressing the immune system of a dog with PFs allowing the dog's body to stop attacking itself and the PFs to heal. This is a very expensive drug and many people are discouraged because they are unable to afford it. Cyclosporin can be started and stopped fairly safely though experience has shown that a certain level has to be reached and maintained in the dog's bloodstream to get optimal use of the d rug. Some people have had success in putting their PF dogs on Imuran to boost the effectiveness of the cyclosporin thus allowing the cyclosporin to be given in smaller doses at less cost. Actual dosage of cyclosporin (with or without Imuran) should be d etermined by your veterinarian who can gain information by contacting veterinarians at Cornell University, Washington State University or Michigan State University. Do not let your vet bully you into believing this is the only route of treatment. I've me t several PF dog owners who were giving up hopes of saving their dogs because the vet failed to tell them of the alternative treatment route that is a fraction of the cost compared to cyclosporin.

Prednisone being a immunosuppressant drug with a steroid base must be started and then weaned off rather than simply stopped thus allowing the dog's own immune system a chance to "kick back in" before stopping the drug. Dogs on prednisone must have their eyes monitored to prevent dry eye. Dosage depends on the severity of the PFs as well as the dog's weight. Talk to your veterinarian about this route of treatment if cyclosporin is out of your budget.

DIET

In conducting my own research on PFs I have found that many PF dogs suffer from some degree of food sensitivity. Others may suffer as well but to such a low degree as to not be noticeable to the dog's owner. Several PF dogs have been put on special diet s such as Eukanuba's Fish and Potato or Innovative Veterinary Diets (IVD) venison with potato, rabbit with potato, duck with potato and fish. The idea is to help the dog digest its food easier, maintain optimum nutrient usage, and keep intestinal disorde rs at a minimum.

Metamucil given with a vast amount of water over the food plays a very important role in the diet of a PF dog. Its fiber content helps soften the stool for ease of passage through the intestinal tract and on out. One of the traits of a PF dog is straini ng to defecate, whether it is from actual constipation and/or the pain of PFs. Metamucil has proven to be effective in eliminating pain for many PF dogs including those who suffer from other intestinal disorders such as colitis or IBD.

EXTERNAL CARE

The importance of care externally is high. The area is susceptible to all kinds of infections. Many times the fistulas are open gaping wounds that can go quite deep. Be careful how you treat the depth of the fistulas. They must heal from the inside ou tward. Otherwise a pocket will form and possibly develop into yet another problem.

Sitz baths in the tub are good. They allow the owner to cleanse the butt area without having to actually touch it. PF dogs become very sensitive to any attention to that part of their bodies. Plastic kiddie pools work well for sitz baths either outside or in basements near floor water drains. Epsom salts in the water offer relief and betadine cleanser with its antibacterial qualities added to the water helps with the cleansing.

Betadine mixed with a small amount of water in a spray bottle is great for quick cleanings after a bowel movement. Follow this with aloe vera baby wipes gently patting the area and you are all done.

A gentle hosing works for more stubborn cleanings as some PF dogs can experience varying degrees of incontinence after surgery.

The important thing is to keep the entire area clean and shaved. Shaving prevents residue from sticking to the area and causing bacteria from forming. A lot of PF dog owners report having a black tar-like substance on the butts of their PF dogs (Lance w as one of these) and its extremely hard to clean this off without irritating the fistulas. I found that by keeping Lance shaved and then soaking his butt on a regular basis I was able to remove a lot of the black tar.

Using ointments or creams on the PF site after cleaning is a good idea. Calendula ointment or bag balm works well as does panalog ointment, which can be squirted directly into the fistula tracts.

Please consult with your vet on the best route of any treatment to use on your dog. If your vet is unfamiliar with PFs please contact us via our website or regular mail and we will try to put you in touch with an experienced PF vet in your area.

STUDIES, RESEARCH, SPECULATION

We are learning that PFs are the result of the dog's own body attacking and destroying its cells. Some of the university vets who are seeing and treating PF dogs believe PF dogs suffer from an autoimmune disorder which explains why the cyclosporin or pre dnisone and sulfasalazine treatments are being effective in healing the PFs.

Some people feel there are intestinal disorders and/or food allergies connected with and which contribute to PFs developing.

Still others believe things like over-vaccinating might be factored in as a perspective trigger. Yearly vaccinating directly involves the body's immune system and may be part of the problem explaining why some dogs develop PF and other dogs don't. Are we over-stressing our dogs' immune systems? This has yet to be proven but certainly should not be ignored.

Stress is being studied as another factor many feel may be involved. We know stress affects the body's ability to defend itself against diseases.

Maybe all or none of the above are comprised to trigger PFs. This is all mainly speculation though studies are currently being conducted at several state universities as well as by people who own PF dogs. The search for a cause and cure are surely neede d as the numbers of PF dogs continues to grow daily.

We have a PF Website located at http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Pointe/1672 which is packed full of important information. There is also a questionnaire on the website for folks to fill out and contribute to the ongoing research. For those of you with GSDs we really need the pedigrees of PF dogs for our studies.

There is an online PF dog owner's support group at the PF-L from which people with internet access can go where they will learn all the newest developments in care and treatments as well as get the best support available.

PF dog owners who do not have computers or Internet access please send a SASE to:

Canine Research Database
PF Dog Questionnaires/Brochure
1521 Western Street
Oshkosh, WI 54901
and a PF Questionnaire along with an information brochure will be sent to you. PF dog pedigrees and photos can be sent to:

Canine Research Database
PF Pedigree/Pictures
1521 Western Street
Oshkosh, WI 54901

This is a very nasty disease for which there is no cure but there is wonderful support. I pray some day there will be answers to questions giving us a way to prevent PFs from ever happening to another dog.

<------ BACK TO ARTICLES