I met Brady five months after starting my career at Orchard Road Animal Hospital and Brady and I saw a lot of each other since that initial visit for a torn nail. Brady was memorable for many things- some little like checking in for boarding with a “headless bunny” toy in his personal possessions, and some huge like his visit in January 2005:
Brady, like so many other sick dogs, was just not acting right. He would eat slowly, shake a little, throw up most of what he ate, and the odd behavior seemed to come out of nowhere. Without obvious problems on his physical examination, we decided to do some blood tests, and the results were astounding. His liver was taking a beating from something. We knew this because there were significant changes in his ALT which indicates liver damage. His ALT was 4968 units/L when a normal result is between 5 and 60.
Brady stayed in the hospital for two days and was a pistol to say the least. He was always wanting attention and chewing his IV line even if we had a cone on him. One night I stayed a bit late to make sure he was ok before driving 20 minutes to watch an Illini-Wisconsin basketball game at a restaurant. As I pulled into the parking lot of the restaurant, the late staff called to tell me he chewed his line out AGAIN! I drove all the way back, replaced the line, checked Brady out from top to bottom again and rededicated my goal of trying to get him home as soon as possible. We checked his results the next day and the ALT had come down to 1309 and since he had begun eating, we decided to have the owners continue treatments at home.
Within a month, his values were all normal and stayed normal for nearly 10 years. We recently lost our little friend in January of this year just a few months shy of his sixteenth birthday to unrelated issues.
The liver is often talked about by medical professionals as being an innocent bystander. All of the toxins we ingest can affect the liver—anything involving the gallbladder, pancreas and upper intestinal tract can also affect it. Naturally occurring steroids such as cortisol as well as manufactured steroids such as prednisone will cause certain changes in the liver. Infectious diseases, nutrient imbalances, genetic disorders, cancer and inflammation can also affect it. Finding the reason is often difficult and sometimes the changes are not felt, but found on blood testing before anesthesia or as part of a sick animal exam or senior pet evaluation.
We did some tests on Brady that indicated that Brady had leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is caused by Leptospirosis spp. organisms. The disease is transmitted from animal to animal and from animal to person. A disease that can be passed between animals and humans is called a zoonotic disease. Diseases such as leptospirosis, rabies and roundworm infestations are all zoonotic and a very important part of what makes veterinarians so important. Human physicians and veterinarians are teaming up more than ever especially when it comes to eradicating, diagnosing and monitoring some exotic zoonotic diseases that may be used as bioweapons.
Nonetheless, leptospirosis is most commonly contracted from coming in contact with urine or blood from an infected animal, often near standing water sources or damp soil where an infected animal may have urinated. Although there are other ways to contract the disease, this is by far the most common. Luckily for Brady, he responded to treatment, and like I said, lived another 10 years with no ill-effects.
There aren’t many weeks that go by without seeing a blood test with some liver enzyme elevation. I often tell owners about how high Brady’s levels were and how well he did when discussing treatment and testing options for their pets with elevated liver enzymes. He also comes up in conversation when we discuss vaccinations as leptospirosis is something that we routinely vaccinate against. He was a character and I loved knowing him all these years. As much joy as he brought me, he also brought sadness to our hearts and the hearts of his family when the time came to say goodbye. But he will always live on through my memories and the little lectures I give in the exam rooms. There’s no substitute for real-world experience and no experience like knowing Brady, my first Jack Russell Terrorist.