Prior to Melvin, I had only seen the letters ALT on the keyboard. Now that I have Melvin, I know the keyboard variety AND the liver enzyme version. A normal dog’s ALT level is somewhere between 10-84. I usually just ballpark that normal is below 100. Melvin’s number, in the time I have had him, has never been remotely close to that. Melvin’s level laughs at double (and triple) digits. Melvin’s ALT value has risen up year after year, no matter what we’ve tried. A year ago, we hit a high of 2,600. Two thousand six hundred is a long way from 10-84. We did bile tests and ultrasounds. We saw specialists. We knew it was likely the result of his lifelong need for medication.
Melvin has severe allergies. His former-not-forever family thought about putting him down to end his itchy suffering. Even after I got him, while I never considered putting him down, I wondered if he’d ever find relief. Part of our journey, in addition to hundreds of food trials, allergy shots and baths, was inevitably going to have to be…medication. It took years to find the balance of what meds worked for him.
“Do you want Melvin’s life to be measured in days or quality of life?”
“I want his life to be measured in joy”.
I remind myself of those nine words, daily. Every Sunday when I fill up his pill container for the coming week, I chant, ‘joy matters most’. I know that some of his medications (prednisone) are necessary for Melvin to live a pain-free and somewhat itch free life and I know those same medications will ultimately shorten our time together.
Now…to that end, I’m not great at simply accepting everything that’s told to me. I trust my vet but I trust myself too. So throughout the years, I have proactively weaned him off the some of the very medications that ease his itching, knowing full well I could upset the delicate balance. I do this because something tells me it can be done. A gut feeling. I do this while balancing diet changes, like the switch to raw. That switch was not ‘vet recommended’ but I read a lot before making that change and then I read a lot more before weaning him off some less-liver-friendly meds (Atopica). What I’ve come to find out is that there are options, and sometimes mom knows best; sometimes the vet does.
In the past year, I have successfully gotten him off three meds. That is three less things his liver has to process. We started him on a new liver supplement. He is thriving on a raw diet. It may not work forever, but it’s working right now. Joy does not mean we sit and wait for the end, Joy takes some work. Joy leaps.
Melvin had his regular every-six-months blood work done a few weeks ago. The vet called while I was in the Bahamas and while it would have been ok to let him leave a message and call him back upon my return, that is not how we roll in this family. We face things as they come, together. Turns out, it was a great phone call to answer, Melvin’s ALT value is now 1,100! It’s the first improvement, ever! The first time we didn’t have to use the + sign to figure out how much it went up. We finally got to dust off the minus sign!
Eleven hundred is still very high, it’s a number that would cause worry and emergency action for another dog. Eleven hundred is 1,016 higher than the ‘high’ level for the value. But you know what, this is Melvin, and hot damn if we aren’t showing that liver who’s boss!!! One day, one day it will be in the hundreds, I just know it!
Just to be sure it was not a false positive, we had Jake examine Melvin – he gave the ‘liver smells good’ thumbs up! Video of that examination below.