by Marianne Iaquinto
In April, a happy, healthy 15-pound Bella, 10 years old, unzipped her mom’s handbag, which was on the kitchen counter, and ate about 30 pieces of chewing gum, which contained Xylitol. She was hospitalized and treated, and she miraculously survived. (Bella’s mom, Jennifer, is a Conshohocken resident who requested that her last name not be mentioned.)
Bella seemed to make a full recovery; she was happy, playful and eating well, but for some reason she was losing weight, even on her diet at the time of three cups of dry puppy food per day (recommended by Bella’s vet), which contained an amazing amount of calories and fat.
Add to that, every time she ate, she had to poop, and her poop wasn’t quite right, either. It was mushy and had a strange color and texture. Her vet also prescribed probiotics, which didn’t help at all, and she continued to lose weight.
Bella’s mom contacted us (Sam’s Hope) after Bella’s hospital stay for assistance with blood monitoring, then again in early July, telling us that she was nothing but skin and bones (9 pounds) despite the huge amounts of food she was eating. We asked Jennifer if she would be willing to bring Bella to our partner vet, Donald Kreider, who is quite a distance away in Southampton, lower Bucks County,, and she agreed.
After reviewing Bella’s lab results from May and seeing her condition, Dr. Kreider believed that Bella had EPI, Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency. On July 6, Bella and her mom made the trek to our vet’s office, where she was examined and weighed, and more blood was drawn. Bella was sent home with prescription enzyme replacement therapy, which will help Bella digest fats, proteins and sugars.
Two days later, when the lab results came back, our vet’s suspicions were confirmed. Bella did indeed have EPI. All of this was compliments of Xylitol, a sweet-tasting crystalline alcohol derived from xylose, used as an artificial sweetener in foods. Please keep all food items made with Xylitol away from your pets. Even small amounts of Xylitol can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), seizures, liver failure or even death in dogs.
But the good news is that Bella is thriving with treatment. What a difference a week and pancreatic enzymes make! Our little girl put on a whopping 1.5 pounds in just seven days!
Bella is in fact now packing on the pounds! In mid-July she weighed in at a whopping 12 pounds. Go, Bella, Go! Nine days into treatment for EPI (Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency) on July 24, Bella was at 13 pounds; 17 days, four pounds gained!
On July 30, 24 days into treatment for EPI, Bella weighed in at 14 lbs., just one pound short of her normal weight! Mom says that Bella is now running all around with one of her babies (toys) hanging out of her mouth and is either bouncing around trying to chase squirrels or sleeping. The new meal routine for Bella is to pick out all puppy food, eat a tablespoon of wet food with meds, then finish her dry food when she realizes she isn’t getting anything else to eat other than that!
No one else was able to diagnose this before Dr. Kreider, and without the treatment, Bella would have died. As of today (Aug. 25), Bella is now up to 15.5 lbs. and back to eating her regular amount of food, one cup of senior food a day. She is a true miracle, thanks to Dr. Kreider, who has been our family vet since I was a kid. When I started Sam’s Hope, I approached him to see if he would work with us on this project, and he agreed! He has saved so many lives, I just cannot keep count anymore. He is an old fashioned vet, and he is terrific.
Sam’s Hope, a non-profit organization in Wyndmoor, is currently celebrating five years of keeping people of very limited financial means and their pets together. They have distributed 400,000+ pounds of pet food and awarded 263 veterinary care assistance grants. More than 160 dogs and 100 cats of the homebound and elderly in the Philadelphia area are currently receiving home-delivered food and supplies from Sam’s Hope. Countless lives have been saved by Sam’s Hope since July of 2013. For more information, visit www.samshope.org or call 267-753-0510.