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Connor
By Lori Borden
Kakaichu Hill Mastiffs

When we got our first mastiff I had never heard of cystinuria. Then, after a few years, I heard of it and that we should test our mastiffs for it but,I must admit, at that time I didn't even know what it was, just that we should test for it. In 2002 I learned of a mastiff that I knew personally that was diagnosed with cystinuria. He was only 2 days younger than Connor and his owner was a friend so I learned a lot about the disease following its course in this boy (he blocked and had surgery to remove the stones and finally ended up with a urethrostomy).

But, this is supposed to be about Connor...so here is his story.

My husband and I fell in love with the stud dog owned by a friend in the UK and put in an order for a brindle boy from a breeding using him as the sire. The first litter she had after our "order" had no brindle boys...so we waited for another breeding. Connor was born in this second litter...in fact he was the first puppy born and the only brindle. His full name is Klanzmun Dark Knight and he was born on June 18, 2001.

In February of 2003 I went to the UK to visit friends and attend some shows, but I wanted Connor shown at a specific show because I wanted to see how that particular judge would like him so I asked my son if he would take him. I waited anxiously for the phone call telling me how he had done in the ring ... instead I got a call telling me that instead of showing my son noticed that Connor was peeing blood (an hour before ringtime) so he called home and had my husband notify our vet and then put Connor in the car and headed home. The show was about 4 hours from our house and it was a Sunday ... but our vet met them at his office. The diagnosis was a UTI.

The vet said there were no crystals in the urine and put Connor on antibiotics. Ordinarily, I would have left it at that, given Connor the antibiotics and not given it another thought, but when I got home from the UK (later that week) I insisted on taking in another urine specimen for analysis; again no crystals. A week later I took in another sample. (I guess some people would call me paranoid, but I had lived through the diagnosis and surgerys of my friend's boy..so I wanted to be sure.) This third sample contained crystals that the lab said were 100 percent cystine. We had an ultrasound done and we were told that there was a small amount of what looked like mucous with maybe some crystals mixed in, in his bladder. I didn't know then that cystine stones did not show on an ultra sound...in fact an ultra sound is what was recommended by my friend because she had learned that cystine stones don't show on an x-ray. Since this friend's dog was on Thiola, I talked to my vet and he put Connor on Thiola too. Since Connor had never had a problem urinating we (the vet, my husband and myself) decided not to do any surgery at that time.

All went well until Connor again had bloody urine and was again put on antibiotics. This time no cystine crystals were found in his urine...but there were struvite crystals so we did an x-ray. There were stones in his bladder on the x-ray so we elected to do surgery to remove them. Since there were struvite crystals in his urine...and stones showed up so well on the x-ray we assumed we were dealing with struvite stones and that the Thiola was taking care of the cystine. When the stones were removed and sent to the lab for analysis they were found to be 100 percent cystine.

Since the surgery in 2003 we have switched Connor from the Thiola to Cuprimine since Thiola is so hard to get and we found that sometimes it was unavailable. He has not had any more problems, but I know more surgery is looming in our future. We have elected not to go ahead with an elective urethrostomy because in 2003 Connor was diagnosed with a disease called chylothorax. With chylothorax the thoracic duct leaks lymphatic fluid into the chest cavity.

When Connor was diagnosed (again while I was away. I always seem to be gone during the crises in his life) he actually quit breathing for a time and had to be rushed to the Washington State University Vet school for treatment (a 2 hour drive from us). He was in the ICU there for a week while they drained his chest and kept him under observation. We then treated him medically for a month in hopes that we could avoid surgery. Unfortunately even draining his chest weekly for a month and following the drug treatment did no good and we had to resort to surgery. The pre-surgery x-rays showed a spot on his lung, so the vets decided to do two incisions so they could check out the spot too. He was opened between his 5th and 6th ribs and also his 10th and 11th ribs. The vet removed his pericardium and ligated the thoracic duct. The spot turned out to be nothing. He then spent another week in the ICU 2 hours away from home. We just feel that at this time the poor guy has been through so much surgery that we want to put off as long as possible the urethrostomy. While some may say we are burying our heads in the sand...it was a decision we made after a lot of agonizing thought. In the meantime we are watching him everytime he urinates, doing a urine analysis each month and keeping him on the Cuprimine to (hopefully) prevent more stones from forming. We hope this way we can spot any blood or crystals before a serious problem develops.


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