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Peter Bennett, DVM
Peter Bennett, DVM, Veterinarian
Category: Dog
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Experience:  20 years experience as a Small Animal veterinarian
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What causes excessive fluid retention in dogs

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My parents have a dog that is a dalmatian cross. Most of her life she has experienced allergies and has been on a some sort of steroid medicine (like prednisone). She has always consumed great amounts of water, which I think has some link to the steroid meds - but within the last 3 years or so (she is currently about 6 1/2 years old) has put on massive amounts of weight, that seem to just be fluid that centers itself on her mid back and hind quarters. To be very blunt, her butt is huge. My dad has asked our local vet about it, but we live in a small town and he doesn't seemed to be concerned with her condition. It upsets me because she seems to have trouble with her joints, and I'm sure that is because of the weight she carries around. Even with the amount of water she drinks, she doesn't urinate any more often than my full blooded dalmatian does. I would really like to know what to do to help my parents dog get rid of all the fluid retention so she can be more active and feel better. She really loves being outdoors and running, but over the last couple of years she has slowed tremendously. Thank you to anyone who takes the time to address my concerns.

You are so right that prednisone, a common steroid for allergies, causes a great increase in water intake, as well as food!, which does result in considerable weight gain.

I suspect, since she is a house pet, that she has been spayed. If so, you have a double whammy here, since spayed dogs also tend to gain if their food isn't regulated.

Dogs tend to put a lot of their weight gain on the rear end. 'Hippiness' or doggie love handles are frequently the result. I think that her size is most likely due to excess 'dog', rather than fluid retention. Kidneys are quite able to eliminate unnecessary fluid intake.

The excess weight is also harder on joints, so again your logic prevails! Also, it affects the dog's desire to be active.

Now, what can you do? There are two problems here. First are the allergies. Second stems from the treatment. There is nothing wrong with her treatment, but as long as she is on this level of steroids, you will have increased thirst and appetite. Dogs lose weight the same way people do... diet and exercise.

Steroids, while the usual treatment for allergies, become increasingly less desireable with long term useage. Steroids will not cure anything, and can contribute to the development of several conditions worse than allergies. Most vets attempt to keep useage at as low a level as possibly to still give the pet relief.

There may be a seasonable nature to the allergy, which might allow a reduction in doseage. After three and a half years on steroids, alternate treatments should be considered. No easily given medicines offer more than symptomatic relief.

The only chance to get anything like a 'cure' of the allergies is to undergo a series of shots developed specially against the things your dog is allergic to. These allergy shots will give significant, if not complete, relief from the symptoms and allow you to stop the steroids. But this approach requires testing to determine what is causing the allergies, which is usually done by a vet very familiar with skin problems. It is likely to be costly for the diagnosis and treatment. Talk to her vet about choices. He is your best source.

Sorry there is nothing simple...
Customer: replied 11 years ago.
Reply to XXXXX XXXXX, DVM's Post: A lot of what you wrote makes sense and it is information I was aware of....the reason I think it is fluid retention with H.C. (my parent's dog) is because they had another dog (Sparky) that also had very similar allergies, was medicated the same way, and had weight gain in the later years of her life. Sparky's weight she packed on was very solid. In comparison, H.C. literally has a watery feel to her (like a water balloon). When you pat her on the back, there is a very loose ripple effect to her skin. Also, with where she puts the weight on, she hasn't grown out so much side to side, but with the growth on her butt, she's actually elongated. This elongation has caused her tail to be pointed more so toward the ground. She can still defecate, but we do have to take time to clean her up every now an again. She really is a goofy looking pooch because of how the weight is dispersed. Just to give some more info on her - yes, she is spayed. Also, her allergies do not seem to be seasonal, as she suffers from itching all year round. I really would love to be able to have her get off the steroids because I feel they were the cause to why my parents' other dog had to be put to sleep at the age of 8. As I stated before, it is hard because we live in a small town and any option of other vetrinarians would mean driving between 40-70 miles away. Again, thank you for your time.
Hello again.

Well, Can you rule out congestive heart problems? It does sound like fluids, and CHF is a common cause. When it is, expect some other signs, like cough. In either case, a short period of diuretics would get rid of retained fluids without causing any problem.

A year-round allergy is strongly suggestive of an allergy to house dust mites. They exist in everyone's home, regardless of who keeps house!

Cushing's disease, or hyperadrenocorticism, is the usual result of protracted steroid useage... The adrenal glands begin to produce excessive amounts of cortisol because the normal feed back control is ruined by the outside source of the similar steroid prednisone.

Tell me you are in a state that has a veterinary school. I don't see anything to get her off 'oids than what I mentioned. Let me do a little more homework..

And thanks for the rapid response..
Customer: replied 11 years ago.
Reply to XXXXX XXXXX, DVM's Post: Hello Mr. Bennett!

Thank you for all of your help on this. Appreciate it so much! I stopped by my parents' house today and told them that I was doing this "" thing. I guess since I'm not under their roof everyday anymore, I was a little out of the loop and misinformed on the meds H.C. is currently on. My dad told me the vet had taken blood and ruled out diabetes. What they did find during the testing is that H.C. has an underactive thyroid. I guess she hasn't been on the steroids now for a while. (GOOD THING!!!) She is still itchy, though, but it isn't near what it used to be. I just remember how she was very itchy when the didn't give her the steroids, so must have thought she was still on them. Currently the only medication she takes is 0.8mg Thyroxyl 2x's/day....and also Hartz Joint Maintenance. Could the fluid retention be in anyway associated with the thyroid issue? Also, regarding the diuretics - is there any form of natural diuretic that would be beneficial, or would the vet have to prescribe something? Again, thank you for all of your information and time!!! It is nice to be able to ask questions and discuss the issue back and forth to get further informed. One more thing...regarding the Veterinary school...SDSU has a pre-vet program...that's about as close as we come. I graduated from there and knew a lot of students would go to Iowa to finish up their schooling. South Dakota has it's good points, but having a lot of multiple options for almost any sort of thing is not one of them.

I'm aware of Iowa; Ames, actually...that's where I graduated.

I doubt the thyroid is related to any fluid retention, but the thyroid affects so many things in the body that it may have an indirect affect. She should begin to slim down, if you have her diet cut back. Start slowly so it isn't so much like a diet to her. Give it a month on thyroid before thinking about diuretics, OK?

Have your folks have H.C. checked out, maybe couple times a year, or whenever something seems wrong. With what has gone on in her life so far, unusual problems would not be out of the question.

I am unaware of anything natural that would reliably produce any diuresis as lasix will, a vet prescribed med.

and, did you read the PM I sent you regarding the allergy testing, even tho it isn't needed now?

Thanks for the reply. I will be offline for several days starting tomorrow pm, so if you can dash off a short answer, great. If not, thanks for using JA, and if I have helped, please check the 'accept' box.
Customer: replied 11 years ago.
Reply to XXXXX XXXXX, DVM's Post: Hello - yes, I did read your PM message regarding the allergy testing. Thank you for taking the time with it! :)

H.C. has had quite a life, so far. H.C. stands for Hopper Car. When she was a very young pup, some grain train linemen happened to hear her bark at them as they walked past a line of hopper cars. Someone must have put her in the small tube like area that runs through the bottom of the older style cars. She was much too small to have ever gotten up there herself. At the time, one of the guys that worked at the elevator knew my parents had Sparky, so figured we would know of people that wanted a dalmatian type pup. Obviously, we ended up with her. She's a very special dog. Shortly after we "adopted" her, she battled a terrible bout of Parvo...barely making it through. She's definitely a survivor. Just thought I'd give you a little history on her hasn't been an easy one.

Okay...on with the main situation...she has been on the Thyroxyl for a while now. I'll talk with my parents regarding her diet. They do give her portioned amounts, but I know it isn't the best food they could give her. They have also been trying to walk more (for themselves), and they always take H.C. and Lizzie (my dalmatian) with them (they dog-sit while my husband and I work the evening shift). Hopefully they will keep up with that routine.

As far as Lasix goes, can you give me an idea of how long it is used and what the possible side effects are?

I most definitely will be hitting the "accept" box. I am so appreciative of the time you've spent on this most definitely deserve to be compensated!!! Thank you so much,

Gerri Register
Hi Gerri..

Lasix is a very effective diuretic. It works so rapidly I have called it 'pee-quick' Usually it starts within an hour and lasts for about an hour. Once a day would be fine, (NOT before bedtime!) for probably no more than 3 days. Don't get in her way when it's time to go out.
It will really wring her out. 25 mg tablet daily would be plenty for her.
Long term, as with heart patients, you have to be concerned with potassium depletion.

Glad to be at least a little help. Thanks for the accept.
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