09 March 2018

Dog with rare disorder defies the odds and becomes therapy dog

Lily was born with congenital cricopharyngeal asynchrony, an incurable genetic disorder in which muscles in the digestive system don’t work properly.

The three-year-old English Cream Golden Retriever from Southampton, Hampshire, couldn't swallow due to this.

Vets advised that Lily be put down but she defied the odds, survived and has helped more than 100 people as a therapy pet.

Lily has lived a healthy life after her owner, Laura Hamilton (72), decided not to follow the advice of vets who said she should either be euthanized or spend the rest of her life connected to a feeding tube.

However, the retired English teacher found a way to keep her beloved pooch alive.

“There was no way I was losing her and I wasn’t going to hook her up to a feeding tube either. I would’ve compromised her fun and she most likely would’ve got infections.”

Laura found she could keep Lily healthy and happy by keeping her hydrated at all times.

She started mixing the dog’s meals with excess water three times a day, while also feeding her small pieces of frozen dog food.

“When I started feeding her, sometimes the food would go down all the way, sometimes she would swallow it and it would sit in the oesophagus and sometimes it didn’t go down at all.

“It was trial and error until I found something that worked.

“I prepare three bowls of food every night and put them in the fridge so that they’re moist enough for her the next day.”

Lily not only managed to stay healthy but became a therapy dog and has visited 125 kids and adults in hospitals.

“She’s really thriving. I was advised to put her to sleep at 10 weeks old and I’m glad I didn’t. Now she’s paying for her miracle by enhancing the lives of all these kids and adults,” Laura said.

Lily does experience some side effects, but luckily they’re not life-threatening. She still has swallowing difficulties from time to time and winds up coughing up food.

Laura also has to be careful about what her pooch finds to eat because anything other than moist food can kill her.

“I always have to listen to the noises she’s making because she’ll usually cough something up once a week.

“It’s scary when she tries eating something on the street. If I don’t get it out of her right away, she can die.”

Lily is fully grown and turns four in May but she only weighs 23,5kg, which is 4,5kg less than her mother, Pilot. Lily’s impressive track record indicated to her owner that she’d make a good therapy pet.

When she did the test at nine months to become a therapy pet, she fared much better than Pilot, which Laura didn’t expect

In the past three years Lily has worked with children and adults with disabilities.

“She works incredibly well with the patients. When they see her, they’re delighted.”

The miracle story has inspired Laura to write a book entitled Lily: One In A Million, A Miracle Of Survival.

She hopes it will encourage pet owners not to put their animals to sleep, even if they suffer from an awful condition like Lily’s.

“I think this story will give hope to those who are thinking of euthanizing their ill pet.”