Three weeks after his four-legged best friend Jaxon died, cavalier Toby has passed away suddenly in what his vet believed was a combination of both grief and an undiagnosed medical condition.
Toby, 6, and Jaxon, 4, had been inseparable before February 11, when Jaxon died suddenly of heat exhaustion and sent his buddy into a period of intense mourning, their owner Linda Raff said.
After burying Jaxon in their yard in central western NSW and allowing Toby and the family’s three other cavaliers to say goodbye, Ms Raff said Toby began chewing fur on the tops of his paws and developed painful sores on his back.
Despite being treated with antibiotics, steroids, antibiotic cream and medicated shampoo, Toby’s condition continued to deteriorate.
The vet told the family the physical symptoms could be explained by recent humid weather and Toby’s weakened immune system due to the emotional toll of losing his closest companion.
Over the subsequent weeks he seemed to improve slightly, but sadly, the improvement was short lived.
“He seemed to be doing better one day but then the next morning he woke up and he was in a bad way, he stopped eating and drinking he was shivering uncontrollably. It was so fast,” Ms Raff told Yahoo News Australia.
“I was giving him a cuddle as he died.”
The vet told Ms Raff that Toby may have had an autoimmune disease that he hadn’t been tested for, and ultimately was “just so said and sick that he gave up and stopped fighting”.
“I saw that he was just a very, very sad boy after he lost Jaxon, he just never recovered, he died of a broken heart,” she said.
“The vet had originally said that Toby’s grief probably played a part in him becoming so sick to begin with because he was really down, so his immune system was probably lower than normal and once the skin condition broke out all over his body it all just became too much for him.”
Toby died after her two kids Willow, 11, and Cooper, 8, left for their day at school.
“It was heartbreaking for them to come home from school and be told Toby was gone after just losing Jaxon, it was just so hard to accept,” Ms Raff said.
The loss had hit Willow the hardest - it was her birthday the day before and she had a particularly strong bond with Toby, who she called “hers”.
The two dogs slept on the end of her bed every night.
Ms Raff said the belief that Jaxon was waiting for Toby “on the other side” had been her only source of comfort following the traumatic ordeal.
The family buried Toby alongside his best friend in their back yard.
Dr Simon Ilkin from Kirrawee Veterinary Hospital told Yahoo News Australia it was plausible the stress of Jaxon’s death could have weakened Toby’s immune system and thus exacerbated his physical condition.
“With stress and grief, the immune system will reduce. Any pre-existing conditions are more likely to flare up. It’s not too unusual to see it,” Dr Ilkin said.
The high count of airborne allergens during summer combined with bushfire smoke and humidity made it more likely that animals would suffer skin conditions due to environmental factors, according to the vet.
“Certainly dogs that are going through stress, anxiety and grief can show stereotypic behaviour which can be exacerbated by an environmental change,” he said.
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.