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Julie-Ann : Rusty

Published on December 18, 2023.

Story from Julie-Ann : Rusty

Rusty has had a rough couple of months. It all started in June when he had a routine dental clean with his local vet. We had thought he might lose one tooth but under anaesthetic the vet saw he needed 8 teeth extracted. She also saw that he had a lump on the top of his front left leg. We gave him a few weeks to recover from the dental procedure before taking him back to the vet to examine the lump more thoroughly. In the space of those few weeks the lump tripled in size. The vet did a biopsy and ultrasound immediately recommended us to a specialist surgeon at SASH. The vet said she could do the operation herself but could not guarantee Rusty would not lose his leg.  So that was our introduction to SASH.

SASH Vet, Dr John Culvenor did a further biopsy and a CT scan to confirm the original vet’s diagnosis of a non-cancerous lipoma and discovered the lipoma was wrapped and entwined in his muscle. Dr John advised that he felt confident that he could remove the lump. Rusty underwent the surgery and after a few days he was able to come home with the instructions that he was not allowed to run or jump for several weeks and all trips to the back yard had to be on leash. I forgot to mention that Rusty is a kelpie, very active, so running and jumping all part of his normal behaviour. Keeping him confined was probably harder on me than it was on him as I had to look at his sad eyes that said, let’s go for a walk or at least let me back up on the lounge…

I am happy to say his wound healed quickly and the initial limp that he had following the surgery lessened over the next six weeks. In fact, he seemed like he was back to normal and allowed to resume all previous behaviours. Just when you think it is safe… It was around midnight when I walked into my room, I didn’t switch on the light but I could see Rusty on my bed and frantically licking at his paws. I went to give him a reassuring pat and found him completely drenched and when I turned on the light, I saw my hands were covered in blood. I presumed he had scratched what I thought was a small mole on his head (but actually it was a wart) and it had bleed like a running tap. I applied pressure to the wound, stopped the bleed, cleaned him up and sat with him until he seemed calm. We both drifted off to sleep some time after 1am. Then about 2.30am, I was woken by the bed shaking and when I turned on the light, I saw he was having a seizure. It was frightening, violent, his heart thumping so hard I thought he was going to have a heart attack. It lasted about a minute and slowly he came back around. He had had a couple of few seizures previously, not recent, and usually brought on by over excitement triggered by whipper snipper noise… but certainly nothing like this. Once he seemed steady, I took him outside where it was cooler and at first, he seemed OK but then suddenly he started walking in circles and then he dropped and had a second seizure that lasted about a minute and a half. Just as violent as the first but this time he had bitten his tongue.

Had he not had the surgery on his leg we would not have known about SASH being a 24 hour emergency hospital and we wasted no time and quickly raced him there. This was now about 3 – 3.30am Sunday morning. Had we not done this, Rusty could have died as it turned out that he had zero platelets in his blood. Any minor movement, let alone a severe seizure, could result in internal bleeding. After a CT scan to his brain, lungs, and abdomen, we learned that he had bled into his lungs but it was minor. The blood that I saw in his mouth may not have been because he bit his tongue but a bleed from his gums which is an early onset sign of this condition. The question was whether the seizures and low platelets were related but as his brain showed no neurological damage it was concluded that he had developed an autoimmune condition. So he was placed on high doses of prescription medication, given a chemo therapy drug, anti-seizure meds, and some other drugs to reduce gut inflammation.

He responded quickly to the medications and his platelets rose from zero to 3 to 30 to 150 which was safe enough to take him home. We had been informed that he had some mild diarrhoea from the prescription medication but it was ‘firming’. So we were able to take him home with the instructions to keep him quiet, still, no running, no jumping, no trips to the yard off lead. He is a very good dog in terms of being house trained and he let us know that he wanted to go to the toilet and it was regular, every 1.5 hours. Not being a vet, I have no idea what is normal ‘firming’ and what is increasingly abnormal, what frequency is normal and what is abnormal, and I am a dog Mum worried about everything, and I had a lot to worry about in the last few months, and I thought this does not seem normal. And then, I saw the blood in the diarrhoea . So, we raced him back to SASH where he was immediately placed on a drip, his prescription medication dose was lowered, and that is tricky because he needs the prescription medication as part of his autoimmune recovery…. His was given probiotics, antibiotics and after 24 hours we were able to take him home.

His recovery will take some time, visits to his local vet every three weeks for blood tests to monitor his platelets and gradually decrease the prescription medication with a hopeful outlook that he will fully recover. The prescription medication is tough to deal with it as his appetite is insane! Because of the diarrhoea, I had to keep him on a diet of boiled chicken, rice, and vegetables before I could slowly introduce his normal food, Hills Science Diet. Initially, I was feeding him 4 smaller meals more frequently and but have now reduced it to three and that seems to have reduced the gobbling effect. I also invested in an elevated feeding bowl and that also slowed the gobbling of his food.

I am happy to say that he is doing well. He finished all his medications, apart from one, and he has not had any further seizures and he is ticking all the right boxes in terms of body functions. His personality is not quite normal yet, the prescription medication makes him a bit flat, and tired, but we can see the spark is there when we take him for a short early morning walk. Just around the block for now but it is a walk that is marked by a swanky wag of the tail.

Now, to the part that is uncomfortable for everybody, the expense… And I can attest that it has been very expensive but I would do it again in heart beat because SASH saved his life.  But it does make me wonder how an elderly pensioner would deal with that aspect, how they might find the funds, I would be interested to see if SASH would be interested in discussing how we might be able to set up some kind of charitable trust to cover those type of situations, to not only protect the pet, but the elderly pensioner who loves them.

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