In the spring of 2007 our Giant Schnauzer Chance had his spleen removed along with a large benign tumor. Our vet felt that he would be fine after this and he did seem to get better.
A month or so later, after some vague symptoms, he was diagnosed with non-regenerative anemia and immune-mediated neutropenia. The medical term for this is bicytopenia. A bone marrow biopsy indicated that his bone marrow did not have the capability to make new red blood cells or white blood cells. The specialist he saw could not determine why this was happening and suggested only that he thought it must be autoimmune in nature. The vet prescribed prednisone and antibiotics.
Chance’s PCV continued to drop gradually over the next few months. In addition, because of the low white blood cell count, he was at risk for serious infections and had to be on antibiotics continually. After a few weeks with no response the specialist asked us to significantly increase the prednisone dose to 80mg a day.
His body condition began to diminish due to Iatrogenic Cushing’s Disease. He lost muscle mass, his liver was enlarged and inflamed, he was constantly thirsty and had to urinate frequently. He lost a great deal of hair and was unable to grow new hair. He developed staph infections. In general he was becoming much weaker and it was clear he did not feel well.
By July his PCV was down to 18% and he was having more difficulty walking or pottying easily. At this point we thought we might have to give him a compassionate euthanasia. It was clear that the prednisone was not making any difference in his condition, he remained non-regenerative. My vet agreed that he needed a transfusion.
We talked while he was resting after the transfusion. What she told me made all the difference in the world about how I felt and what I was going to do. She really understood how I felt about Chance’s will to live. She said:
“Patrice, we cannot put humans down when they stop making blood. We support them with transfusions and make them comfortable while we figure out how to help them make blood again.”
The transfusion helped somewhat however there continued to be no signs of regeneration, which would be seen by a significant increase in the number of reticulocytes in his blood.
I was very disturbed by this. I was also at a dead end trying to find any information on the internet about this condition in dogs. There was certainly some good information about AIHA but very little about bone marrow failure. I have medical training so I bought a veterinary hematology textbook and started reading. My vets were very receptive to continuing to care for Chance at their clinic and answered my questions about information I read.
Shortly after this a friend suggested to me that I should contact Dr. Jean Dodds, DVM of Hemopet, CA. I had never heard of her but wondered how a vet thousands of miles away would possibly want to help my sick dog. But I swallowed my doubts and called her. She picked up breathlessly and started asking me questions.
My vets were delighted to be consulting with Dr. Dodds and immediately implemented her bone marrow failure protocol. This included adding cyclosporine (Atopica) at a loading dose, along with stomach protection (Pepcid), protection against ulcers (Sucralfate), liver protection (Denamarin), B12 shots, Soloxine and changing to a simplified home made diet.
Within four weeks Chance began showing signs of regeneration (reticulocytosis) and a slight increase in his white blood cells counts. While it was a small change, it was worthy of a celebration. My vets were stunned that this had worked so well and could hardly believe that we had beaten this condition.
The fallout for Chance was that months of high dose prednisone had caused considerable damage to his body; muscles, internal organs, skin and coat. He looked absolutely awful.
But he was feeling better. One of the first of many amazing changes was his first walk around the block in many months. By the fall of 2007 he was back taking his usual 2 hour walks. By Christmas he looked good again.
During Chance’s illness I became involved with an on-line forum for AIHA, IMHA and bone marrow failure. I continued to read, post and help many other owners successfully for seven years, long after Chance passed from an unrelated heart condition at 12 years old.
This new forum is a continuation of the friendships we have developed and is a testament to the dedication these owners have to help you give your dog a Second Chance.