Sacha has been known by everyone at the clinic for many years as a very special girl after she tore her Achilles tendon and needed an operation. The recovery after such an injury can be very prolonged but she was extremely brave and the leg healed beautifully.
Six weeks ago she came in because she was feeling unwell and on examination by one of our vets noticed that her gums were a little pale. Concerned about her pale gums, our vet Elle ran a blood test using our in-house laboratory and examined the blood smear. She was concerned that Sacha may have an autoimmune disease and the external laboratory confirmed the next day that Sacha had Immune Mediated Haemolytic Anaemia (IMHA).
IMHA is a terrible disease and even with the very best of care it can have a mortality rate of just 35-40%. Essentially dogs with IMHA will attack their own red cells within their body which result in destruction of the red cells and severe anaemia.
Sacha had some tests to check that she did not have an underlying disease such as cancer. Thankfully the tests came back clear and we started her on medication to suppress her immune system. She was very poorly, weak and not wanting to eat. We were watching her red cell count go down every day and we were on the verge of giving her a blood transfusion...when her red cell count stabilised and then started to rise. This was really excellent news! She had responded well to treatment and everything looked very promising although she was still not eating and was a bit quieter than we would have hoped.
We had worries that this might have been a reaction to the medications but this did not seem to be the case and a blood test suggested her pancreas was inflamed. We popped a little feeding tube into the side of her neck to help us give medications and the high energy nutrition which would help her get back on her feet. This was tolerated really well as they usually are in dogs and cats which need a bit of help to start eating again. We were happy with her blood count and started reducing her medications reasonably confident that she would pull through and do well in the long term.
Last week she came back to the clinic but had started breathing a little faster than usual. Our vet Su who had also been looking after Sacha over the last few weeks took an x-ray of her chest and quickly noted that her heart was enlarged and her lungs were not as clear as they should have been. We compared her x-rays to the ones taken a few weeks before and the difference was marked. An ultrasound conformed the enlarged heart that was not contracting properly.
We were dismayed to see this as Sacha had yet another serious condition to deal with as she had developed a heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). This is a very severe heart condition that is often found in doberman pinchers and some large breed dogs. She visited a heart specialist who confirmed this condition. It is thought that she had an underlying heart condition which was brought out because of the disease and the life saving immune suppressing medications. Heart medications were started knowing that the prognosis was not great but most dogs will live for several months after diagnosis of DCM.
Unfortunately, she did not respond well to medications and continued to remain weak but comfortable. She was seen at home where, after much discussion by everyone involved with her care, the very painful decision to say goodbye was made. She passed away peacefully surrounded by her family.
Throughout all the time we have known Sacha and all the times she has visited us at the practice she has been absolutely superb. She has has been so brave and such a good doggie to look after. We are all so upset that she has gone and can think of no better recipient of our Big Bear Award.