Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Help Carmella Get Well!

My shelter dog Carmella (who looks for all the world like a dingo) came home from several days at the vet's today and she seems to be somewhat better after IV fluids, Vitamin B-12, special high protein food, and some new antibiotics.

After piecing together the events in her records from the animal shelter it became clear that the shelter attempted to cover up the fact that she was as sick as she was. No weight was recorded (which I thought odd because that is something vets always do when they take vital signs) and there were several vet checks apparently over the past 2 months all of which said "normal" until the day I brought her home and I'd asked why she was coughing.

Carmella stretching in her bed

It is standard protocol not to vaccinate a dog that is currently sick and though she'd been given the vaccine in May for Distemper my vet noted that they were supposed to have given her some other vaccines later that month and didn't. It seems that the shelter went to great lengths NOT to document the fact that she was losing weight, not eating, and that her health was going downhill. No explanation appeared in the records for their failure to give all her vaccinations.

When all this information started to sink in and I put two and two together (and the shelter did not return my call asking for her weight), I realized that they knowingly gave me a sick puppy, chalking it up to "kennel cough" or a minor "cold" and knowingly witheld important information. It had not been until after I signed all the papers and paid the adoption fee (two days after she'd been spayed) that they showed me to her new cage (which was one of the quarantine cages). Up until that moment all they told me was that she or another dog had scratched her eye. When I saw her in her cage she did not look like the lively dog I'd seen just a few days before, but had a pile of diarrhea next to her and was lying down looking pretty bedraggled. As I was waiting for them to print out all her records I noticed that she was coughing. An employee blew by me as I was trying to ask her what was wrong with my dog, pretending not to hear me. I said "excuse me" several times before she finally came back and asked what I needed. I brought to her attention that the dog was coughing and asked about it. She seemed to be unaware (or at least behaved that way) as though she hadn't noticed but said she might have some "upper respiratory infection". Once called on it she went back and printed out some more records, documented it and had me sign them, then went and got antibiotics from the vet on staff and some medication for the diarrhea, as well as some antibiotic eye ointment. She presented it as if they were just sending the dog home with meds as a precaution and that it might just go away anyway on its own.

After a week of the meds the shelter had given me Carmella seemed worse; not better and was barely eating at all. That was when I took her to the vet because I was really afraid she was going to die.

I wondered how the shelter could not have noticed how much weight she'd lost and that she was not hungry.

When I'd brought her in the vet told me he thought it was something more than just kennel cough and said that it could be Distemper even though she had been vaccinated for that.

The test that came back today was inconclusive in that it was only an antibody test which would appear positive if she'd been vaccinated the same as it would if she had the disease. Next he needed to take several cultures to look for the actual cells. That will give us a more definitive answer as to whether that's what it is or whether instead this could be pneumonia from a very bad bacterial infection. It may take another few days to get the results of the more recent cultures.

When I'd brought her in my vet told me she had about a 50/50 chance of living and that the prognosis was "guarded". I could not just stand there and let this happen to the puppy that I'd searched for with a fine toothed comb over several months and bonding with. This dog which I seem to have an uncanny psychic connection with had to make it or I wasn't sure I would.

Over the weekend she stayed at the vet's office and meanwhile I researched everything I could online. I found lots of references on Google and on a pet health forum to a vet named Dr. Sears who had a practice in California who has a cutting edge but controversial treatment/cure for Distemper.
Most vets are taught that the disease is progressive and fatal, but this guy claims to have eradicated the virus in a number of dogs by giving Newcastle's disease LaSota Strain vaccine off-label. How it works is that is upregulates the dog's immune system so that it launches a direct attack on the virus and kills it within about 12-48 hours. I set out to get all the information I could on it and not only did I find the doctor's e-mail address and phone number for my vet, I also located the formula on how to make the vaccine in the office.
Apparently this can only work if a dog is in the very early stages of the disease (which if Carmella has it she would be in now). I asked my vet to be ready with the stuff over the next week in case he needs to use it before it's too late. He's reading over the material I gave him and seems open to trying it if it comes down to it. Really if her tests turn up positive there would be nothing to lose by trying it because the other alternative is permanent and progressive damage to the Central Nervous System, suffering, paliative care, then death (not to mention vet bills into the thousands for the remainder of her life).

Having battled a life-threatening disease myself and being saved by an off-label treatment, I know that there is an answer to everything. We just need to find it. Nothing is hopeless and we have to be willing to consider this living being's life worth saving, suspend our judgement as to how we're going to do that, and think outside the box. I call this "The 5th Option"; one which appears not to exist at first glance but in fact does.

My vet was very excited about the possibility of a cure but of course he will come up against those who refuse to believe it's possible and may even think badly of him for entertaining the possibility that this could be effective. I can hear it now; the naysayers who will invariably say that it's some nut, a vet on the fringe who would make such claims without going through "proper channels" and that no vet worth his salt would listen to it or take it seriously. I have heard it all before in human health circles, but I say who cares where the answer comes from and how the discovery is made. If it works and it saves lives then that's what really matters, and if it's what it will take to cure my little Carmella so that she can get well and live a normal life and allow her to get on with the business of being a care-free puppy, then I say bring it on! I did not save her from the "gas chamber" only to watch her die ironically of some disease.

In the meantime my vet bill is growing just from a few days of her being in the hospital and I need to pay it off as soon as I can, as there may be more costs coming, and my income is very small right now.

If you love animals and jewelry, your purchase from my Etsy store http://giftbearer.etsy.com/ would be greatly appreciated! I want to give Carmella all the medical care she needs so she'll have a fighting chance. This puppy has had a hard life already and she's only 3 months old. She's counting on me to take care of the logistics.

I have started a new line called the Carmella Collection which features highly ornate jewelry using pearls and gemstones that is particularly suited for weddings although it can be used for other occasions as well.

Why not come by and pick up something for yourself or as a gift for someone you care about while you offer the gift of life to this little puppy. Helping with these expenses is one way you can help a dog from a shelter to turn the corner. Giving directly to shelters is only half the need. In today's rough economy many people are likely to encounter the same problems I did when they bring home their new addition to the family because it didn't receive adequate care at the shelter. What is supposed to be a happy new start can often be just the beginning of a nightmare that never seems to end.

I thank you in advance for being part of the solution to Carmella's health problems.

Carmella after returning home from the vet Monday, July 14th, 2008, bandaged up from the IV.


Nicole said...

Glad she's getting a bit better--it's really a shame she wasn't being taken care of properly. Best wishes!

Giftbearer said...

Thanks, Nicole! Yes, I really think the shelters would get more people to adopt these dogs if they were to put in the care and be honest with people who want to take them. I realize that part of the problem is lack of enough funding, but the public service announcements I've been seeing on TV don't tell the public that they are leaving vital medical care out because of the cost. They all focus on asking people to spay and neuter or adopt. If they really want to help their cause they need to be very up-front and honest about why they need donations and be clear about just how much of an emergency it is. In the short-term it might not endear them to people to say "Because we have such little funding little Brutus here cannot get all the vaccines he needs to stay healthy" but in the long-term people would respect their willingness to take responsability and probably be more willing to include them in their list of non-profits to contribute to.