Fluffy - The Miracle Dog

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The Rescue
The Illness
The Diagnosis
The Crisis
The Commitment
Please Help
The Village
The Diagnosis

What would cause a young puppy to bleed to the point of needing a transfusion?  We suspected a few medical situations that may explain his condition.  Our first thought was that he may be hemophiliac.  Canine hemophilia is rare so Dr. Glass and I wanted to rule out other medical conditions first before we would attempt to confirm this rare genetic disorder.  We then thought that Fluffy may have been born with a shunt in his liver.  But the procedure to confirm this was pretty invasive and the probability that Fluffy would live through this test was sketchy.  The test was certainly worse than the treatment.  We opted to treat him with Vitamin K supplements in hopes that this would help him produce the needed clotting factors.  If Fluffy had been born with a shunt, he was in no condition to be tested, nor strong enough to survive a serious surgery that would correct the problem.  We still had to determine what was causing his bleeding and considered a more plausible explanation.  We thought that Fluffy may have been exposed to rat poison some time before he was adopted.  Rat poison (an anticoagulant also known as "warfarin") causes hemorrhaging in mice and rats.  Left untreated, dogs will also experience bleeding problems and Fluffy exhibited signs similar to this type of poisoning.  If this was the case, treating him with Vitamin K and giving him blood transfusions, as needed, would be the treatment of choice.  Dr. Glass and I would watch him closely to see if he was responding to the treatment for possible poisoning.  The most immediate course of action we had to take was to give him a transfusion first.  We had to stop the bleeding to keep his internal organs from being damaged due to the lack of oxygen.

Luckily, there was a donor dog at the clinic who had donated blood in the past for other animals in need of transfusions.  Honey Bear, a golden Labrador and one of Dr. Glass' personal companions, generously donated her blood.  Fluffy responded quickly to his new supply.  Within hours, Fluffy's color was back to near normal; he was alert, hungry, and ready to play.  Fluffy came home, under careful watch, to his family.  No one wanted to jump to any medical conclusions about his condition so we reasoned that we would continue to treat him for a long-acting poison.  And since genetic blood diseases are rare, we thought it was possible Fluffy may be hemophiliac.  We decided to wait a while before we ordered a blood test to check his Factor VIII level to conclusively diagnose hemophilia.

Over the next couple of months, his condition repeated itself about every two weeks.  The possible rat poison that Fluffy may have been exposed to was most likely long-acting, so we thought.  We hoped for a day when his condition would improve.  Sadly, that day never came.  By four months, Dr. Glass realized that there was more to Fluffy's medical condition than poisoning.  She ordered a definitive blood test to check his levels of Factor VIII and sent his blood sample to Cornell University in Ithaca New York.  The results came back positive - Fluffy had been officially diagnosed with hemophilia, Type A.

Now what?  This was the question that rang in the minds of everyone that knew Fluffy and had grown to love him over the months.  With loving and careful consideration to offering Fluffy the best quality of life possible, I made the decision to treat him, knowing the the commitment I would personally be making to him in terms of his medical care.  Dr. Glass stood with me in the decision being made. 

Fluffy has a very good quality of life.  After he is transfused, he is like any other puppy.  He loves to play tug-o-war, play with his ball, be chased by Barclay, and bark at the lizards and squirrels.  For the most part, he is a normal dog.  The only difference between Fluffy and others are the regular transfusions he receives.

With a loving, supportive group of people standing behind Fluffy, we believed that proper surveillance, regular blood tests, transfusions, etc. would provide Fluffy the needed clotting factors and give him the same quality of life afforded by other healthy puppies.  For the next eight months, Fluffy responded well to biweekly transfusions.

What lay in store for us next is the beginning of a long road to recovery for Fluffy, an awe-inspiring story of hope, faith, and trust, and a commitment on the part of the people that loved him, along with the local community, to go beyond the normal call to keep Fluffy alive.

 

There are varying degrees of hemophilia in both humans and animals.  Fluffy was diagnosed with a Factor VIII deficiency which is  more common than a Factor IX deficiency.  This was good news.

I knew very little about canine hemophilia and its treatment until I met Fluffy.  The many months to follow would prove to be an extremely valuable education for me in my own medical career in managing chronic illnesses and providing supportive care.