I first met Hershey when his new family brought him in for his first puppy visit. Right away, I had some concerns due to his pale, tacky gums, bloated abdomen, and lethargic demeanor. After a thorough exam, I administered subcutaneous fluids to help with dehydration and dewormers to begin to treat the severe intestinal parasitism I suspected was causing his illness. A parasite test submitted during this visit would later reveal an extremely large burden of hookworms, roundworms, and giardia. He went home for the night where he continued to suffer from severe abdominal cramping. I spoke with his owners several times on our emergency phone that night and recommended that they bring him in for further observation the next day. Suprisingly, though, Hershey was feeling much better by the next morning. I kept him in the hospital during the day where he was more energetic and ate very well. He seemed to finally be turning the corner towards recovery.
Unfortunately, by the next morning, Hershey had stopped eating and his condition had deteriorated. He presented nearly comatose and unable to control his own urination. His gums had turned a yellowish-white tint, and he was determined to be severely anemic and hypoglycemic. The parasites had caused so much damage to his intestines that, even though he was eating, his body simply could not digest and absorb nutrients. In fact, his red blood cell count and blood glucose & protein levels were barely compatible with life. In addition, a CBC revealed that he had developed a systemic infection known as sepsis. At this point, we knew that Hershey’s condition was critical and that he would need immediate intervention if he was going to be able to pull through.
Almost instinctively, everyone at the clinic flew into action, dividing the necessary work amongst the staff including myself, other doctors, and the nurses. While I placed an intravenous catheter in his jugular vein so that we would be able to administer fluids and medications rapidly, Dr. Loch began preparing to obtain donor blood from Drs. Vince & Suzy’s energetic Brittany Spaniel, Maya. We then administered a blood transfusion & intravenous fluids infused with dextrose in order to boost his blood sugar and protein as well as strong broad spectrum antibiotics to counteract the infection. By the end of the day, Hershey was stable but still clinging to life by the smallest of margins.
Hershey spent that first night at my house where he was fortunate enough to have the helping hands of my 3 year old daughter, “Dr. Natalie,” by my side. She loved helping with “Poor Pershey’s” treatments throughout the evening. I was shocked the next morning back at the clinic at 5am when he took his first bites of food even though he could barely hold his head up.
By noon, he was eating everything we put in front of him and pawing at the bars of his cage to get attention from the nurses. We were ecstatic with his improvement, but the New Years holiday weekend presented a unique challenge in that we would be closed Saturday and Sunday and a transfer to the emergency clinic for continued care was not possible. This meant that Hershey’s owners would have to be shown how to continue his fluids and treatments at home. This was certainly not ideal but they rose to the challenge, and with the constant help of our head nurse Katie Lowe throughout the weekend, they did a fantastic job!
Hershey’s recovery was nothing short of a miracle, and he continues to improve everyday. He has an amazing will to live fueled by the love of his family. He may still face challenges over the next few weeks to months, but the worst seems to be behind him. I have loved getting to know Hershey and his family over the past two weeks, and I look forward to providing his care as he grows. Cases like this make me proud to be a part of the AMC family as this was truly a team effort.