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A puppy called “Kitty”

September 5, 2011

By now some of you have learned about the eight week old German Shepherd puppy I’ve been taking care of round-the-clock for the past few days. Her name is Imann (like the super model), but I call her Kitty, and I’ll explain why, shortly.

The shelter called me on Wednesday night because the puppy was not able to keep any food down. No matter what they tried, she continued to vomit everything she ate and she was getting very weak. There was some vet history from a former owner showing that since she was at least five weeks old she had been treated for parasites and was currently on meds for coccidia, but evidently they could not figure out why she continued to vomit. At the time, she weighed 5lbs. And after three weeks of vomiting, here’s a surprise, the owner dropped her off at the shelter and conveniently failed to mention that she had any medical problems.

I picked the puppy up on Thursday morning. She looked terrible! She was so thin that I could feel all her ribs and hip bones. She was so weak that she stumbled when she walked and just looked generally very sad. My intention was to bring her straight to our vet, but I decided to give her a bath first because she had dried vomit all over her. Ugh! Poor little girl.
After her bath I took her up to the clinic. We weighed her and she still weighed 5lbs (three weeks later). We ran a parvo test which was negative, and a giardia test which was also negative. So Dr. Mark gave her fluids and put her on some pro-biotics (for intestinal support). We decided I should try feeding her tiny amounts of food every hour or two. So that’s what I did. I stayed up all night on Thursday night and it was so frustrating! The puppy was so starving she would eat a tablespoon of food ravenously, and a few minutes later, up it came. Over and over. It didn’t matter what I offered her, or how small the quantity. She just couldn’t keep it down. She moaned and whimpered a lot and I could see she was miserable because she was soooo hungry, but just couldn’t fill her little tummy.

So Dr. Mark picked her up at 6:45am on Friday morning and took her up to the clinic for an x-ray. I was sure she must have had a partial obstruction (swallowed something she shouldn’t have), or some kind of severe congenital deformity…three hours later I hadn’t heard anything so I called the clinic. Dr. Mark said he didn’t know what to tell me, other than that something was “very wrong”. He was able to say that her heart, lungs and abdomen were “wrong”. He was stumped. He told me he sent her x-rays to the radiographer at 7:30am and still hadn’t heard back (he would usually have gotten a report back within an hour or two), and it was apparently because they wanted to consult with one another because her x-rays were so confusing. Finally, they all agreed what they were looking at was a congenital defect called a “persistent right aortic arch” and it causes a secondary condition called “mega-esophagus”. Her esophagus had dilated to such an extent that it was shoving all of her other organs over into a corner. The condition is not common but is seen in German Shepherds and a few other breeds.

This is her x-ray. The big blob that sits where her heart should be, is actually her esophagus. The swirly stuff in her stomach is gas because she kept trying to eat and was gulping air when she vomited.

So now that we know what’s wrong with her, what do we do?? It was late on Friday evening by the time we had a diagnosis. We determined that the only way she could keep food down would be to have a liquid diet (like Ensure for humans), given by syringe, while holding her body upright for 10-15 minutes so the liquid could travel through the esophagus. She needed to be fed small amounts every two hours. So the clinic called around and found the liquid diet she needed at the emergency vet clinic in Tanasbourne and I raced over and picked it up just before 9pm. Then I raced over to Bethany and picked up the puppy, and got ready for my second night attempting to get the puppy to keep food down. It worked! I fed her tiny amounts by syringe, while hanging her little body in the air from my arm. She kept it down. Each time I fed her she was stronger and more ravenous. It was so exciting to witness! Finally, that tiny body was getting some nourishment.

This is me, somewhat of a zombie after no sleep for a couple of days, and Kitty, hanging there peacefully while the liquid travels down her esophagus to her happy little tummy…

By Sunday, she was already able to take much more of the liquid food, had been able to go to the bathroom, and was acting almost like a normal puppy! I continue to hold her with her little legs dangling in the air for 15 minutes and she has not vomited once! I nicknamed her Kitty because the minute I put her down, she pees and comes over to rub against my legs, just like a cat! She also makes these funny sounds while she’s digesting her food and it sounds like a cat meowing.

This is Kitty rubbing against my legs like a cat!

So, Imann (Kitty), is scheduled for surgery on Wednesday morning. Two vets will try to remove the band of tissue that caused the mega-esophagus. Her prognosis is guarded. They told me she may not survive the surgery, but also, her esophagus may never return to normal size. Apparently people have built special chairs for adult dogs with this condition, so they can eat while upright and stay that way long enough for the food to make it through their esophagus. Obviously, we’d prefer that this little girl gets to eat like a normal dog, but we’ll take that one step at a time. For now, you should know that she’s such an amazingly sweet girl! She is incredibly tolerant and very good natured in spite of her obvious discomfort.
In the spirit of the tag from the bottom of my emails, Kitty is an example of what we always want to be able to do as Indigo Rescue; never, never, never give up. For us, it’s not as much about the volume, it’s about going the extra mile for some of the ones who need a little extra care.

If you are able to donate toward Kitty’s surgery we would be very grateful. We are not sure yet how much it will cost, but we know it won’t be cheap. It’s always hard on us when we get a rescue that needs an expensive surgery because we want to do everything we can for them even during financially challenging times. They don’t know our economy isn’t great, just that they need our help! Please feel free to cross-post to your friends or anyone you believe may be able to contribute, too. All donations are tax-deductible. You can send a check and write “Kitty” in the memo (Indigo Rescue PO Box 554 Beaverton, Oregon), or you can make a donation on Paypal using the following link: http://indigorescue.org/?page_id=18

I will keep you all posted after Kitty has surgery on Wednesday.

Thank you all so much!