Good News Stories

Chelsea the Wonder Dog!

    Chelsea, a Labrador retriever, was presented to the clinic last summer with mild seizures. She had tremors and appeared a little spaced out. A thorough examination and bloodwork were performed and revealed very little. Blood work showed low thyroid function. Thyroid medication was dispensed to see how she would respond. Initially, there was some improvement in Chelsea’s activity level but as summer passed she became slower, seemed to tire easily and the tremor episodes returned. Thyroid levels can be low because the thyroid glands are not providing enough hormone or because there is something over utilizing the thyroid hormone. Repeat bloodwork revealed that Chelsea’s haemoglobin (the component in red blood cells that carries oxygen) was abnormally low. No other clues presented themselves on the bloodwork or repeat examination.
    Dr Wright chose to do a further work up including X-rays and an ultrasound. The ultrasound revealed lesions in the spleen and areas of the liver looked mottled. This was not good news. It appeared that Chelsea had cancer in her spleen and that it was possibly spreading to the liver. There was little to be done but keep Chelsea happy.
    Dr. Wright suggested the client use Essiac tea to treat Chelsea. It would not hurt and it may even help. Essiac is a Native American herbal remedy and was a very popular treatment for cancers in the 1930’s. It is not a cure but in some situations, it has been known to slow down the progression of some tumours and thus prolong life.
    As the fall progressed it was evident that the splenic tumour had grown. Chelsea’s abdomen swelled considerably and she no longer had much of an appetite. However, at the same time Chelsea was showing more energy and interest in life. Dr. Wright repeated the ultrasound. The ultrasound confirmed that the tumour(s) in Chelsea’s spleen had grown considerably however, the liver was free of all mottling and looked healthier.
    The diseased spleen had grown to such proportions that it took up half of Chelsea’s abdomen and was pushing on her other organs. Chelsea could eat and digest very little because there was little room for these organs to function properly. It was decided to perform surgery and remove the diseased spleen.
    The spleen is “a highly vascular organ … [responsible for the] final destruction of [old] blood cells, storage of blood and production of lymphocytes” (1). The wonderful thing is, unlike other vital organs, most mammals can live without a spleen.
    The surgery would be an extremely high-risk procedure. Firstly, because the spleen is a storage vessel for blood. A spleen 10 to 20 times normal size can hold more than half the body’s blood volume. Removing the spleen means removing a large blood volume and the sudden loss of this volume could cause shock.
    Secondly, tumours develop a network of blood vessels to feed themselves. This highly vascular organ/tumour increases the chances of blood loss during surgery.
Thirdly, the animal would have low tolerance for any strenuous activity post-surgery. The remaining low blood volume would not carry enough oxygen to sustain any prolonged vigorous activity. It will take approximately eight weeks for normal blood volume to be restored. Post-operative activity must be limited and monitored carefully.
    Chelsea was anesthetized. An intravenous fluid line was established and a blood volumizer was administered. After two hours of intense, arduous surgery the diseased spleen was removed. It was 14” long and weighed 6.5 pounds, one tenth of Chelsea’s weight.
    The surgery was completed by noon. By 4:00 p.m. Chelsea was alert and wagged her tail but showed no energy. At 6:00 p.m. she ate a small meal. By 8:00 p.m. Chelsea was strong enough to walk with Dr. Wright around the pond and was asking to go home.
    It never ceases to amaze us, the resilience of our four-legged patients. To our delight and her owners’, Chelsea has made a full recovery and is back taking long walks in the bush and romping with her best friend. That is why we call her “Chelsea the Wonder Dog.”

(1) Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, Thomas Allen & Sons Limited, Springfield, Mass. 1974.