Pete's Story
Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia

This is Pete’s story.

senior dog; pitbull love; love senior dogs; love is ageless; lexy the elderbull

... cont'd

Following several blood transfusions Pete was finally stable enough to come home.
 
He'd lost 30% of his body weight and much of his muscle mass; he couldn't walk for more than a few minutes at a time. It was still another week before he would eat on his own, and during that time we fed him from a syringe, ounces at a time, every hour. Pete's appetite slowly came back and within 3 weeks was eating small meals. For the rest of his life he could only tolerate small bits of food at any given time and as a result was provided 8 meals a day. 
 
Pete's release included a heavy concoction of medications required every 4 hours. The vet warned us that because the medication was so strong and hard on the system that it might be as dangerous to Pete as the IMHA. A concern without an option.
 
We kept him with us at all times. IMHA is a very tricky disease that has no cure, and only sometimes can it be managed. Relapses are always possible, are quite common, and happen without warning.
 
For the next 4 months Pete received weekly blood tests to monitor his RBC.
 
For the first two months the medications are ineffective as they need to build up in the system before they can affect change. Yet, while they lay dormant and build up thier power to fight the disease, they bring powerful and scary side effects.
 
Pete had severe thirst. He couldn't drink enough water, always panting, and with that came round the clock visits to the little doggie room for bathroom breaks. Pete developed ulcers on his tongue and had multiple stomach troubles. Even before IMHA this poor baby was allergic to many things and had IBS. Pete just couldn't catch a break.

Through all the discomort Pete remained a happy and loving dog; he simply wanted to live and that determination shone through in everything he did.
 
One of the IMHA medications suppressed Pete's immune system, as and as a result he was very prone to illness and infection from any cuts or sores. As a result of his essential weekly blood tests he was riddled with slow healing injection-point sores on his legs. More troubling, given his lack of immunity, he developed a serious skin infection and lost almost all his fur.
 
Given it was winter and he was still underweight, poor Pete was always trembling from cold. He accumulated quite the collection of sweaters, booties, and blankets.
 
While we waited for the medications to take effect, we tried everything we could to speed up and assist his recovery. We took him for holistic therapy, gave him vitamins and supplements, herbs, changed his diet, and many other things.
 
We lived our lives in weekly installments, always holding our breath for the results of the next weekly blood test.
 
Slowly, Pete's personality came back. On Christmas day Pete was inundated with gifts from friends and neighbours, and for the first time since October he played (if only very timidly) with his toys.
 
In late February 2012 our Vet gave Pete a glimmer of hope and confirmed he was otherwise healthy and the IMHA, while terminal, was at bay. His RBC had gone up to 50. It would not be for another 3 months that Pete would require another blood test.

Pete beat the odds of IMHA and lived a happy life for a full year after diagnosis. Sadly, the medication caught up with him and his kidneys slowly failed. This miracle dog was tested 3 months before he passed and was found to be surving on just 18% of one working kidney.  There is no one who met Pete that would have said he ever lost hope.. this loving little man was thiving until he, not IMHA or time, decided he needed to rest.
 
 
We agonized over the hardest decision either of us had ever made. To decide if Pete was ready to let go. People often tell you "you'll know when it's time". In my experience this is true. Pete told me it was time; I could see his tiredness and the 'light' left his eyes. On New Years Eve 2013 we gave Pete the most selfless gift we could give: peace and rest.

We sat on the floor, Pete wrapped in a blanket on our laps. He looked up at us and licked the tears as they rolled down our cheeks. I have never felt so incredibly heartbroken and so heartwarmed at the same time.  I believe firmly that Pete was thanking us for loving him and telling us it was okay, he was ready to let go, even if we weren't.

My husband and I adopted Pete, a Basenji Corgi mix, from the BC SPCA Sechelt branch on April18, 2010. Pete was 9 years young, had serious allergies and eczema caused from the stress of being in a shelter environment; he had been neglected and abused but had such a sweet temperament and obviously needed a loving home - in less than 5 minutes Pete had stolen our hearts.
 
Pete quickly became, and still is, an integral part of our lives. He spent his weekdays as an office dog always by his dad's side and the rest of his time snuggled next to us on the sofa, going for walks at the beach, or snoring peacefully next to us while we all slept.
 
Sunday, October 23, 2011:  We left Pete at home happily snoozing, returning 2 hours later to a very different dog.

He stood in the corner, head lowered; we called his name several times and, when he finally turned, had trouble walking. His back legs buckled under him.
 
We took Pete to our local Vet, they examined him, took a blood test, and advised us to wait for thier call. We diligently monitored his behaviour and for a while he seemed to stabilize but within hours everything changed - Pete once again lost mobility and within minutes  of the first warning signs he could no longer walk. We rushed to the Animal Emergency Clinic.
 
He was diagnosed with IMHA - Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia - even before the formal test could be completed. It was a terrifying and amazing sight to behold - the blood separated on the testing glass right before our eyes. White blood cells exploding the red.
 
Pete was immediately admitted and put on several IV drips. The vet provided an overview of various costs and options. Then the worst as we learned in depth what IMHA was and that even with early detection and appropriate treatment 80% of dogs diagnosed do not survive beyond hospitalization. If they do fight the good fight and are able to go home the survival rate beyond 6 months is only 20%.
 
Pete stayed in the Animal Emergency Hospital and we walked back to the car with an IMHA pamphlet in one hand and Pete's leash in the other, not knowing if he would get the chance to wear it again.
 
IMHA is a life threatening hematologic disease. It is a disease in which the body's immune system attacks and kills its own red blood cells; without an adequate number of red blood cells the body becomes starved of oxygen and cannot survive.
 
The causes of IMHA remain largely unknown, with up to 75% having no found causation at all.  Refer to IMHA:  Canine Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia for more information and resources.
 

Following a very long night at Emergency we arrived home mentally and physically exhausted but still sleep would not come. Early the next morning, groggy and tired, we made the trip back to the hospital.
 
On arrival the vet warned us that Pete had taken a turn for the worse during the night and we should prepare ourselves. Walking through the backrooms of the ER, past other hospitalized animals we saw terrible things and readied ourselves for our own horror.
 
Pete had an IV in all four legs, each dispensing something different, and the symptoms we heard about had revealed themselves.
 
His skin and eyes were bright yellow with jaundice, without energy to even raise his head, his eyes opened to saucers, and he simply wagged the very end of his tail... a movement barely perceptible.
 
I have never before felt so helpless and hopeless in all my life.
 
Pete's case was very serious; they performed a full blood panel testing and his red blood cell count (RBC) was 12, a normal range is between 40-55. The vet recommended immediate blood transfusion, and reminded us that the procedure was not guaranteed to save his life, that he may require multiple transfusions, and that it would be very expensive. Even without knowing the outcome so long as it wouldn't cause Pete any additional pain, we would do anything and everything we could to save his life.  It was important we stayed true to our promise to look after him and give him everything we had to offer so long as he allowed us.
 
We visited Pete at the hospital 3 times a day, evey day, for the next 7 days. Over the course of those 7 days Pete's condition fluctuated - improving, worsening, stabilizing, and around and around. The whole time getting yellower and yellower from jaundice as his RBC improved at glacial speed. He received nutrients, food, and medicine from an IV.
 
Each time we visited we tried to persuade him to eat; we brought him minced salmon, white rice, eggs, chicken stock, liver... all his favourites, but to no avail. Pete was just too sick to eat and was losing weight rapidly. We brought him his favourite blanket, toys, even our own sweaters - in the hopes he would recognize our smell and make him feel a little less lonely in the times when we couldn't be with him.
 
One evening at the hospital our Vet told us that she'd never seen it before but was convinced each time we left Pete cried himself to sleep.
It broke my heart. To be honest, it still does...
 
We grieved and hoped, hoped and grieved - with the exception of visiting hours when we saw Pete there was no joy in the world and time stood still. There is no way to reason with or accept a disease that comes without warning, without cause, and without a cure.
 

senior dog; pitbull love; love senior dogs; love is ageless; lexy the elderbull
IMHA brought Pete 7 days in the Animal Emergency Hospital, 3  blood transfusions from a Boxer named Beau, 7 days of non-stop IV's, and 4 months physical rehabilitation, months of weekly blood tests, 40k in vet care (thank goodness for Trupanion Pet Insurance), and provided an extra year of life and love for which he fully took in every single minute of it.


For me... I owe a huge debt to Pete.  He had a survivor's spirit and brought out in me a deeper love than I knew I was capable of.  Pete's loss hit me very hard and for a long time I fell into a deep depression - I was suffering from Compassion Fatigue .  Please refer here for more information on this mental illness.


But, even now over 3 years later, as I sit here typing these words, the tears are freshly rolling down my cheek.  The difference is that now my tears are in gratitude for the incredible gift I enjoyed in sharing my life with a little dog named Pete and knowing that wherever his spirit is he feels the same.


 
Forever Pete..
Momma loves you..