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Posted By: Martin - Vet

Vets Diary - Rufus is October's Pet of the Month

It is often said in life that you never quite know what is around the corner, and that was certainly the case for Rufus  and his owners.

Rufus the 8 year old Cocker Spaniel is a bit of a local celebrity and many people know him for his presence at the Collett Park Coffee hut.  He’s a bit of a hit as he’s very social, very playful and certainly always appears to enjoy any attention that comes his way.

Rufus was in great health and looked well when out of the blue he developed just a few scabby lesions on his ears.  Rufus was otherwise very well but his owners brought him to see us just to check this out.

The scabs were a little unusual and not a common presentation that we would usually see.  As he was well and they weren’t causing any problems for him, we initially decided just to monitor them and see if anything developed.  At that point we didn’t quite expect that things would develop as quickly as they would!

Over the weekend the owners watched as the scabby regions to his ears firstly multiplied exponentially and then began to ulcerate and leave moist exposed sore skin to the periphery of his ears.  Almost within hours Rufus went from a happy dog to one that was incredibly sorry for himself .   The owners felt unable to help him and so made an emergency call to the surgery.

The rate of development was alarming and when he was examined it was evident that the lesions were even breaking out around his feet, lips and also to the skin of his abdomen.  The blistered and ulcerated lesions were very sore and Rufus was distressed. 

Our first priority was to ease Rufus’s discomfort.  This was done by hospitalising him and administering painkillers and intravenous fluids.  The second important thing was to establish a plan of how we were going to get a definitive diagnosis for Rufus and then get appropriate treatment started.

Getting Rufus onto pain relief helped stabilise him over night but the lesions continued to develop.  The following day Rufus was anaesthetised and surgical biopsies were taken from several of his lesions.  The samples were couriered to the laboratory for emergency biopsy results and hopefully within 24-48 hours we would have an answer on his condition.

We suspected that Rufus had an auto-immune condition, i.e. a condition where his own immune system was attacking his own body, in this case his skin.  This can sometimes happen because of medicine reactions or even because a tumour has developed, but for Rufus neither of these appeared to be the case.  If indeed it did appear to be autoimmune it was just because body had decided to do it.

Rufus’s condition was managed for the next 48 hours and then we received the results.  The biopsies confirmed our suspicions and Rufus had a condition known as pemphigus foliaceus – a particular type of auto-immune condition.   The treatment for such a condition is generally medication to suppress the immune system and the most common medication used for this are steroids.  Rufus was immediately started on high doses of steroids and his condition appeared to respond.

With us having a diagnosis and having started treatment, with some signs of improvement, Rufus was sent home.  However, it wasn’t for long.

The owners coped admirably at home for the next couple of days but things still developed, all be it slower than before.  The owners soon knew that something more was needed and so they were quick to get him back in and it was obvious that Rufus was going to be a patient that required multiple therapies to treat his condition.

Rufus was immediately started on an additional immuno-suppressive medication following specialist advice.  We also used a regime of bathing and topical creams to help and after a few days it was clear that Rufus was now making progress and was on the mend.

Rufus has progressed extremely well and week by week his fur has started to grow back.  Some patches of fur have grown back in a different colour to before, which has meant that he looks like a cross between a Cocker Spaniel and a Dalmatian, but Rufus is back to his happy self and entertaining people in the park.  He remains on immune-suppressive drugs and our aim is to now gradually reduce these over the coming months.

It can’t be under estimated how severe Rufus’s condition has been and how much treatment has been needed.  The commitment of his loving owners has been immense and the hours they have spent on his treatment far exceeds those spent in the Vets. 

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