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Posted By: Greg - Vet

Vets Diary - Ruby is November's Pet of the Month

Ruby the 10 year old Border Collie has spent her life assisting on the farm – but she's not just a farmer’s helpful tool, she's a fully fledged member of the farm team. This means that if she becomes seriously unwell, she's not easily dispensed of, but her farming owners will rally round and do what's necessary to save her. Luckily for her this meant that when she was suffering from a life threatening bleed, her owners made the decision to try everything they could to cure her.

Ruby had not been herself for a while – at first this was assumed to be because she was getting older; but over the next few days she would become really lethargic, so her owners brought her down to the practice. Her examination found her gums to be a very pale colour – almost white rather than a nice healthy salmon pink. Ruby also had quite a fast heart rate despite being quite withdrawn. These findings prompted her to be admitted for further investigations. A blood sample confirmed her anaemic condition, as her red blood cell levels were very low indeed, and they were dropping throughout the day. The combination of these findings suggested a haemorrhage, or bleed, somewhere.

The next stage of investigations was to find out where Ruby was bleeding from, and an ultrasound scan of her abdomen, or belly, unfortunately showed a large growth in the spleen, surrounded in a large amount of blood. The spleen is a large organ that is involved in the storage of blood cells, so if there is an abnormality within it this can result in a rupture of many large blood vessels which in time could result in fatal haemorrhage. Ruby's owners were informed and now had a tough decision to make – either have her taken for emergency surgery that afternoon or decide to have her put to sleep.

After some deliberation, Ruby’s owners chose to take a chance on her so she was prepared for surgery. The surgery would involve removing the source of the bleeding – the entire organ of the spleen, otherwise known as a splenectomy. Dogs can cope alright without their spleen, so if the mass wasn’t a malignant one, this would cure Ruby.

Once on the operating table, her abdomen was revealed to be almost entirely full of blood. The blood had to be removed to clear the operating site, but instead of discarding it, the decision was taken to supply it back into her circulation. This would mean she would be giving blood back to herself, in something called an auto-transfusion. All of the free blood was syringed up and then deposited into a giving set that would then transfer it back into her veins. During this transfusion, the rest of the surgery could take place and the spleen was successfully removed to be sent off for lab analysis. At this point it was not known whether the growth was benign or malignant, but there was no sign of cancerous spread.

Ruby recovered at the practice overnight and completed her transfusion, and by the next day she was brighter and able to be discharged. She went on to recover very well at home, but there was a nervous wait for the results of the type of growth from the lab. To everyone's delight, by the time her wound had healed Ruby's owners received good news that the removed mass was a burst haematoma, or blood filled sac, that had resulted from a benign, non-cancerous nodule. Now after her recovery was complete Ruby could spend many more years serving her farm team loyally which she could do so well.

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