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Posted By: Martin - Vet

Maisie's cough causes concern

One of the appeals of being a vet is that the day can be very variable.  Anything could walk through the door at any point and it’s never a profession where you would complain of being bored!  This was certainly the case when Maisie, a 6 year old cross breed, walked in just over a month ago.

Maisie originally came in as her owner noted that she had developed a cough one day and perhaps didn’t seem quite herself.  When she visited she was very bright and there didn’t appear to be much wrong with her.  The owner mentioned that on one cough just a little blood came up but nothing more had been seen since.  We decided to treat her symptomatically and knew her doting owner would certainly monitor her carefully. 

The following day the owner was in contact again concerned that Maisie had developed some swellings under her skin.  Her coughing was much better, but her owner knew that she still wasn’t right.  When examined Maisie was bright, and the owner was pleased that no further blood had been seen.  Yet the thought of the blood, and now these swellings, gave us an uneasy feeling and we advised that we should run some blood tests just to be on the safe side.  With Maisie otherwise well and eating we allowed her home once again under the watchful eye of her owner.

The blood returned early the next day, and had a surprise in store for us all.  The results revealed that her blood clotting was severely compromised.  There were numerous possible causes with the most common being rat bait poisoning.  The owner was immediately phoned and Maisie was rushed in to the surgery.

At this point Maisie’s red blood cells had started to drop, and there was obviously an internal bleed taking place.  However, she was still bright and alert and so high doses of Vitamin K, the antidote for rat bait, were administered intravenously.  Maisie was then hospitalised for careful monitoring of her red blood cell levels and general demeanour.

The owner was questioned about the poisoning and initially nothing came to mind.  As they thought some more, they began to think of all the places that Maisie would disappear to investigate in the day.  At that point the owner realised she did regularly explore a near by shed and so they decided to go in and have a rummage.  In a few minutes the owner had found the offending material – a large box of rat bait, which the owner brought straight to the surgery so we could confirm the exact poison she had eaten.

Maisie looked stable on the outside but her blood tests told a different story.  As the day progressed her blood cell numbers dropped and by the late afternoon they had fallen to critical levels.  Whilst she still looked happy we knew any further reduction would leave her in a life threatening situation.

We spoke to the owner and gave them an update.  The advice was that we felt we needed to give Maisie a blood transfusion, and the owners had no hesitation in agreeing.  The next question was where we were going to get the blood!

There are now a few veterinary hospitals that carry regular supplies of canine blood for emergencies such as this.  Our immediate thought was to give the most local of these a phone call.  There was a real disappointment when all our attempts drew a blank, and there was no blood available.   Our only option was to find a blood donor dog, that could donate straight away, but this isn’t always easy to do at short notice.

We were debating in the corridors as to our best options when receptionist Sue walked through and heard our dilemma.  She immediately questioned if her dog Charlie, a large, lean, fit crossbreed, might be a suitable donor.  The answer was yes and before we knew it the unsuspecting Charlie was in the surgery and be prepped to donate blood.

Charlie had some mild sedation and then we were able to collect approximately 400ml of whole blood.  We set up a blood giving set and over the next few hours Maisie received the whole unit of blood whilst Charlie recovered and then went home for a good dinner of rump steak that he was bought as a treat for being a hero!

Maisie’s colour started to look a lot better after a couple of hours and at the end of the transfusion Maisie was visibly brighter and her blood levels were now approaching normality.  She remained in the surgery overnight under observation and the following day we once again monitored her now stable red blood cell levels.  Before long Maisie was back at home, bright and well, and receiving Vitamin K in her meals.

Maisie never looked back and after 3 weeks of medication the Vitamin K was withdrawn and her blood samples were repeated to assess her clotting function.  The results were normal and confirmed the worst was over.  Her owners were delighted, relieved, and incredibly grateful to Charlie for his kind donation.  They had learnt a lot over a very stressful month including the fact they couldn’t trust their inquisitive Maisie not to sniff out potential trouble in previously unthought-of places.  

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