Trixie’s fight with what turned out to be multiple health issues was quite a struggle. That she remained the sweetest of dogs throughout her ordeal is a strong testament to what a wonderful girl she was.
While in foster care, GSRNE discovered that Trixie had severe degenerative hip dysplasia in both hips. The sockets in her pelvis were deep and narrow. Her femur heads (the balls on the end of the leg that go into the hips) fit loosely in her hip sockets. Over time the bone would have thickened causing arthritic changes. When Trixie was seen by an orthopedic surgeon at Angel Memorial her only option was total hip replacement because both her femur heads and hip sockets showed severe deterioration. This is very expensive and like most rescues, GSRNE has limited funds. Because Trixie was such a wonderful, sweet girl, we decided to go ahead, so scheduled surgery to take care of this problem. We knew we could count on our supporters to rally around Trixie to help her if needed.
Before we could proceed with the hip replacement forTrixie, she started collapsing while doing mild exertion like steps or walking to the front door to greet visitors. She was immediately taken to the vet for an exam, where a blood test showed high glucose levels consistent with diabetes. This could have explained her fainting. There are many reasons for increased glucose levels in the blood: stress, recent meal, tumor on the pancreas. We wanted to rule out a possible tumor on her pancreas. Her next vet visit was for an ultrasound of her abdomen, and chest x-rays to show her heart. She had no masses on her pancreas, but the chest x-ray showed severe Pulmonary Hypertension (pressure in the lungs). This stress could have elevated her blood glucose levels.
Pulmonary Hypertension is usually caused by heartworm disease. This was particularly devastating since heartworm is a preventable disease. At intake we tested Trixie for heartworm with the snap antigen test in addition to a blood smear to look for microfilaria (baby heartworms). She was negative on both of those tests, and put on heartworm prevention. We didn’t suspect heartworm, but decided to take her to a cardiac specialist at Tufts. They did an ultrasound on her heart which revealed adult heart worms and another heartworm antigen test which tested positive. The second heartworm test was 6 months after intake.
The caveat in heartworm testing is it takes 6 months for the larvae transmitted by the mosquito to grow into an adult heartworm that can be detected by the antigen test. Once the larvae mature to an adult heartworm it produces antigens, which is pick up by the routine test. Also when a heartworm is fully matured it produces microfilaria, which can be detected on lab test. But in between the mosquito transmitting the larvae to the dog and the cycles the larvae goes through to become an adult heartworm, there is no test the will detect the disease. The maturation from larvae to adult worm is at least 6 – 7 months. That being said it is still important to put a dog on monthly heartworm prevention to kill larvae in the early stages to avoid further infections. If a dog has no previous medical history, it should be tested every six months and kept on heartworm prevention. After two consecutive negative heartworm tests only a yearly test is necessary. Either way a dog should be on monthly heartworm prevention year round in most parts of the US. Heartworm preventatives block the early stages of larvae development.
In addition to heartworms the ultrasound of Trixie’s heart revealed chronic valvular disease. Her heart valves where leaky. This can be caused by heart disease or chronic heartworm disease. Luckily Trixie had a small worm load making a positive response to heartworm treatment probable. In any dog there is always a risk of complications, either a reaction to the medication used or a blood clot in the lung from the dying worms. Trixie responded well to the first treatment and was scheduled to go back for a second treatment. When Trixie went in for her second heartworm treatment, her foster mom noticed her limping, and obviously in pain. We x-rayed her one hip during the visit which didn’t show anything and confirmed that the hip was not dislocated. We thought maybe she slipped and had inflammation that would resolve in a few days. She was put on pain medication. During the same visit a heart ultrasound revealed that all adult heartworms where gone! She didn’t need a second treatment. Unfortunately the test also revealed her Pulmonary Hypertension (PH) increased suggesting a blood clot in her lung. Trixie was scheduled again for more testing to confirm a blood clot. If the results were anything other than a blood clot the only course of treatment would be a very expensive drug that would only relieve her symptoms, but her PH would be grave. A Profusion Scan of her lungs was performed by injecting a radioactive substance into her lungs and scanning for abnormalities. The results of the Profusion Scan were grossly abnormal suggesting a blood clot. Dogs are good at resolving blood clots on their own, so the only course of action was to put her on Aspirin twice a day to prevent additional blood clots. Once the blood clots were resolved the Pulmonary Hypertension should go down, but probably not to a normal level. That was fine since Trixie mostly loved hanging out around the house, and didn’t require much exercise. A secondary treatment would be heart medication to help with her leaky heart valves. She was released from Tufts.
The weekend she was released, her left leg became increasing painful, and her right leg couldn’t support her weight. Even on pain medication she would yelp whenever she tried to get up and walk. When lying down next to her foster mom, she would whimper in pain. She didn’t want to eat, and couldn’t walk outside to relieve herself. Her foster mom covered her breezeway with plastic garbage bags and towels, so Trixie could relieve herself with out walking far. Her foster mom would then clean her up so the urine wouldn’t burn her skin. After the weekend she was admitted into the emergency room where the doctors suspected neurological damage in her hind end that would not get better. She could stay on heavy pain medication, but probably wouldn’t walk again. The heartbreaking decision was made to euthanize Trixie to put her out of her pain.
We in GSRNE are incredibly sad about this tragic loss. Trixie had adopters waiting to take her into their home and their hearts; she had a foster mother who adored her, as well as many fans within the organization. She had taken some very hard knocks in life before coming into GSRNE; and, yet, she always saw the goodness in human beings and was willing to trust again. We’re grateful that her last months were in a home where she knew that people loved her very much…where her kind and generous spirit was able to blossom and be treasured.