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Dec 192012
Dylan Summer 2012

Recently I have been trying to get back into writing more often and although a friend once said I might be writing too much about Dylan and her fight with Canine Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia (also referred to as Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia); this has been the only important thing going on in my life over the last 3 days. Most people can only imagine what it is like and quite frankly, without the experience of having been through it, the imagination cannot come close to the reality of immediate and impending death that Dylan and I have faced.

Monday was the start of our third trip heading directly into the face of death. It began with an early morning pee for Dylan, which is not a normal behaviour for her. Now Wednesday evening, I feel like I can breathe once again as I have finally begun to see signs that the prednisone she has been taking since Wednesday afternoon is working to stop the destruction of her red blood cells. Although I am in no way certain as of yet.

One problem with this disease is that it gives you signs that can make you very hopeful; they seem to be on the mend and then a moment later, a sign that leads to a feeling of complete helplessness and despair. Once again I have watched my Dog Dylan become so week she could barely stand, almost fainting, wobbling as though she had consumed too much alcohol; totally afraid she might end up like the first time when she suffered brain damage from the anemia, or worse, dead on my floor.

Watching your dog pee the remnants of her red blood cells in a dark red stream of pee is no picnic and knowing they are essential to her life is a truly crushing feeling. The contrast from the normal yellow mark in the snow is striking and not knowing if it will stop in time for her to have any life left, leaves me unable to think of anything else. I have felt my heart rate climb repeatedly over the last few days, as I am paralyzed by the anxiety of the moment.

I have worked under great stress many times in my life and nothing compares to facing my best friend’s impending death. The fact that this is our third trip down this path provides more knowledge and experience, but in no way does it alleviate the sense of helplessness. Death is coming is what you fear and stopping their immune system from killing them is an almost impossible challenge. So many dogs don’t make it!

Once the immune system has been stopped, you face a whole host of additional challenges, none of which are easy and all of which still leave death as a highly probable result. Red blood cell regeneration is our next challenge, assuming prednisone has in fact stopped the attack. Infection, liver and kidney issues in addition to regeneration are often significant challenges. In Dylan’s case, it is severe reactivity to prednisone; for others it might be the toxic cocktail of drugs used to stop the disease. In many, just stopping the immune system is a complicated and challenging process. Regeneration of RBC’s is in no way a given, even for Dylan who has fought through this twice before.

In all cases it is a journey of massive stress and this is certainly true for both Dylan and myself. I know what stress is and I have felt it many times under a variety of circumstances and facing these attacks of AIHA/IMHA is by far the worst and is quite frankly, unimaginable to most people. For now it is calm here, with just enough positive in Dylan’s symptoms to feel she is okay for the moment and that the critical danger may have passed.

I have no idea what tonight might bring, or how difficult it will be tomorrow, but for the moment I am happy and hopeful that Dylan will pull through. I “hope” that at 12 years of age she will have a quick and uneventful recovery, but there  are certainly no guarantees and this does not at all mean that it will be easy. Getting her off the drugs safely means facing her potential death from anemia continuously until she is off the prednisone.




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  2 Responses to “All I want for Christmas is Dylan (2012)”

  1. Richard,

    I certainly know exactly how you’re feeling. My 4 year old shih-tzu, Marco was diagnosed with IMHA in November 2012. The emotions and highs and lows of this disease are awful. Marco did receive a blood transfusion during his crisis. He is currently being weaned from prednisone and I feel like we’re finally getting the old Marco back! He also take azothioprine and low dose asprin. He is slowly starting to play with his toys again and go for short walks. I hope he never goes through another relapse, but am always fearful of this. My vet doesn’t know what caused this but thinks it may be due to his immunizations he received this past summer along with heart worm medication. I am so thankful he has made it through this so far and wish the best for your dog as well..hang in there!

    • I am very happy to hear your dog is doing better and I hope and pray he continues to be symptom free for a long and happy life. FYI, there is a lot known about vaccination and the trouble it causes and one should never do any chemical treatment of any kind near vaccinations, no flea meds, no heartworm or de-worming and no anesthetic 2-3 weeks before and after vaccinating!. Parvo/Distemper should always be given completely separate from Rabies. The 2 links below provide accurate info on the current state. Dylan is the last of my dogs to be vaccinated by the old protocols and although all have been vaccinated, how I do so is completely different than in the past. 14 US States have exemptions for IMHA/AIHA dogs when it comes to vaccination laws.

      Dylan made it to her 12th birthday on Tuesday (Jan 8), but is now struggling. Unfortunately Dylan has not recovered as of yet and is now becoming paralyzed from the prednisone. For many reasons, I have chosen not to go the route of cyclosporine and am trying one last ditch effort to lower her prednisone to a level which will prevent further muscle loss and paralysis. Unfortunately, due to the fact her PCV is still low, mid 20’s, the likelihood she can survive a lower dose now is very slim. But I have no choice as we cannot handle another long battle, paralyzed in her kennel, requiring constant care. Vet costs are not the problem we face; it is the constant care and loss of sleep on my part (and loss of everything that is life on Dylan’s part) that make it very hard for me to continue to work, which is a must given how much it cost me the first time we fought prednisone and the paralysis it causes in Dylan. In the next 2 days, she will either remain mobile, or I will either have to say goodbye. Either way, she has had a full year of enjoyment since the last attack and her spirit will always remain with me. Unfortunately, it is the disease that is in control of her future and we all know how nasty it is.

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