November 2018: Jasper

November 2018: Jasper

Reason for Nomination: Holding on through very difficult times

When Jasper first came in to see us his mum thought he had been bitten by another dog during a walk a few days previously. This was a reasonable assumption as he had developed quite marked bruising. However, something did not sit right with the vet who was attending to Jasper. The bruising seemed disproportionate to the size of the wound and the concern was that something else was causing the bruising, such as a bleeding disorder.

For this reason, a full blood panel was performed. In addition, the ability of the blood to clot (coagulation profile) was also performed. The suspicion of a bleeding disorder was correct as the blood-work confirmed a very low level of platelets. Platelets are used by the body to form clots. Bleeding occurs commonly whenever we suffer any small trauma going about our day to day lives. This bleeding can be either on the surface of the body (skin) or internally. Without platelets, the bleeding would not stop and, we would not live very long!

Low blood platelets can have several causes that include: bleeding; a bone marrow disease affecting production; destruction of platelets by auto-immune disease.

Some further tests were performed to rule out the other causes. Radiographs and ultrasound scans ruled out any internal bleeding. Auto-immune disease was then considered to be the most likely cause.

The body’s immune system is fascinating in how it can distinguish between its own cells and any foreign cells. This means it can recognise bacteria and viruses as being foreign and problematic and therefore needing elimination from the body. In some instances, however, there is a loss of this self-regulation and the immune system starts to attack and kill its own cells. Jasper developed a form of auto-immune disease called immune-mediated thrombocytopaenia where it his immune system thought his platelets were foreign and began to attack them.

Jasper was started on treatment with medication that would suppress his over-acting immune system. He responded really well to the treatment initially and his platelet count normalised. However, about 3 months later he was brought back in to us with blood in his vomit and diarrhoea. He was collapsed and had a high fever.

Following some tests, we identified that his blood was again very low in platelets but also had a severe deficiency in his white blood cells. This indicated either a marked suppression of the bone marrow which produces these cells or a severe infection. We actually suspected it was a combination of both these things and that he had sepsis along with a drug mediated over-suppression of bone marrow function. The blood-work also indicated severe damage to his liver.

After 2 days of supportive care, Jasper’s condition deteriorated further. He developed bleeding from his eyes, mouth and under his skin. He was also bleeding internally in his abdomen. The sepsis was not getting under control and his platelet count was also dropping further. He needed a blood transfusion as an emergency as he was deteriorating rapidly. Fortunately, we managed to find a blood type matched donor whose kind mum was more than happy for her to give blood. It is not to be taken lightly when we say that this transfusion saved Jasper’s life and therefore the donor dog saved his life.

After the transfusion, Jasper started to gradually improve. The bleeding in various parts of his body started to resolve. A different drug to suppress his immune system was started. He spent 10 more days in hospital before he was well enough to be discharged.

We have kept a close check on Jasper since and, he comes to visit us often to have repeat blood tests. If you met him now however, you would not believe how unwell he was at one point in time. His mum is very brave and made all the right decisions and in good faith. A fantastic outcome for a really lovely boy.

Jasper’s case highlights how blood transfusions can be life-saving in dogs just as they can in people. There are various reasons why a blood product transfusion may be necessary. Nowadays, there is a pet blood bank that we can access. In some cases, however, such as Jasper’s, only fresh blood collected from a donor and transfused within 4 hours will do. We have some absolute superstar donors that we often reach to in times of need but, if anyone has a dog that they think would be a suitable donor then please do get in touch.