Tread: Story of a Canine Super Star
Meet Tread! At first glance, he looks like your typical black Labrador cross: goofy, sweet, ball obsessed, water-loving mutt. However, Tread is not just your average run of the mill dog; he is a life saver. Tread is a blood donor dog and on more than one occasion, when an emergency situation has arisen, his gift of blood has saved the life of a dog in need.
Tread has not always led such a glamorous life. In fact, when Tread first came to Van Isle Vet, he was brought in by the SPCA who found him lying in a ditch. He had been hit by a car and suffering from multiple fractures to the pelvis. Luckily fate was in Tread’s favour that day because it was Dr. de Winter who took on the case and had the pleasure of looking after him. He spent a week in the hospital before it became clear that his owner was not coming back to take him home. Dr. de Winter couldn’t bear to part with him and thus Tread became the newest member of the de Winter Family.
After weeks of strict kennel rest and constant medications, Tread was once again able to enjoy a dog’s life of beaches, play dates and ball chasing. He still occasionally requires medications to treat the pain associated with his pelvic injuries but this doesn’t slow him down in the least.
At Van Isle Vet, when emergency situations arise and blood is required immediately, it is usually one of the staff’s dogs that are brought in to donate. This is quite safe if it is the first time the recipient dog has received a blood transfusion. This is because even if the blood types do not match, the recipient dog’s immune system has never been exposed to the other blood type and will not have antibodies against it. Thus, the likelihood of an allergic reaction to the different blood type is rare. However, should the recipient dog require a second transfusion, blood typing is absolutely necessary or a universal donor required. Examples of emergency situations that would require an immediate blood transfusion include trauma involving internal bleeding, anemia and bleeding internal tumours.
Because there are 8 different canine blood types, ideally, it is better to have both the donor and recipient dog blood tested to ensure their blood types are the same or to order in blood from a “universal donor.” Unfortunately, unless you live in a major city, it takes time to have universal blood shipped in or to have blood types tested.
This is where Tread comes in. As far as blood donors go, Tread is an absolute superstar. The donor dog must be young (under 8 years old), healthy, and at least 50 pounds. Tread is a large dog, in excellent health and a universal donor! Where Tread really shines, is in his willingness to give blood. In order to get the amount of blood required, we have to place a fairly large needle in the jugular vein and the donor dog must stay very still. All of our donor dogs have to be sedated or even placed under an anesthetic to tolerate the needle and to stay quiet and still. Not Tread! He is such a good boy, he comes in as calm as a cucumber, lies down on the table while his “Mom” places the needle and remains still throughout the whole process. All he asks for is a pat on the head and a handful of treats when the procedure is over. For this reason, if he hasn’t donated recently, Tread is usually our first choice as a blood donor.
Tread was fortunate enough to be given a second chance at life. It is through this second chance that he has been able to “pay it forward” and give the same gift to many other dogs. He is truly a special dog and we at Van Isle Veterinary Hospital are lucky to know him!
“On Sunday, October 28th my dachshund Pebble had the misfortune to have to go to the vet. Fortunately for him, we came to your veterinary clinic. My older dog Shale has been coming there for years now and Dr. Chris Cannon has looked after her very well. Pebble had only recently moved from another vet in town and I am so pleased that I made that choice when I did. Dr. Ashley Bernauer was on call and dealt with the problem with care, compassion and competence.”
Pebble presented with pain and incoordination of both of his hind limbs. After a neurologic exam and x-rays, he was diagnosed with acute intervertebral disk disease (IVDD). This is a painful condition in which a disk(s) in between the vertebrae can bulge or rupture into the canal where the spinal cord runs. Because Pebble was able to walk, he was sent home with heavy pain control, anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants and on strict bed rest.
“Knowing that the situation had deteriorated overnight as Dr. Bernauer warned it well might, we came back Monday morning and were advised by Ashley and Chris who kindly stuck his head into the room, that the best treatment was surgery and to take him to Burnaby immediately. Ashley could not have been more helpful and reassuring and had the presence of mind to even print out a map for us.”
When Pebble’s condition worsened overnight, we knew that we needed to act fast before there was a devastating permanent injury to Pebble’s spinal cord – Pebble needed an MRI and back surgery. We referred him to Can West Veterinary Specialists in Burnaby, B.C. The surgeons at Can West took Pebble to surgery promptly – they ended up performing decompression surgery at multiple locations along his spine. They removed the ruptured disk material and made tunnels through the bone surrounding the affected areas of the spinal cord to relieve the inflammatory pressure. Pebbles surgical incision was very long, spanning over half of his back.
“When we arrived back from Burnaby on November 1st, the first telephone call that evening was from Dr. Bernauer checking on my boy and she offered support and understanding. When Pebble came in to have his staples removed, again we met with Ashley who was obviously very pleased with the result.”
Only shortly after his surgery, Pebble was showing major improvement – he was able to walk around quite normally and didn’t show any sign of pain when I palpated along the surgery site on his back. We came up with a physiotherapy routine, including therapeutic swimming exercises to slowly bring Pebble back into activity. When I saw Pebble for his check-up and vaccine appointment early this spring, he looked great – happy, healthy and getting around like a little trooper. I am proud of how hard everyone has worked with Pebble – especially Susan (owner). It has been a great combined effort in bringing Pebble back – a great success for all involved!
“I just wanted to let you know that I am so pleased with the care shown us, as I am sure Pebble is! Your vets are a credit to your business.”
Sincerely, Susan Holt.
Written by Dr. Ashley Bernauer