Last Thursday I took blind Stella to Peak Veterinary Referral Center in Burlington for a complete work-up. As long-time blog readers know, this is typically something we do on new arrivals who are older and for whom we have no health history at all. Given what we do know about Stella when she was surrendered by her owners — emaciated, full of worms, heartworm positive, and blind — I suspect Stella saw more veterinarians in one day last week than she’s seen in her entire life.
In the photo above is our ophthalmologist, Dr. Sarah Hoy, using a slit-lamp (an ophthalmic microscope) to examine Stella’s retinas while vet tech Patty holds her. This was one part of the overall exam, but it revealed what we had already surmised: Stella’s eyes had “markedly thinned retinas and atrophying retinal blood vessels,” meaning she was blind from progressive retinal atrophy, or PRA. She also has cataracts developing, and this could eventually lead to painful glaucoma. Sarah will recheck Stella in a year to see how the cataracts are progressing, at which point we will start her on eyedrops to try and prevent that secondary glaucoma from occurring. Although there isn’t anything we can do to reverse the PRA, the good news is that her eyes are quiet and comfortable.
Next up was cardiology. We generally do echocardiograms on these older dogs, but this was especially important in Stella’s case because we knew she had tested positive for heartworms in Shreveport. In this photo is the cardiologist, Dr. Don Brown, along with Dr. Jenny Garber, and vet tech Liz is in the foreground holding Stella:
On the echo Don found Stella’s pulmonary arteries were huge — “extremely dilated” is how he described them in his summary report — and this would have been consistent with finding she has severe pulmonary hypertension, or high blood pressure. Yet fortunately, if oddly, she only has a mild case of hypertension. So that in itself is good news. Stella’s heart rate was normal and there were no murmurs. Don wonders if she didn’t have some kind of infection in the past (other than the heartworms) that could have caused the extreme dilation of her pulmonary arteries. And as for those heartworms, yes indeed, we could see some of them in the echocardiogram. But the worm burden wasn’t so high that it would preclude treating her for it.
Then it was down the hall to radiology, where Dr. Lynn Walker did an ultrasound of Stella’s abdomen and internal organs while vet tech Melissa holds her still:
We like to do these “senior scans,” as we call them, because we’ve found in the past that bloodwork doesn’t always tell you what’s going on. In this case, Lynn found all of Stella’s organs looked good — no surprises inside. Whew!
Then it was the turn of our internal medicine specialist, Dr. Marielle Goossens, to examine Stella. Usually Marielle goes first, but because of scheduling conflicts that day, she got to see Stella last — but this meant she already had the ophthalmology, cardiology and radiology results in hand, which is something of an advantage. (For some reason, and probably to Marielle’s relief, I forgot to take photos of her with Stella!) Marielle did bloodwork, X rays, urinalysis and other tests on Stella, and the overall results were pretty positive. We still have a couple of tests pending, but so far we’re relieved that other than her heartworms, Stella is in remarkably good health given her age and history of neglect.
Marielle will be handling the months-long heartworm treatment process, and has started Stella on the “pre-treatment” meds. There is always a risk associated with the heartworm treatment, but this is definitely something we need to do.
Throughout a long day at the clinic, Stella was a wonderful patient. I was so proud of her! And since this was her first time leaving the farm, less than a week after arriving, I’m sure she was wondering what was going on and whether she was being shuffled off to some place else. She was one happy girl when we got back to the farm and she realized she was home again … and staying! Sometimes we’ve found it’s that first trip away-and-back that makes a newly arrived dog know that this is now “home.” This was true for Stella that evening. We could just tell how delighted she was to be back — a big smile on that gray face and a spring to her step!
2014 Shelter Challenge Underway
The second round of the Shelter Challenge for 2014 is underway. You can vote every day at http://www.shelterchallenge.com/ To search for us, type in our name, Rolling Dog Farm, and Lancaster, NH 03584. We’ve won thousands of dollars in the previous contests, so your daily votes do bring in serious money for our disabled animals!
Please note that I cannot help with technical or voting problems. I also do not have an “inside track” to anyone at the Shelter Challenge, and I don’t know any more about the contest than anyone else does. So if you find yourself having issues, please consult their FAQ page and their Rules page.
Thanks for your votes!