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Challenging Cases: Zada's Story

Posted June 11, 2013 in A Vet's Life

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a mobile, board-certified surgeon in Allentown, PA. Find him online at www.DrPhilZeltzman.com. He is the co-author of “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound” (www.WalkaHound.com).

Kelly Serfas, a Certified Veterinary Technician in Bethlehem, PA, contributed to this article.

Late one frigid winter evening, as I was considering finally going to bed after a long surgery day, I received a worried call from my friends Sandy and Bill. Zada, a former patient, was in trouble. The 9-year old German shepherd, a former therapy dog, was bleeding internally.

Zada had shown a sudden decline in energy and appetite.  Sandy had wisely taken her to her family vet for blood work and an ultrasound. The conclusion: she had a large mass on her spleen, which was bleeding internally, filling her belly with blood. That was making her weak and anemic (a low red blood cell count). So they were referred to a local emergency clinic, and that’s where they called from.

By then, the emergency vet had started a blood transfusion.  To my surprise, surgery, the only way to stop the bleeding, was not offered.  In fact, she had recommended euthanasia several times.  She obviously didn’t know Sandy and Bill, who don’t give up so easily.  Their love, dedication and commitment are simply unmatched... but that didn't seem to matter.
The new plan was to transfer Zada to another emergency hospital, about an hour away, where I often performed surgery.  I also would drive an hour to meet them there.

The blood transfusion had done little to help, as Zada’s mass was still bleeding. Surgery was her only hope and we all wanted to give her every chance. By the time we all met at the hospital, the ER crew was in full gear, ready to promptly anesthetize Zada, clip her belly, transfer her to the OR, hook her up to monitoring equipment and start surgery. It was teamwork at its best.

Zada's surgery began around 1 a.m. We removed the spleen, which contained a fist sized, bleeding mass.  Sadly, there were other masses in the liver and throughout the belly.  Amazingly, we also removed two quarts of blood from the belly.  This is a huge amount, even in a 74-pound dog.  Surgery was over by 2 am.  Despite the grim findings, Zada did remarkably well throughout surgery and anesthesia.

She was closely monitored by the ER

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Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a board-certified veterinary surgeon and author. His traveling practice takes him all over Eastern Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey. You can visit his website at www.DrPhilZeltzman.com, and follow him at www.facebook.com/DrZeltzman.

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