Meet October Pet of the Month - Millie Nicholls
Millie is a 6 year old female neutered Whippet x Bedlington Terrier. Millie has been a regular patient of ours since she developed a severe anaemia. Millie has been spayed at the beginning of May after suffering with an infection in her womb known as a pyometra. She had a slight anaemia (low red blood cell number) at this stage but unfortunately this became progressively worse. At the end of June she visited the practice again as she had been losing weight and was very slow on her walks. When she was examined we identified that her gums were very pale and immediately tested her blood to check number and percentage of red blood cells present. A normal dog has a red blood cell percentage or PCV of about 35-55% but Millie's PCV was only 11%. Red blood cells normally deliver oxygen to tissues and organs, which is used to create energy. Millie had become lethargic because her reduced number of red cells meant that she couldn't produce enough energy. Millie also did not have many immature red blood cells in her blood, which indicated that she was having a problem producing cells. We needed to try to identify the cause of her anaemia, so we ran some more tests including urine tests, coagulation blood tests (to make sure her blood was capable of clotting) and a Coombs test which looks at whether her immune system is targeting her red cells (this is known as a an immune mediated anaemia). The Coombs test was positive indicating that Millie's immune system may be the cause of the anaemia, but we needed to biopsy her bone marrow to confirm this. As Millie's anaemia was severe, she needed to have a blood transfusion of packed red blood cells before we could administer an anaesthetic and take the biopsy. We confirmed Millie's blood type so we could order in a match from the Pet Blood Bank (an organisation who collect and store blood products donated by healthy pets).
The following day, when we had received the packed red blood cells, Millie had her transfusion. In total she received 350mls (over half a pint) over 5 hours. We had to monitor her closely because some animals can have a severe reaction during a transfusion. Once her PCV had risen to 20%, she had an anaesthetic and we took a bone marrow biopsy from her femur (thigh bone). She recovered from her anaesthetic well and went home with her owners that evening.
When we checked Millie again the day after her transfusion, her gums seemed pinker and her PCV had risen to 31% - almost back to normal! Over the next few days her energy levels improved and she started to gain weight. Her bone marrow biopsy results confirmed an immune mediated cause of her anaemia so she was prescribed a course of steroid therapy to suppress her immune system. She has been having regular blood tests to monitor her red blood cell levels. Her body took time to respond to the therapy so her PCV dropped a little initially but recently it has been rising. Her last reading was 29% and she is doing well. She is experiencing a few side effects to the steroid treatment (increased appetite and thirst and her coat has become thin) but we hope that these will settle as the steroid dose is gradually reduced.
Millie would not have recovered without the blood products supplied by the Pet Blood Bank and the wonderful owners who brought their pets forward to donate. To see if your pet meets the criteria to become a donor, visit http://www.petbloodbankuk.org/pet-owners/donor-criteria/ and consider joining the register – it can save lives!