– By Jackie Overbeek –
Luna came into the emergency animal clinic late this evening, suffering from
severe weight loss and seizures. She was also "flat" – our
for an animal who is unconscious or comatose. She weighed 65.2 pounds.
said that she has had diarrhea for a while, but otherwise has been eating okay.
They couldn't tell us what brand of food she eats, or even when
her last heat cycle was. They said she eats a variety of generic dry foods and
that she usually weighs between 120 to 150 pounds. According to them, her seizures
began this evening.
body temperature was too low to even register on a human thermometer (which goes
as low as 93 degrees) so we immediately placed several covered hot water bottles around her and started an IV. We obtained a sample of her blood, ran some tests, and noted that her blood glucose was 16. Normal is 100. We started medications
and glucose in her IV. Luna's seizures stopped. Her owners maintained that she
was sick and losing weight from a "mystery illness." The DVM told them that Luna
would need additional diagnostics to determine if she has a treatable disease.
At 4 a.m. Luna was fed a small amount of i/d, a prescription food that's bland
and gentle. By 8 a.m. she was awake, alert and able to go outside to urinate.
Other than the severe hypoglycemia noted, Luna's blood work was non-revealing. We
obtained her previous veterinary records from another clinic and noted that she
weighed 150 pounds in May 2001, and 109 pounds in March 2003.
owner was still insisting that Luna's weight loss occurred only recently,
and said she was unsure if her teenage son was feeding her regularly. She asked
the doctor if a week without food could make her this sick (hypothetically, of course –
she said that this really didn't happen).
emergency animal clinic then contacted the authorities from the county in
which Luna's owners reside. Because Luna’s physical condition
was so horrible, we wanted to discuss any statutes and local
ordinances involving animal cruelty and neglect. It turned out that before this
incident, 3 previous complaints had been lodged against Luna's owners regarding
her condition. The owners had maintained that she was sick and under the care
After hearing our report, the
authorities told the owner that per Michigan's Anti-Cruelty law, charges would be filed against
her – unless
she was willing to relinquish ownership to the animal hospital so that we could find a suitable home for Luna; and that under no circumstances was the clinic permitted to return Luna to them. When we spoke to the owner
that afternoon, she agreed to come in to the hospital to pay for Luna's care from
the previous night and sign papers transferring ownership to the hospital.
She said that she'd be in after work that evening.
Luna continued to improve
throughout the day, eating voraciously. At 3 p.m. my shift at the emergency clinic
began, and I first met Luna. Other than eating and getting up to go outside to
urinate, she remained in a prone position,
moving nothing more than her eyes.
As I approached her kennel, we
made eye contact and Luna's tail thumped slightly. I opened the door and sat
with her. She lifted a paw and put in on my leg. As I continued to stroke her very bony head, she raised it and put it on my
lap with a big, long sigh.
At that point, with that big
head in my lap and those wonderful, wistful eyes looking straight into mine, I was hooked. I told the clinic's powers- that-be
that I'd take Luna – either for foster care, or forever. I spent every free
moment that night holding my new doggie and just "lovin'" her.
(Please note that I've
worked in animal shelters, humane societies, and clinics for 15 years and I have
NEVER brought home or chosen any animals to adopt. Although I currently own 3 cats,
I didn't choose them; they chose me. They were strays that had shown up at my house over the years. )
owners never appeared that night. Instead, they called to say that they'd
be in the following night to sign the papers. When they finally did show up,
they were belligerent and demanded that we give them the dog. They said they
to have her put down. We had to insist that they leave.
A short time later,
they returned with the police. We updated the officers and put them in contact
with the authorities in Luna's county. After the conversations,
and after seeing how poor Luna's condition was, they told the owners that
they were NOT getting Luna back and they must
leave the clinic.
Luna continued to get small meals
every 2 hours and she ate voraciously. Her
blood work also showed that she was positive for heartworm infection. This was
if her owners weren't feeding her, they certainly weren't providing
heartworm preventative, either.
I have a teenage son, and we
were worried about
Luna's reaction to him,
given the fact that her previous caretaker had been the same age and gender.
I asked my son to visit her in the clinic that night, and Luna was terrified
of him. (She's also terrified of sticks and rakes, which also makes
me wonder just what the heck she went through). She has since, however, warmed
up to him and she loves him dearly. They often lay on the floor together, just
After much hemming and hawing, stalling and procrastinating, Luna's owners finally signed over her ownership. Just 4 days after she first entered the clinic, Luna was considered well enough to come home with me. She had gained 5 pounds. I spent my lunch break doggie shopping – getting a large crate, sheepskins, toys, elevated dishes, etc.
My husband, who
had been somewhat reluctant about adopting Luna (who he had not yet seen), cried
when I first brought Luna into the house. He said she looked like photos he had seen of concentration camp victims.
She even had bedsores (now healing) from being down and sick in
her old home. That night, she crawled into my husband's lap, laid her head on his chest,
stared into his eyes, and won his heart. Ever since then, she has continued to
try to be his lap dog.
On Christmas Eve, Luna had her
first bath at her new home. She was terrified, but horribly stinky and dirty.
The water that ran off her was dark brown. We
continued to feed her i/d several times a day and she continued to inhale it
almost as fast as we pour it into her bowl.
On New Years Eve, we stopped in for a visit to the clinic. Luna was very nervous, but not aggressive.
She was petted, loved and spoiled during our time there. She weighed in at 89 pounds, almost 25 pounds more than when she came in to
the hospital just 13 days ago. We also made stops at the drive-thru teller, where she was given treats, and the drive-thru pharmacy, where she was also very charming and given treats.
Check up time with the doctor! 95 pounds! Strong enough for rabies and other vaccinations (not given by previous owners). More treats and much spoiling by the doctors and staff.
We also took x-rays to determine the extent of her heartworm infection. On a 1 to 4 scale, with 4 being the worst, Luna was a 3. She is showing no clinical signs (coughing, lethargy, etc.) but her radiographs show significant cardiac enlargement, and cloudiness in her lungs.
My baby was so good during her appointment. She even fell asleep on her back on the x-ray table. The doctor said that if she weighed 100 pounds on January 20, she could begin heartworm treatments.
Luna weighed in at 100.6 pounds. Time to start treatment! Granted, heartworm
treatment is horrible, but much less so than death by heartworm infection. Luna's
treatment will require 2-3 injections
spaced out over 1-30 days. The injections are given with a long needle in the
lumbar muscle in the back. The patient must then be kept quiet for 30 days while
the heartworms die and
are absorbed by the body. Otherwise, they can cause blockages in the pulmonary
arteries or embolisms in the lungs as they die and are not absorbed, but instead
forced into the body.
Luna showed no significant
problems after the injections other than severe separation anxiety for which
she had to be tranquilized. Many dogs are stiff and painful
after the injections. Today is day 3, post-injection, and Luna has some mild
coughing and vomiting. These reactions are to be expected, but it still breaks
to see her not feeling well. It also makes me angry
can be as inexpensive as
$10-15 a month.
Because of the severity of Luna's
heartworm infection, she is at risk
the next 2-4 weeks. She must be quiet and not get excited. Her next injections
are scheduled a month from now.
Luna is somewhere between 5-7
I understand that Danes don't
live forever, but I'd like to love her and spoil her for as long as I can.
She most definitely deserves it!
– Jackie Overbeek, firstname.lastname@example.org