Thursday, September 10, 2015

Alika the Basset Hound & the Lesson she left us

Alika was rescued at 2 years of age. Sarai Garcia and her husband would always see her walking up and down the street, but they thought, "She must have an owner. A Basset Hound can't be living on the streets, can it?" As time went by, the couple noticed she was getting thinner and thinner, and she looked very dirty, so they decided to rescue her.

The next morning they found her foraging for food along a nearby street. As they tried to put a leash around her, she kept running away from them, so they chased after her. But when they got too close to a main road they desisted, fearing she would run into traffic and be hurt by an oncoming vehicle. They walked home, and as they looked behind them, there she was, wagging her tail at them! They named her Alika.

After she put on some weight they were planning to give her up for adoption, as they always did with their rescues, but Alika was found to have Pyometra and had emergency surgery which went very well. They decided to give her sufficient time to recover, but some time after that, she was discovered to have heart murmurs.

As time sped ahead Alika's rescuer, Sarai, had a baby and the family decided to keep their remaining rescues. That was how Alika and four other pups rescued off the streets became the Garcia family's permanent pets. In what felt like the blink of an eye, that 2 year-old Basset Hound turned 9 years old. She suddenly became ill, and despite many attempts, she did not survive her surgery. What had happened? Can we learn anything from it?

Splenomegaly  refers to the enlargement of the spleen. This medical condition can occur in all breeds and genders. 
Although in many cases it can be asymptomatic, an enlarged spleen may lead to such symptoms as:
Lack of appetite
Abdominal pain
Lethargy and reduced activity
Weakness and even collapse

A variety of things are known to cause an enlarged spleen including an abdominal injury, canine hepatitis, infectious disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, bacterial infection, cell tumors of the spleen, and other immune disorders. In Alika’s case a large cell tumor had damaged the spleen, causing it to become greatly enlarged.
Upon examination, a prominent spleen or a protruding abdomen can sometimes be noticed. An ultrasound was used to view Alika's spleen and surrounding areas. In addition to imaging, blood work tests were administered.
Although each case is different, in severe cases such as this one, the only option was to surgically remove the spleen. (splenectomy)
Living and Management
Usually, when the spleen is removed dogs will require rehabilitation to heal properly; and activity is restricted.
There are currently no known preventative measures for an enlarged spleen.

Alika leaves behind her the legacy of a genuine survivor from the streets of Tijuana. 
Alika lived seven wonderful years under the loving care of the Garcia family. Although it is true that she was growing older, this disease progressed rapidly. Her rescuer and owner, Sarai Garcia relates, “It all happened so fast. She seemed healthy, as did the other dogs, but one Monday she began to vomit, lost her appetite, appeared weak and slept excessively. I thought she might have a stomachache or maybe an infection. The other dogs were fine, so I wondered… On Tuesday these symptoms were worse, so Wednesday morning we took her to the HSTJ Center where she was admitted. I had heard from a friend about this place, but now I was going to see it for myself. I met Dr. Angel Hernandez and really liked the way he cared for Alika. He always showed consideration for her because she was an older dog. He quickly discovered what was wrong, and over the next few days, as the tumor grew larger, he insisted that we try and remove it.”

Several dogs were brought in by fellow rescuers in case Alika needed a transfusion. Sadly, the tumor had spread, the spleen had ruptured, and Alika did not make it through the surgery. The family was devastated. Sarai continues, “I would definitely return to the HSTJ Center. I am not new to this scene, as I was an animal rescuer for many years before my circumstances changed. I know that everything possible was done in order to help Alika, and I am grateful for that. The vet told me that if we had caught this just one month ago, her possibilities of surviving would have been much better. I want to share her life because I learned so much from it and from her.”

Alika was a very strong dog who had been through so much. She started growing old, and when she faced this, she just couldn’t hold on any longer. Her life teaches us an important lesson: older dogs require frequent checkups and regular tests in order to prolong their health, much as older humans do too. If you are the happy owner of an older dog or cat, please be sure to schedule regular checkups for them. In many cases, when something such as this is caught early, there is enough time to help.