Can’t save them all

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Tita groaned in pain. An intravenous (IV) catheter stuck out from her neck, a blood transfusion underway. At that moment, she had about a 10 percent chance of survival.

A two-month-old black and white puppy, Tita arrived at the World Vets Surgical Training Center with severe anemia, intestinal parasites, dehydration and low blood sugar. The worst of her dilemma was parvo — a highly contagious and sometimes fatal viral disease.

Tita’s owner Hazel Roman brought her to the clinic at 9 a.m. in tears. Roman said the puppy had been in her care for two weeks and she was already attached. Tita was part of the family.

“My poor dog”, Roman said. “I don’t want her to suffer anymore.”

With good intentions, Roman said she gave Tita an over-the-counter deworming medicine. The unknown medicine, however, gave the dog an adverse reaction, causing her already depleting condition to spiral downward.

Roman left the World Vets clinic with high hopes.

“Thank you,” she said to the team of veterinarians. “All I want is for my dog to come back home with me.”

Veterinarian Dr. Robert Trevino injected Tita with saline fluids to counter her dehydration. He gave her a new deworming medicine to rid her of the intestinal parasites. He fed her honey to bring up her blood sugar. As a last effort, Trevino drew blood from a healthy dog and transferred it to Tita.

Things started looking up for the emaciated puppy. Trevino re-estimated a 50 percent chance of survival.

Tita was alert for the next three hours, eating, drinking water and lifting her head every once in a while. But her breathing stayed slow and soon the life began to leave her eyes once again.

Tita did not make it through the end of the day. By the time she began showing advanced symptoms of parvo, there was nothing else Trevino could do.

The team collectively decided that it was best for her to be humanely euthanized.

Seeing the look on Trevino’s face, tears began rolling down Roman’s cheeks. She asked to see Tita one last time before the puppy was put down.

“This was the first time I ever had a dog,” she said between sobs. “When I adopt an animal I make it part of my family. I feel like it is my fault (she died) for not knowing what to do.”

Dogs like Tita are difficult to save. By the time they are brought in for veterinary care, many have conditions too severe to treat with the limited resources World Vets is provided.

“Even if Tita had been admitted to a high end clinic in the U.S., she wouldn’t have made it,” said field service veterinarian Karen Allum. “Puppies presented in that debilitated of a state have a very grave prognosis.”

Veterinarian Tom Parker said all doctors learn to deal with losing patients. Though it eventually gets easier to handle, compassion is a human emotion that cannot and should not be rid of, he said.

“It’s part of the job,” Parker said. “You have to look at the big picture and be compassionate but realistic.”

Allum said it is fairly rare for dogs to be euthanized on World Vets trips. Only about 2 percent of the dogs treated by World Vets are put down, she said.

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2 responses to “Can’t save them all

  1. Anne-Marie

    Thank you for reporting so well the events at the Worldvets clinic ! It shows us how education on treating animals, like vaccinating them, is important. But do the local people have the means to do so ?

  2. Thank you! I really can’t pinpoint one specific reason. Places like Nicaragua may not have the same enforcement as the U.S. as far as making sure pets are vaccinated. Many people who came into the World Vets clinic didn’t have the money to pay for vaccines either, but education was big part of the consultations done at the clinic.

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