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For Barrett - In memory of my beloved Dobermann

In memory of my beloved Dobermann
by Gini Free - CHIMERA Dobermanns. April 1997

"I wanted to get one more litter out of her...She came back ELISE tested vWD factor of 2% ! ... OK, couldn't believe that, since she was seven years old, not exactly a delicate flower type she had lots and lots of opportunities to display bleeding problems in her life! ... re-tested, and it came back a 4% vWf ... whoopee!"

So, she was spayed. I administered various immune-system boosting supplements; pumped up her blood as best I could from the outside.... administered three units of plasma pre-surgery and she did fine!

At the same time, we found that Barrett had adenocarcinoma [very aggressive, nasty type of malignant cancer] in her mammary glands...[had the lumps biopsied at the time of spay]--I caught them when they were smaller than peas, but after removing the first three small lumps, others returned within two months.

When the lumps re-appeared, I was forced to make a very serious decision -- I opted for a radical mastectomy, as the lumps were spread out on both sides, top, and bottom...since you can only do one side at a time ... we prepared her for the first side.

Same safety measures ... blood building, supplements, plasma and opted for the safer [but more expensive] anesthesia NO PRECAUTION NOT TAKEN...except for one...

I was there through the whole procedure -- an incision was made from breast to crotch, and the skin peeled back to her ribs...she then had a four inch wide strip the whole length of her abdomen --the entire mammary system on that side --removed.

I was watching the clotting...she was doing fine. Closed the site, and wrapped her--waiting for her to come out of the anesthesia. I never left her side for ONE MINUTE. Because I TOO did not feel that she was in any danger [after all, I'd taken all the precautions, right?] what followed was to be the worst thirteen hours of my life.

Since I completely discounted the possibility of ANY problems relating to vWD, I failed to force the attending vet to do what SHOULD have been done, what she needed, was ....A WHOLE BLOOD TRANSFUSION .... I later found out that because of the very large surgical work done, she was bleeding through capillaries. No one vein, etc. but, through a myriad of tiny, tiny seepages .... and the plasma was not sufficient to stop them. For those of you who don't know this, only a whole blood transfusion will handle this sort of problem in a vWD affected dog...again, not my personal opinion, but that of Dr.Jean Dodds, ... ok?

He sent her home later that afternoon, telling me she was fine.. not to worry, that the pressure wraps he'd put on top of the original surgical bindings would handle that 'little seepage' she'd leaked through the first wraps with.

Because of those additional wraps, I was not to know till it was too late that she never stopped bleeding.... later that night, I called my vet back, saying I was alarmed by her continuing cries and moans of pain and that I thought she was showing shock symptoms [cool extremities, eyes looking glazed, obvious distress]. He advised upping the pain meds she was on and loosening the bandages ... well, it DID alleviate her.

Just think about it folks, the loosening of the bandages allowed what little blood there was to circulate for a while longer, the pain meds, dropped her right out of it, but within the next three hours, I REALLY became alarmed... but remember, I was NOT thinking about the vWD, dismissed it, like I hear so many of you doing in these posts --- I left the room, to get dressed to take her into emergency....I was out of the room less than FIVE minutes ... and when I came back in, she had stopped breathing.

For those who wanted this 'documentation' I want you to know how very hard this is for me to write about--I'm absolutely sobbing as I write this. My heart was broken, smashed, destroyed, that night...I loved her more than anything I've ever been blessed with--she was the light of my life, and we shared an almost magical connection with one another ...she was EVERYTHING I had ever wanted in a dog, and so much more.

We attempted CPR ... in the process, the pressure bandages came open .... there was so much blood everywhere and she had a massive hematoma the entire length of her abdomen, wider than the span of my opened hand, where the lessening blood pressure had pooled the bleeding under the skin...not enough pressure left to make it leak through.

We cremated her 36 hours later... and when we lifted her body, she was STILL seeping blood -- it NEVER clotted, even in death.

She died from vWD .... WITH precautions ... WITH fore-knowledge of this SPITE of every thing being done I could think of. But I am NOT A VET -- I didn't know at the time about the nature of vWD and what should have been done for her ... she should have stayed at the hospital, on IV, and given whole blood ... she'd be alive today. Had I taken this issue more seriously, been more informed, maybe I could have saved her.

My original point in ALL of this is that vWD is a potential killer. At the very least, it is expensive to have to take precautions, "just in case"...and I don't know about any of you, but these dogs of mine are very important, and I will do what I can to protect them ... so when someone buys a vWD AFFECTED dog, they are opening themselves up to having to make decisions, spend money, etc., that could possibly mean life or death -- it's one hell of a cloud to have looming over one's loved canine companion, and your pocket book.

So, based on this very personal experience, I will INCLUDE in my breeding decisions, the vWD results of the dogs involved... I will test before selling, if I have a possibility of producing a vWD affected pup -- I will adjust the price for what I now charge, to as close to the actual basic costs of the pup [ears, shots, food and care.

I will inform the prospective owner of what they MAY possibly face, give them all the relevant literature and information about how to safely live with one .. tell them all about clotting tests, VetGen DNA tests, and just basically EDUCATE them to what they are dealing with. I have found Vets can be appallingly uninformed about new procedures, research results, etc., and that in this day and age of so much information, that I must take responsibility for being as informed as I possibly can before turning over my animals' lives to their care]--and give them carte blanc to come to me at any time for help, assistance, or advise.

My pups are a life-time commitment to me ... I go by the old rule .."do unto others, as you would have them do unto you" ... and again, I wouldn't wish on someone else, what I went through. That's it folks, that's the reasons for my opinion.

#Reprinted by VetGen with permission of the Writer. (March, 2003)