An elderly dog receives an extreme, life-saving makeover!
I can recall the day, back in late March, when one of the Animal Services Officers asked me to look at some photos of a dog named Mia. The photos showed an emaciated Chihuahua, but they didn’t tell much about her.
The reason that Mia was on our radar at San Jose Animal Services was because Mia’s veterinarian was concerned about her. In the state of California, veterinarians are required to contact authorities if there is suspicion that an animal is the victim of animal cruelty or animal neglect.
A few weeks prior, Mia was so sick that her owner brought her to a veterinarian. The veterinarian diagnosed Mia with a completely preventable but life-threatening condition known as a pyometra. A pyometra is an infected uterus; it is preventable by spaying.
The veterinarian performed a life-saving surgery on Mia, unsure of whether the owner would ever pay for Mia’s care. Mia was very pale, which suggested that she might be anemic, so the veterinarian recommended that Mia receive a transfusion. Unfortunately, Mia’s owner declined.
For days, Mia remained hospitalized at the veterinary clinic. One day, Mia’s owner came to the clinic to visit with her, but snuck out with Mia without paying for her care and against veterinary advice. Concerned about Mia, the veterinarian contacted San Jose Animal Services to check up on Mia to make sure she was okay.
Animal Services Officers visited Mia and her owner and took the photos of Mia that were shown to me. The officers asked Mia’s owner to bring her to the shelter for the veterinary team to evaluate her.
When Mia arrived at the shelter’s veterinary clinic, she needed help holding herself up. She would lay on the table and just breathe. There was no life in her. She was dying.
Mia’s owner told officers that she had been feeding Mia milk and chicken broth, a diet that was not adequately providing neither calories nor nutrients to Mia. Mia weighed 3 pounds, while her veterinary records indicated that she weighed 4 pounds just three weeks prior. That meant that Mia had lost 25% of her body weight in just three weeks!
Her owner also mentioned that Mia’s stools were black and stringy, neither of which are normal descriptors for stool. The black color suggested that Mia was losing blood in her gastrointestinal tract. The questions were where and why. Mia’s diet alone could cause her to become anemic enough to cause her gastrointestinal tract to bleed. However, if she had a bleeding ulcer in her stomach, that could cause her to not want to eat and to lose blood as well. Mia needed veterinary care or she would surely die.
Mia was emaciated, dehydrated, lethargic and pale. I expressed my concerns about her condition to the officers. The officers told the owner that Mia needed to be seen by an emergency veterinarian immediately.
Officers followed up with the owner to ensure that Mia had been seen by a veterinarian. Unfortunately, Mia’s owner failed to get her care. As a result, officers seized Mia from her owner and immediately took her to the shelter’s contracted emergency hospital.
At the emergency clinic, Mia was confirmed to be severely anemic. Anemia is a lack of red blood cells and may be due to a loss of blood. The anemia could cause Mia to become lethargic and weak as she was noted to be.
The next day, Mia was transferred to the San Jose Animal Care Center where the shelter’s veterinary team took over Mia’s care. She was not eating even the most tempting foods that we offered her. Without nutrients, she would surely die. Veterinary staff planned to place a feeding tube in Mia to ensure that she would get the nutrients and life-saving medications she needed. Fortunately, the night before the tube was to be placed, one of the veterinary nurses discovered that Mia was only willing to eat when she was hand-fed.
Rather than put Mia through a surgical procedure and risk potential complications, the veterinary team happily spent the extra time hand-feeding Mia every day, multiple times per day.
Mia was weighed every 3-4 days to ensure that she was gaining weight.
Within 2 weeks, she had gained over 30% of her body weight and was back to being over 4 pounds!
As Mia started to feel better, she gained the strength to eat on her own. She also started showing us more of her personality.
Mia loved to snuggle under blankets.
She also loved belly rubs!
By the end of May, Mia was at a healthy weight, was no longer on medication, and was no longer anemic!
In conjunction with the District Attorney, Animal Services were still investigating Mia’s case and possibly filing criminal charges against her owner. Consequently, Mia was placed in foster care with one of the shelter’s veterinarians, Dr. Tyson.
For months, Mia enjoyed a loving foster home with Dr. Tyson and lots of warm blankets to snuggle under.
Mia came to the shelter every day with Dr. Tyson, sharing an office with the shelter’s vets. She was known by all the shelter’s staff and would put a smile on their faces as she walked by with her wagging tail.
Mia also traveled with Dr. Tyson’s family to places around California including Yosemite National Park.
Mia continued to gain weight, topping out at about 5.5-pounds, almost twice her original weight. She continued to remain in good health and her case was moving forward, so Mia was given the “green light” to be moved into a forever home.
However, before Mia could go, she needed a dental cleaning with lots of extractions due to the severe dental disease that she had when she came into our care. Since Mia was originally an owned dog, the care we provided her up until this point was to keep her alive and get her back to good health. Although her teeth were significantly diseased, we had to wait until we knew she was not going back to her owner before we could address them.
Around Halloween, over 7 months after Mia first came to the shelter, she received lots of goodbye kisses as she departed our care and was taken into a rescue that was tasked with finding her a forever home.
She will forever be in our hearts as she was a daily reminder of why we do the work we do.
It’s all about the “afters”…
After leaving the shelter to go to her new foster family, Mia’s foster family fell in love with her and couldn’t let her go. Mia has her forever family now!