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Veterinarian Technician May 2007 (Vol 28, No 5) Focus: Rescue and Rehab

Tech Life (May 2007)

by Tamara Foss, CVT

    When Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005, a Doberman named Xena (or "Katrina Xena," as she was later called) became one of several thousand animals displaced by the disaster. Initially, Xena had been residing at an animal control facility in Waveland, Mississippi. About a month before Katrina struck land, Xena had been moved to a small, independent rescue nearby and was being treated for demodectic mange. During the hurricane, the rescuer's home as well as the animal control facility where Xena had been staying were destroyed. This left Xena and more than a hundred other animals without shelter. Members of the rescue organization decided that outside assistance was needed.

    Julia West-Boyt, a disaster relief member from the Doberman Pinscher Club of America, was determined to find homes for Xena and the other displaced animals. She contacted Pam Abare-Newton, president of Illinois Doberman Rescue (IDR) Plus, and got approval to get medical care for Xena and place her in a foster home. Triple R Pets, located in Western Springs, Illinois, offered to transport the Doberman. Xena arrived in Illinois on December 21, and when she was introduced to her IDR Plus foster parents, Paul and Lillian, she had almost no hair! Xena's skin was so infected that she would bleed when touched. Her skin gave off a bad odor, and her face was so swollen and inflamed that her eyes appeared to be entropic.

    On December 26, Paul and Lillian took Xena to Dogwood Pet Hospital in Loves Park, Illinois, for a check-up and tests. She was heartworm negative, but as suspected, skin scrapings revealed demodectic mange. It was the worst case of mange that her foster parents had ever seen! Dr. Andrew Maxwell began treating Xena for the mange and explained to Paul and Lillian that it would take at least 6 months until the dog was finally healthy again. The exact cause of the mange was unclear at the time because the dog had been through so much.

    Xena was started on a high dose of cephalexin to fight the severe skin infection. She was also given a medicated bath. Drops and lubricant were applied to help ease the irritation in her eyes. She was started on a premium canine diet. In addition, she was given high-nutrient foods such as liver and eggs and supplements such as Transfer Factor and omega-3 fish oil. To ease the toll of the antibiotics on her beneficial intestinal flora, Xena was given yogurt during the entire course of the antibiotic treatment. She was incredibly itchy and uncomfortable and often chewed at herself; therefore, diphenhydramine was administered to control the itching. She also was periodically wiped down with a tea tree oil mixture. The antibiotics were initially administered to help clear up her skin infection (bleeding) enough so that other definitive treatments could be initiated.

    Although Xena's infection was still severe, by the second week in the care of her foster parents, she was stable enough to start other necessary therapies, in­cluding dip treatments. Since a label-approved dip containing amitraz was not available, she was treated extra-label with a comparably prepared large animal product to fight the demodectic mites that were continuing to flourish on her. Each dip was followed 2 to 3 days later with a salicylic acid shampoo and a two-time rinse in apple cider vinegar to help flush away any dead skin. She was then spritzed with conditioner containing tea tree oil. The regimen of salicylic acid shampoo, apple cider vinegar, and coat conditioner was performed again 4 to 5 days later, followed by another dip 2 days later. This was continued repeatedly throughout the course of her treatment. Daily oral ivermectin was initiated to help kill the demodectic mites.

    Because Xena kept chewing at her infected skin, she was subsequently ingesting the mites, which made it even more difficult for her body to resolve the infection. So for the first 6 months after being rescued, Xena had to undergo skin scrapings along with follow-up fecal testing.

    Xena was an inspiration to her foster parents as well as the other IDR Plus volunteers. Her sweet disposition blossomed, and she continued to exhibit determination to improve. On February 14, 2006, Paul and Lillian took in a litter of Doberman-boxer puppies. Xena adopted the pups as her own and even produced milk for them! Although it was understood that Xena could not afford to expend the extra resources required for producing milk, her interaction with the pups had a positive effect on her. Although she still had a long way to go, she was making great progress.

    By June, the swelling around her eyes finally subsided. Even more remarkable, Xena's hair started growing back! She was still being given daily oral ivermectin and was receiving dips at 12- to 14-day intervals. This concurrent external dip treatment regimen and systemic treatment with oral ivermectin continued until she received two clean scrapings 2 weeks apart. That milestone was finally reached on August 17 — almost 8 months after her first treatment was initiated! At the end of August, Xena was spayed. On September 7, she was finally united with her new forever family.

    Since then, Xena has continued to thrive. In fall 2006, Paul and Lillian had a wonderful visit with Xena and her new owners. It was apparent that Xena and her new family were meant to be together. The Doberman had almost a full coat of hair and was doing great!

    Without the dedication and commitment of so many individuals and groups, Xena's story might not have had a happy ending. Her success depended on so many factors, including Julia West-Boyt's determination to find a safe haven for her and the other displaced animals; the team mentality of rescue groups such as Triple R Pets; the vision of the IDR Plus board to offer much-needed assistance; the support of the veterinary staff who cared for Xena; the resolve of her foster family to restore her to health; and the giving family members who welcomed a displaced dog with health problems into their home. Rescue is definitely not an easy process, but it is immensely rewarding for all those involved.

    NEXT: Tech Tips (May 2007)

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